Category Archives: Love and Friends

Thanksgiving 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Mary

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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

Up, Up, and Away!

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Saturday morning we drove up, up, and away to Flagstaff to take our youngest son, William, to college.  It’s his sophomore year, so the event was not nearly as emotionally charged as last year, when sending our youngest to college meant we were for the first time (drum roll, please):  EMPTY NESTERS!

We arrived at William’s apartment and greeted his room mate, Drew, and Drew’s parents (our friends for many years), unloaded our vehicle to find out we’d forgotten approximately 20 things (which was better than last year’s 50 things).  Luckily for us, William’s girl friend will be back down in the Valley next weekend and will gladly pick up and drive back things we left behind:  dish towels, bathroom cleansers, an acoustic guitar, his non-allergenic orthopedic pillow, sun block, a desk chair, laundry hamper, small cereal bowls, etc.

We spent most of the weekend assembling IKEA furniture, something our family hasn’t ever done before.  I personally don’t like the IKEA aesthetic; it’s practical and no frills.  I prefer impractical with lots of frills, preferably antique or used . . . and with a great story. (When you walk into my house, you think, yikes, I’m at Grandma’s house.)  And when I say “we” were assembling IKEA furniture, I mean rather William and Hubby were assembling IKEA furniture, while I unpacked boxes, made suggestions for furniture placement, chatted with everyone, and generally kept morale high.  (I am the least handy person in my family, including my extended family, but it’s not because I CAN’T do it.  It’s because I hate reading instructions.) Over the years I have perfected my faux attempts at helping to assemble stuff by crouching near the project, reaching for tools, carefully holding washers and screws, making concerned noises (hmmm) accompanied by a furrowed brow, and asking everyone if they’re doing okay and might they need a glass of water?  I’m pretty sure I’m not fooling anyone.

But when we left today, William’s apartment looked amazing.  He reported that his new Tuft & Needle mattress was super comfy.  We replaced the apartment’s shower head with a new one with an extendable-arm so you can get “everything” clean (if you know what I mean).   We walked around campus and found his classes (which are all in the same places they were last year because he is a Chemistry major) on this beautiful campus full of trees and blooming flowers and old brick buildings.  I spent a lot of time drinking in the view out the front door of his apartment which abuts an undeveloped wooded area. And the clouds:  I never get tired of admiring the huge mountain clouds drifting in the huge sky!

Part of me wishes so hard I could live there, too.  What’s not to love?  Flagstaff has wildflowers, vast meadows with horses chewing grass, snow-topped mountains reaching to the sky, and the scent of pine trees always in the breeze.  Besides, it’s hard to say goodbye to my kid.  A HUGE part of me will miss William immensely.  I love all three of my children equally, but I can honestly say that of the three, he is the most open and the most chatty and most importantly, the most present . . . and was such great company over this summer.  I did not cry when we left. We hugged, told him we loved him and that we are proud of him.  I was strong and brave and reminded myself that everyone is where they’re supposed to be.

At 3pm we were on the road back to Tempe. The first half of the drive is so pretty, with scenic mountain views and wildflowers blooming by the side of the road.  We admired the scenery quietly for a while, then turned on the radio.   I was touched to hear an old favorite by Paul Simon, An American Tune.  So many years ago, I sang that melodious song to my children as a bedtime lullaby. Tears came to my eyes as I softly sang along, thinking about all the years that have gone by, all the memories we’ve made, and all of the good times yet to come.

Cheers,

Mary

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