Category Archives: Love and Friends

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

 

 

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Vaughans Gone Wild in San Diego

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A few weeks ago on my Spring Break from school, Hubby and I took a five-day vacation in San Diego, California.  This charming coastal town is an easy five-hour drive from our fair city of Tempe, AZ.  It was our first visit in 18 years!  We’d taken the kids to Sea World when they were little, but for whatever reason, we didn’t have a good time AND it was expensive, so we crossed it off our list.  After all these years, I’m happy to report that I HEART SAN DIEGO!!!  Mountain views, beautiful foliage and flowers, charming restaurants, great people watching, and clean beaches—-I can’t wait to go back!

And now I will attempt write a Very Professional Trip Report, and not drivel on and on like an idget like I usually do.

PROS:

  • We saw way more elderly couples than college students, which was a happy surprise.  (I was worried about obnoxious crowds of frat boys.)
  • We stayed at the Bahia Resort at Mission Beach, which was affordable and on the bay, but not within walking distance of any restaurants off site. But I felt the location between Pacific and Ocean Beaches was a good compromise. Next time we would want to stay near Pacific Beach.
  • Our hotel room was right on the bay, and directly out our sliding glass window was the marina where around 200 boats were anchored.  The two Riverboats which the hotel uses to transport hotel guests north to the Catamaran Resort go in and out of this bay.  (We never were there at the right time to ride the river boats.) We had little foot traffic by our room, except for the mandarin ducks and mud hens, which often pecked at the closed glass door to our hotel room.
  • San Diego Breweries:  There are a zillion charming places at which to drink delicious craft beers.  (Apologies for the overuse of the word “charming” but seriously, San Diego oozes charm!)  There are tap rooms which do not serve food, and there are brew pubs with full menus. We Ubered to Stone Brewery our first night, since it is, without a doubt, the mecca of breweries in the Southwest.  The service and food were incredible (quite pricey meals at $30 per plate), and the building itself is super cool with HUGE amounts of seating. Nobody has cooler t-shirts or better beer, hands down.  Lots of good people watching, too!
  • Travelling off-season, we had easy parking and no waiting at restaurants. I’m certain this is not true in the summer months.  Nice though that there was still a fun, tourist vibe . . . even though it was off season.
  • We live in the desert where it NEVER RAINS.  So though we had a few cloudy days with sprinkles of rain, that was actually a plus for us.  WEATHER! YAY!
  • Visiting the Birch Aquarium at Scripp’s was so much fun.  We arrived just in time to see the fish feeding in the humongous kelp fish tank.  Two divers swim into the tank, and the crowd can ask them questions.  It was super fun, and also very informative.  We patted ourselves on the backs for visiting this busy tourist venue at the perfect hour—NAP TIME!  All the families cleared out around 1:30, and we had the place mostly to ourselves.  We saw so many strange and wondrous sea creatures, and also enjoyed the amazing views of La Jolla from our high vantage point.
  • We visited a shell shop from which you can access a sea cave.  I’m glad I was brave and decided to follow Hubby on the 120 slippery steps down to see the cave. The cave was dug in the 1920’s, and I’m sure every owner since then has been making money hand over fist.  The line was out the door to pay our $5 per person to see the cave.
  • We had Eggs Benedict every day.  The best one was at World Famous on Pacific Beach.  It featured a crab cake base, instead of an English Muffin.  YUMMMMY!

NEGATIVES: 

  • Our Bahia Hotel was old, thus the walls were thin. The first night the neighbors (two adult men) next to us talked all night until 6am in boisterous voices.  They drew my attention later in the day, sitting at the bar, and I felt like approaching them, but instead decided to ask at the desk.  They had checked out . . . whew!  I was tired after a night of holding a pillow over my head to block the noise.  We had one quiet night, then the weirdest thing of all:  The new neighbors had their tv turned on high to a religious station. I kid you not, every few minutes I heard the preacher saying the word, “Lucifer,” in bold, chiding tones.  The next morning I went to the front desk, and they assured me they would assist me, even if it was just a loud tv.  Lucky for me, we had another quiet night.  (Hubby sleeps like the dead and heard none of it.)  (Note to self:  Investigate into sleepy drugs for our next vacation.)
  • Driving in San Diego is pretty tricky.  Thank God for Google directions, which often said, “In .2 miles, cross four lanes of speeding traffic to turn right.”  Certainly not safe after ANY alcohol, so we Ubered a lot, which added to our vacation budget, for sure.   Also driving over the mountain areas one-hour out of San Diego, we had thick fog which was a bit unnerving.  Hubby has nerves of steel, and we arrived safe and sound.
  • The Uber drivers we’ve had in the Phoenix area are very professional and good drivers.  HOLY MOLY!  Our first San Diego Uber experience was disgusting; the driver had obviously chain-smoked in his car, then sprayed some noxious odor-remover.  I rolled down my window and tried to not smell.  The next night, our driver was a young man who appeared to be a) in a hurry or b) on some sort of stimulant.  We careened down the highway, miles past our hotel when I spoke up and said, “Ummm, I believe you’ve gone past our hotel.”  Not saying a word, he made a U-Turn and had us back on track toward our hotel.  90 mph, not braking for turns, it was a Wild Ride for certain.  I said a prayer, “Thank you, Universe, for my wild and splendid life.  It appears it may be ending in a few minutes.  Amen.”  And then we arrived at our hotel.  I caught my breath and said, “Wow!  That was VERY EXCITING!” with a laugh.  In the rear-view mirror, I caught a glimpse of smile.  Until you walk in someone’s shoes, right? I don’t know what his deal was, but wow, it was frightening.  Yet we lived to have another fun day in beautiful San Diego, my new go-to for Spring Break.  Who’s in to go with us in March 2018???

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

 

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

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

 

 

Kitchen Dancing

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It occurred to me tonight as I sat down to my computer to write this that I felt much like a pianist approaching a piano, situating myself just right in my seat and getting my mind in the correct place. I spent many years as a musician.  Did I ever tell you I was once a flute player?  All those hours in a practice room and again at home, trying to get every single note just right.  And I played piccolo, and ukulele.  I used to think I had a nice singing voice, but my allergies make me sound like a sick toad. (I miss my old voice so much that I have an appointment with the allergist next week.)

Moving on:  I told you last week that our refrigerator died, and we had to buy a new one. This week, our washing machine decided to spew all of its water onto the laundry room floor!  I put a load of wash in, went on a short errand, and came back to an inch of water on the floor. Hubby spent an hour fixing it on Saturday (Me:  “My Hero!  Thank you so much!”), but the next load proved the barrel was not spinning properly.  It’s ten years old and honestly, I’m glad to be done with this front loader with its stinky rubber seal! The next day, William’s car battery died, I found two termite trails, and the coffee pot gave up the ghost.   Also I need the carpets cleaned due to, well, doo.  Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is not waiting for me to get home and keeps “going” in Patrick’s old room. I hate to spend money on boring stuff like appliances and home upkeep, don’t you?

In other news:  I’ve just pushed through four weeks of personal growth.  (Cry, whine, scream, shiver, moan, sigh.)  Since William went back to college, I’ve been lonely.  I am NOT good at being alone.  Hubby works hellacious hours so for the first time in my life, I am alone in my house for many hours each day.  All that time alone was making me mad and sad and a bit grumpy.

Yet . . . I’m actually starting to enjoy it!  I’ve been meeting friends for coffee (or a pint of beer) many evenings after work, and it’s nice to not have to worry about being home at a certain time.  And when I’m alone at home, I can do WHATEVER I WANT!  For example, tonight I got home from work at 5:30 and began baking muffins.  All alone, I could choose the music with nobody complaining. It was really hot in our house, so I took off my pants. I danced in the kitchen knowing nobody would judge my poor dance moves. Then I danced with one of our cats, with nobody around to think that’s weird.  I talked to myself, with nobody around to think that’s weird.  Nobody was there to chide me for eating the ice cream straight from the container (and I smoothed it over so Hubby won’t notice–the freezer kills germs, right?).

Okay, I’ll finish this up with a poem about personal growth (by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) that I had on the front of my fridge for many years.  I am not religious, so I take out the word “God” and replace it with “Universe”.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste. 
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
— that is to say, grace —
and circumstances
— acting on your own good will — 
will make you tomorrow.

Cheers,

Mary