Category Archives: Book Review

Thanksgiving 2017

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Well I did it:  served another Thanksgiving dinner to my family.  I’m not sure what happened.  I did everything I usually do, yet the green beans in the cheesy bacon casserole were too crunchy, the mashed potatoes were too soupy, the dressing not bready enough, and by the time Hubby carved the turkey, it arrived at the table cold.  Our daughter asked, “Is there any WARM turkey??”  In the middle of dinner, I had to transfer the turkey out of the fancy china dish with the golden trim into a casserole dish and microwave it so it would edible!  I forgot the rolls were rising in the oven and preheated the oven with them inside, causing them to seize rising and not cook thoroughly.  Thank goodness for my “almost daughter-in-law” who brought a delicious pumpkin pie and apple tarts!  Thanks, Samantha!  I guess after cooking this same meal for so many years, I just phoned it in this time.  I love the cooking marathon, but next year will find the recipes in the cupboard and double check my work.

Of course it was great to have our whole family together, but lately the kids want to play games I’m not interested in such as Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne and then when they got to Scrabble, there wasn’t really room for me at the table.  So I sat on the couch nearby playing Words with Friends enjoying the music of their voices and soaking up the nearness of my children.  But lately I feel like when they are all together (and now they are four, instead of three, because of Patrick’s fiance) there is a bit more teasing (not always kindly) and treating me like “Mom,” as opposed to when I see them one-on-one and they mostly treat me like “Mary.”  My kids are all in their twenties now, and I like that we can have a relationship as adults together, without me being in charge of their lives.  I like that we all ENJOY being together (most of the time, haha).  We giggled together over the movie, Seems Like Old Times, which was certainly a highlight of the day for me.  Overall it was very nice, and Christmas time will be here before you know it and we will all be together again.

So the day after Thanksgiving, I was feeling a little blue because Thanksgiving had not gone exactly as I had planned, but I shook the feeling off because it was A GOOD DAY.  I asked myself, why should I get to plan the games and the movie just because I am the host?  I’m so happy to host, so the lesson for me is “let it go” and “be flexible” and  remember to be so incredibly grateful that we live close to each other and can be together often.

I distracted myself from over-thinking the situation by watching several new episodes of Chef and the Farmer on the PBS website.  Vivian exhausts me!  I want to say to her, slow down, Girlfriend . . . and I want to give her a hug.  After watching Vivian cook persimmon pudding, I went into the living room and there I spied it:  The dreaded Book Group novel.  It sat on my coffee table, taunting me with its thick spine which encased all tedious 462 pages.  The title sounded so appealing:  A Gentleman in Moscow.  Doesn’t it sound so romantic, like one of those books you finish and sigh sadly because you’re so sad it’s over?  Well folks, let me tell you, it is NOT that kind of book, and I decided to not let it mock me anymore and placed it firmly in the library pile where it will be donated,and I will never have to look at it again.

Then I picked up Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, a book my friend Hanna loaned me . . . and it was just what I needed! I don’t know much about this author, but I would summarize this book by saying it’s about her struggle to be the best person she can be and to be a good person in the World.  She has so many great quotes, but this one is what I needed to read this week:  “We sometimes choose the most locked-up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of  ways to tell the same story.”  I hope my kids tell the story of this year’s Thanksgiving that we had a great day together (and not that mom seemed grumpy).

Cheers,

Mary

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Buick

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I am in Mexico.

Yesterday I told you about what a perfect weekend we’re having here in Puerto Penasco, and I also shared that we are co-habitating with a roach the size of a Buick.  Last night, our paths crossed again (cue horror movie music).

Let me begin this story by telling you that we almost didn’t make it out for dinner because I was so enraptured by the sunset. Clouds in the sky over the ocean = fantastic sunset.  (No clouds?  Eh, the sun goes into the ocean, blah blah, it’s fine.)  But last night’s sky looked as if it were on FIRE with pinks and oranges and reds all striped over each other, and every minute it changed, and then it got darker and then there were hues of purple and even the shape of it changed.  I tore myself away from the first part to smooth my hair and apply some mascara, and on the drive up Whale Hill to the restaurant, I just kept ooohing and aaaahing because it was seriously A Moment of Extreme Beauty which I will always remember.  The restaurant was full; we drove down to the malecon and I snapped a beautiful photo of the brilliant sky over the parking lot next to Flavio’s.  I know that doesn’t sound exactly “delightful” but I was really happy with the juxtaposition of this amazing effect of nature over a dusty parking lot full of old cars—the light and shadows were so cool.

We had a terrible dinner at Mary’s Seafood.  Almost inedible.  I gave them a brutal yelp review, which was well deserved. Thumbs up for a fantastic margarita and good service though!

We arrived back home, turned on the kitchen lights and EEEEEEKK!!!!! Buick the Roach was sniffing at a small spot of bacon grease on the stove top.  My mind did this amazing analysis of the situation, sort of like what Sherlock Holmes does in the recent Guy Ritchie movies.  Everything slowed down.  I considered attempting to pull a spatula from the jar of utensils which was situated BEHIND the roach and that scenario played out with the roach running away.  I surveyed the kitchen island to my right and saw nothing useful in killing/stunning a roach.  So I picked up the heavy ceramic spoon rest and SMASH!  With the agility one would expect from a person who has just consumed a plate of heavy fried seafood and a margarita as big as her head, I hit Buick with that spoon rest, screaming out a warrior’s cry, “HIYA!!!”  And much to Hubby’s and my chagrin, the spoon rest broke in two and Buick ran back into the hole behind the cupboards, laughing and calling me nasty names in Spanish (words that cannot, dear Reader, be repeated here).

The spoon rest was placed in the trashcan after a brief discussion about trying to glue it back together and rapidly coming to the conclusion that spoon rests are completely unnecessary objects and whoever invented them should be ashamed of themselves.   We hope the condo co-owner who buys these silly decorative items will not miss the Very Important Spoon Rest.

During all of this excitement, we noticed the windows whistling.  We slid open the glass door to the beach, and HOLY MOSES, the wind was INTENSE.  Amazing might be the better word.  All outside condo lights were off, but the moon was shining so brightly that the entire beach was illuminated.  I stepped off the patio onto the sand and instinctively spread my arms out to feel the strong, warm wind.  It buffeted my entire body—that’s how powerful it was.  Hubby came out and put his arms out, too.  From nine til midnight I sat outside in the wind, listening to music on my headphones and occasionally following the path made by the moon down to the high tide, rolling up my pant legs to wade into the warm ocean.  It was simply glorious. If anyone was watching from their patio, they probably were concerned for this middle-aged, clearly-deranged woman who kept walking down the beach to visit the night ocean.

The only bad news from the weekend (apart from Buick escaping) is that all attempts at protecting my face from sunburn failed.  I’m as pink as a pig, which is bad enough on its own but also typically results in a big nose pimple.  That should be popping up on Thursday morning as I head to work (I am subbing at my year-round school later this week).  I swear to you I applied sunscreen and wore a hat and stayed mostly in the shade.  It honestly feels quite lovely to be in my fifties and not really care what people think anymore.

I will end by telling you about the book I’m reading and cannot put down.  Through Painted Deserts:  Light, God, and  Beauty on the Open Road is written by a modern-day philosopher and all-around-super-smart guy named Donald Miller.  His writing is beautiful and honest and thought provoking–I am smitten. I watched a recent interview where he caught a lot of grief by saying he doesn’t really feel God when he’s at church.  Though he is Christian (and my beliefs are a bit of this and a bit of that) I found him simply charming and relevant to my world view.  Here is a passage from the book which resonated with me today:

“It’s interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask difficult questions, how the questions never come up in the room you grew up in, in the town in which you were born.  It’s funny how you can’t ask difficult questions in a familiar place, how you have to stand back a few feet and see things in a new way before you realize nothing that is happening to you is normal.”

I find this to be 100% true, which is why I love to travel.  Getting away gives my mind space to question, space to forgive myself for not leading the perfect life, and space to imagine.  As much as I love getting away, I love returning home with the hopes of trying to be just a little bit better/different/happier.

Cheers,

Mary

The Day I Almost Got Run Over by the Light Rail (and Other Stories)

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On this quiet Wednesday evening, I’m trying to remember everything I wanted to tell you.  I leave notes for myself, but days later I can’t crack my own code of shorthanded and abbreviated words written messily in pencil on small scraps of paper.

One story I DEFINITELY remember is called, “The Day I Almost Got Run Over by the Light Rail.”  It goes like this:  A few Fridays ago, my adorable sister-in-law LeaAnne and I were cleaning out the last bits of stuff from the ASU House so as to ready it for sale.  (My kids lived there during their college years.)  How we ended up with 20 cans of paint, four large containers of pest control poison, two packages of weed killer, etc., I’ll never know, but we were responsible citizens and drove a whole trunk full of haz mats to the Tempe recycling center on University.  On the drive back we were chatting and when I came to a red light by a train crossing, I remembered that one is never supposed to stop one’s car on a train track.  So I was careful to come to a stop a few yards in front of the tracks.  Lea and I continued to chat, while I kept an eye on the light which seemed like it was red for way too long.  THAT’s when LeaAnne made a strange noise, and we both screamed as the railroad arm came down and bounced off the hood of the SUV.  Then we heard the clanging of the train alert, and I madly tried to put us into reverse.   I’d only driven Hubby’s new car once before and the gear shift is super awkward, but PRAISE THE LORD, the driver behind me had left space, and I backed up JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME as the light rail trains swished by in both directions.  I was shaking and looked around for any sort of warning I may have missed, but all I saw was one small street sign announcing, “Do not park on XX.”  Well.  THAT would have been good to know.  The next day I texted Lea and said, “I’m so so so sorry for almost getting us run over by the light rail yesterday.  Do you think we would have been smart enough to jump out of the car if we were on the tracks??”  She didn’t respond . . . so the next day I texted her again and she said, “I’m still wondering!!!”  All’s well that ends well, and I’m 100% certain I’ll have anxiety anytime I’m near a train crossing for the rest of my life.

Here’s a short list of other interesting moments from the past few weeks:

  • I binge-watched on Netflix Anne with an E, which is an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, which were favorite books when I was a preteen.  I loved every moment of this new series and am so sad that Season Two will not be available for a whole year.
  • I bought a squatty potty from Amazon which had been recommended by teacher friends and by my naturopath, but it turns out Hubby and I are naturally good at doing our business.  This weird stool thing actually worked against me, and when I went online to return it to Amazon, I was given a full refund and was informed they did not want the item back.  Imagine that!  (Let me know if you’d like to try it.)  (Note to self:  Do NOT buy trendy healthcare products.)
  • As long as I’m oversharing, I’ll confide that one hot day last week I decided to go for a long walk in pants that were very uncomfortable and developed a heat rash on my keister.  I was applying Desitin cream before bed each night and the problem was almost resolved.   I put the tube of Desitin in the same drawer as the toothpaste and one night when I was sleepy, I accidentally applied Colgate Optic White which had quite the opposite effect as the one which was desired and again, I think to myself, how can I be so bad at life when I’ve been alive for so many years????
  • I’ve not been able to lose any additional weight which I partially attribute to the fact that a little orange tube of Braunschweiger caught my eye at the grocery store a few weeks ago, and it’s become a sinful late-night snack.  I love it on Saltine crackers. When I was a child, my mom often packed liverwurst on white bread with mustard in my school lunchbox.  It’s not good for you nutritionally and is full o’ fat.  I love it.
  • Today I found a website called MyAnimalWeight.com where I found out my weight equals 7.9 honey badgers, 8.8 ocelots, 14.2 raccoons, 39 hairy tree porcupines, and almost HALF A LION!  Definitely one of the strangest websites I’ve visited–you MUST check it out.   I’m hoping to lose one honey badger by the end of the summer and a raccoon in the Fall so I’ll be slim for our oldest son’s wedding in January. Goodbye liverwurst . . . I’ll be seeing you in my dreams.

Cheers,

Mary

A Blast From the Past

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Tonight I hosted our first meeting of the new Warner Ranch Book club.  I started it by asking if anyone was interested on our neighborhood website, and nine delightful women spent the evening in my living room getting to know each other and discussing a favorite book of mine called Plainsong by Kent Haruf.   I promised dessert, wine, and iced tea and had big plans for making a cheesecake and cupcakes, however, life got in the way, and I ended up baking some old tried-and-true recipes of cheesecake brownies and lemon company cake.

While looking on my blog for my favorite cheesecake recipe, I was delighted to read about a Monday of mine five years ago.  I laughed out loud; I used to be so funny! This is how most bloggers feel.  They post something and think, ugggh, that could have been so much better.  I was also pretty much floored emotionally by how much my life has changed in such a short time.  I miss having our kids at home, yet there is a new quality of serenity and order which I truly enjoy.  Plus, Hubby is still here and since we are BFF’s, it’s all good.

Here is the post from January 10, 2012 titled, “What I Did on Monday.”  And btw, I have no idea what that novel was about or where it went.  I think it ended up in the trash where most of my creative writing goes to die.

I had a beautiful and productive Monday. Here are some of the things I did:

Read the newspaper and snickered over the bickering Republican hopefuls.

Went to the library and picked up a copy of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, an old favorite of mine.

Met Amy at Starbuck’s for a morning of writing.  Chatted with Amy for 1.5 hours and wrote for .5 hours.

Discovered I have lost an entire chapter from the novel I’m writing. (I’m hoping Hubby can help me locate it on my computer.)

Had a lovely lunch with Lynn at Hong Kong Buffet. The big news of the day:  She has a grandson due to be born any day now!

Feeling ill from too many crab puffs, I took a break with The Secret History and alternately burped soy sauce-flavored burps and pet Lucy.  Isn’t it nice how cats don’t care if you have bad breath?

Did some research on the artists I am now assigned at the art museum, Seymour Lipton and Mike Kelley. I must say I so do not “get” contemporary art . . . but I’m trying.

Vacuumed downstairs and sucked up enough cat hair to make a new cat.

Found three bowls, two forks, a spoon and a plate under the couch.

Went to the bank.

Mailed birthday presents to my sister and my step-mother-in-law at the post office.

Gave Eve a wedgie. “That’s for leaving your dirty dishes under the couch!”

Discovered my Aunt Chris’ 60th birthday is January 16th. (I should’ve known that, but thank you, Aunt Linda, for the reminder!)

Went to TJ Maxx and bought four fabulous scarves. Which one should I send to Aunt Chris? The others go in my “emergency gift” stash in the closet. Found some super-comfy oh-so-cute Seven7 brand jeans for only $16.99 and HAD to take them home. I love you, TJ Maxx.

Came home to find Lucy having a serious coughing fit. I gently stroked her back, and she began to purr. She found a comfy warm spot on Grandma Summer’s blanket and took a long nap. She is still hungry for dinner, so we are not yet at the end. I hate hate hate that she is sick. She looks normal. Her fur smells sweet like it always has. (Maybe it’s all a big mistake?)

Made the kids eat leftovers for dinner (the fridge was too full, and I do not believe in throwing away food). Talked Eve into eating the dried up leftover cauliflower from four days ago—more revenge for the dishes under the couch (hee hee).

After the kids were in bed, found the cauliflower dish under the couch.

Took William and Nathan to Boy Scouts. Said “Happy New Year” to all my Scout friends, and gave Patti L. a big hug because she very gracefully turned 50 over the weekend. (My friends make it look so easy . . . why do I dread it so?)

Came home and made two individual cheesecakes. I have two six-inch springform pans that produce the cutest little sweets. I took a photo of a decorated mini-cake at Whole Foods and totally copied it (who was it that said there is nothing new under the sun?), and I must say I am quite proud. I am taking it to my dear friend Mrs. Brown because today we are celebrating her birthday.

I had fun decorating the cheesecake with fresh fruit, which always looks better when you put a little melted raspberry jam on it to make it look shiny. I used blueberries, strawberries and mandarin orange slices. I stood back to admire my masterpiece and took a lick off the jam spoon. WHAT??? PEANUT BUTTER? Who on earth would put a peanut butter knife into the almost-new jar of raspberry jam? I think I owe Eve another wedgie. Does this stuff happen to Martha Stewart?

Here is the recipe for a basic, easy cheesecake that turns out perfect every time:

Cheesecake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter two six-inch springform pans OR use a regular pie dish.

Smush a graham cracker crust into the bottom of your pan.

In a large bowl, beat 8 oz. cream cheese (softened) with ½ cup sugar and two eggs. Add 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon or fresh orange juice, ½ teaspoon vanilla and a dash of salt.

Bake for 25-40 minutes (depending on your pan) until it is firm in the middle. Cool before decorating!

Cheers,

Mary

Waiting for the Mango Man

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I’m in Mexico.

All day I’ve been watching for the mango man.  He wears a huge straw hat and pulls a small cart through the sand. In his cart are ripe, juicy mangoes, which for only $3 he carves into a flower and hands it to you with a smile.  This treat is so pretty you almost don’t want to eat it . . . but you do, and soon your hands and chin are dripping with mango juice and sweet tamarind syrup.

Hubby and I had a smooth drive down to Puerto Penasco yesterday with only a short wait to enter Mexico.  We got the green light so got to drive on through without having our car searched or Ruby’s dog papers examined.  This was a HUGE relief, since I’d worked myself into a minor frenzy after reading tourists’ bad border experiences on FB pages devoted to tourism in Puerto Penasco.  I was believing every car was being searched from top to bottom.  I believed the line to get in was always two hours long, and that they were harassing people with dogs.  I heard the border guards were taking all meat, fruit, and vegetables.  I emptied a corn flakes box and stowed my tomatoes, oranges, and limes in it, then put the plastic sleeve with the cereal back on top.  I asked Hubby to pretend he was searching the car.  He picked up the now three-pound box and said, “Dios Mios, what heavy cornflakes!”  I’d frozen our deli meat and hidden it under the carpet in the trunk, along with Ruby’s prescription dog food.  The reason the Mexican people are not as welcoming to the American tourists as of late is quite obvious and will not be given any explanation here except to say these three words,  “Build a wall.”

So here we are, on a practically deserted stretch of beach, with the sun shining above us, a light breeze blowing over the blue ocean waves.  It is 75 degrees on our patio–just right not to be too cold or too hot in our swimsuits.  I’m reading the witty Lauren Graham’s book called Talking as Fast As I Can which, being a huge Gilmore Girls fan, is very enjoyable, but if you aren’t a Gilmore Girls fan, I can’t imagine finding it appealing.  I’ll be ready by tomorrow to finish Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole.  I’m reading it for my art book group, and I’m not yet seeing the connection to art.  Because the author is black, there may be a tie in with the Kehinde Wiley paintings we have at Phoenix Art Museum.  It’s a collection of 50 essays on politics, photography, travel, history, and while some of them are interesting, I’m glossing over some of the more ponderous essays.

But where is the mango man?  A few minutes ago I heard the tingaling of a bell and grabbed a of handful of pesos, but alas, it was only the helado guy.  I honestly don’t know how they pull that heavy cart through the sand.  I am not a popsicle person, though now I’m remembering the joy of hearing the ice cream truck when I was a young girl in Illinois.  A shiny dime could buy you almost anything on that little truck, and I always asked for a banana popsicle.

I packed for carefully for this three-day trip, which I usually don’t have time to do.  I brought cute hats and swim suit cover ups and actually held my swimsuits up to the light to make sure I didn’t pack any that had the derriere portion dissolved by pool chlorine–NOBODY wants to see that!  But there is nobody here except Hubby and me, so I’m still wearing leggings with a pair of Hubby’s socks and an old tshirt that used to be Patrick’s and is very soft for sleeping in which has these words on the front:

They lied to us.
This was supposed to be the future.
Where is my jetpack,
Where is my robotic companion
Where is my dinner in pill form, where is my hydrogen fueled automobile
Where is my nuclear powered house
Where is my cure for this disease?

Pretty dark right? (I love it.)  I look a mess.  I’d better change into my cute beach attire. Because the mango man might be here any minute.

Cheers,

Mary

Skeeter Hawks

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Summer has come early to our town in the desert.  We’re ten degrees over the norm, which means temps in the 90s.  Ugh. When you live in a place where it’s pretty much unbearable to be outdoors for six months of the year, this early summer is terrible news. We’re sadly pulling from our gardens lettuces that have too quickly gone to seed, spinach that has turned bitter, and every day I’m picking nasturtium bouquets to leave at friends’ doors because the high temps makes them crumpled and brown and I don’t want them to go to waste.  We’re also experiencing an invasion of “skeeter hawks” which, though harmless, float about the bright lights in the kitchen and whip our house cats into a frenzy.  I find their long legs and slow flight graceful in a weird sort of way.

I’ve had two stressful weeks trying to clean up our rental house near ASU where our daughter lives with two friends. (I wrote angry posts about this, but deleted them.)  For the past few years, we’ve been busy with our own lives and also cognizant of giving the kids their space, so the list of stuff that needs cleaning and fixing over there is long.  Hubby would say to me on a Sunday morning, “I think I’ll go over to Eve’s and do some work,” and I would say, “I’m sure they are sleeping in and do not want you there.”  So the place is a mess.  We crunched the numbers and (hip hip hooray) have decided to sell this sweet house built in 1952.  After the tenants leave in late April, we likely have a month’s worth of work to do.  I hope someone will be thrilled to have this charming little house so close to campus.  Our family has sentimental attachments to this house which we’ve owned for seven years, but our goal is to make sure we sell to someone who will love it as much as we have. (The only thing I absolutely hate about the house is bright red, plastic-fronted kitchen cabinets from IKEA, which were installed by the architect who owned the place before we did.)

About four weeks ago, I told you the house next door would be going up for sale due to divorce.  I hesitate to talk it up too much to anyone I know because we may not be the best neighbors.  Hubby’s method of relaxing after a long day of work is to watch tv; mine is to dance or sing to music in the backyard.  I swear I never play music very loudly, but hay fever has adjusted my voice to a definitely nasal tone.  Add in the bouts of sneezing that can last up to 15 minutes, which sometimes causes Ruby the Wonder Spaniel to bark incessantly, and Cosmo our Elderly Siamese to yowl.  In the big picture, I firmly believe dancing in the back yard is better than taking a daily mood-enhancing pill, something I’ve never done.  Plus the dancing is good exercise.

Excuse me for a moment.  I must go look at the sunset.

FIVE MINUTES LATER:

Oh my word–that was amazing.  The clouds looked like a long swath of fuzzy pink cotton candy . . . and then the colors deepened and it looked more like a scarlet wool blanket. Now I can see thought the front window that it is violet/gray overhead, with scarlet down at the horizon.  Well done, Mother Nature. Well done.

Life is strange.  For the first time in many years, I find myself with too much free time.  I thought of the word “tumbling” the other day, and it’s an appropriate word to describe my days in which I find myself wandering from room to room, finding something to clean or put away, then responding to my phone or emails, then tumbling upstairs for laundry, then tumbling outside to run an errand or two.  For awhile I had friends lined up to walk with most days, but lately people have been busy with Spring Break vacations, and I feel a bit neglected.  I use the word tumbling because I feel a profound sense of being off-center, with maybe a bit of dizziness;  a definite blurriness of focus.  Close your eyes and remember being a child doing a somersault.  Yes, that’s it.  Tumbling.

I’ve been reading too much (most recently Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, then Vivan Howard’s ten-pound tribute to her hometown in NC with lots of recipes, Deep Run Roots), and watching too much tv (Rectify‘s amazing latest season on Netflix, and rewatching for the millionth time the first few seasons of Gilmore Girls), and cooking too much (I made this carrot cake recipe in muffin form for breakfast and for dinner, and we enjoyed the Creamy Mustard Chicken recipe from the New  York Times, which I can’t access now because I’ve used up my freebies for the month.).

Yesterday I spent the day with my brother and sister-in-law.  They are good listeners, but Paul always says, “Mary, you need more stimulation than anyone I’ve ever met.” I know I’m not good at being alone.  I know I’m a bit spastic.  I’m trying so hard to relax into early retirement or a break from working–whatever we want to call it–to find peace in the quiet of my world.  Now that I think about it, I’m much like those early summer skeeter hawks, floating about without much purpose, simply enjoying family, books, garden, pets, and the fabulous desert sunsets.

Cheers,

Mary

Small Miracles

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January was such a traumatic month for everyone, whether you are red or blue, so it’s truly a small miracle that life is feeling more normal in this first week of February.  The weather is FABULOUS . . . though Spring has certainly come too soon. Our poor fireplace hosted only three nights of cheery fires, and I can hear my sweaters crying lonely, woolly tears as I walk by my dresser each morning.  Only a few of them made it out into the world during this very warm winter here in Tempe, Arizona.

The warm weather has brought out the birds.  I’m hearing doves cooing each morning, and yesterday Ruby and I surprised a long-legged white crane hanging out in our front yard.  It ran a few steps, then took flight, its long wings flapping over the greenbelt, likely headed back to the canal where we usually see them. I was awe struck by its beauty. Later in the day, a loud flock of ducks flew over head, making Ruby and I smile. The weather has been kind to our garden; the mesclun (mixed lettuces) needs daily harvesting. and we eat the bitter greens each day in salads and on sandwiches. YUM!

I subbed at the front desk at my wonderful school Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week.  I was excited to be at the helm; the power of the front desk!  Debbie left me only the barest of tasks: greeting people, answering the phones, and taking care of student meds and boo boos.  We had fewer boo boos than normal, so I sent messages of gratitude to the Universe for an easy week . . . and for not making an absolute boob of myself in this important role. I had a great time and am grateful for the experience.

This morning I had a walking date with my old friend Ann and my new friend Diane.  We walked three miles along the canal, catching up on each other’s lives and attempting to solve the problems of the world.  I felt so blessed to be in the company of these very intelligent, thoughtful, kind women. The two of them have been friends for 30 years.  I have been friends with Ann for 17 years, and friends with Diane for only a year and a half. We laughed as we walked on this sunny morning, saying hello to other people walking and dodging men on fast bicycles who yelled at us to get out of their way, “Bicycle on the left!” and “Coming through!”

For lunch I met my friend Amy (we met the first day of 7th grade) at Fired Pie. Facebook told me it is National Pizza Day, however, I did not order pizza but instead my beloved Buffalo Chicken Ceaser Salad.  Amy and I also attempted to solve the problems of the world, then talked about her recently published YA book, Die For You.  It’s so good; I urge you to read it as soon as you can!

After lunch I checked in with our remodeling company.  Six years ago we bought a small house near ASU—a place to stow our surly, unruly college-aged children. It’s been a blessing and a curse.  We love not living with 19 year olds, but every property needs attention  . . .and college students do not have the same idea of cleanliness that we do. Our oldest son lived there for three years while he went to college, and now our daughter lives there with friends.  She recently brought it to our attention that her bathroom shower wall was soggy, so we were forced to do a bathroom remodel. It’s so stressful! I love our renovation company, Bathrooms Plus Kitchens, and am excited to view the completed bathroom tomorrow. Of course they found mold AND asbestos which bumped up the cost, but that’s no one’s fault.  We bought the house when prices were low so it all evens out in the end. It’s totally worth the cost to not have to live with young adults and their terrible schedules, angst, and drama!

In other news, today I baked a new cookie recipe from Ina Garten–DELICIOUSNESS. They are Oatmeal Chocolate Dried Cranberry cookies, and I have a big plate of them ready to take to school tomorrow since I am subbing in the Early Threes class.  Bake yourself a batch for the weekend.  They are perfect when heated in the microwave for a few minutes and enjoyed with a hot cup o’ joe.  Happy Friday, everyone!

Cheers,

Mary