Three Years and Counting

I still have to pinch myself when I realize I’ve been married for three years.  Not only has it been much more enjoyable than I ever anticipated, but the time has absolutely flown by!

It’s interesting to observe what type of ‘married people’ we’re turning out to be.  Being my first go-round (it’s my husband’s second), I was pretty gung-ho in the beginning about all things ‘marriage’, even though I had never pictured myself having a big wedding or anything that extreme.  It was more the idea of marriage and a lifelong partnership that was appealing to me, not the showy wedding aspect. Lucky for me, my husband and I were on the same page about this…Vegas – CHECK!

Once married however, I was really into the anniversary thing and my original Big Plan was to adhere to the traditional wedding gift for each year of our marriage.  I secretly pictured myself coming up with a clever gift that my husband actually loved year after year, no matter how challenging the traditional gift material (I must admit I was dreading the ‘tin’ year).

Needless to say, although I was pretty impressive out of the gate, this year I completely forgot our anniversary was even approaching.  Yikes.  I thought the guy was supposed to be the forgetful one!  I was only reminded when my husband announced he’d made dinner reservations.

When he caught my momentary blank look I was compelled to admit I had totally forgotten our anniversary.  Imagine my surprise when instead of the hurt reaction I feared, I swear he actually tried to backpedal, thinking he might be able to save some cash and not have to take me to dinner after all.

Because we become a little more familiar with the nuances of each others’ personalities every year, although this little incident gave me a chilling glimpse into the depths of his frugality, I won’t hold it against him…

We did end up going to dinner, and after quickly agreeing that gifts weren’t necessary, came to the conclusion that what would really mean the most to both of us was a cool outing to commemorate the date.  We never need an excuse to kayak the Lower Salt River but this trip was especially sweet!

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Green Chile and Luminarias Day 2: Albuquerque

Christmas Eve Day dawned cold and crisp, and although our thin Phoenix blood had not yet adjusted to the 18-degree weather, we were enjoying the Christmas-y feeling so sadly denied us in the ‘Valley of the Sun’.

Before heading out of Albuquerque, we made a stop at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center – a must if you have any interest in New Mexico’s Native American culture and history.

In a nutshell, there are 19 ‘Pueblos’ (Native American Pueblo villages) in New Mexico: Acoma (also called Sky City), Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan), Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zia and Zuni.

These Pueblos were settled hundreds of years ago, but the exact details of their history vary depending on whom you ask.  Archaeologists claim they’re descendants of a Native American culture that has inhabited the area (as well as parts of Arizona and Colorado) for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years.  The Pueblo peoples’ beliefs about their origins differ a bit from archaeologists’ theories, a phenomenon fairly common throughout the Southwest.

Although this difference in points of view can be a point of contention, I felt it was addressed very well in the Center’s downstairs museum, where you can find artifacts and a timeline ranging from prehistoric times to the last few decades, and beautiful examples of each Pueblos’ unique pottery styles and designs.  You can find out more about the Cultural Center, the Pueblos, and Pueblo etiquette at www.indianpueblo.org.

Unfortunately, no pictures inside the Center, and although some of the displays (especially the examples of weaving and textiles) seem to encourage a hands-on experience, I was embarrassed to find out (a little too late) that there is a strict “don’t touch” policy!

I have to admit I’m glad I got to touch the beautiful woven fabrics before I found out I wasn’t supposed to; it was a really special experience to examine that closely the white leggings, white bridal blankets with four ‘corn’ tassels, one at each corner, and kachina kilts I had seen in countless historical pictures; it’s one thing to see a picture but entirely another to actually lay eyes upon the garments themselves. And most items in the Center date from the 1800s and early 1900s.

Before we left we had an early lunch at the Center’s Pueblo Harvest Cafe, which offered a variety of delectable Native and New Mexican selections.  I went for the posole; like New Mexico’s ubiquitous green chile stew, each bowl is a little different each place you order it, and sampling the many varieties will scintillate your taste buds.

Side note:  with posole, as opposed to green chile stew, there’s less of a chance that it will be too spicy to eat – something that has happened to me with many a bowl of green chile stew, as I try it nearly every place we go…a phenomenon my husband cites as a real-life demonstration of the often-stated definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…

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Green Chile and Luminarias Day 1: Dreamcatchers & Black Ice

Our yearly New Mexico Christmas road trip started out the way it usually does…among a flurry of texts, emails and phone calls from friends asking if we had heard about the Winter Storm Warning.  This year, along with the usual reports of a storm blowing through, came urgent warnings that portions of the I-40 to Albuquerque were closed.  Of course, as always, right along our planned route.

My immediate thought was that everyone must be mistaken; I had checked the weather report a full 10 days in advance for this very reason, and it had been nothing but sunny skies.  Where this freak storm came from, I don’t know but it seems scientifically impossible that a winter storm would blow in every year exactly the day we plan to do most of our driving.  I had a sick feeling in my stomach; after living in Phoenix for 17 years my confidence in my winter driving skills was right up there with my confidence in successfully landing a 747.  My husband was optomistic however, and convinced me to proceed as if the weather were not a concern.

Not a cloud in the sky as we departed the Phoenix area, and aside from some snow around Flagstaff it was clear sailing down I-40 all the way to the Arizona border. We stopped at one of the souvenir shops that dot the I-40 between Flagstaff and Gallup, all remnants of the old Route 66 days (and now mostly ignored by the more pressed-for-time interstate travelers).  Many of them have almost embarrassingly-outdated themes.

This one happened to be shaped like a huge…igloo?  Wikiup?  I am not sure what Native American dwelling they might have been going for, and the hodge-podge of symbols decorating the exterior – standard eagle feathers framed a window directly below a Zuni sun symbol (next to a rendering of petrified wood) – didn’t help the identification process.  On a side note, if this huge structure happens to escape your attention as you whiz by, don’t worry; there’s no way you’ll miss the biggest dreamcatcher you’ve ever laid eyes on, erected right out front!

Inside the Meteor City Trading Post were the usual kitschy offerings one expects to find in touristy establishments in this area; Arizona license plate keychains featuring your name, miniature Kachina dolls, geodes and other polished rocks…alongside some very nice genuine Native American handiwork.  But you have to know what’s what.

Fingering a beautiful wool blanket, I hesitantly asked the proprietress, “How much?”

“Seven ninety-five,” she answered.

“Seven hundred ninety-five?” I clarified.

“No, seven dollars ninety-five cents,” she assured me.

“Um, where was it made?”

“In India,” she replied somewhat sheepishly.  “But when people ask if it was made by Indians, I can say yes!”

Pretty tricky.  And I’m glad I did ask.  But it was nice, and how can you pass up that price, regardless of origin?  I bought it.

We continued on our way, anticipating any weather-related road trouble would come near Gallup and the border, but nada.  Still clear skies.  It got a little cloudy as we pushed east, but needless to say, the I-40 closures had miraculously opened  just hours before we passed through, and aside from some black-ice laden white-knuckled miles between Grants and Albuquerque we made it in one piece to our first-night’s destination.

Ah…New Mexico.  What is it about that state?  My husband and I have been making this journey at Christmas-time for the past six years.  What had started as a one-time trip to check out the many Pueblo villages in northern New Mexico turned into a yearly sojourn – and the amazing thing is we have still barely scratched the surface as far as things to see and do.  Aside from the Native American and Spanish heritage, New Mexico is known for its amazing natural hot springs, beautiful landscapes and especially its art.

This year, we had only a few days so tried to pack in as much as possible.  That first night in Albuquerque we ate at Sadie’s of New Mexico, known for its delicious New Mexican cuisine.  We had seen this little restaurant on an episode of Man vs. Food a few months back, and were especially looking forward to trying the famous stuffed sopaipillas.   After a few nervous minutes driving through a sketchy-looking area after exiting off the I-40, we found Sadie’s tucked away inauspiciously off the main strip, sign not even fully-lit.  Once we approached, our fears were put to rest – it was packed!

After being ushered almost immediately to an available table in the cozy bar area, we were treated to live jazz music in a softly-lit atmosphere, with a blazing Christmas tree in the corner and a huge fireplace filled with beautiful twinkling candles.  We loved the ambiance, but were blown away by the food.

I had the green chile stew (I try it every place we go in New Mexico – it’s always different), which was served with homemade flour tortillas for sopping up the spicy goodness.  My husband ordered the stuffed sopaipilla, which was about the size of a medium pizza!  Needless to say, we gorged ourselves and returned to our hotel satisfied, if not more than a little sleepy!

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Two Years of Wedded Bliss

Two years…I can’t believe it!  My conviction that I wasn’t the marrying type aside, I have to admit that even after three blissful (pre-marriage) years with my betrothed the thought of marriage was absolutely terrifying to me.  Ruminating on the concept of my every day and every hour being lived out in the same space as another human being brought back shuddering reminders of my past experiences with conjugal living, none of which ended well.  But as it turned out, past experiences need not apply…