Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Midas Man

Sometimes we do things because they are sensible. I'm not sure that's a great reason to do anything but we have gone and done the sensible thing and neither of us feeling happy about it. Being as we have permanently settled in Scottsdale, are back to work with horses, and have not been "on the road" since last September we consigned Mary to be sold. The words are even hard to write. Our adventures in RV wonderland have been the highlight of our fun times in the years that we've been together. This blog was created when we bought Mary and chronicles all of the fun and mishaps that we had along the way with her. Being complete novices in the beginning ... John's favorite description of us is that we never had as much as a pop up tent before we bought her ... led to a new appreciation of the term "fool proof." We were the fools in this case. I can't speak for any other make of coach but Monaco has managed to build a truly fool proof machine. Kudos to Monaco and thank you to all of the technicians who helped us through the years. Thank you to April Klein for all of her help and guidance and thank you to the RV gods who kept watch over us as we piled 60,000 miles on her, criss-crossing this gorgeous country time and again.

And if she doesn't sell ... hooray!!!

I stayed home from after our last trip in 2011, which was to Toronto when John judged the Royal Winter Fair in November, until mid June when we packed up and went to the Charity Fair Horse Show in Del Mar. We went in our new truck, Brutus. This was another one of those purchases that went far and above the average, but my husband is always determined to make our dollars work toward the best that we can do. Hence, Brutus. He also bought a four horse trailer which is now being outfitted with cameras so that we can see the horses when we are traveling, see to back up and see to hook up. It has new tires and brakes and a new hydraulic jack so John doesn't have to "crank his arms off." If Mary sells, Brutus will be used in the future for pulling an RV, like a nice fifth wheel. We are determined to be roadies again before we exit the planet!

                                                                 Brutus in Del Mar

For the Del Mar trip we borrowed Ashley Wilson's six horse trailer and hauled two of ours and four of another trainer's horses over to the coast. Del Mar is a spectacular spot on the California coast, a lovely village by the sea. It reminds me a lot of Santa Barbara, which is the geographical love of my life. Being permanent residents of the desert has resulted in blood thinner than water, as it were. While we thought that the break from the hot summer temperatures in Scottsdale would be nice, it turned out that June Gloom had set in on the beautiful Southern California coast and we nearly froze to death the entire week that we were there. I think we saw the sun twice. We took Breezy and Ransom with us and they were treated to two visits to Doggy Beach. It's a small stretch of beach where people can bring their dogs to play off-leash. Ransom had a blast! You would have thought that he was running for Mayor of Doggie Beach. He met and greeted every single dog there (and there were a LOT of them!) and if a new dog showed up he met and greeted them as well. Breezy on the other hand spent most of her time with her head between my knees requesting to go to the "people beach." Regardless of the weather we had a good show and some fun while we were there. We were all happy to get home to the desert and thaw out.

                                                         Ransom at Doggy Beach

John winning a class at Del Mar

June was John's birthday month. He announced it on June 1st to me and to our clients and friends and on every single day thereafter, until his actual birthday on June 21st. We were all about celebrated out by then but I decided to throw a little party in his honor anyway. First he had his private birthday dinner consising of a fresh Dungeness crab with drawn butter and a salad with fresh made (in our Vitamix ... more on that later) Italian dressing.

                                         John's birthday dinner (notice the face on the crab!)

In the happy endings department for June is a rescued dog named Midas. My sister Linda and her husband Rick have been married for over 40 years. They have lived in the Northwest and then the Northeast over those years and are currently residents of the Northwest again. They are both dog lovers of epic proportions and have been the aunt and uncle to my dogs over the years and now to John's and my dogs. Special arrangements are always made so that they can have their dog fix when we see each other. They have been the best auntie and uncle that any dog could want. Over the years I've tried my level best to talk them into getting a dog. I'm living proof that having a dog in your life makes you a happier person by improbable measure. There is nothing like the love of a dog to make you feel like a worthy human being and fill your heart from the time you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night. You feel needed and in exchange for your love and care they pay you exponentially with their love and protection. They make you laugh and fill you up with all things positive. Okay ... that is my best sales pitch. It didn't work on Linda and Rick because they are so kind and practical (the perfect people to be dog parents) that they didn't want to leave a dog all day while they were at work. So Rick decided that he wanted to volunteer at the Humane Society in Portland as a dog walker. He would get his dog fix and help those lovely souls that are waiting to find forever homes. When I found out about this I KNEW he would fall in love with one and have to bring it home. I KNEW IT. Sure enough. The little dog that captured his heart was Midas. His is now Midas Metzger, cousin of Breezy and Ransom Jones and he is busy making their lives full and fun!

                                                           Cousin Midas Metzger

The second installment in happy endings is a little mare named Phicicle. She is one that we raised. She was born three weeks early, got pneumonia and nearly died, but made it and ended up being a pretty little mare who trained well and won some good ribbons in Kentucky. John shipped her out to Arizona for me to ride and show but, as often happens, someone took an interest in her and we sold her. She went to a little girl named Macy Blake in North Carolina.

                        Macy and Phicicle (click on this photo for a close up of love at first sight)

I so sincerely love happy endings!

Until next time...make minute of every precious day count!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A New View

This is the first post that I started last year after we moved into the house ... and that I didn't finish. I'll tidy it up a little and post it. The little black filly is now a yearling and is doing well!

Our first successful birth this year - she's so sweet!

I'm sitting in the coach in Oregon at the Arcuri's farm. I flew in last Friday evening, nearly a week ago, and had dinner with friends (my best friend included) in Portland, and have been visiting family and friends since then. John gathered up the dogs and drove the coach up from Scottsdale a few days before I arrived and he has been at the barn every day that he's been here. Spring has been slow to arrive here in Oregon, as is the case sometimes, but with all of the rain has come grass that is belly deep to all of the horses and cows turned out on this beautiful farm and the goodness the flowers are breathtaking. It's Rhododendron season here and the colors are as startling as the giant blooms on the shrubs. It has been a fun time but I'm feeling ready to go home again to the desert and our new home.

"Pistol" grazing in Arcuri's pasture

Breezy in her new back yard in Scottsdale

I apologize once again for disappearing from the blogging scene. It has been a busy time since we got the approval from the bank on the short sale of our new house. I will stop and offer up a piece of advice, which you can either take or leave: Never buy a house on short sale no matter how good it looks. This is truly a case of, do as I say and not as I do, because we did it but it was one of the most frustrating and exhausting processes that either of us have ever been through. It also allowed us to buy our dream home, and what a dream it has been. One other thing that I've learned is that banks are ridiculous. Banks got the country into this economic mess and banks are holding us back from recovery. They are also operating without any rules or oversight on short sales and often times on the foreclosures. And the biggest banks are the biggest offenders. In all of my life I never dreamed that the institutions which hold and manage our money were so totally incompetent and arrogant. It is frightening. In the last six months I've had the unfortunate task of dealing directly with the financial institutions with which we do business. I can't remember ever being more frustrated or feeling more helpless to get information that belongs to us. Another unsolicited piece of advice: Never allow banks to hold your records. If you need them it will take an act of Congress to get what is legally yours. Enough of that.

Sunset in the back yard

More on the house and property that we are privileged to own and occupy. It is heaven. We wake up every morning and pinch ourselves to be sure that we aren't dreaming. It is 2.2 acres of desert in North Scottsdale, almost to Cave Creek. I can see The Boulders, a fabulous pile of smooth rocks that marks the entrance to a development of the same name, when I turn on our road. When I come in the driveway I pass huge saguaro cactus, stag horn cactus, plum trees, palo verde trees, roses, yucca, prickly pear, crown of thorns and more flowering beauties. The explosion of color in the spring in the desert was startling to me, just beautiful. We have road runners, quail, tons of mourning doves, a bob cat, coyotes, javelina (eeekkk!!), and beautiful colored lizards. One day I was sitting in my office and looked up to see a female bobcat and her two kittens stroll by my window. In the back yard there are all kinds of palms, a peach tree, apricot, orange and fig trees. We even have a bay leaf tree! Huge cactus and shade trees surround the pool and spa and there are rose beds against the house on both sides of the patio area. I potted a large gardenia shrub and it was beginning to bloom when I left a week ago. The perfume from the plant is mixed vanilla and orange blossom. Unbelievable.

We signed the papers on the house on March 11th and began the discovery process of a new home, one that we bought "as is". Thankfully John's son Jason came out and spent a week helping us to figure it all out. Bill Field and Shirley Rinehart came too and together we tackled the project. I was still in boxes and just started a new job working for National Horseman magazine and in the midst of all of this we received a letter in the mail ... the one that no one ever wants to get. "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jones, We would like to review portions of your 2009 income tax return. Sincerely, THE IRS." When John handed me the letter and I read it I felt like what I would imagine it feels like to be tazered.

To start with, I keep really good records and if we had used a competent accountant that year I would not have been so wigged out by the request. But we didn't. This incompetent freak was recommended to us. After working with her for a couple of months to prepare our return I was really worried. She couldn't seem to read an email much less handle the entries for our business and prepare a return. A month before we were to file the return my dad died and a week and a half later Vic Arcuri died and by the time we got home from Oregon I was so dazed that I just wanted to sign the return and put it in the mail. But my little voice was screaming at me that this could be a disaster of epic proportions.

Last year we chose a great accountant, Daniel King of Switzer McGaughey (if you are living in Lexington ... or anywhere ... and are in need of a sharp, hard working, professional and fair guy to do your tax work). I was working with him to get our taxes done at the same time that we moved, had company, started a new job and received the LETTER. So I sat down and constructed an email to him letting him know that we had been contacted by the IRS for an audit. I also told him that we would be dealing with a mess. We assigned him our power of attorney and he contacted the auditor in Lexington, who he described as "an affable guy." That didn't match the image I had in my mind of sitting under a bare lightbulb being grilled by a gorilla in a suit and tie. I had ceased sleeping and commenced stressing out. I moved into a level of stress that had never been achieved in modern history. I had one question that played in a loop in my head day and night for a week. "How in the hell do I prepare this information so that they know that we aren't trying to do anything that we weren't supposed to do, given that it is probably going to look like we were doing things we weren't supposed to do?" What was driving that question was the 2 full pages of items that they were asking for. They wanted it all ... everything for the business and our personal stuff (all checks, deposits, credit card charges, mortgage statements, loan documentation, real estate closing statements, plus all of the paperwork, journals, and worksheets that were used to prepare the return and requests for specific areas as well). At the end of the week I was sitting out by the pool with a glass of wine in my hand while John tried without any success to cheer me out of my gloom and doom attitude. "It will be okay," he said. "We are going to jail," was my mental response.

Then it hit me. When mule headed determination hits me I become capable of moving mountains singlehandedly. I looked up and said, "They are going to get the best (effing) records that they have ever seen." I was scheduled to fly up here to Arcuri's place with John over Easter weekend. I cancelled that trip and sent John so that I could have a quiet house for four solid days. I dropped him at the airport, got enough groceries to keep me for the rest of the week and went home to start the IRS Project.

My first endeavor was to get the detailed profit and loss statement from our former accountant. That meant that I had to be ... nice. This is the only year that I have ever allowed someone besides me to do the bookkeeping entries for the business. BIG mistake. I had sent an email request to their office the week before and hadn't heard anything so I tried again and did finally receive the needed file along with a feeble attempt at explaining why they did something blatantly illegal. I printed it out and put my glasses on. I spent about ten minutes looking at it, took my glasses off and threw them on the desk. I looked at my two canine companions and said, "Guys, we're going to jail." I got up, went outside by the pool, had a good cry, pulled myself together and went back to the office. The next four days were brutal. And it got worse after that. The audit was scheduled for May 6th. Easter was on April 24th. I had to gather records from banks, our main bank PNC, which had our savings, personal checking and business checking accounts, and Central Bank in Lexington where I had my writing business account and an old personal account that I never closed after John and I got married. I had to gather credit card statements from Capital One because I allowed them to keep my records electronically and they wouldn't allow me to go back that far online to print the statements.

Again, do not allow banks to keep your records. Either print everything every month or make them send you statements. If you ever need them you will not get them without a fight. I could write volumes about gathering documentation from the banks but I'll tell you the most frustrating part of all: Capital One credit card company. You can call them, state your request, talk to a representative and pray that you get what you need. But you cannot call your representative back. I made a written request as soon as I knew that I would need our personal credit card statements for the entire year. I checked back with them by email regularly and was assured that "the request had been received." As I toiled over my desk organizing information, copying, printing, making regular trips to Office Max for more folders and more copier ink, plotting to blow up the office of the incompetent accountant (just fantasy but it helped to ease a little of the stress) I was going to the mailbox daily looking for those statements. As the date for the audit pelted toward me I became concerned that we wouldn't get them in time, if at all. Finally early in the first week of May I opened the mailbox and there was an envelope from Capital One. I tore it open. It was the statement for March 2009. That was it. ONE statement. I went ballistic. I emailed, I called, I ranted and railed. Finally I got a nice girl on the phone who genuinely wanted to help me. She agreed to have all of the statements faxed directly to the accountant, who already had the folders with the rest of what the IRS wanted. We had to devise a system to contact each other being as I couldn't call her. It was a timing thing. We wait X number of minutes or hours (allowing for a transaction) and then she called me back. Three or four calls later we had it all arranged. I emailed Daniel and asked him to watch for the statements on his fax. I waited. About fifteen minutes passed while I sat and listened to my heart beat, and then I heard the familiar "pling!" of an email coming in. It was Daniel. I opened it. He said, "Well, I got the statements. Twelve months of statements ... from 2008. Did you ask them for 2008?" I'm sure that our neighbors heard my scream from my office. I emailed back. "NO! I DIDN'T ASK FOR 2008!" He emailed back, "I didn't think so. They must have blown their entire customer service budget on the Viking ads." A good laugh helps to defuse a meltdown. So I waited for my girl at Capital One to call me. She was so hopeful that she had helped me that I couldn't yell at her. Besides, she had to request the fax to be sent from another department so I surmised that it probably wasn't her fault. When I told her what happened she was very apologetic for someone else's mistake and told me that she would get to the bottom of it before the day was over. And she did.

The day of the audit was one of the longer days of my life. I was at the National Horseman office doing some editing work most of the day. About 2:00 my phone rang so I grabbed it and dashed outside. Daniel told me that it had gone very well. He said that the auditor was bowled over by the organization of the material and how easy it was to determine what else he needed. "What ELSE does he NEED??!! He has all of what they asked for. He has more than what he asked for. He has my blood, sweat and tears!" Daniel assured me that it would be minor and that the auditor expected to close the file in short order without any changes to the tax owed.

The file was closed in October of 2011. A month later I received a check from the IRS for $2.70. (EFFING) unbelievable.

If we should receive another letter from the IRS I will promptly put the house on the market and move to Costa Rica.

Well ... maybe not.

Alive And Kicking

We are recovering from a boat load of life's challenges and many self imposed changes. To say that we bid 2011 good riddance and opened our arms to 2012 would be an understatement. After we moved into our wonderful new house in March of last year the roller coaster ride began.

I know that I promised to update the blog last June and I didn't. I sincerely apologize. I started several posts but life just had other ideas for my time. I will begin the update this weekend. It will take awhile for me to catch it up but I will do it!

I hope this finds everyone well and enjoying life!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Going Home

The mountains at Flagstaff

We are on the road to Kentucky finally. At the moment we are banging down the road in Arkansas. For the last two days we seem to go from reasonably smooth highway to the Chisholm Trail and back. When we hit the rugged road everything in Mary moves and rattles, clangs, and bangs. There are metal slide latches attached to the two heavy pocket doors that separate the bedroom from the bathroom, and the bathroom from the rest of the coach. When we travel we secure the latches so the doors don't slam open and closed as we travel. Once yesterday and twice so far today (and it is only noon) the latch has rattled loose and the door slammed. You can't miss it. It sounds like someone dropped a crate of cannonballs from two stories up. I'm spending my day running back and forth from the front to the back catching things and adjusting things that are coming loose. At one point I set my laptop on the dashboard and went to get my lunch. I got all of the stuff out for a sandwich and I heard John holler over the internal commotion in Mary, "You better get your laptop!!!!" I dropped the knife in my hand and sprinted to the front. When I got up close I stepped on Breezy's rug and slid into the cockpit just in time to catch my pretty Mac before it hit the floor. It was very good timing, and quite graceful, if I do say so myself. Two seconds later it wouldn't have been so pretty. Or if I had another foot to slide on the rug, I would have ended up on my ass on the floor with my computer. It all worked out.

We left Scottsdale, reluctantly, on Wednesday morning. It was another cool sunny morning. We drove through the mountains to I-40 at Holbrook, Arizona and then on to Santa Rosa, New Mexico. John zeroed in on a sign post that said "5,000" feet and said, "Oh, the beds." I said, "Oh, the beds," and sprinted to the back to find them on 100, the highest setting. I deflated them both to 5 and returned to my seat to let my heart rate settle down. An exploded bed would be rather tragic, I think. By the time we go to Santa Rosa the chambers had blown themselves back up to 95. All of the milk cartons, juice bottles and sealed plastic containers in the refrigerator were bloated. Imagine an exploding tomato juice bottle ... no, don't.

Smiley Jones at Barrett Jackson's car auction

The weather on this trip has been good so far. We decided that we would take I-40 and drive like hell. So far we've stuck to the plan. Amazing considering our track record with plans on this trip. We went from Santa Rosa to Checotah, Oklahoma yesterday. The wind picked up a bit in Oklahoma, but considering our usual experiences with wind in Oklahoma, it wasn't too bad. We stopped in the middle of nowhere for the night, where Ransom became enchanted with some crusty organic stuff that was laying around on the ground. I'm freaky about the dogs picking something up and eating it, especially while we are traveling, without easy access to a vet. He was just bonkers last night. Three times I practically had to wrestle him to the ground to take this gunk out of his mouth. He spent the evening pestering us to go out. He didn't need to do potty business, and after Idol started we had to get a little grumpy with him about it. There must be some dog nip in Oklahoma gunk. What ever it was he was a wild man. All Breezy wanted was her dinner :)

Remember Back To The Future?
Speaking of Idol, I don't know what you Idol watchers out there think but I think this is the best season yet. I don't miss grumpy old Simon and think Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez are doing a great job. Randy is trying to act like Simon at times, which doesn't become him. I prefer his old dawg self. Anyway, where did they find all of these uber talented 15 year olds??? This year they have cut way back on the goofiness in the audition process (which I could do without entirely in exchange for hearing more of the people that they put through to Hollywood), and the judges have been pretty constructive and not so painful in their critiques of the singers. I'll be really interested to see what other changes they have made since Simon the Terrible left.

Red rocks in Sedona

We are still waiting on the bank to either accept or reject our offer on the house. This is completely amazing. There are literally millions of homes either in foreclosure or approved for short sale in the United States (can you feel a soap box moment coming?). There are very few people that the damn banks will approve for loans to buy these houses. In this case the damn bank has a qualified, pre-approved buyer to purchase this house before it goes into foreclosure and destroys the sellers credit for seven years. The damn bank has moved the foreclosure date twice. It is now set for ten days from now. The damn bank waited an entire month from the date of our last offer until they finally responded, rejecting our offer and giving us a generous 24 hours to counter ... AGAIN. That more or less broke my pick with the damn bank. We countered within 24 hours. Now the damn bank has moved into WARP speed. The next day at 11:00 AM they responded, rejecting our counter, and gave us ONE HOUR to counter with our last and best offer. We were at the Barrett Jackson car auction (more on that later) in the midst of a kazillion people when we got the call. So we went back to the coach, had a very fast pow wow, and made our last offer on the place. I was just pissed off ... no, I was PISSED OFF!!! Our agent said that he felt very good about the offer. I'm glad he did because we were both just PISSED OFF.

Crossing the Mississippi River! Leaving the Chisholm behind!

Okay, so now we have the entire weekend to wait to hear from the bank. Our agent is feeling quite good about it. Good for him. We are just plain ambivalent. I guess this is a good thing because I'm reasonably sure that the bank is going to jerk us all around again before this is over. On Monday we got a call from our agent. He tells us that the bank wants real signatures on the addendum to the contract. We've been doing this all electronically up to this point. Our agent says this is a really good sign. I looked at John and said, "I'm not even excited!" That was a sad moment. When one buys one's dream house, one should be excited. But the damn banks are turning this into something akin to emotional abuse. So we signed the contract with real ink and email the thing back to the damn bank. It is now Friday and we have not heard another word. And foreclosure is looming on the folks that own the home. We have money. They have a house that they need to sell. I fail to see what the DAMN BANK'S problem is.

Now to windshield wipers. When we left Oregon last fall we had a new thing-a-ma-gig to help the windshield wipers function. As you might recall, they kept stalling out when we were in Kansas City on our way out west last fall. I invested in some Rain-X wipes which John applied to the windshield in case we got caught in a rainstorm without wipers. As it turned out the wiper motor was shot. So John called Monaco and ordered a new one to install before we left Kentucky for Arizona. They sent one. It arrived and John took it out to the farm to put it on Mary. He opened the generator door and peered into where the wiper motor lives. He looked at the big motor that Monaco sent, and realized that it didn't match the small motor that was installed in Mary. He came home disgusted. There wasn't any time to order another one so we hauled the wrong motor across the country to Arizona. By some major miracle we didn't encounter a drop of rain across the 2,000 plus miles between Kentucky and Arizona.

When we arrived in Arizona and got settled at Ft. McDowell's RV Park, John called Monaco and ordered the correct motor, and had it sent to the RV park. Monaco said that they would send a label to the RV park so that he could send the wrong motor back to Monaco. All seemed well and good. So the new motor arrived. John got it and announced that he was going to install it. He left the coach and I heard the generator door open. I looked at my watch an hour later and realized how long he had been out there. I got up and looked out the front window. I could see his feet and they were moving so I decided to let him do his thing without my observations. I was working on my new manuscript so time went flying by. I finally looked up and it was an hour and forty minutes since he got started. I hadn't heard any swearing so I figured that he must be making headway with the project. A few minutes later the door opened and he came up the steps into the coach. He looked like he had been mugged! His hair was standing up, his shirt tails were hanging out, and he had grease all over his face and hands. He was staggering across the floor. I said, "Are you alright?" He looked at me and smiled. "Yeah," he said. "I got it done."

The next step was to test the wipers, which he did at every speed, several times. It was a total triumph. The wipers were fixed. The only thing left to do was to make sure that the wrong wiper motor made it back to Oregon. He took the box up with the number that Monaco told him to write on the box. UPS was sending the shipping label to go on the box. All they had to do was match the number on the box to the one on the shipping label and it would go back to Monaco. Easy, right?


Two weeks later we are staying at West World I'm checking the credit card statement online to be sure that we were credited for the wiper motor. No credit. So I mention it to John. He calls Monaco. No motor. He calls the RV park in Ft. McDowell. No motor. The damn thing cost $250.00 and it is apparently lost.

Where the hell is the motor?

We drove out to the RV park the next day and John went in. The guy at the office swears that according to the woman who was working in the office that day, the UPS person picked it up. The problem is that the shipping label is still there at the office. We are set to leave the next day to go over to Palm Desert. There was nothing to do but put the ball back in Monaco's court, and wait for the woman who was working in the office the day that the box disappeared to come back to work, two days later. We left for Palm Desert.

John called Monaco again after we got to Palm Desert. Still no information on the disappearance. At this point the volume control on incoming calls on John's phone has gone to hell so he spends a lot of time hollering into his phone, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" Why is it that when we can't hear someone we assume that they can't hear us? Anyway, he was desperate to get to a Verizon store so he could get a new phone and he told the woman at Monaco that if she tracked the motor down to call my phone, which I don't wear on my body, so that we could hear the call. I took the dogs out for a walk and sure enough, she called. When I got back to the coach I listened to the message. She said that the UPS person did pick the box up before the label arrived. He used the information on the box to ship the motor ... BACK TO LEXINGTON. She wanted to know if anyone was at home in Lexington. I threw my hands in the air and hollered at my phone, "NO ONE IS HOME IN LEXINGTON!" John came in about that time. "Who are you yelling at," he asked. "Murphy," I said. Then I explained. He hasn't talked to Monaco since and we still don't have a credit for the motor. I bring it up every so often and he just sighs. He'll deal with it when we get home.

We just spent the night in Goodettsville, Tennessee. We are about an hour from home now. I'm ready to unload the bus and settle in at home.

As we were leaving West World on our way to Palm Desert and L.A. I was standing by John's seat looking at the monitor at the car. I never do that anymore because that seems to be the most reliable part of this mass of mechanics. It just tracks back there like a champ. It has for three years. When I looked at the monitor something struck me as odd, but not enough to suggest stopping to check it. You know how that goes. Your little voice whispers to you that something isn't right and then you promptly ignore it and forget about it. So we took off and hit the 101 going 65 miles per hour. For about 20 miles, every so often, a horn would toot. I thought that was odd, but the drivers in Scottsdale are pretty aggressive so I shrugged that off too. Finally after about 20 miles we were passing an exit when I heard a little "meep, meep" to the right. I looked out the window and there was a guy taking the exit on a motorcycle. He was mouthing something. Of course my first thought was that he was mouthing something obscene. Isn't that a statement on how we live today? I'm so used to people being obnoxious that when they are trying to be helpful, I just assume they are being obnoxious. We were traveling at the same speed, and he mouthed again, CHECK YOUR CAR. Holy shit.


I leaped from my seat to the monitor and hollered, "PULL OVER!!!" We weren't in a spot where there was enough room on the shoulder to pull over and of course John hasn't a clue that I've been getting messages from the motorcycle guy. "WHY?" he hollered at me. "THE CAR!! THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE CAR!!" I screamed. "PULL OVER NOW!!!" I was nearly hysterical. I think I need therapy to something. Of course he wanted to know how I came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with the car so I explained in a speed talking jumble about the guy on the motorcycle. He pulled over on a very busy freeway and got out to see what was wrong.

Sunset in the desert

He came back and got in the driver's seat, put the bus in gear and moved forward, then stopped. "What's wrong?" I asked. "One of the towing arms didn't lock and the car was being pulled down the road cockeyed." I nearly hit the floor. He went out and looked, came back, and repeated the procedure two more times until he said that the arm finally locked. I obsessed until we got to Palm Desert. We had to unhook the car in order to put the coach into a tight spot. Then I got into it to move it. It seemed fine. After we got set up we drove over to Tim and Jeanne's house. It was fine.

It's official. The car is virtually in-destructable. When we parked in the driveway at Arcuri's place I said, "This car needs to be in the Smithsonian."

We made one more stop on our adventure in the west. After we left Griffith Park we went to Sedona to meet Jimmy and Helen Robertson. They were going to be there for a day before they drove down to Tucson. I have to say that I think Sedona is probably one of the prettiest places that we have been in this entire country. The "Oh wow" moments are never ending up there. We made a reservation in a ridiculously expensive RV Park (as RV parks go) and pulled in. The woman had instructed John to pull up to the office. It was a beautiful spot but as we made the tight turns into the office area I was wondering how we were going to get Mary back down to the park area. John went in and I got out and looked around. I didn't see a way to do it, even with the car unhooked. So he came out with instructions on how to get to our space. Step one was to unhook the car. Step two was to make a left turn and then a right turn and drive to the space. He tried left. There wasn't enough room to make the turn. So he looked right and then left and said, "I can make it." I was skeptical. He started that direction. I was standing by the car about to get in when this bearded guy showed up. "Man that's a beautiful rig," he says. "Thank you," I say as I turn to go to the car. "What make is it?" he asks. "A Monaco Dynasty," I say and start to turn away again. "How many miles do you have on it?" he asks. Exasperated I say, "Not sure. About 60,000 I think." Now I'm walking to the car when I hear, ssssrrrrrraaaaapppppppppe.

I won't say what I said.

I jumped in the in-destructible Smithsonian car and ripped down to the bottom of the hill where John was eyeing the damage to the side of the coach. Apparently there were some thorny bushes ... I'll spare you the details. When we take it to the detailer this spring he will have some work to do.

The next thing we had on the agenda was to find a car wash. Smithsonian car was a pig. Armed with instructions from the handyman at the park we took off. Sedona's city council must have outlawed left turns because from the time that you turn off of Interstate 17 and head for Sedona you start encountering roundabouts. No stop signs exist in Sedona. Only roundabouts. I think John took Mary through about ten of them on the way to the RV park and ten of them on the way out. 42 feet plus a Smithsonian car in a roundabout is a challenge. I think Smithsonian car jumped a couple of curbs on the way in. Anyway, back to the car wash. With some very loose instructions on how to find the car wash we set out tootling through roundabouts. When we had the choice to go left or right Murphy got involved and we took the wrong turn. A half hour later we were still looking for it, and we were only five minutes from the RV park. Finally we found it and then we couldn't figure out how to get in the driveway. Once we got into the driveway we found that we had discovered the world's slowest car wash. It took a half hour to get the car washed. Then Jimmy and Helen called us and asked if we would pick them up so that we could go up to a church that is built into a rock on a hill.

We picked them up at their hotel (we actually found it without turning around one time ... a miracle) and we drove up to the top of the hill. We went into the church. It didn't fall down. Another miracle. It was very cool and the view was fantastic.

The church in the rocks

We dropped them off and went back to the coach to change for dinner. We had made reservations at a place called Enchantment Resort. I read the reviews and they were glowing. The resort is about 8 miles out of town in the red rocks of Sedona. Jimmy drove us in their rental car, a new Camry, to the resort. As we were climbing in altitude we saw a full moon rising in between two stunning red peaks. It hung there like a giant softly glowing ball in the sky. It was stunning. Those who know the legend of Jimmy Robertson's driving, know that he considers himself "an excellent driver". They also know that when he drives his big red truck down the narrow winding road that they live on, people dive for the ditch when they see him coming. His driving is truly legendary in the horse industry. Helen, John, and I discussed this issue on the way up to the resort and decided that because the three of us were going to be drinking that Jimmy would be the best driver of the four of us after dinner. Scary.

We had a meal that I would rate in the top ten of my life. And the view, at night, with the full moon was almost surreal. And we drank a lot. We had cocktails. We had wine. And more wine. I think we could safely say that the three of us we were toasted. We piled into the Camry and Jimmy took off toward town. John and I were in the back seat so we weren't paying much attention to where he was going. He made a wrong turn and we ended up on a dirt road. It was a moonlit dirt road, but a DIRT road none the less. The three of us protested that we were going the wrong way. Jimmy gleefully continued down this road. We disintegrated into hysterics and I developed a horrendous case of the hiccups. I was laughing, tears rolling down my cheeks, and hiccuping, while Helen was writing a Facebook entry on her phone telling the world that we were lost in the desert in Sedona with Jimmy behind the wheel. The little Camry flew down the dirt road, around corners at high speed and through holes in the road like a champ. Finally, after what seemed like four hours, we hit the main road back to town. We just had a blast.

As of today (which is February 11th) the damn bank has harassed us for one piece of information after another and we still don't have an agreement on the price. If anyone is reading this that is considering buying a house on short sale here is my advice: RUN. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN THE OTHER WAY AND DON'T LOOK BACK. If we weren't so far into this we would pull the plug on this one and move on to a property that isn't in financial distress.

We are home now. It is cold. The ground is covered with snow again and the temperatures have been in the single digits for the last few mornings. Mary is plugged in over at the farm chugging away. The good thing is that the days are getting longer and the weatherman says that we have a break in the weather coming! Temperatures in the 50s are on the horizon. It's the mid winter break time. Yay!!!!!!

By our front porch

I hope everyone is having a good winter! I'll be back when we begin our migration back to Scottsdale in March for the horse show. Or maybe, if the house gods smile on us, to MOVE! :)

I was about to publish this post when the phone rang. It was John.

WE GOT THE HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, January 3, 2011


Snow on the Mountain

It seems that no matter where we go the weather goes whacky. No exception in Arizona. I took the above picture on our daily walk up the hill above where we were keeping Mary. Notice the snow on the mountains. We woke up to temperatures in the upper 20s two mornings in a row. They were forecasting snow in Phoenix at one point. I was in town that day having fun with Karen Anthony and her daughter Ali and her daughter in-law Dawn. On the way back to Fort McDowell they said it was snowing in East Mesa. I thought I saw snow flakes when I was sitting at the traffic light in Fountain Hills. Turns out it was weed fuzz :-)

We don't mind the cold temps because when we look at the weather at home, comparatively, its almost warm. Currently (its Monday) we are at RV Renovators, parked in their back parking lot for the night, watching the Kentucky Wildcats play Pennsylvania. Tomorrow it will break 60 degrees again and all will be right with the world.

The reason we are at RV Renovators ... which are the people who saved our collective rear ends when Guarantee RV in Oregon ripped us off two years ago, or so ... is because the driver's side slide in bedroom broke (again). We were going to start migrating back to Kentucky. I know ... HAVE WE LOST OUR MINDS?????? No, we lost our house person. We have someone who looks after our house, picks up the mail and such while we are traveling. She got transferred by her company and had to make a quick move so we are stuck for someone to take care of the place and the mail.


It is now January 17th. We still aren't home yet. Someone recently said that our lives parallel "Where's Waldo?". I've taken to calling John, Waldo Jones. We have two Woofs.

Back to RV Renovators. When we pulled in they guided us to the back parking lot. It was enclosed by a chain link fence that ran the length of the lot. At night they close the gates on either end and lock everything up. So our guy Eddie gets into the coach and we visit with him about the slide problem, and what will eventually (and I mean two and a half days later) be done to fix it. Ransom is sitting in the co-pilot's seat and John and I are near the galley while we talk to Eddie. We find out that they don't have the part that we need on site, and will have to order it from Monaco in Indiana. It's later in the day and the parts place in Indiana was closed. They were going to call in the morning and have the part flown to Arizona for delivery on Wednesday. They invited us to stay in the parking lot. It's like living in an episode of Junk Yard Wars. Seriously. It's a mess!

We hooked up and Eddie went out the door as Bob (the best repair guy ever) got in. In the process no one noticed that they left the door open. John got up, stepped down to the parking lot and then jumped back in the coach. "Is Ransom in here?" he hollered at me. I looked around and we both called his name at the same time. No dog. Paralyzing fear hit me like a locomotive. We were sitting right on Main Street in busy Mesa, Arizona. I bolted out of the coach with John and he commenced his ear splitting whistling. Behind the chain link fence was a row of crummy houses and a dirt road. I followed the chain link fence with my eyes looking for a hole where he could have gotten through. There was no hole. My eyes kept going until I got to the gate, which was right on the road. By this time the entire crew at RV Renovators had sprung into action. There was a guy unlocking the walk-through gate and people were running everywhere hollering, "HAVE YOU SEEN A LITTLE RED DOG?" John kept whistling. Panic had me by the throat. I wanted to sit down in the middle of the parking lot and cry. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a red streak flying down the dirt road on the opposite side of the fence. Ransom was checking every possible way to get through that fence and back to us. I took off running toward the gate calling him and he followed me on the other side of the fence until we got to the street. He jetted around the end of the fence and I scooped his little ass up and hugged him and then scolded him all the way back to the coach. He just licked my face, all jazzed up from his escape. The dog nearly gave me a heart attack.

The Escapee

So we spent two nights in the parking lot. Every morning at 6:30 someone would step into the mass of RV parts, windshields, insulation, paint cans, hoses, tools, and crap stacked miles high and holler something that I never understood and we would sit bolt upright in the bed. For two days during the day we would go out and explore our potential new home area, eat lunch out, go walking with the dogs, shop, and count the minutes until our coach was back together and we could begin our journey back to Kentucky. Or not.

The actual repair took an entire day on the third day, while we cooled our heels in the RV Renovators waiting room We took the dogs in with us. John was in and out for several of those hours, driving the repair guys nuts I'm sure.

There is a popcorn machine in the waiting room. Breezy ended up giving away one of our closely held secrets, one that was kept between her and Ransom and me. We don't hand feed either one of them anything except dog treats. No people food by hand. And very little people food anyway. But when John is traveling the dogs and I catch up on our chick flicks. And of course with a movie you have to eat popcorn. So I make Orville Redenbacher's tender white popcorn. I can't eat a whole bag of it by myself so we share it. I eat a kernel and toss one each to my adoring canine companions. Of course I swore them to secrecy so we wouldn't get any flack from John.

Breezy in the pilot's seat, against the reflection of a tree at Griffith Park

Miss Breezy being the brainiest and most trustworthy of our group is allowed to go leash free where ever it is allowed. We situated ourselves in the little waiting room, me on a chair, Ransom on my left on his leash, John on the chair next to me, and Breezy without her leash, on John's right. And also she was closest (about five feet) from the popcorn machine. John told her to lie down, and she got comfortable next to his feet ... with her nose pointing toward the popcorn machine.

Double Frisbees at West World

Breezy has a way of laying flat like no other dog I've ever had. She can get really, really, really flat with her little feet out in front of her and her chin in the floor. While she is that flat-like-a-rug-on-the-floor dog, she can also scoot very slowly along the floor in that position. It's a miracle of dog physics. Every time I looked over at her she had moved several inches closer to the popcorn machine. It was getting close to her afternoon feeding time so I suspected that she was going to blow our cover. I went back to my reading. A few minutes later a man came in to get some popcorn out of the machine. He got a bag and opened the door and Breezy crawled on her belly over to the machine. John started to laugh. He said, "She has never had popcorn in her life. I don't know why she is over there." I cleared my throat and shifted in my chair. When Breezy is hungry she drools. It's a reaction that gets her lots of food. "Look at the poor dog. She's starving." Of course she weighed almost 50 pounds the last time she was on the scale and I'd trimmed a good four or five pounds off of her since we had been in Arizona. The man asked if he could give her some popcorn. John said, "We don't hand feed them." I said, "Well, that's not exactly true." Both John and the man turned and looked at me. "We do eat popcorn together when you travel," I said. "You can't watch movies without popcorn." The man started to laugh while Breezy is salivating all over the floor and John said, "Okay then. Give her some popcorn." She was one happy Border Collie. Ransom got some too. And now I don't have to swear them to secrecy anymore.

We were so proud of ourselves. We managed to get through the holidays without any of the lights and music and the stuff that after 55 and 65 years on the planet, we are both sick of. In the RV park at Ft. McDowell there were several people who decorated their coaches. You can't know how ridiculous it looks to have reindeer antlers stuck to the front of a million dollar Prevost coach. Or santa hats hanging on the side mirrors. And lights strung all over the things. Anyway, we managed to sail through, enjoying our outdoor time without all of the Christmas trappings. So on January 3rd we went to an Italian restaurant in Fountain Hills for dinner. When we walked in I was immediately struck by the fact that there were Christmas lights in the windows. When they seated us we walked by two fully decorated Christmas trees. And when we sat down we both heard the music. "Here Comes Santa Claus" was the first tune. It was followed by another equally ridiculous Christmas song. I leaned over the table and whispered, "You think someone forgot to tell them that Christmas is over?" The waitress came up to get our drink order. She said, "Would you like something to drink?" John said, "Christmas is over." This girl was dumb as a box of rocks and slow as molasses in January (in Kentucky). She says, "I know." Okay. So why were we being tortured by stupid Christmas music (not "Silent Night" or "Oh Holy Night" but "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" and "Frosty The Snowman" ... I swear!)? I surmised that it was because we spent too much time being proud of the fact that we managed to get to January 1st without hearing them. Such is life. We had a seriously bad meal, exceptionally slow service and all of it done to bad music. It was karmic payment for gloating.

We got the coach back together late on the third afternoon and made a mad dash down to West World with the plan that we would leave the next morning (Thursday) for Kentucky. This was Plan B. Neither one of us had our hearts in Plan B. We woke up on Thursday morning to a glorious day of sunshine and warm temperatures. We had the place to ourselves except for some people in the main parking lot working on some big event that was coming up. We had a weather window and route planned that might have gotten us home without any snow storms. But we weakened (code for, we talked each other out of leaving) and opted for just one more day ... one that we enjoyed completely. Late in the day I got on my computer to be sure that we were good to go on Friday, and discovered that we had blown our weather window. According to and the National Weather Service there wasn't a route that we could take to Kentucky that wouldn't stick us in the middle of a nasty storm that was going to blanket the mid south from Dallas to the east coast of the Carolinas. On to Plan C.

John decided that the ladies in the office at West World needed some bribing in order to keep us there for as long as we needed to be there so he took them a signed copy of "Silent Partner". I went over to the office and visited with them, and they were so happy to have the book. I don't think anyone ever gave them anything before. They had been a little testy each time that we dealt with them in the past but the book opened the floodgates of generosity. They really are nice ladies but working for the city apparently has its challenges. As it turned out, it was a terrible storm that lasted longer than we expected so we were stuck at West World. No other RV Park had space for us. The event that was coming in was the Barrett Jackson car auction. It is an epic car event (and I'm an epic car lover). The ladies at the office said that Barrett Jackson's group was scheduled to take over the lot that we were in on Monday. We watched the weather channel and the terrible storm back east, and the days clicked by. We biked and played Frisbee with the dogs and saw movies and ate out, soaked up sun and read and napped. Everyone at home kept telling us NOT to come home because it was horrible there. My dear friend Leigh took over the mail duties at the house so that was a load off of my mind. But Barrett Jackson's group was taking over all of the RV spaces on Monday. Plan C was to leave on Monday. The weather prevented that. On to Plan D.

Christopher Robin (L.A. Equestrian Center mascot)

John coaxed two more days out of the office. I'm not sure how they did it but they let us stay in the lot while the Barrett Jackson people prepared West World for the big event all around us. They brought in semi load after semi load of the most beautiful, cherry cars you have ever seen! The Arcuris were due in town for the big Oregon vs. Auburn game on Monday so on Tuesday we had lunch with them. While we were eating Tim invited us to go over to Palm Desert where they have their house. There is a big park with a lake a mile from their house where we could put Mary. Plan D was formed. On Wednesday we left West World, wishing that we could stay for the auction which was due to start on the 17th (today) and drove west. The entire trip we kept saying, "I can't believe we are going farther west!" We spent two days there and had a great time. The park was wonderful and we had perfect weather. The next conversation was about whether we would go home from there or go over to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center for a visit with the Bennetts. It was only 140 miles. So what the heck! The weather sucked at home, the house was taken care of and we didn't have anything else to do. Plan E.

We drove over to Burbank and parked Mary. It was a great stay and again THE WEATHER WAS PERFECT. Oh, and by the way, we are still waiting to hear from the bank on our home purchase. That is probably the main reason we are dragging our feet about going home. Anyway, we had a great time there. The plan was to go home from there. It would take 5 days from L.A. to Lexington. I looked at the weather. It was good until we got to Lexington on Friday. The forecast was 19 degrees for a high and 6 degrees for a low. And it said it was going to be windy. I told Jim Bennett and he said, "Why would you go home to that now?"

That was all we needed. John talked to Jimmy Robertson who said that he and Helen were going to be in Sedona tomorrow. Unbeknownst to me, he called Cayce Marcos to find out if we could park Mary at their barn in Scottsdale so we can attend the Barrett Jackson car auction!!! Plan F was formed this morning at 9:30 when she said yes.

The lake at Palm Desert

Right now we are in Needles, California for the night. Tomorrow we will get up and go to Sedona, one of the prettiest places I've ever been to, to meet up with our friends. Thursday we are off to Scottsdale for the auction, and if the house gods all line up properly, the bank will accept our offer on the house while we are there.

While we were at the L.A. Equestrian Center we met a Percheron named WhoDat who would fetch a small construction cone every time Jim would throw it for him. It was the cutest thing I've seen a horse do! We also met the LAEC official mascot, Christopher Robin. He is a Miniature Horse, a little stallion who does the Spanish walk, and will rear up and walk on his hind feet, sit down, and bow. He is a beautiful little guy. The woman who runs the RV parking and such at LAEC turned out to be someone who John had met in 1977 at a wedding of a mutual friend in Las Vegas. Very small world. I love that place because it is constant horses, so much so that every time I take a breath there I can smell horses. It doesn't get much better than that.

Christopher Robin and his owner, Karen Sun. She exercises him alongside the golf cart.

The question finally came down to: What would we be doing if we were home? The answer was: Freezing our asses off, sitting in front of the fire, waiting to hear from the bank. So we may keep driving circles around the southwest until spring. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Desert Christmas

We left this in Lexington

Headed down Versailles Road

Spent the night near the Mississippi River

Trekked across Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico

Came over the mountains in Arizona

Found the Saguaro

And landed in the desert

This is the first time we have spent the holidays in Arizona, but not likely the last time. We are staying out at Fort McDowell by Fountain Hills, where my dad and step mother used to own a home. It's about ten miles from Scottsdale. Mary is set up in a nice park across the highway from the Fort McDowell Casino. The Salt River Indians own the property that we are parked on. The day that we pulled in we spotted three loose horses traveling down a trail, head to tail, headed to the river for a drink of water. A day later I was pedaling with Ransom around the park when I spotted two cows with their calves moseying on down the side of the paved road toward the river, totally unfazed by all we RVers. Really cool.

We were scheduled to leave Lexington on Sunday December 5th so that John could attend a USEF judging clinic in Scottsdale on the 9th. But the weather didn't cooperate and we couldn't leave until Wednesday. Mary is a wonderful machine but she becomes a 50,000 pound bobsled in snowy weather. We made it into Ft. McDowell three and a half days later. We always say that we are not going to bust our bums to get where we are going, but when you are traveling Interstate 40 through Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle why would you take your time. There's not much out there but wind ... not John's favorite element, nor mine. He missed his clinic but that can be done another time. Now we are parked in a beautiful spot in the desert, surrounded by mountains and saguaro and prickly pear cactus, and enjoying the most beautiful weather we could ask for. The days are hovering around 70 degrees and the nights are cold enough to require a down comforter. We are walking with the dogs every day in tee shirts and I've been outside in shorts and flip flops (cute new ones) on a couple of afternoons. It's just plain heaven. We've had some rain but its not cold so we are fine with that.

Breezy is sacked out in her bed as I type this and Ransom is curled up in his new bed. He kept trying to steal Pocket Arcuri's little round, high sided bed when she was our guest, so I decided that he needed one of his own. It's a little bigger than Pocket's bed was, so when he gets comfortable in it all I can see is his side rising and falling with his breathing, and sometimes an ear or a foot sticking up. They are so happy here. In the mornings we take them with us while we pedal the bikes around the park. Each time we pass a coach or travel trailer with dogs we hear them sound off at the sight of us, madly pedaling with our dogs galloping alongside our bikes, their ears flying.

Before we left Lexington the weather was so bad for so long that Breezy didn't get out as much as she needed to, and she gained five pounds. I took them both into the vet before we left for their semi-annual checkups and Breezy weighed in at 49.9 pounds! She is the first foodie Border Collie I've ever been around. Tag, my last little Border Collie, was a non-eater. Food didn't mean a thing to her so I spent the better part of 14 years thinking up new ways to get her to eat. Not so with Breezy. So I bought Science Diet Light dry and wet dog food before we left and we put her on a diet and exercise program. She's not taking the diet part too well, but I think we've peeled a few pounds off of her in the nearly three weeks that we've been here. We've both lost a few pounds along the way as well. We take them for a long afternoon walk each day that usually concludes at about feeding time. There is a good gravel road to walk on about a quarter mile from the park so we head up the paved road to get to it. Every so often Breezy stops and licks the pavement. John swears she is licking up the remains of local road kill. We make the turn onto the gravel road and it is all uphill for a mile or so until you get to a rock quarry, where we turn around and head back. She leads us back at a hurried pace, so that we don't miss her dinner time, 4:00 on the dot and not a second later! I swear she has a clock in her stomach. Ransom will eat but he's not as food focused as she is until we finish with our dinner. I keep a little something special in the fridge that they get after the dinner dishes are done. He may be dead asleep in his bed but when I open the door of the refrigerator to get their treats, out of his bed he comes flying. I'm not sure exactly how they know that particular door opening sound when I've spent the last 20 or 30 minutes in the kitchen cleaning, clattering around, and putting leftovers away, but they do. At home Breezy will position herself in front of the refrigerator door, with her nose pointing toward it so that I don't forget to give her the treat. In the coach I would be falling over her if she did that so she sits next to the sink and watches my every move until I'm done.

Today we were walking back from our trek up the hill and a huge coyote crossed the road in front of us. He hung out in the bushes and watched us as we walked past him. John hollered at him and he took off. In the mean time Ransom was going to get all testosterone charged about the "big dog" that crossed in front of us. I explained in firm language that the "big dog" would eat him for a snack, and to chill out. I hope he got the message. He thinks he's tougher than he really is. I can hear the coyotes singing outside in the desert now.

We spent Christmas Eve at the restaurant at The Raddison Hotel at the casino. It is a beautiful place with a very good restaurant. We toasted my dad and Christmas in the desert and enjoyed a fun time together with our server, who was new. We were her third table ... ever. She was so sweet, from Missouri (she reminded us that it is the show me state) and we really enjoyed her company. She was really nervous and made some mistakes but it only added to the charm of the meal and the time of year. On Christmas Day Karen Anthony and her husband Leon Ray invited us to their beautiful home up on the hill overlooking Scottsdale. Along with their family we enjoyed great company and a wonderful meal. It has been an awesome holiday.

For Christmas this year (and the next 30 Christmases!) we are giving each other a new house. Or trying too. We found a lovely property in Scottsdale that is being sold on short sale. Neither of us really knew what that meant until after we got into it, but I can tell you that if you are looking to buy a property I would avoid short sales if at all possible. The market in the Phoenix area has taken a 50% hit in the real estate melt down so there are a ton of great values out here, but the short sale process is long and trying and without any guidelines or rules that we can discern. Thankfully our agent is a specialist in these sales so we are in good hands. We are both learning to exercise our patience regularly. So far when one of us has come up short in the patience department the other one is making up the difference. I'm not sure how much longer it will take to find out if we have prevailed in this purchase, but we are hopeful that we will know something in the next week or so. Since we sold the Florida property we have really missed having a warm weather home. We were both weary of living through six months a year of hurricane season and we both love it out here, so it seemed like a good place and a good time to shop. The second house that we looked at we both went head over heels for. That was at the end of October. But if it all works out our patience will be well rewarded. If not we'll go back to shopping and cut a wide swath around the short sale listings.

We will have to head back into Kentucky winter soon. I've spent so much time bragging about our good weather on my Facebook page that my friends are probably blocking my postings. For awhile John was calling his friends every day and when they would pick up the first thing he said was, "I'm surprised that you are still taking my calls." I was too. He was terrible about pounding our freezing Kentucky friends with all of the gory details, like, "I'm sitting in the sun but I'm going to have to go in because I'm SWEATING." Really cruel. Or, "I'm sitting on the patio of a local Mexican restaurant in the SUN having a MARGARITA." Below the belt stuff.

"Silent Partner" has had a good holiday season. I've had really nice feedback on it from a lot of people so I'm hopeful that they will all tell their friends about it and sooner or later it will have a really good following. I'm encouraged enough to keep working on the second book!

I hope that everyone has had a wonderful holiday and that 2011 is the best, most inspired year yet! I'll update on how we are coming on the house project as news comes along!