Friday, September 28, 2007

My New Baby

That's it over there on the left, the cover of my next book. It releases in March, and it's my response to the rabid partisanship in Washington and the church that several years ago left me without a political party and without a church. But my response is no diatribe; not only would I never sink to that level, I also would never take my own opinions so seriously that I'd write a book without a healthy dose of subtle but sanity-preserving humor.

I mean, really, if we can't find humor in politics, we're all going to lose our minds as well as any hope of transforming the system. There's a reason why so many of us are addicted to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report; we know that the best humor reflects our everyday reality.

We the Purple reflects the everyday reality of both independent voters and independent candidates. The results of my research, my interviews with voters and candidates, and my interaction with other independents proved to be a real eye-opener. With the media calling 2008 the year of the independent voter, I'm grateful I had the opportunity to write this book, and I'm grateful to Tyndale House for publishing it. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Atop the 14,000-plus-foot summit of Pikes Peak stands the appropriately named Summit House, part gift shop, part snack bar, part warmup area for tourists who have ventured to its heady, oxygen-derived, and often, very, very cold environs. It's a friendly little place and, one would think, a place safe from big-city crime.

Not so, it seems. Sometime during the night on Saturday, burglars broke into the Summit House and made off with a safe.

Here's the thing: the only way to get to the summit is via a cog railway or a toll road. The burglars not only traveled that treacherous toll road after dark, they did so in a stolen pickup belonging to the Pikes Peak Highway toll road agency, according to a story in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Hey, I'm not one to admire criminals, but you've got to give these guys credit. They managed to pull off a heist that promised an incredibly difficult getaway. I mean, really, you can't exactly speed off down the mountain on a road whose hairpin turns have claimed numerous victims over the years. Maybe they were able to clock their getaway at 30 miles per hour---maybe. In a stolen truck, no less. On a toll road that showed no telltale signs of foul play---no broken toll gates, nothing.

As admirable as all that is, I hope they get the buggers, and soon. The Summit House holds so many fond memories for so many people, and its employees ought to feel that they're still working in one of the safest places on earth. Well, safe from criminals, anyway.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Plea to Sweet Tomatoes

I lost my status as a Sweet Tomatoes virgin this week. Lest you think that's something racy, let me assure you it isn't. Sweet Tomatoes is a chain restaurant, and I ate there for the first time on the way back from Denver to the Colorado Springs area on Friday.

My friend Alice had intended to treat me to the joys of Sweet Tomatoes numerous times over the past two years. We'd go to Denver frequently for her cancer treatments and pass several Sweet Tomatoes restaurants on the way, and she would vow to take me there for lunch following her appointment. But every single time, something would go wrong, and her one-hour appointment would be extended to three or four or five hours. (It once was extended to five days; hers is a complicated situation, obviously.)

On Friday, God graced Alice with an uncomplicated appointment, the first ever, I think, and the final in a long and arduous series. We celebrated by stopping at Sweet Tomatoes. Now I'm generally pretty satisfied with wherever I eat; unless the place is filthy or the age of food is questionable, food is just food to me. I don't eat out often, and it's just not worth it to critique a meal at a place I may never visit again. I just get my nourishment and move on. Plus, I don't expect a whole lot from a chain restaurant.

But holy Sweet Tomatoes! Please, please, you-who-rule-the-Sweet-Tomatoes-universe, please, please, bring a restaurant or two to El Paso County. Oh my. One can hardly begin to describe the exquisite pleasure of finding actual fresh food within sniffing distance of an interstate. It was pure joy, I tell you, pure joy.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Knitters know this abbreviation well; it stands for On The Needles and represents the project(s) the knitter currently has going. Well, in my knitting/reading life, it also stands for On The Nightstand, which in a perfect world would apply to the books I'm reading. In reality, there's no room on the nightstand for books; they're scattered all over the floor. But that's an OTF story and better left for another time.

So what would be OTN if my world was perfect and there was room on the nightstand? Lots of books to review, plus these two gems:

  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. A memoir of life in a Muslim culture that practiced female circumcision (a.k.a. genital mutilation), a growing discontent with male domination and other cultural and Islamic concepts, gaining asylum and political influence in Holland, and working for a think tank in Washington. Riveting and eye-opening, even for those who have a decent working knowledge of Islam and its treatment of women.

  • Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off: The Yarn Harlot's Guide to the Land of Knitting. It's so nice to have a book like this to follow Infidel. I needed something light, and this filled the bill. If you're an OCK---an Obsessive Compulsive Knitter---or know one, this is a great primer for understanding the disorder. Which, of course, is no disorder at all. We OCKs know without question that knitting is what keeps us sane even if it makes us crazy at times. This book provides all the validation we need.

So that's what's OTN in my reading life. What's OTN in my knitting life includes a scrollbar scarf I started for my daughter in '06, I think (it's way cool, with a movable slider and all; the link shows the designer's crocheted version); a pair of socks for myself that I started on a drive from Florida to Colorado in April; a Fun Fur patchwork throw that I'm determined to finish before the snow flies; and at least a half-dozen other projects buried in the mound of yarn, supplies, books, and other knitting paraphernalia I've yet to sort out from the move.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Scorin' Some Sofrito

Living in a small mountain town has its challenges, especially when you need a specialty product. I never considered sofrito to be a "specialty" product before; living in Florida, I could put my hands on a jar or frozen tub of sofrito, a Latino sauce, at any number of stores within a five-mile radius of my home. I could even make my own, because all the fresh ingredients I needed were also available at said stores.

Little did I realize how hard it would be to find sofrito in the town where I'm now living. Not only that, I had a devil of a time finding it in neighboring Colorado Springs (population: a lot, including a fair percentage of Latinos). The first Latino market I visited in the Springs had closed a week earlier for nonpayment of rent; another highly touted mega-carniceria hadn't even opened for business yet. I was about to start making the rounds of the Mexican restaurants in our town--there are a half-dozen in our town of 7,000 people--sidle up to the cooks, and whisper oh so softly, Psst! Know where I can score some sofrito? I'm telling you, I felt as if I was trying to buy a controlled illegal substance.

I finally found some at a Latino market called Leonela's in Colorado Springs. I mention the name of the store for one reason: utter gratitude. I bought four jars, plus four more of recaito, a sauce I use less often but one that is even harder to find. Oh, and a box of cilantro cubes and a package of powdered achiote, two products I didn't know existed in those forms and which I may never need, but what the heck. There they were, and there I was, and I wasn't about to leave the store without them. The store isn't exactly around the corner, more like 30 miles away.

My fortunes are about to change, however, but don't tell anyone how pleased I am about this. Wal-Mart is opening a supercenter two miles from my house at 7:30 tomorrow morning. Of course, I hate Wal-Mart, just as everyone else does. But I also shop there, just as most everyone else does. If I have any hope of scoring some sofrito at 8,500 feet, it will be at the dreaded, evil, dastardly, always well-stocked Wal-Mart Supercenter. Yep, I'll feel dirty and slimy and traitorous and all that, but I'll have my sofrito.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Life I've Always Wanted

Last month my husband and I moved from Florida to Colorado.

Just eleven words, but those eleven words represent a thirty-five year journey that took me from New Jersey to Delaware to Florida and finally to Colorado. Back in New Jersey in 1972, a couple I knew from college decided they'd had it with the East Coast; they were heading for Colorado, and in true hippie fashion, they were selling all their earthly goods, which amounted to one stereo, to fund the trip. I was the buyer. I'd never owned a stereo, and I was happy to help them out. But more than anything, I wanted to go with them. I promised myself I'd follow up on that and connect with them as soon as...well, I don't know what I was thinking. As soon as I graduated? As soon as I graduated and got a car that might make it that far? As soon as I graduated and got a car that might make it that far and Jupiter aligned with Mars and peace would rule the planet and all that? It was the Age of Aquarius, after all, and maybe there was something to all that cosmic stuff.

Well, whatever the forces were that converged to make this happen (before you get all upset, yes, of course, I know it was God, all right?), I am grateful beyond measure. Here I am, finally living in the Rockies, on an amazingly private piece of property at the top of a rise three blocks from the center of a wonderful small town, surrounded on three sides by evergreens with an awesome view of Pikes Peak on the fourth side, working from home, and loving every single thing about my new life.

The "getting here" wasn't much fun, though. As my regular readers know, I haven't blogged in a while. At first, that was due to a very tight book deadline involving dozens of interviews and tons of research, a temporary living situation with spotty Internet service, and time-consuming real estate problems in both Florida and Colorado. I figured everything would settle down once we closed and I turned the book in to the publisher---did I mention that the closing date and the book deadline fell on the exact same day?---but that was not to be.

First, the buyer's mortgage company went bankrupt the day before the closing on our house in Florida. I can't begin to describe what that nightmare was like. The guy performed nothing less than a miracle in acquiring a new mortgage in record time, but the stress was unbelievable. I had already moved to Colorado, my husband had quit his job, and the movers were scheduled to start loading up.

So we closed, but we had no place to live in Colorado. We planned to rent for the first year, and one rental after another didn't pan out. So even as our stuff was barreling down I-70 in Kansas, we didn't know where to tell the driver to deliver it. We ended up putting everything in storage and paying for a second move from the storage unit to the house we rented.

And then my friend Margaret Rex passed away. Margaret, who was in her 70s, had the spunk and energy of a woman half her age until the cancer that had been in remission for years reared its ugly head again. She was a lifechanger, and I told her as much the last time I saw her. You could not know this woman and not be touched by her in a deep and profound way; she was one of those people who brought joy and laughter and meaning to life in every situation and in every encounter you had with her.

Margaret patiently taught me to knit socks.

Margaret lived in Colorado Springs, where I had spent much of the last few years, and I was looking forward to spending time with her when I moved to Colorado permanently. We hadn't even unpacked when we got the call that she was failing; four days later, she was gone. I miss her, and yet I am comforted knowing that her struggle is finally over.

So it's been an eventful summer. There's lots more, of course: a close relative ended up in a mental health facility, called me as much as five times a day after his discharge, and is now living in a homeless shelter; I spent most of three weeks in bed with a phantom illness; at times, chaos seemed to be the new norm for our lives. But here I am today---and I can't say this often enough---living the life I've always wanted.

How many people can say that? Can you? In 1972, I didn't expect to live past my 20s. I lived recklessly, and I knew it. Something was bound to get me sooner rather than later. But here I am, 35 years later, living a reality that was just a dream back than. I am blessed. Truly, unbelievably blessed---blessed beyond measure.