Category Archives: Friendship and Love

That Day a Dog Ran into my Car

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You will not believe what happened to me yesterday:  I left the house for work at 8:00 and made an easy left onto Warner Road.  Two minutes later, driving west, I saw a golden retriever (off leash) run into the road heading straight for me.  I braked, and felt the loud thud of the dog hitting my right side door.  Panicked, I pulled off onto the nearest side street, grabbed my phone (to call someone to help me get the dog to a vet), and ran towards the site of impact.

I scanned the five-lane road.  No dog. I ran to the canal path where the dog had run from.  No dog.  I flagged down an elderly woman on a bicycle.  I was shaking and trying not to cry and explained what happened.   She pointed to three women walking north and away with a golden retriever and said, “It looks like it’s okay. ”

Well.  The dog could certainly NOT be okay.  I wondered if the women even saw their dog get hit?  It felt like so much bad karma to leave without talking to the owners, so I got back in my car and drove down the residential street that runs parallel to the canal, but I could not find them.  At this point I was shaking so much that I could barely call my school to tell them I would be late.  I drove the 20 minutes to school dripping tears, wondering if that beautiful dog was okay and wondering if there was something I could have done differently.  One might say I overreacted, but I live in a city where we do not run over live animals on the roads on the reg.  I posted about it on the Nextdoor website, saying if the dog had been on a leash, that never would have happened. It kinda ruined my day . . . and the dog’s.

So add a dog hitting my car to the list of awkward things in my life.  Let’s just say I feel like my life needs a good shake or two, sort of like a snow globe with all the glitter stuck in one corner. I’m listening and waiting not-so-patiently for the message the Universe is trying to deliver.  Everyone and everything is just a little bit off—and it’s not even a full moon.  Everything seems to take a little bit more effort, especially at school.  Today I asked my students, “Did you have coffee before school?”  Everybody’s crying or mad, or is handing out some kind of damage.  And it’s not just the students . . .  I get home from work and my kids are angsty.  William is having weird stomach pain and anxiety (appointments are scheduled), and Eve is having terrible luck finding a good summer job.  She deals with the stress by sewing and crafting all over our kitchen.  I find it admirable that she works out her worries by making something new (I’ve always dealt with stress by administering the appropriate number of cocktails), but I must say, it IS messy.  Bits of thread and fabric on the floor, the sewing machine perched prominently on the kitchen table for days on end.  Nobody is helping with the cleaning, and our house looks like a bomb went off.

99% of the time I can turn lemons into lemonade, and today was no different. I mean, it’s my job to make sure I’m happy, not anyone else’s.  I made a plan to meet gal pals for a beer after work (laughing with friends is my favorite thing).  I smiled at my students all day and when one little guy asked for a hug, he randomly looked at my feet and said, “I like your shoes.  And I need to poop.”

Maybe I’m just making things too complicated.  I need to take that little guy’s attitude—just say nice things to people and remember to poop.

Cheers,

Mary

 

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May

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Because it’s a time of endings and beginnings, May is definitely my favorite month of the year.  The spring semester ends in May, and we feel exhilarated and celebratory for all the work we’ve accomplished in our classrooms, whether we are teachers or students.  Anticipation for summer travel and summer projects is keenly felt.  Summer is a time to reconnect with friends and enjoy lengthy family dinners followed by a good game of Shanghai Rummy.  (I’m thinking a few games of Feely Cup are in order . . . )  I’m pretty sure my family would say in May, Mary is completely spastic, but I would respond saying, “I’m feeling positively giddy!” (My earworm this week is The Wind by Cat Stevens.)

May is also a time when our college student moves back home.  We couldn’t be more excited to move William home from Flagstaff this Saturday (you might recall Eve moved back home at Christmas to finish her degree and save some cash).  I’m trying not to be too worried about transporting William’s huge bed and couch to a storage unit three miles from campus in Hubby’s RAV4.  I have a strong feeling the Universe will smile upon us and all will go well.  If, instead, there is some bad karma to be reckoned with, I will be cleaning the apartment toilets at 10 pm while Hubby is out renting a truck to haul all our crap.  I’m trying not to give this move on Saturday much energy, instead focusing on how happy we will be to have William back home for THREE WHOLE MONTHS!!!!  With Eve here, too, it’s going to be a crazy, fun summer for sure.

Speaking of having our adult children back home, I wish I could travel back in time two years and slap my “oh pity me” self, who was so super angsty about becoming an Empty Nester.  OMG, what a WHINER she was.  Apologies all around to whoever had to hear my sad story about how my kids were abandoning me.  I’ve hated change my whole life, but once it happens, I’m filled with renewed vigor and vim.  (I know it’s usually “vim and vigor,” buy I’m doing a social experiment to see if I can change it.)  Hubby and I actually embraced being the only two people in our house (besides the three cats and Ruby the Wonder Spaniel).  The house was always clean and quiet, and we never ran out of toilet paper or toothpaste. There were always milk and eggs if we wanted them.  After raising three children, it felt extremely civilized (but a little boring).

If I could turn back time, slapping my old pitiful almost-empty-nester self would not be at the top of the list.  I would change a thousand things before changing that one thing.  At the top of my list of things to change would be being a better student instead of being such a wild child, visiting my grandparents in Illinois more often, being more patient with my children, and appreciating how good my life was even though we had little money.

I’ll wrap up with an interesting story from my classroom today: Our students begin the year at age three, and most of them have reached their fourth birthday now.  They are a very social, distracted bunch, so I appreciated when my lead teacher, put in place a strict lunch policy.  All children were to stay in their seats “attempting” to eat their lunches until the clock read 11:55.  This has been a challenge since our students don’t know if 53 or 59 come before, or after, “55.”  Today one boy thought he noticed the clock moving BACKWARDS, and Andrew (wise beyond his years), said, “Time never moves backwards. If any one of you can figure out how to go back in time, you will be the most famous person in the world.”  This gave them so much to think about that they quietly finished their sandwiches and fruit, their tiny containers of hummus, applesauce, and yogurt, and went out to recess with full bellies to play.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

Spring Break 2018

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I’m feeling very happy this evening because I have only ONE MORE DAY of school before it’s my SPRING BREAK!!!  WOOT WOOT!!!  I love my job, but I’m ready for a week away from our preschool monkeys, er um, students.  I love them, but I think I’ll love them more after a week off.  Truly we have so much fun with picnics on the big playground or picnics in our garden, dancing to new songs, playing with Beanie Babies, playing dress up, crafting so hard, and having special visitors, like Tyler’s pet guinea pig, Mr. Sparkles.  I LOVE HIM! (I meant Mr. Sparkles, but I love Tyler, too.)

Hubby and I dithered over vacation destinations and settled on San Diego.  I almost booked us to Cabo (cheap this time of year) and found out it’s a hot destination for ASU fraternities and sororities.  GOOD GRIEF!  I would have been sooooo mad spending our money to be in the middle of a scene from Girls Gone Wild!  The last time we were in San Diego, William was in a stroller (now he is 20).  So likely 18 years ago. It’s a five-hour drive, and I’m enticed not by the beaches (California beaches are terrible compared to our beloved Puerto Penasco, MX beaches), but by the seafood and breweries!  I’m calling our trip a “brewcation.” I’ve mapped out our favorite craft breweries—we’ll visit Stone, Ballast Point, St. Archer, and Coronado Brewing Co.  I’ve booked us a whale watching trip one afternoon.  I’m skeptical if we’ll really see a whale, but the boat has cocktails and snacks, so I’m all in!

The best thing is we’ll come home mid-week, and I’ll still have four free days before going back to work.  I plan to get some stuff done around the house and do some hiking and see friends.  On Friday night, William returns home from college for his Spring Break!  I miss him sooooo much.  (We all do.)  We’ll have him for a whole nine days—LIFE IS GOOD!

I’m getting the laundry done so I’ll have all my clothes to choose from to pack for our trip.  It’s going to be about ten degrees colder than here, so brrrrrrr that it will be only in the mid-60’s and cloudy every day . . . but don’t you just know most tourists will be wearing sun dresses and flip flops.  And I will want to wear sweaters and boots, because 65 and cloudy is COLD.  We desert dwellers are an odd lot, this I know for sure.  Our new-ish clothes washer sings a beautiful little ditty to announce the load is done.  I thinks it’s the greatest thing ever, and I need to know if there is a job called “Appliance Composer,” and if so, how does one get that job?  How many man hours did it take to create the 25-second melody?  Did several musicians spend weeks dreaming up the perfect tune?  Did executives in pin-stripe suits solemnly sit around a conference table while said ditties were presented and chosen?  To me, the whole thing is very curious.  I have questions.

And now I have to share with you the YUMMIEST recipe.  It’s currently in direct competition with broccoli soup for my favorite lunch dish.  It’s Creamed Spinach with jalapeno peppers . . . and it’s absolutely heaven on a plate.  I found the recipe online and changed several things.  For one, the original recipe called for evaporate milk.  WHAT???  I substituted regular milk, and it was great.  It occurred to me you could skip the oven and do it stove top to save time, but I think baking it gives it a better texture.  ALSO, it only made enough for maybe six people.  Next time I will double it to have leftovers.

CREAMED SPINACH WITH JALAPENO PEPPERS

2 12-ounce packages frozen leaf spinach
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup yellow onion, minced fine
3 cloves garlic, minced fine (I often use the stuff from the jar–don’t judge)
1/3 cup whole milk (or half and half)
1/2 teaspoons each salt, and white pepper
8 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, cubed
1 jalapeno pepper, minced fine (add another pepper if you like spicier)
1/4 cup bread crumbs (optional)

Cook spinach according to package instructions, saving the spinach water (I use a Pampered Chef microwave steamer).

In a medium pan, melt butter, then add the flour to create the roux.   Add onion, cooking for about five minutes.  Add spinach and remaining ingredients, stirring over low heat until mixed well.

Place in a greased 9×13 casserole.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Cheers,
Mary

 

 

A Snow Storm

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It is Sunday, and again I’m cooking broccoli soup.  I did not fully disclose the reason for last week’s broccoli soup:  we had leftover veg from school snack.  Each school day a student is asked to provide a specific snack, and two Friday’s ago it was broccoli and crackers.  The parent brought in a 3-pound bag from Costco for 13 children, most of whom won’t even EAT broccoli.  So as you can see, I was doing everyone a favor by using up the remaining 2.5 pounds of broccoli leftover from school snack.  Last week’s pot of soup was SO YUMMY that all three of us enjoyed it for many lunches.  I feel terrible when I purchase vegetables and don’t use them—I always picture the migrant workers, bent and tired, picking the broccoli so we can have it on our tables.

In the oven is a new creamed spinach recipe.  It’s easy to stir up creamed spinach, but this recipe has an jalapeno pepper in it!  If it’s good, I’ll share the recipe next time! And Hubby, aka The Grill Master, is marinating sirloin steaks we purchased at Costco this afternoon.  It will be a veritable feast!

This peaceful day of reading Here Be Dragons on the couch under a blanket and puttering in the kitchen was well-deserved after our 24 hours away to Flagstaff on Friday /Saturday to check in on our youngest, William.  We’d had several angsty texts from him over the week, with worries ranging from health issues, to a failed Chemistry exam, to not being able to find affordable housing for the next school year.  I was born with strong empathy (not exactly a gift, I assure you) and was worried all week.  I am sooooooo lucky to be married to my best friend who usually agrees with me  . . . and who also felt it was a good idea to drive the 2.5 hours up into the mountains to check in our boy (who is a sophomore studying Chemistry at NAU).

Well.  We knew it was going to snow, but little did we know we were driving into a snow storm!  I was excited to see snow falling from the sky since it had been seven years since I’d seen that magic in motion.  We were two hours up the mountain when the snow started to come down hard.  Visibility was good, but the road was slippery.  Cars were avoiding one snow-laden lane completely, so we proceeded slowly up the mountain in single file, each driver happy to follow the path carved out by the cars leading this strange parade.

Still daylight, it was hard for me to enjoy the postcard-perfect views of the snowy forest out the window when I knew Hubby was tense and anxious about road conditions.  On the right side, two SUVs had slid off  the road and were without passengers in the ditch.  Just before Munds Park, a semi had jack-knifed into the grassy area that is the median, blocking one lane completely.   (We later found out that ADOT closed that stretch of highway an hour after we had driven it!)  We arrived safe and sound, only an hour late, and were so happy to take William and his girlfriend to dinner and for groceries.  And by golly, I believe we solved all the problems, arranging for a two-bedroom for Fall and after his roommate graduates, an adorable, tiny studio for the Spring semester.  It was fun to be sooooo cold; yesterday was 20 and when we went to bed Friday night, the temperature was 4 degrees!  4 DEGREES!!!

I’m always grateful that our three children have stuck so close to home.  It feels good to be able to swoop in and save the day (as long as it’s welcomed help), and have a little adventure, too.  I’d forgotten the peacefulness of falling snow.  As Hubby fixed their apartment dishwasher,  I stood on the patio, watching the wind blow snow out of the trees in the quiet forest area outside their front door.  I was awed by the humongous ravens cawing and flying about, and breathed the cold air deeply into my lungs.  I  thought to myself, surely this is a precious moment that I will hold close for a long time.

Cheers,

Mary

 

Soup Days

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By Golly, it’s been a long time since I posted anything here.  To be honest, I was plumb tuckered after all of the many wedding festivities!  Hubby and I hunkered down for a good two weeks, only making last-minute plans with friends.  What wonderful memories we have with friends and family from the wedding weekend!!!  Thanks again to everyone for their well wishes for the young couple.  Pat &  Sam’s wedding will go down in the books as one helluva party!

But now we are back to our usual busy pace, very happy and productive. I’ve planned a Spring Break trip for Hubby and I to San Diego, and both of us have spent approximately a bazillion hours looking for cheap flights to London for a summer vacation to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  If you fly to JFK first, the flights are reasonable, but then you risk missing connections which adds stress.  I’m sure we’ll figure it all out.  I heart London so much, and we will spend a few days there before renting a car to tour (drum roll, please!) . . . WALES!  Wales has amazingly beautiful countryside and a rich history; you can’t swing a cat without hitting a castle.  Right now I’m revisiting a novel I read in my youth about Welsh history called Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.  At 704 pages, I’ve assigned myself 50 pages a day so Hubby can also read it before our trip in late June!  It’s so good that it’s hard to put down.

I’ve spent way too much time googling stuff the past few days and giggled while viewing my browsing history.  Here’s a brief list:

  • Dulse Seaweed butter–a chefs secret weapon (can’t wait to try it)
  • Black Panther movie trailer (looks good)
  • Cheddar Broccoli Soup recipe (YUM!!!)
  • How tall is Charlie Barnes? (never did find that–he tours with Bastille)
  • List of the busiest US airports (Atlanta, LAX, then Chicago)
  • Phoebe Buffay’s fake names (just couldn’t remember Regina Phalange)
  • What is motor boating?  (er, umm, that’s what I thought it was–too much time reading weird stuff on FB lately!)
  • Henry Plantagenet family tree (to assist while reading a historical fiction novel)
  • 24 Things Not to Miss in Wales
  • SOOOOOOO much flight pricing!!!!!!!!

I’m just INTERESTED in stuff, you know?  Now I’ll give you the soup recipe.  I changed it by adding two potatoes and decreasing the amount of cheese and butter and flour.  My family thought it was delicious!  I love to make soup.  I find it homey to have a large pot bubbling on the stove, filling the house with yummy aromas.  My daughter bakes to relax.  She must’ve had a really stressful week since she made three different types of macaroons on three separate days this week!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
1/2 cup butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup flour
5 cups broccoli, chopped small
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in half
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you prefer)
4 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and white pepper to taste
one teaspoon chopped garlic

Get out a big-ass pot.  Melt the butter, adding onions and sauteing until soft. Stir in half a cup flour to give the soup some legs to stand on.  Add in chicken broth and milk, then the carrots, potatoes, and the star of our show–BROCCOLI!  Reduce the heat or else the milk will foam up into a huge cloud, which will spill all over your stove top and be a nasty mess.  (This happened to a friend—not me, of course.)   I simmered everything for maybe 45 minutes, testing the carrots with a fork for softness.  When all veg are tender:  add salt, pepper, and garlic, then stir in the cheese.  I used an immersion blender because the potatoes were still in chunks, and also because it’s a fun toy that I rarely get to use. Plus it scares the bejeezus out of the cats, which makes me laugh.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wedding

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Our oldest son got married on Saturday!  After a year of planning, last week was “crunch time” when we hammered out the final details before the big day.  Monday, Patrick asked for wine recommendations, and Samantha gave me three hours to decide on what song Patrick and I would dance to at the reception.  Patrick and I texted back and forth starting with serious choices, then the conversation devolved into him suggesting Eminem’s Lose Yourself and me replying with Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.   We both love The Gun Song by the Lumineers, but shoot, some of our guests might be gun lovers (pun intended).  We finally agreed to You’ll Be in My Heart by Phil Collins, and it was perfect.  I love that the DJ invited other mothers and sons to join in after a few minutes.  It was a lovely moment during the event!  The father of the bride and the best man-made poignant speeches.  (I requested to read Where the Wild Things Are as a dramatic interlude, but was shot down.)

On Thursday, family arrived from California from the bride’s side, and from Illinois and Tucson from the groom’s side.  We had dinners and lunches and brunches and lots of time to lounge at the Mission Palm’s Hotel where my peeps were staying.  Global warming aside, it felt like a treat to have temps near 80 degrees in January and a great view of downtown Tempe from the rooftop pool.  I can’t tell you how touched I am that friends and family traveled long distances to be with us to celebrate Patrick and Samantha’s wedding.  At big life events, I tend to think of those who are no longer with us.  I teared up talking to a friend, explaining that it felt wrong that Patrick’s great-grandparents would not be at the wedding.  They would be SO proud of the man Patrick has become, and they would fall in love with Samantha, just like we did.  I looked through inherited jewelry, and on my left hand wore my Grandma Florence’s wedding ring from the early 1930’s and Hubby’s great-grandmother Lillian’s ring from around 1890 to the ceremony.  From my Grandma Mary I only have cookbooks, which would have been bulky to hide under my skirt, lol!

Saturday arrived, and everything went perfectly. From the lovely weather, to the happy and stylish guests, to the touching ceremony in a verdant garden, to the yummy chicken cordon blue for supper, and ending with hours of dancing, the wedding was all we’d hoped for and more.  It was FUN!!!  I took off my pinchy shoes about 10pm and boogied with friends until midnight.  Highlights were dancing with my nephew Owen (who is 12) to Brick House (his request–I’m thinking he does not know what those lyrics are about),  to September with sister-in-law, LeaAnne, and to Stayin’ Alive with high school friends Gail, Pete and Amy.  Ahhhhhhh, weddings!

I’m not sure why I was anxious and emotional about this wedding.  Part of it was the potential for disaster when entertaining 200 wedding guests.  But I was not in charge, so perhaps the stress was because I had to let go of control and trust that all was handled. But on the practical side, the kids have been dating for five years and own a frickin’ house together!  They committed years ago, and we’ve always felt they were a good match.  I’m a sap for any type of ceremony and loved every minute of this past month—- filled with anticipation for the Big Wedding Day.  I’m so grateful to the many friends who last week texted or emailed me saying, “Thinking of you, do you need anything, I’m here if you need help, good luck, congratulations, can’t wait to hear all about it!”  I’m feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for my wonderful life . . . which is a great way to begin this new year.

Cheers,
Mary

 

 

 

Strong Women

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I am in Mexico.

Hubby and I drove down yesterday morning.  We were greeted by a smooth-as-glass sea and short-sleeve weather in the high 70s.  Bonus:  In the group of 20 single-level condos, there are only three occupied.  It feels downright sinful to have this slice of Paradise all to ourselves.  The ocean water is very cold.  After walking barefoot in the tide pools, I was eager to put on my thickest socks to warm my icy feet.

I brought a stack of novels and magazines, but instead sat in a chair on our patiodaydreaming and watching the birds dive into the ocean, admiring a long line of at least twelve dolphins swim slowly by.  I breathed in and out, letting my thoughts go here and there, losing myself in the gentle movements of the ocean.  I smiled thinking about happy hour with best friends the night before.  I LOVE my bossy friends–the strong women who don’t just smile and nod, but instead snort and say, “You’re doing it wrong!”  I was told I am too intrusive in my adult children’s lives, and more importantly that I am NOT allowed to wear sensible flat shoes to our son’s wedding in two weeks.  “But I want to dance all night,” I whined.  They patiently showed me photos of pretty shoes that would not hurt and would have hours of dancing built into them.  Another friend has been coaching my diet, sending me great ideas of how she lost weight last Fall, and another friend tells me how bad my brassieres are every time I see her.  To G, S, T, L, and L:  I will stop starving myself, and I will go to the mall this week to buy pretty party shoes and a new bra.  And I’ll consider not texting my children every day (not making any promises)!  I’m honored to have your love and friendship.

Speaking of strong women, I re-watched Terms of Endearment for probably the twentieth time.  You know, that old movie with Shirley Maclaine and Debra Winger.  (I love the expanded viewing choices on Mexican Netflix.)  The scene where Debra Winger gives her mom a small goodbye sign with her hand as she is dying gets me every time.  I thought this movie was an appropo choice since this past week I’ve been negotiating  a new situation of co-existing with our adult daughter.  The film gave me lots to think about and induced some waterworks from yours truly.

I mopped up my tears after the movie and went out on the patio to say goodnight to the stars.  Hubby and I gasped!  It was so dark you could barely see your hand in front of your face, but the sky!!!  The sky looked as if someone had thrown a hand full of diamonds onto black velvet.  It’s been years since I had a proper view of the stars.  The vastness and beauty felt overwhelming!  I was filled with an immense sense of peace while breathing in the ocean air and admiring the sparkling heavens. I felt as if the Universe was giving me a big hug and telling me, “Everything is going to be okay.” (And I’m pretty sure I heard, “And wear comfortable shoes to the wedding.”)

Cheers,

Mary