Category Archives: Music Review

Flip Flops

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First of all, I’d like to remind everyone to stay hydrated.  I got a little sun stroked Wednesday and somehow in my dehydrated delirium ended up with the song Telephone Man stuck in my head.  It’s been three days . . . and it will not go away.  STAY COOL!!!  You do NOT want this to happen to you!!!

Today is my Grandma Summer’s birthday.  She would have turned 100 years old today; sadly she passed away 15 years ago after a short battle with cancer.  She was one of the most important people in my formative years.  She taught me about gardening, how to cook, how to be silly, and above all else, she taught me unconditional love.  Florence Charlotte Summers Erbentraut was a very special person, and I think of her often. Happy Birthday, Grandma!

The last time I wrote was from the cool beaches of Rocky Point, Mexico.  Last week in Tempe, AZ, the afternoon temps were close to 120 degrees every day.  It truly is a dry heat, and I’ve been comfortable enough living my life in the usual manner.  I liked having the grocery store practically to myself because when it’s this hot, most people take care of their errands in the morning.  In a few weeks when monsoon season begins is when I will be really uncomfortable.  I do not care for high humidity which brings out the cicadas that buzz all day and night, setting my teeth on edge.  The humidity and cicadas stick around through mid-October, so I’m focusing on the “good parts” of summer:  magnificent towers of clouds building in the east each day, frequent dramatic monsoon storms, night swimming at the community pool, and best of all, having my college kids home for the summer.

I’ve not been as productive as usual because Eve and William are watching New Girl for the first time and it’s super distracting.   I try to do the dishes or start dinner or fold the laundry, but next thing you know, I’m sitting on the couch giggling along with two of them.  What’s better than watching a favorite show with your favorite people???  School begins for me August 7 and for them August 28, so we have oodles of summertime left to get stuff done  . . . and enjoy lazy times together.

I’ve been doing a bit of shopping and am having such a hard time finding blouses long enough to go over leggings.  My middle-aged muffin top is not accommodating to blue jeans, and I realize soon the summer clothes will be out of the stores.  The one style I CANNOT STAND is the cut-out shoulders.  UGH.  Seriously, who looks good in that???  I’ve seen young women pull it off, but for the most part . . . NOPE.  It’s worse than the horizontal stripe fad that lasted too many years.  I find myself saying YIKES in my head whenever I see anyone wearing this unfortunate type of blouse, but then chide myself even louder (in my head), BE NICE!!! Be SO glad you can’t read my mind, because it’s a little wild and crazy in there.

I fear people will be saying YIKES when they see me wearing my adorable new straw fedora.  Every summer my face gets too much sun, so in an effort to avoid having a burned beak, I bought a trendy straw hat.  My kids saw me in it and said, NOPE, but I say YEP.  I sound superficial, but I’ve always loved fashion and style.  As a girl, I spent hours pouring over the JC Penney catalog and saved up $6 for a pair of culottes when I was seven years old.  I don’t remember the actual pants, but I remember the saving and pining for them like it was yesterday.  My mom was always sewing something, and I spent hours as a child playing amongst the bolts of colorful fabric at Cloth World and Hancock. Fashion is a creative outlet for me!

Today we spent an hour in the JC Penney just down the road.  Hubby needed new flip flops (his current pair is ten years old, and I insisted he upgrade) and then he tried on blue jeans and then he tried on more flip flops.  It felt like we were there forever, so I walked up and down the cool aisles, getting in some excercise . . . and humming “Hey Baby, I’m the telephone man. Show me where you want it, and I’ll put it where I can.”

Cheers,

Mary

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Vegas, Baby!

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Last month Hubby and I had a mini-vacation in Las Vegas.  The trip was his Christmas gift to me because my favorite band was playing a concert there at the fabulous Cosmopolitan Resort.  I am frugal to a fault; we stayed at Bally’s for $100, and it was fine.

It was the first time Hubby and I had been to Las Vegas in 28 years, which is due to the fact that the last time resulted in a terrible fight when we decided Vegas was the only place we were NOT compatible.  He thought we were going to sit at Blackjack tables the entire time; I thought we were going to have foofy drinks and check out all the casinos. When I woke up at 4am Sunday morning and Hubby was still out gambling, I was madder than a wet cat and I’m pretty sure I gave him the silent treatment for at least 24 hours.  It’s not that he lost money (he didn’t), but I didn’t get what I wanted. And one of the things I’ve learned in the past 28 years is EXPECTATIONS ARE EVERYTHING!

When I say Vegas has changed a lot in 28 years, I’m not kidding.  Wow!  Everything is Over the Top.  The buildings are beautiful, the restaurants are amazing, and the shopping is ridiculously expensive.  We didn’t go INTO any shops, but what a cool experience to walk through an underground shopping mall created to look like a street in Paris.  During our 48 hours in the Vegas, we saw huge aquariums, amazing works of art, terrific views of the city, dancing fountains, and the Bellagio’s Oriental Gardens which were breathtaking.  Picture if you will 3D butterflies the size of a small car  . . . made completely from flowers (mostly carnations) so they even SMELLED as beautiful as they looked. Magical!

And can we talk about smells for a sec?  After we arrived, I washed my face, redid my make up, redid my hair, and put on fresh clothing so I’d look my best for the Bastille concert.  It took maybe five minutes of walking through the casinos before my hair and clothes smelled like a big, stinkin’ cigar. OMG.  It was disgusting.

And can we talk about clothing for a minute?  I’d brought my coolest going-out duds, because, well, you know: VEGAS.  Vegas in the old days meant bling, it meant high heels and high rollers and high stakes; it meant your biggest earrings and your reddest lipstick.  OMG again:  What I saw were people who looked like they were sneaking out to the grocery in the morning before their showers and hoping not to run into anyone they knew.  They looked like the photos of Walmart shoppers I’ve seen on Facebook. Oh sure, there were a few exceptions to this rule, and I have to admit, the pair of jeans I brought for Saturday were too big and spent the day awkwardly pulling them up (oddly there are no suspender stores in Vegas, and the belts were all too pricey).

I’d promised Hubby some Blackjack table time since he was so kind to attend the Bastille concert with me.  I actually had a great time during our three hours at a $5 table at the Flamingo (it’s hard to find $5 tables these days).  The dealers and other tourists at the table were funny, and the bar brought us free drinks!  Well, can I tell you about free beers for a sec?  After number two, JUST SAY NO!  I thought I was fine, and then I stood up and it was all, OH NO, why are my legs made of rubber?  And how do flip flops work again?  I lost about an hour there and have hazy memories of walking briskly, exploring more casinos and zig zagging through massive crowds.  We walked 11 miles that day . . . which counteracted the very late dinners and too many cocktails!

Our room at Bally’s was very large and very clean and not too outdated . . . but alas, no in-room coffee pot.  Picture me at 2 am Friday night looking through all the drawers and closets so I can have the coffee set for morning, yelling, “NO COFFEE POT??? What is this, RUSSIA???”  When you’ve stayed out too late in Vegas and the next morning you’re trying to shower and ready yourself for the day and there’s no coffee until you can be seated at a restaurant, it’s hard to put two words together.  But we survived . . .

And the Bastille concert . . .  well, the concert was amazing.  (She takes a moment to smile, remember Dan’s face so close, swoons just a tiny bit.)  Eve and I saw Bastille on Tuesday in Phoenix, and even though it was really good, the guys in the band explained they’d spent the day in Texas making a music video. (You could totally tell.)  STILL fabulous, and so fun to attend the concert with my girl.  But in Vegas, they were really ON.  The Vegas concert was in a third floor ballroom at the Cosmopolitan Resort and we had standing room tickets, which I prefer since you can move away from people who are being arses.  Bastille put on an amazing show which I’ll never forget.

But I kind of got in a fight with some girls.  It really wasn’t my fault. I mean, clearly the event had been oversold, and we were packed in too tightly.  Picture me:  dreamy look on my face, completely engrossed in the performance, hand placed over my heart ( so embarrassing) when all of a sudden a group of six “Woo Woo Girls” pushes up through the crowd and stand directly to my left.  And they begin to talk . . . LOUDLY.  We’re only 25 feet from the stage where Dan is singing his heart out, and these girls are SHOUTING—how rude, right?  Why do you go to a concert to chit-chat??  I tap the shoulder of the lead Woo Woo girl and put on my sweetest face, and I say these words: “I’m saying this with so much kindness in my heart and you all seem like such nice girls, but I’d like to ask you a huge favor—-could you please be a little quieter, because I’m having trouble hearing the band?”  (Followed by a pleading, sweet look and sorry smile.)  Well.  Lead Woo Woo gets a really mean look on her face and says loudly to her friends, “OH NO, I think we’re in trouble!”  Then she says something I can’t hear to the other Woo Woos and they proceed to SCREAM through the entire next song.  I sighed.  At least I tried, right? And then they were truly much quieter after that, so HA HA, joke’s on them.  I vow to continue requesting proper behavior in a civil manner for the rest of my days, no matter how embarrassing it is to my husband or children or friends who are with me.

I know I’m going on and on, but I MUST tell you about the floor at this concert venue.  It bounces.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I swear on a stack of Bastille albums that the floor was bouncing up and down at least 3 inches when people were dancing.  The lead singer came out on stage for the first time and stopped singing.  After the song, he explained that the movement of the floor moving up and down was “surreal”–I guess that’s one word for it.  I hope not to read in the future about the thousands of people injured when the floor of the Chelsea Ballroom at the Cosmopolitan gave way!

Apologies for this rambling all-over-the-place trip report, but that’s how Vegas is:  too much to eat, too much to smell, too much to see, and too much to talk about!  I’m still not sure if I liked Vegas, or not.  I’m thinking in 28 years, we’ll try it again.

Cheers,

Mary

 

Gum on My Shoe

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The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in my oven is making my mouth water.  I love the dough more than the baked product, don’t you?  I already ate one uncooked cookie, so NO MORE for me!

Last night was magical . . . Eve and I saw my favorite band, Bastille, in downtown Phoenix.  We had decent seats, and Dan (the lead singer) is great about walking through the audience—so exciting to see him standing in our aisle!  They played most of my favorites, and it was great to see my best band with my best girl.  I was shocked Eve didn’t want me to buy her a beer—she’s 21 and I remember what I was like at 21, anyway, I’m proud of her that she was being responsible about getting up early for work next day.  I was not the oldest person there, the crowd was so pleasant, and not one person held a phone up to block my view.  The only negative is I somehow stepped on a huge wad of gum . . . so dancing along with the music was, well, a bit sticky.  I sighed because I knew it was karma paying me back for taking the stale piece of gum from my mouth and throwing it out into the pristine desert on a hike last week.  Well played, Universe.  Well played.

(Excuse me while I go take the cookies out of the oven.)

(Uh-oh, I just ate another cookie.  That’s two.  UGHHH.)

Part of our concert adventure was I had my very first Uber ride to the venue. I felt like a movie star being let out at the front door of Comerica Theater, and not having to park in a stinky parking garage a mile away was a huge perk.  But when it was time to go home after the concert, the rate had increased from $12 to $40!  YIKES.  Eve uses Uber all the time and suggested we walk away from the venue. Half a mile and 15 minutes later, the rate was down to $17 so I grabbed it.  Poor Eve got home at midnight and had to be at work at 6am.  She said it was worth it.  I was so jazzed from the concert, I stayed up until 2am replaying the concert in my mind and playing Words with Friends on my phone.

In other news, I’ve been interviewing for a new school job.  I love my school sooooooo much—but I just don’t dig working full time. I’m still subbing about once a week and love love love my time there (it’s all good).  Today I interviewed for a 20-hour gig as an instructional assistant at an elementary school one mile from my house.  I was so awkward.  I parked in the wrong parking lot and had to walk all the way around to get to the office.  As I was asked into the office by the principal, we were chatting and I didn’t pay attention to where we were going . . . so when we were finished talking, I tried to exit through the closet door (which was right next to the correct door) and then turned the wrong way down the hallway.  On the way home, I checked my eye make up in the mirror and was dismayed to see a very long hair protruding from my left nostril. Really??  Seriously?? (I need to get better bathroom lighting.) When discussing the candidates, I will likely be referred to as “Chubby Lost Woman with Nose Hair”. I don’t have high hopes for landing that job.

There goes my oven timer again.  I’m going to eat another cookie.  Cookies for dinner—there are worst sins (but it explains why my figure has become so matronly in the past few years).  And with that, I will stop here, because my oldest son told me he tends to read the first few paragraphs of my posts but does not finish (said with a very serious look in his eye), “Because, Mom, you know, you DO tend to go on and on.”  Sweet boy.

Cheers,

Mary

Winning

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Big news:  I’m a winner!

That’s right—for the first time in my whole life, I’ve won an election.  I guess it’s not that amazing if you consider the fact that I’ve only ever “run” for something once before, and that was for 5th grade class treasurer.  I was new to Rural Elementary that year, having just moved from Illinois, so I’m thinking it must’ve been my mother’s idea.  I remember making posters decorated with tin-foil coins and buttons I made classmates wear that read, “Keep it rockin’—vote for Mary Koppen.”  It was not a surprise when Mary Ann Hendrickson won—I mean, she’d gone to school with those kids since Kindergarten . . . and in all honesty, I was a bit relieved.

This week’s election was for the Warner Ranch Phase II HOA Board.  My competition was a lovely neighbor who has served on the board for years, and a cranky woman I’ve never met who ran on the platform of breaking up “the old boys club” who didn’t even bother to attend the annual meeting!  I was a shoo-in, but still, I came home from the meeting feeling special about my glamorous new appointment.  (I’ve threatened to run for years.) My (hidden) agenda is to try to convince the board we really don’t need to call the attorneys every time somebody leaves their car on the street overnight.  I’m all about saving us some cash, yo.

In other news, Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is having a health concern.  Suddenly her breath is terrible, and when I say terrible, when we drove by the dairy farm in Maricopa last weekend on our way to Mexico, our car smelled BETTER with the windows down to allow her stink OUT, and allowing the cow small IN.  Her breath is so terrible the cats back up with their ears down and run away when she attempts to kiss them.  It’s so terrible that my car still smells like her death breath a week after our road trip, even though I’ve been driving around all week with the windows open.  Ruby has a teeth cleaning scheduled in two weeks, so hopefully it’s something as simple as a rotten tooth that needs pulling.  Her teeth have rarely been brushed since we are very selfish and value the existence of having ten fingers over Ruby having healthy, clean teeth.

This next week is HUGE.  You may want to sit down to hear this news.  Are you sitting? BASTILLE IS COMING TO TOWN!!!! My favorite band is coming to town on Tuesday, and on Friday, Hubby and I are driving to Vegas to see them a second time.  I’m giddy.  More than giddy, I’m nervous something will go wrong and I won’t get to go to the concerts. A sick child, a car accident, the loss of a finger when brushing a dog’s teeth.  I know I’m being ridiculous.  I’m THAT excited.  This morning I hugged Hubby and said, “You are the sweetest husband in the whole world to take me to both Bastille concerts this week!!!”  I think he’d forgotten because he looked stricken . . . and now I’m looking for a sub for him on Tuesday.  I think our daughter will go with me.

I know I should be embarrassed to be so excited about a musical group at my advanced age, but answer me this:  Why is it okay to be gaga over classical music, but not progressive music?  I went to hear Gustav Holsts’ The Planets a few years ago and there were PLENTY of old people there who were clearly exhilarated to hear this performance, yet when I mention going to a rock concert, I feel the quiet mocking.  And let me tell you, Bastille concerts are 100% more interesting than the Phoenix Symphony playing Holst (it was quite the snooze fest).

Last but not least, I was happy to see a new sculpture installed in the lobby of Phoenix Art Museum.  I’m a big Yayoi Kusama fan, and her large-scale aluminum pumpkin with holes cut out of it is whimsical and charming.  Come check it out!

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

Peaks and Valleys

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I had a super angsty weekend.  After taking our youngest son back to NAU yesterday (our goodbye looked like this), I came home and wrote a long, boring essay asking the question, “Who am I? Am I still a mom even though my kids are grown?”   There were references to my own college days and a link to this song which I danced to every Thursday night at Devil House when I was William’s age and attending ASU.  I turned it up really loud and danced to it in my kitchen, and memories came flooding back . . .  which made me even more worried about my young adult children (lol).  So then (since I was feeling angsty) I sat back down and wrote about all my youthful hopes and dreams that didn’t come true. I woke up this morning and I deleted that huge, stinking bucket of drivel, sipped a cup of coffee while watching the sun come up, and had a very nice day.

We loved having William home for a whole month over the holiday break!!!  He and his girlfriend were good company every afternoon and never made me feel like I was intruding on their time together–they are good kids, and I love them.  I’ve always been a  “Speech Sponge” which means I unwittingly pick up other’s speech patterns, slang, and accents.  I realized I’d spent too much time with William and his friends when docenting at the art museum Friday morning.  I commented that I didn’t care for a certain painting because the paint was “super shiny.”  My friends mocked me. (Note to self:  Eliminate the words super, awesome, yo, nasty, chill, and bounce from my lexicon.)

BIG NEWS:  Over the weekend, our oldest son became engaged to his lovely girlfriend, Samantha! (This was one of the things that was causing me to be angsty–how can my little Patrick be getting married?? Where did the time go??).  They have been dating for three years, and we’ve seen first-hand that they are a great team.  Patrick is 25 and a half, and Samantha just turned 23–the same ages Hubby and I were when we got hitched 28 years ago.  Sam is wearing Hubby’s grandmother’s diamond.  It’s been sitting in a drawer for the last ten years since Evelyn passed, so we’re happy  it’s out shining in the world again.  Evelyn and Clifford were married for 60 years, so that’s a Good Luck Diamond, don’t you think so???   I could not ask for a better DIL, and how fun to look forward to a wedding next year! THANK GOD it’s not soon,  because I have 30 pounds to lose so I won’t look like a Macy’s Day parade balloon in the wedding photos (menopause has not been kind to me).

So goes life:  a series of peaks, then valleys. I’m keenly missing my school friends and students, but on the other hand I’m enjoying catching up with old friends and having energy to be active.  I’ll not say too much, but recent health concerns are still being dealt with, but all in all, I feel 80% back to normal.   I’ve hiked (slowly) the War Paint trails, lunched at Mac’s, at Pita Jungle, at Indian Delhi Palace, Wildflower, etc., and found out it’s a treat to walk over to Teakwoods to meet friends for happy hour (it’s a mile each way walking through the neighborhood).  I love being home with our four pets.  Our house is tidy, and I have energy to make yummy dinners. Every day I’m reminded of the old adage, “the grass is always greener” because many days I wish I were still at my special, amazing school.  But as a favorite teaching friend, Rhoda, once said, “You can only  put your tuchus in one seat at a time.”  Every day I remind myself that my tuchus is where it’s supposed to be . . . and working from home means pants are optional.

Cheers,

Mary

On Mexican Time

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You know it’s time to come home from the beach when you’re out of dog kibble and clean undies (at least that’s how I know).  So we will head back to Tempe after lunch.

Nature called early this morning and since I was up, I stepped onto the patio to see the sunrise.  I love to sleep in, and feel a bit guilty that I always miss the sunrise over the ocean. My conclusion is it’s highly overrated; it looked EXACTLY like the sunset last night, except on the other side of the beach!

It’s been a lovely, perfect weekend.  Yesterday I spent hours in the warm ocean, the water so clear I could see all sorts of fish flitting around my legs. I felt like I was standing in an aquarium!  Jolly Sergeant Major fish the size of half dollars floated about my feet, kissing the bright blue polish on my toenails.  Chubby yellow-and-black striped, they are the most colorful fish you will find near the shore in Puerto Penasco.  I noticed many small bubbles on the water and Hooray! A school of small tube-shaped green fish had arrived!  They float just under the surface and are elegant in their shape and color.  (I have looked online and cannot find the name of these fish.)  I saw swarms of tiny brown fish, then larger trigger fish.  Hubby placed in the water the remains of his mango on a stick and the Sergeant Majors went crazy, taking small bites and swarming the fruit like bees.  (We love the mango man who brings us sticky treats of mango sprinkled with chili pepper and tamarindo syrup.)  Later in the day, we got the kayak to the beach just in time for Hubby to chase a large pod of dolphins moving quickly towards town.

Monday was a perfect day.  I walked the beach searching for shells and was lucky enough to find FOUR of my favorites, the trivia solandri, or “coffee bean” shells which resemble pink coffee beans and are quite rare.  Then I spent some time choosing which mansion I will buy with the profits from my latest invention, the square glue-stick.  After many recent classroom crafts where the rounded ones roll onto the floor, I’m certain my invention will be quite the success and we can upgrade to a beach home with a garage and an outside shower (don’t you love an outdoor shower?).  You may recall my best invention to date, the concert diaper, which alas never attracted interest from investors, but I’m sure would have had lots of takers at last week’s Lumineers concert where the line to the Ladies Room was a half hour long.

Thanks to the Universe for giving me this peaceful and restorative weekend with my best friend at one of my favorite places on Earth:  Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

Cheers,

Mary