Category Archives: Friendship and Love

Ditch Day

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We woke on the last morning of November to gray skies, a welcome change after the endless summer we are enduring here in Tempe, Arizona.  It’s still warm, but waking up that morning to the absence of the sun made my whole world look different.  I felt like pulling a “ditch day.”  Maybe it’s because it’s finally cold enough to wear boots, and wearing my boots makes me feel sassy (even though after a few minutes on the school playground they are covered in a fine layer of dust).  Maybe it’s because I was wearing a new blouse with a bold pattern and gypsy sleeves?  Maybe it’s because Christmas is just around the corner, and I’m filled with excitement and anticipation for all of the holiday fun coming our way!

Of course, I did not call in sick to school.

Upon reaching school, I chatted with a friend on the playground.  I asked her, “Did you ever ditch school?”

“Yes,” she said.  “In fact, I was thinking this morning how great it would be just to stay in bed.  I think it’s because of the cloudy sky.”

I shook my head.  “When I ditched class in high school, it was after second hour Humanities, a class I had with my best friends, or sometimes we’d go out to lunch and decide not to go back.  It was the BEST feeling to leave school during the middle of the day and not go back.”

She smiled, and I whispered,  “Let’s ditch.  C’mon . . . let’s go!”

“It would be great to go home and get back in bed,” she mused.

“Think bigger!,” I said.” We could go to the Farm at South Mountain!”

Her eyes got big. “Oh!  A chai latte and a big breakfast!”

I nodded vigorously. “And walk all around the gardens and look in the gift shop! It would be so relaxing!”

Then the bell rang, and all the teachers and all the students went inside to our separate classrooms.

I did not ditch school.

We all love working at our school . . . but something in me that morning made me feel like doing something wild and crazy and spontaneous.  Lucky for me, working with three-year-olds makes EVERY DAY wild and crazy and spontaneous. I had a fabulous day at school, and afterwards did errands and googled Christmas gift ideas and texted with my lovely auntie in Illinois and played Words with Friends and picked up my Christmas cards from Costco.

On that note:  Why can’t we take a good picture?  Hubby and I are standing in strange poses, and there is a hand on Patrick’s shoulder that looks creepy. Is it William’s? Whose hand IS that???  I’m seriously not sure what happened there, but when I look at our photos from all the previous Thanksgivings, I laugh remembering all of the moments that lead up to the picture that is chosen for the Christmas card.

Happy December to all of you.  I hope you will keep in mind it’s okay to “ditch” every once in a while.  My December calendar is packed with social gatherings, and I’m quite certain I will “ditch” one or two of them, just to stay at home, start a fire in the fireplace, and bake cookies while singing badly to my favorite Christmas song and my favorite winter song.

Cheers,

Mary

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Is it Winter Yet???

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Other than the less than stellar Thanksgiving day feast (see prior post), I had a very productive weekend.  I FINALLY planted my vegetable garden.  Our puny backyard bed which measures a meer 12′ x 6′ last year gave us more lettuce and spinach than we could eat!  I procrastinated on planting because a) it’s still SO hot here in Tempe, AZ, b) the bed was a total mess from being neglected for six months, and c) I couldn’t pawn the work off on Hubby because a few weeks ago, he hurt his back. I put on my gardening shoes and worked hard for hours while listening to good music and (annoyingly) the neighbor’s dog yapping on the other side of the fence. (Six months ago we got new neighbors, and I am optimistic that their horrible dog is elderly and on the brink of death.)  In my garden, I was able to scrape off a 2″ layer of fragrant mesquite leaves, plus pull out a summer’s worth of spurge weed, turn over the dirt, water the hell out of it, and the next day planted rows of spinach, mixed mesclun (that’s lettuce for you gardening newbies), green onions, and carrots.  Hubby bought me two tomato plants which I will get in the ground tomorrow. It was a lot of hard work, but last year this small plot brought me so much joy . . . and beaucoup salads!

Another accomplishment to crow about is getting our Christmas decor boxes down from the attics.  Good Lord, this is NOT an easy job.  It’s easy for me:  Each day I say to Hubby, “Gosh, I’m hoping you can get those boxes down for me so I can decorate for Christmas. I promise I’ll make it worth your while,” accompanied by suggestive winking.  Usually this works, and I can stand at the bottom of the ladder voicing concern with comments like, “Are you okay?” and “Don’t hurt yourself!” and “I’m holding the ladder steady!”

This year, Hubby has a bad back, so I had to beg our son, William, (home from college for the weekend) to please, please, please get the boxes down.  He was surprisingly cheery about it, although was clearly nervous while perched on the very top of the ladder trying to coax hard-to-reach boxes into his hands, then pass them down.  But with encouragement from me and help from Hubby, all ten boxes were retrieved from two attics. One attic is over the kids’ shower, so that involves the ladder balancing half on the tile and half in the shower stall.  The other attic is over the garage, but the rod that the garage door hangs on goes midway over the hole.  Every year I look at Hubby and say, “Why can’t we make that hole larger???”  The lesson to be taken from this long story is that now that poor William has shown he can do this job, he will likely be doing it for us next year . . . and the year after, and the year after (methinks with an evil smile).

Other than that, over the weekend we had two lovely dinners with two different groups of old, dear, and hilarious friends (laughing with friends is one of the best things in life, don’t you agree?).  Hubby took me on a day date to the Phoenix Art Museum where we admired favorite exhibits such as Black Cloud and You Who Are Being Obliterated by Fireflies.  So beautiful and magical, and we felt like we were on vacation, even though we never left our home town.

Crossed fingers that this cursed heat will pack its bags and leave.  I’m reminded of that movie Groundhogs Day, in that you wake up each day and think things will have changed.  But no!  Here in Tempe, AZ, it is still summer! Today it was 88 degrees!  I love love love love love love love Christmas, and I’m so excited about this coming holiday season.  Perhaps we will be eating Christmas dinner in shorts after a swim?

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

When I’m Old

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Do any of you play Words with Friends?  I am absolutely addicted to this word game, which I play on my phone.  Each morning after my shower, I sit on the couch and play the 10-15 games I have going. I sip my coffee and pet my animals and truly, it’s a lovely way to greet the day.  During my school day, I can’t wait for a free minute to play a word or two, and lately, at night, I’ve been dreaming I’m playing.  Last night I dreamed I played the word “sofa” for 120 points!  This game is supposed to be good for maintaining healthy brain function and increasing memory skills.  A good player will be able to quickly find words in a jumble of letters, which is called anagramming.  Scientists have studied expert Scrabble players by examining MRI images while they are playing, and studies show that the expert Scrabble players are using different parts of their brains than non-expert Scrabble players and are strengthening areas of the brain associated with working memory.  I’m so happy to be addicted to a game that is actually good for my old noggin!  (Read more about it here.)

In general, I feel like my brain is keeping up with me quite well, but every once in awhile I can’t recall the name of an actor, even though I can see his face quite clearly in my head.  Or the name of a movie or book escapes me.  It usually comes to me later in the day, but it’s a frustrating feeling.  More embarrassing is telling the same stories twice to the same person. I’m especially guilty of this with Hubby, but in my defense, I talk to SO MANY PEOPLE during the day that I can’t remember whom I’ve told what!  I try to be entertaining and interesting and am always happy when someone cuts me off and says, “You already told me.” I also have incredibly vivid dreams, so it works the other way sometimes, in that I’ve dreamed that I told Hubby something and in waking life, I’ve never told him.  You know, just little things like we have company coming for dinner Friday, or my sister will be staying the night next Tuesday.  Lucky for me, after all these years, Hubby is used to my crazy ways!

The little lapses in memory do worry me, and lately I’ve been wondering what kind of old person I will be.  I want to be the nurturing, wise old grandma that always has banana bread baking in the oven and potato soup bubbling on the stove and time to listen to every story (like my Grandma Summers).  I’m so worried that I’ll be the embarrassing grandma with Turret’s Syndrome that shouts out things like, “PENIS!” at family dinners, or picks her nose or farts in public.  I’ve heard of elderly people who take their clothes off at the grocery store, or insist on watching the same tv series over and over again (and for me will it be Gilmore Girls, New Girl, or How I Met Your Mother?).  Will I stop bathing and get that old-person moldy smell?  Will I shuffle around the neighborhood wearing my bedroom slippers and bathrobe leading a chihuahua named Honey?

Well!  I’ve gotten myself quite worked up thinking about my future, so I’d better stop here and take a deep breath . . . and I’m pretty sure there’s a new word to be played.  If anyone wants to play WWF with me, message me, and I will send you my Zynga code name!

Cheers,

Mary

 

A Long Weekend

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Is there anything better than a three-day weekend?  Last weekend was a fun one, filled with time with friends.  The weather has cooled down enough that I’m able to walk with friends in the afternoon after work and in the morning on weekends.  I walked Thursday afternoon with my friend Debbie, and on Friday morning with my friend Mary L., both of whom I met when our kids were six years old and in first grade.  Well . . . now our kids are 22 so all I can say is I love being with my old, dear friends who’ve watched me raise my family and have seen all my ups and downs and have never judged.

Friday at lunchtime found me at Pita Jungle with my “Europe Gals.”  I met these ladies  for the first time five years ago, while on a European tour organized by our middle school.  After ten long days of sight seeing with our families, we were fast friends.  We love to laugh together!

Hubby and I met our Scout parents for dinner Friday night at Mac’s (home of my favorite sandwich, the BLTTA which is  a bacon lettuce turkey tomato avocado stack on toasted white bread, with a side of Cajun fries with Ranch dressing).  These friends are the parents of our youngest son’s friends, and even though we finished with Boy Scouts many years ago, I think we made our best memories camping and hiking and cooking together while our boys were in their teen years.  These parents helped raise our William on camp outs, sleepovers, swim parties, etc.  We always laugh when we’re together, even though we continue to worry about our boys, even though they are almost adults. Good grief, I’m ready for all of our boys to GROW UP ALREADY! (For those of you with small children, let me tell you:  the college years are tough!)

Saturday I got up bright and early at the crack of 8:30 to walk with “band mom” friends.  Fran, Erika, Emily, and I walked around the “fake lakes” just south of my house and clocked in at 3 miles when all was said and done!  We saw snowy egrets hanging out in the canals and lakes, plus lots of ducks . . . and lots of old people walking dogs.  We talked about every little thing, and mostly it just felt good to be together.

Saturday evening found us at my brother and sister-in-law’s new house in Chandler.  I LOVE IT.  It’s so pretty and fresh, and I hope that someday soon Hubby and I can purge ourselves of SO MUCH STUFF and move into a smaller home.  We have enough board games, Legos, and wooden train paraphernalia that we could open our own toy shop. Grandchildren will likely be in the cards in the next few years, so . . . I’m hanging on to them, even though our house feels a bit cluttered.  (I am NOT a hoarder.)

One final friend story:  Last night I met three teacher friends from my school, two of whom have moved on to different jobs.  I’ve only known these women for two years, but as I always say, “You do playground duty together, and you are friends for life!” We caught up on each other’s lives, and again, mostly it was just nice to be together.

After each of these encounters, I felt so happy. I commented to Hubby, “How did I get so lucky to find such intelligent, interesting, funny, and beautiful friends?” To which he said, “You’re intelligent, interesting, funny, and beautiful, too.” (He’s so nice to me.)  My mantra is “Just give your love, and don’t look back to see if anyone takes it.”  (Arlo Guthrie said that.)

And I’m sending out a THANK YOU with an I’M SORRY for bothering everyone with photos of potential dresses for me to wear to our son’s upcoming wedding.  I tried some on at the mall Sunday and shook my head and muttered, “Putting on these fancy dresses is like putting lipstick on a pig.”  I ordered something and promise NOT to bother anyone again.

At this time in November when we are giving thanks for friends and family, I can truly say that my cup runneth over.  I started out life as an awkward, shy girl and somehow grew into a woman who is so lucky to find new friends wherever she goes.  Recently I was asked what my favorite hobby is, and I responded, “Being with friends!”

Cheers,

Mary

 

Gratitude

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Tonight I’m watching the final game of the World Series, and during one especially long commercial break, I went out with Ruby (our wonder dog) and Cosmo (our cranky old cat) to look at the moon.  Most days, I do my gratitude list while getting our preschoolers to sleep at nap time (my class is Preschool Threes, and I find that if I am in an attitude of peacefulness, the children fall asleep more quickly).  (And listing the things I am grateful for makes me feel centered and content.)  So under the moon tonight, I thanked the Universe for these things:

Thank you for baseball.  (TheAstros are up!)

Thank you for happy hour with old friends tonight at Teakwoods . I love you guys!  (And also thank you for hoppy IPA beers.)

Thank you for my pets, who keep lonliness at bay.

Thank you for my wonderful best-friend husband (who is currently getting a haircut).

Thank you for my grown children (who I worry about way more than I should, but who are doing well in their lives).

Thank you for elastic-waisted skirts which hide my chubby tummy.  Which leads me to:

Thank you for breaded shrimp (cooking in the oven and stinking up the house). (And not helping with my weight-loss plan.)

Thank you for the joy we felt when wee children came to our door last night trick-or-treating on Halloween. (Additionally, thank you for Heath bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, Mounds bars, and Almond Joys).

Thank you for my school and for all of the sweet teachers I work with.  I have such great affection for them all! What a gift this school experience has been in my life!  I look forward to going to work each day because of the fabulous teachers/parents/children I see there.

Thank you for my students who make me feel loved and needed (even when they have so many potty accidents, and I have to put on their stinky shoes a million times a day).

Thank you for the cool temps in the 80’s this week (summer is finally packing her bags and heading South).

Okay, the baseball game is back on.  Thanks for all of you who read my words.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

Beach Butterfly Parade

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Monday, October 9, 2017

I am in Mexico.

This morning, I awoke to the most amazing sight:  Thousands of Monarch butterflies floating over our patio!  Hubby and I sipped our coffee and laughed out loud at the amazing amount of them flying by, admiring their beauty and feeling so fortunate to be here during the migration.  I tried to video the butterflies, but alas, my camera phone is no good.  Picture this:  One small orange butterfly would flitter by on the breeze just above my head, then a few seconds later two or three would come by.  We watched them float upwards and over the buildings, only to see when we later took a walk that they were flying over the roof top to have a snack on the neighbor’s bougainvillea.  Walking down the beach road with butterflies flying all about us was so beautiful and so strange,  it actually occurred to me I might be dreaming. A good pinch dispelled me of that notion. It’s late afternoon now, and there are still a few lone butterflies floating about, all of them flying west towards town.

We saw so many beautiful things at the beach this weekend.  I love teasing the hand-sized crabs who think they are hiding so well in the sand, but when gently prodded with a toe, quickly scuttle away sideways. (The crab is my astrological sign which I do not think fits in any way; the Cancers who I know are not crabby at all, but are very happy, thoughtful people.)  I spent time sitting in a warm tide pool and was happy to see small Sergeant Major fish floating in the same pool as I was.  The majestic Osprey stood stoically on his man-made perch just east of our place. The nest is overly huge, so I’m thinking he must have eggs or babies he is protecting. Twice a day we see the man with his horses for rent walking down the beach.   All of them are tethered except for one young dark-brown foal who hangs back, testing the caballero who leads them, then when they get too far ahead, the young horse begins to feel worried and gallops to join the rest of the group.  It makes me laugh every time. We’ve tried to identify the many birds we see on the beach, but our bird guide is for California and is of no use.

As we swam in the warm water yesterday afternoon, we were enveloped by huge clouds of tiny silver fish.  Two-inches long and completely metallic silver, we “think” they are sardines, but neither of the two zoology books in the condo have info on them. We’ve certainly seen them before.  The birds loved the great fishing; we loved the feeling of being in a huge school of tiny sparkly fish (I’m talking thousands of fish swimming densely together) tickling our legs and toes.

Today the pelicans returned to their mostly odd-numbered flocks, allowing me to stand by my completely unscientific analysis of coastal bird behaviors.  In that same vein, Hubby shared with me that he’s noticed when the tide is all the way in, it is flat at the shore, and when it’s coming in, the tide is angled toward the west . . . and when the tide is going out, it’s angled to the east.  I narrowed my eyes and said, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”  He shrugged and said this scientific finding was in direct correlation to how many beers he’d consumed at that time.

There is magic in this place. I can feel it as soon as my bare toes hit the warm sand and I inhale all the rich ocean smells. Maybe all beaches are like this: full of surprises, unexpected beauty, and interactions with nature that leave one full of questions. I fell in love with this place when I was here for the first time at age 13; at 53 I’m still in love with this gentle Sea of Cortez, our little neighborhood called Las Conchas, and this small town of Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

It’s finally happy hour, and there’s a cold bottle of Pacifico waiting for me in the fridge. Tonight Hubby and I will watch the bright stars twinkle in the dark sky over the ocean, and we’ll wait for the waning full moon to slowly climb up the eastern horizon.  We’ll feel grateful for this beautiful day, along with a hint of regret at having to return home tomorrow.

Cheers,

Mary

 

An Even Pelican Kind of Day

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

I am in Mexico.

I’m grateful to have two days off for our school’s Fall Break, which gives Hubby and me FOUR WHOLE DAYS at the beach. I have grown so attached to my young students and just when I was starting to miss them, I ran into one of them in a restaurant in town!  How fun to compare stories of our day at the beach! (Over the years I have come to believe that many times the Universe gives you what you need.)

One of the favorite books in our class of three year olds is about Pete the Cat. When he has problems (like stepping in mud in his new white shoes) the book asks us, “Does Pete mind? Goodness no!” and then a picture shows Pete saying “Groovy!” or “Rock and Roll!” or “It’s all good!” This weekend I’ve been channeling our friend Pete the Cat.  The wifi in our condo is down and at first I was anxious about not having 24/7 access to the world, but it’s turned out to be a really good thing.  I’ve read half a novel, four magazines, and taken two really great naps. Rock and Roll! Groovy!

We made great time on the road and arrived at our beach condo Saturday at 2pm. We’d anticipated huge crowds of folks on Fall Break at the border, but for whatever reason, there was no line at all and very little traffic. We arrived to see a very pleasant group on the beach—nobody blasting stereos and everyone cleaning up after themselves.  We’re always disappointed to see a large group set up on the beach RIGHT IN FRONT of our place, and sure enough:  There was a large group of guys with umbrellas and a big pop-up shade.  I took a deep breath and channeled Pete the Cat and shrugged to Hubby, “It’s groovy.”  And it was–it turned out the the group of 14 guys were very quiet. In fact, they seemed downright bored!  I know if it were a group of women, Hubby would dub them a “Hen Party” so I searched my brain for a male equivalent. I settled on “Buddy Fest.” Bachelor party?  Church group?  Gay choir vacation?  Fraternity reunion? They politely sipped their canned beers, standing and chatting in the tide. One man flew a kite.  They packed up at sunset, and we never saw them again. (I love to make up stories about strangers, don’t you?)

If you’ve read this blog before, you know one of my favorite things to do at the beach is count pelicans. Over the many years of vacationing at this beach, I’ve come to believe that the Puerto Penasco pelicans travel in groups of odd numbers most of the time.  Well.  Yesterday ALL the groups of pelicans flying overhead were in groups of EVEN numbers.  I tried to skew the data by counting 18 pelicans, then adding the one guy flying solo about 30 seconds behind. This happened over and over again, until Hubby stated (in a wise voice), “I guess it’s just an Even-Pelican Kind of Day!”  All I know is I think I saw more pelicans Saturday than I have during the whole rest of the year!  We literally saw thousands that afternoon. Where are they going?  What will they do there?  Why are they in such a hurry?

Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is not at the beach with us.  Her hips have grown too painful for her to easily come up and down the stairs to our tiny beach condo.  She loves the beach so much that I’m thinking we will bring her next time, perhaps dragging her down on a blanket and at the end of the day, Hubby could carry her back up the stairs. I am missing Ruby and our cats, but how lovely for the two of us to have a short respite in this beautiful place where the sound of the ocean lulls us to sleep, and there is nothing much to do but enjoy each other’s company, read a good book, and appreciate the fantastic beauty of this Sea of Cortez.

Cheers,
Mary