Category Archives: music

Home from the UK

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There really ought to be safeguards in place when logging in to write my blog, for example, how long have you been awake?  Because I have been awake for (counts on fingers) 24 hours, with a one-hour nap on the plane home.  I woke up at 6am London time (the sun was so bright in our hotel room) and was so squished in the middle seat on the plane, it was uncomfortable to nap.  I’m trying to get back on Tempe time; my goal is to stay awake until 11.

My advice to you is this:  VISIT WALES!!!  There are miles and miles of verdant countryside, and from the coast road, the sea views were breathtaking.  The people were so friendly and polite and all seem gifted at the exchange of light banter, happy to ask where we were from and what we’d seen.  We saw ten castles, each different and exciting in its own way.  My favorites were the hill-top ruins with nobody around except for us, where I could close my eyes and imagine myself there 1000 years ago when the castle was inhabited . . . and I’d listen into the wind for the whispers of ghosts.

We began our trip in London, staying at my all-time favorite hotel, CitizenM Tower of London.  It’s always a thrill to be in vibrant London, my favorite big city.  We spent three days exploring the city and revisiting favorite museums, on foot and by Tube.  We are lucky enough to have visited the National Gallery the past four summers . . . and it never gets old.  I always get goosebumps seeing Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and they had a special exhibit of 75 Monets!  He’s always been my favorite, and we spent hours looking at pieces we’d never seen before. THRILLING.  The British museum was full of school children and large, rude Japanese tour groups, but we were able to push through them and say hi to the mummies, the ancient Greek and Roman sculptures and of course, the Rosetta Stone.  We did NOT yell, “Godzilla” to distract the Japanese tourists as suggested by a friend (haha) so as to get closer to the exhibits, but seriously, the groups we came upon were impolite and did not share space well.

It was so great to get home and give BIG HUGS to our son William and his girlfriend Katherine.  Ruby the Wonder Spaniel and the cats (Cosmo, Tilly, Olive, and Maisy) were very happy to see us as well.  Shortly after we arrived home, the kids left for the movies and Hubby checked stuff on his computer in the office, so ever since I’ve been singing loudly which is something I couldn’t do for two weeks  living in hotel rooms.  We were road tripping through Wales, but any time I tried to play music, we would quickly become lost. The navigation was very demanding and I had to stay sharp:  “In .5 miles take the second exit from the roundabout to B4047.”  Seriously, any time I daydreamed and we missed a cue from bossy British navigation lady, we ended up on one-lane roads with huge-ass tractors coming at us at 40 mph.  (What you do in that situation is run your car into the hedges and exchange happy waves with the other driver.)  If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Oh shit,” our bar bill would have been covered in full!

I’m finally feeling sleepy.  Jet lag sucks, but it’s a small price to pay for my two weeks of adventures in the beautiful UK.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Ditch Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not ditch school.

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

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

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

Cheers,

Mary

Is it Winter Yet???

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

A Love Story

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Once upon a time there was a girl and a boy.  She was a freshman in high school, and he was a junior.  They were in marching band together, and he thought she was really cute. He asked a friend to tell her he liked her . . . to which she responded, “Eeeeuwww!”  This boy wore aviator glasses, and his favorite attire was a brown suede vest with sheepskin lining.  He always teased the girl, especially when she was trying to be funny. Desperately in need of a haircut, he did not (at first glance) seem like the dreamboat this girl was hoping to meet in her first year of high school.

That boy and girl were Hubby and me back in 1978.  Even though I was not romantically interested, we hung out a lot and got to be really good friends.  We were pen pals during the summer while he was visiting his grandparents in Decatur, AL.  When he returned to Tempe in August, (after a year of friendship), we had our first kiss.  It was August 19, 1979.   We were serious for a year, but then Hubby went off to college, so we broke it off and dated other people until we (luckily) got back together again in August of 1997. We were married on a very hot Saturday in July in 1988 with friends and family in attendance and celebrated with a week-long honeymoon in Hawaii. (If you can hear me in Heaven, thank you Clifford and Evelyn! Our honeymoon was amazing!)

Fast Forward to Saturday, August 19, 2017.  Hubby and I were hashing over our “To Do List” for the day when I looked at the calendar and gasped.  “It’s August 19th!” I said.  We haven’t celebrated this date in a LONG time, so I had to explain to Hubby what it meant. I made him do the math . . . it was the 38th anniversary of our first kiss!  We had a lovely long smooch, and then both of us grimaced realizing how incredibly old we are!

But the funny thing is that when you marry your best friend, it doesn’t feel like a long time.  You have fun. You don’t argue.  You agree on almost everything.  You problem solve together.   You have things in common!  We both love the beach.  We both love good art. We both love craft beers.  We’re foodies.   We love our pets (three cats and a dog). We’re both worried about what’s happening in the world and talk about it every day.  We are frugal on every day stuff so that we can travel each summer and see cool new places. Hubby is sweet to attend concerts with me (I love seeing live music) even when he isn’t familiar with the band, like last week when we saw Jillian Banks at the new music venue, the Van Buren in downtown Phoenix.  We like to work in the yard together and go shopping together.  Hubby is an amazing listener; and when it’s my turn to listen to his job stuff, I try SO HARD to not go to my happy place in my head while he describes his travails with the WAN and the LAN and his other computer networks.

I’m trying to think of things we’ve argued about over the years, and I guess the biggest thing would be laundry.  I LOVE to do laundry, because basically you bring stuff downstairs, put it in a machine that does all the work, then you move it to another machine that does all the work, and when it beeps, you retrieve it and you feel like YOU have done all the work!  So Hubby has to deal with wrinkled laundry (because nobody likes to FOLD laundry, right?)  Besides laundry, there have been weekly discussions about work/life balance (uh hum), but overall, I can’t imagine being married to a better guy.

We enjoy each other’s company best over anyone else’s–excepting the company of our children, of course.  We support each other and try to do the right thing (though we don’t always succeed).  I’m the idea guy; he’s the implementer.  I smush the bugs; he picks them up.  Well, you get the idea.  Hubby,  I love you and hope to have 38 more years of kissing you!!!

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