Category Archives: Love and Friends

August

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A lot’s happened at our house in the last two weeks.  I returned to my job at my wonderful school, this year assisting in the Threes class with a lovely new teacher. Already I know it’s going to be a fabulous year.  Hubby has been working his arse off to get the IT running at a new business site in Atlanta, often working 12-14 hour days. Patrick got a promotion and due to people quitting, at 26 years old, he is now the senior premium auditor in the State of AZ for the insurance company he works for.  Go, Patrick!  Eve is looking forward to finishing the last two years of her Biology degree while working part-time in a doctor’s office.  We were sad for her that the summer job in the mountains being an EMT for the fire fighters didn’t work out (she couldn’t pass the physical test), but she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and made a new plan.

And William?  William seems to be in a state of denial that in six days we will be moving all his worldly belongings up to Flagstaff to settle him in for another year at Northern Arizona University.  He and his girlfriend lounge about binge-watching tv, stopping only to get fast food or a pizza or sweetened coffee drinks.  I’m glad they’re not starving students like I was back at ASU in the late ’80’s (I once sold my textbook a week before finals so I could go barhopping with friends), but I know that my lean years have made me appreciate that nowadays I can order pizza any time I want.  William’s summer job money will be running out soon, and he will be on a strict school budget come next week.   And I’ve warned him that either he packs stuff from home . . . or he will be scrounging at garage sales and Goodwill for the stuff he forgot.  He is a man of few needs, so I’m sure all will work out.  My urge to “mom him” is very hard to suppress, so I’m grateful to be back at work when else wise I might be sorting through extra boxes of dishes and pots and pans to see what he needs.  Our renters at our house near ASU left EVERYTHING, so we own all one would need to furnish a kitchen.

Hubby and I are sad to have William leave.  I’ve never been good at transitions.  While my heart knows it’s time to move forward, my body seems to fight me all the way.  I find myself feeling awkward and in the way. Words are hard (anyone who has ever met me is frowning at this because I am typically very verbose).  I am clumsy.  On the second day of school I was wearing my skirt inside out—luckily Hubby noticed the tag hanging out before I left the house.  Another day I had a pimple coming up on my nose (SO not fair in my fifties!), and another day I spilled my entire cup of coffee into my purse on the drive to school.  I thought the large, squat cup was secured between my purse and lunchbox but when I turned a corner it dumped (nothing was ruined).  Yesterday I washed William’s new bed sheets with a few eye glass cloths from my purse, and some gum was apparently caught on one, so his new sheets ended up with gum on the hem.  GOOD GRIEF.

But all in all, I think we’re doing okay.  Sometimes change hurts, but in this month of August in the year of 2017, I feel like the pain is worth the eventual progress.  I believe my family of five is all moving forward in great ways, even though we’re not getting enough sleep, we’re feeling anxious, and we’re feeling a bit clumsy.  August is a month of great change for many of us with school starting, kids going off to college, and recently, huge political unrest that makes all of us feel uneasy.  Take care of yourselves.  Listen to that inner voice.  I listened to mine tonight which said stay home and make Chicken Makhani and watch terrible Marvel shows with your youngest son and your husband.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

A Love Letter

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Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d write a love letter to those people who make my life so wonderful.  Valentine’s Day when I was in elementary school was so fun–filling out our little grocery-store purchased cards that read, “Will you be mine?”  I continue that tradition today by sending Valentines to my best girlfriends, and of course, always give Hubby a mushy card.

My first love letter is to my children—all grown up now (ages 19, 21, and 25) but who still text me back each day when I ask, “All ok?”  This is not a typical thing for offspring at this age, and for that, I feel truly blessed.  Hubby and I tried so hard to be perfect parents, but there were certainly mistakes we made along the way.  My kids are my favorite people to hang out with–they are smart, silly, and make me laugh. None of us is perfect, but I think we’re all growing in a positive way.

My next love letter is to my friends. What would I do without you?  Hiking, long walks, breakfasts, lunches, happy hours, dinners; sharing our lives and telling funny stories.  It’s the icing on the cake of life!  On Sunday I ran into several old friends in the grocery store of all places where we had meaningful conversations by the milk and butter case.

Another love letter goes to my wonderful school, The Awakening Seed.  I love everything about you:  I love how everyone remembers all your little problems and asks how you’re doing; I love how the children make me laugh, and how all problems are dealt with using kindness and humor; and how the parents and grandparents let you know how much they appreciate what you do.

This may sound silly to you non-pet owners, but I’m sending out so much love to my three cats and my dog, Ruby the Wonder Spaniel.  We are now six months into being empty nesters and without Cosmo, Tilly, Olive, and Ruby, it would have been a much tougher transition. They don’t seem to mind the extra hugs and cuddles.

Lastly, a love letter to my husband who patiently listens to all my silly stories, my concerns about our children, and is always up for whatever I want to do whether it’s shopping or visiting a new restaurant. And even though he’s such a smarty pants, he never disparages me or makes me feel dumb when I don’t know how things work, like the internet *cloud*.  (Me pointing at the sky, “Are my photos in that cloud?”)  And not once in our 28 years of marriage has he ever said no when I ask him to scratch my back “for just a minute” when I can’t fall asleep at night.  I love you, Honey!

Happy Valentine’s Day to All!

Mary

Stalked by Mary Louise Parker

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Finally it’s the weekend!  Hip, hip, hooray!  Last night we celebrated Friday by meeting our old friends, Pete and Gail, at Wilderness Brewing Company.  We’ve had lots of adventures with them over the years including a weird weekend at Mormon Lake when our kids were toddlers. We thought it would be fun to stay in a cabin, enjoy the woods, do some fishing, and get out of the summer desert heat.  Well.  What they didn’t tell us upon booking is that there was an archery tournament in the woods where we had planned to hang out all weekend, so the whole area was roped off with DO NOT ENTER signs.  We looked over our shoulders the whole weekend waiting to get struck by someone’s errant arrow.   We also had no idea that in the summertime, Mormon Lake is more of a mud puddle.  NO FISH.  It was the worst.  Much better was our trip to Europe a few years ago, again with our children who are now all grown up!

Last night was a small adventure:  Wilderness Brewing has yummy beer brewed on the premises, good food (burgers and fried cod–YUM), and the atmosphere is cheery and loud.  While waiting for a table, we sat in the bar area on some homemade log stump chairs that were so uncomfortable I kept thinking sitting on the floor would be better.  We joked later that the owner’s grandpa must’ve made them.  I picture an old beardy coot in overalls with a pipe in his mouth listening to blue grass tunes on an old transistor radio.  I told my friends I should buy one of these torturous chairs for our school to be used as punishment.  “Johnny, go sit in the Uncomfortable Chair and think about making better choices!”

Apparently the greasy fish and fries did not agree with me, because I had bad dreams all night.  After dreaming a tornado hit our house, I dreamed Mary Louise Parker was stalking me.  She kept calling and leaving threatening messages . . . or worse yet, she’d call repeatedly and not leave a message at all.  It was totally creeping me out because I knew why she was calling . . . . and I felt really guilty about it.  I woke up in a cold sweat and had a hard time getting back to my REMs.

Now, if you don’t know who Mary Louise Parker is, google her and likely you will have seen her in something over the years.  She’s been in movies, but her biggest claim to fame is starring in the amazing sitcom Weeds about a young mom selling drugs to support her family after her husband dies.  It’s hilarious.  I love it.

I know Mary Louise Parker.  More accurately, I should say I “knew” her.  I went to high school with her at Marcos de Niza in Tempe.  In all honesty she was very snotty and did not want to be my friend.  She sat behind me in typing class, and I tried so hard to chat her up, but she looked down her nose at most of us and rolled her eyes at me each time I tried to talk to her. Maybe way back then she already knew she was destined for stardom and didn’t have to put up with the likes of us.  She was friends with  my friend Debbie, but I don’t think Debbie’s heard from her lately.

Anyway, a few years ago some male friends were going on and on about how sexy and gorgeous she looked, and I felt really irritated.  It was very small of me, but I brought out the junior high and high school year books to prove how much work the woman had done to achieve her admittedly very attractive look she has now. I’m talking about plastic surgery.   We who knew her in school are irritated by how she won’t admit she’s from Arizona.  She attended at least six years of school in Tempe, but her bios always say she’s from Georgia.  I don’t know why I felt so outraged and why I felt it was my business, but in a very mean-spirited moment, I went online to one of her fan sites and posted a terrible photo of Mary Louise from junior high.  And in my dream last night, THAT is why she was calling me.

All those many years ago, I felt truly terrible about posting the picture and went back the next day to take it down.  Guess what?  It had already been removed.  I don’t remember, but I hope karma caught up to me that week and gave me a cold sore or a flat tire.  Looking back, I’m sure at the time I was feeling unsatisfied in my role as stay-at home mom, and was likely very envious of Mary Louise’s glamourous movie-star life that likely did not involve sticking to a modest budget, doing laundry, and carting small children around town.   I’m not normally mean or petty . . . and I hope Mary Louise Parker never calls me again (even if it’s just in my dreams).

Cheers,

Mary

On Friendship

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Some people knit or crochet.   Others like to scrapbook and craft.  Some people like to collect things.  Me?  This may sound weird . .  . but my hobby is friendship. That’s right: Friendship.  I like to spend my spare time with friends!  I friend every chance I get . . . and I friend with all my might.  I remember friends’ birthdays and anniversaries and the ages of their children.  I am ferocious in my friending, which sometimes scares people.  But overall, I find people are accepting of my strange hobby. I remember strange tidbits of stories told to me, which friends often find creepy.  My oldest friend, Amy, shudders when I recall embarrassing events from back in the day—things she’s completely blocked. But tell me: What on Earth could be more interesting than interacting with another human being, hearing their stories (sad and happy), and having adventures together?

Giving up my full-time job has given me more time to friend. One day this week I had lunch with some of our “Europe Gals” at Pita Jungle.  We met four summers ago on a budget tour from Tempe to Europe. With our families we  visited London, Paris, Florence, and Rome in ten days.  It was fabulous, exhausting, irritating, and educational.  I’m so glad we went!  Seven of us women have remained friends.  We joke about the horrible 12-hour trip on the night train from Paris to Florence and say, “Once you’ve ridden the night train together, you’re friends for life!”

I joke similarly with the teachers I’ve done playground duty with.  It may sound easy if you’ve never done it, but negotiating a school playground can be a tricky, nuanced job. You have to know the troublemakers du jour.  You have to be aware of the potential for harm, for example, is it Stick Month when all the sticks fall from the trees?  If it is, you have to know which of the huge herd of children are likely to be using those sticks to hit their friends.  We duty teachers develop a sort of ESP, and even though you’re separated from your peers by a half football field of grass, with minimal gestures and meaningful eye contact,  you’re still able to keep 60 or so children safe.  It’s my firm belief that once you’ve done playground duty with someone, you’re friends for life.

All week I’ve smiled thinking about something Mary Ellen said over chicken shwarma at our Europe Gals lunch. She said, “Once I’m your friend, I’m your friend for life.  You’re stuck with me.  I’m loyal.” I LOVE THAT!  I’m the same way, and over the years when friendships have died, it’s not because I didn’t try my damnedest to keep them alive.  I miss my school friends so much so you can imagine how happy I was yesterday to have a chance to help out in the Three’s classroom.  It filled my heart to see their dear faces (and that of my students) after a month away!  I left school with a lightness in my step and in my spirit.

Friendship isn’t only meeting over lunch (“more ice tea, please” and “can I have a side of Ranch with that?”), but is also taking care of each other when we need rides, or are stressed and need an ear, or need a home-cooked meal when we’ve lost a loved one or are having health concerns.  I feel honored to do those things for the people I care about.

I love songs about friendship like this favorite song about friendship by my dear Dave Matthews.  I love sappy quotes about friendship.  Here are two favorites from Leo Buscaglia:  “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  And this one:   “Love is always bestowed as a gift – freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.”

I will leave you with my all-time favorite friendship quote (from Arlo Guthrie) which sits front and center under a magnet on my fridge for many years now: “Just give your love, and don’t look back to see if anyone takes it.”

Cheers,

Mary

The Angel Shrugged

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Not working every day is taking some getting used to.  I’ve never been good at transitions, or being alone for more than a few hours at a time.  I become anxious and introspective.  I find myself eating potato chips at 9am and biting cheddar cheese off the brick and pacing around the kitchen island.  This quote by Henry David Thoreau (which used to be on the front of my fridge) says best how I feel when I’m alone:

It is easier to sail many thousands of miles through cold and storm and cannibals, than it is to explore the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific of one’s being.

And this one (by Brian Andreas) which is meant to be uplifting, but holy crap, that’s a lot of pressure:

In my dream, the angel shrugged & said, if we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination & then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.

So as to avoid standing in the kitchen eating cheese and reading sad quotes about introspection . . . and feeling the pressure of doing something fabulous because I’m holding the freakin’ world in the palm of my hand, I’ve been keeping busy.

This morning Gwen came over at 8:30, and we took a brisk one-hour walk.  How fabulous to be one of the women walking, the ones I would see out my car window as I drove to work every morning!  It was only 40 degrees, so I wore my hat and winter mittens and we talked about every little thing and were delighted when we came upon four snowy egrets and some ducks over by the fake lake . . . and then became lost.  Gwen was smart to bring her phone and it turned out we weren’t very lost at all.  She and I were in high school marching band together, and it always fills my bucket to be with my oldest and dearest peeps.  Gwen is upbeat, creative, wise, and silly, and it was such a lovely morning that I barely had time to think about missing my students and teacher friends and the morning recess bell and all of those dear things.

I met another old friend at 12:15 for another walk.  How lovely to see Sue Ellen’s new office where she works as a nurse midwife. We chose to walk through the nearby neighborhood and our conversation was interrupted by the many policemen cruising the streets. “They’d tell us if we were in danger, right?” we asked each other. Soon we saw the “criminal”–a grubby, very animated young man who was either high or having some mental health episode.  We chose to avoid the drama so turned around . . . and got lost. Neither of us had a phone and both of us are directionally challenged.  Ten minutes later, we laughed when we approached an intersection and discovered instead of going south, we’d gone north.

Currently my step counter reads 14,567 which is about 7 miles.  Not too shabby.  I’ve only had positive thoughts today and worked toward my goal of getting more exercise and diminishing stress (and the size of my belly).  I’ll end with this poem, by Namoi Shihab Nye:

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory? To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slow they fall.

Cheers,

Mary

 

Soup Will Save You

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Our 21-year-old daughter was in a terrible car accident on Tuesday afternoon.  Two days later, I’m still feeling quite shaken.  She immediately sent me photos of our totaled car, and my mind simply cannot comprehend how it is she is still alive.  But she’s doing well: very sore all over, especially her neck, and one shin is really bruised after it hit the dash and will be pretty colors in a few days.  Luckily she works in a doctor’s office and has been advised on how to treat her neck. All is well.

This is what happened:  Eve was on the freeway at a dangerous area where two freeways converge (the 101, and the 202 in Mesa).  In your mind, picture cars going 70 mph and then turning a corner to find traffic completely stopped. Eve was stopped in a middle lane and in her rear view mirror, saw a car speeding toward her, the driver’s face pointed at her lap. Eve whispered, “Please don’t hit me, please don’t hit me,” then WHAM!  Eve was pushed into the car in front of her, and that car crashed into the car in front of them. Nobody was very injured (again, THANK YOU, UNIVERSE for this miracle).  Hubby took care of the whole thing since when I am in the classroom, I have my phone silenced and try to stay focused on our students.

Today Hubby and I went to the garage where the police had towed Eve’s car.  She was at work, and we needed to gather her belongings before what was left of our 2010 Prius went to auction for parts.  The nice young man silently led us to the lot of totaled cars.  We rounded a corner, and I saw it. I gasped and tears came to my eyes.  How did my girl survive this???  The front end was completely collapsed  and crumpled, and it was hard to open the passenger door.  The airbag had deployed, and the dash and window were cracked.    Tears trickled down my face as we quietly gathered Eve’s stuff from the Prius, which she always called her “spaceship” and which now she is saying “gave her life for me.”

Eve and Hubby seem fine, however, I feel traumatized.  We would drive ourselves insane if every day we got out of bed and considered all of the dangers lurking outside the front door, or if we thought about the bad driving (AZ is one of the worst states for aggressive drivers), or focused on random gun violence.  How can you live your life if you wake up and think, will someone I love be hurt today?  We are wired to shut out the negative so that we can be productive and happy in our days.  I know all of this. BUT: This week, I’m feeling fragile and shaken and afraid.  Overall I am completely in awe that our Eve walked away from that heap of twisted metal with only bumps and bruises, and by next week, I 100% know I will be feeling normal again.  Pondering mortality is not something I’m comfortable with at this point in my life.  But today?  I’m feeling raw.

Here is the good news:  I’m listening to Emmylou Harris, sipping tequila, and making soup. I had a bin of “veg on the verge” so I threw it all in a pot with some chicken shmaltz and veggie stock where it is bubbling optimistically on my stove top.  You can’t mess up soup—if it tastes weird, you can always save it by adding a pinch of this or a snip of that. Words of Wisdom from Yours Truly:  “Soup can always be saved, and Soup will always Save You.”  TRUTH.  Soup is buoying!  When you’re down, the homey flavors that evoke memories of Grandma’s kitchen will lift you up, body and soul.  Same truth with Emmylou and tequila . . . (except not the Grandma’s kitchen part–Grandma was a Midwestern Methodist and teetotaler, excepting for a sip of sweet wine at special occasions like weddings and graduations).

Thanks for listening.

Mary

Goodbye, Lola

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It’s been 10 days and 15 hours since we dropped our youngest child, William, off at the campus of Northern Arizona University.  I expected I would sob all the way home . . . and then I did not.  I expected it would happen the next day . . . but it didn’t.  Last night at happy hour I was explaining this weirdness to two coworkers  over IPAs at a local pub and said thoughtfully, “Maybe I’ll have a good cry after I go home tonight.”  Then Lisa says, “Wait, don’t do that!  Tomorrow is Picture Day—you don’t want to be puffy!” Girlfriend’s got my back!

And seriously, that’s been the theme of the past ten days:  Friends have my back.  I feel nurtured and fussed over, and I am proud to report that friends and coworkers have been so kind in asking me almost every day how William is doing and how I’m doing.  I’ve been waiting to be sad but it just hasn’t happened yet (not too much—I get a little weepy on my drive home because usually William and his friends would be here at the house when I arrived). I’ve spent time with friends every day after work, and maybe you’d call that avoidance, but I call it taking care of myself.  My only concern at this point is that William is doing too much homework.  It doesn’t sound like he’s had much time to get out and meet people or explore the campus, but it’s only week two.  He has good friends at NAU who will take care of him if he gets too serious!

When I tell you this next story, you’ll see exactly how shallow and small I am.  On Monday, we sold Lola, our old red Miata convertible which has been our “folly” for the past ten years, and I cried more tears over losing that car than I did over taking William to school!  However . . . . it didn’t make sense to own her anymore.  With William away at school, we now had an extra car.   We’d planned on selling it, but we weren’t quite ready. But when some of our best friends made an offer, it was too perfect to refuse.  Crossed fingers they’ll take me out for a spin in my Lola some day soon.  We bought her on a whim on Valentine’s Day, 2006  when we were having some major bumps in this Road of Life, and she instantly infused cheer and optimism into our world.  It’s hard to explain how a small piece of metal on wheels can bring a person so much joy, but I will say with complete confidence that it’s 100% impossible to NOT smile when you’re driving with the top down on a sunny day, your favorite song is playing on the radio, the wind is blowing your hair around, and the scent of freshly cut grass wafts in your nose. HEAVEN.

Similarly, it’s impossible to not smile when hanging out with small children, as I get to do five days a week at the Awakening Seed School.  I laughed so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes today when a boy in our classroom presented his “Sharing” items from home, which happened to be two huge coconuts he and his dad brought home from Hawaii this summer.  He explained how they found one on the ground, and then threw other coconuts into the tree to bring the really big one down.   All of our kids were so cute today, dressed to the nines for Picture Day.    So earnest and sweet, our students come to school with fun stories and tons of  love, and always, ALWAYS make me feel special.  Maybe that’s why I’m smiling instead of crying.

Cheers,

Mary