Category Archives: Self Improvement

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

 

 

 

 

The Day I Almost Got Run Over by the Light Rail (and Other Stories)

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On this quiet Wednesday evening, I’m trying to remember everything I wanted to tell you.  I leave notes for myself, but days later I can’t crack my own code of shorthanded and abbreviated words written messily in pencil on small scraps of paper.

One story I DEFINITELY remember is called, “The Day I Almost Got Run Over by the Light Rail.”  It goes like this:  A few Fridays ago, my adorable sister-in-law LeaAnne and I were cleaning out the last bits of stuff from the ASU House so as to ready it for sale.  (My kids lived there during their college years.)  How we ended up with 20 cans of paint, four large containers of pest control poison, two packages of weed killer, etc., I’ll never know, but we were responsible citizens and drove a whole trunk full of haz mats to the Tempe recycling center on University.  On the drive back we were chatting and when I came to a red light by a train crossing, I remembered that one is never supposed to stop one’s car on a train track.  So I was careful to come to a stop a few yards in front of the tracks.  Lea and I continued to chat, while I kept an eye on the light which seemed like it was red for way too long.  THAT’s when LeaAnne made a strange noise, and we both screamed as the railroad arm came down and bounced off the hood of the SUV.  Then we heard the clanging of the train alert, and I madly tried to put us into reverse.   I’d only driven Hubby’s new car once before and the gear shift is super awkward, but PRAISE THE LORD, the driver behind me had left space, and I backed up JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME as the light rail trains swished by in both directions.  I was shaking and looked around for any sort of warning I may have missed, but all I saw was one small street sign announcing, “Do not park on XX.”  Well.  THAT would have been good to know.  The next day I texted Lea and said, “I’m so so so sorry for almost getting us run over by the light rail yesterday.  Do you think we would have been smart enough to jump out of the car if we were on the tracks??”  She didn’t respond . . . so the next day I texted her again and she said, “I’m still wondering!!!”  All’s well that ends well, and I’m 100% certain I’ll have anxiety anytime I’m near a train crossing for the rest of my life.

Here’s a short list of other interesting moments from the past few weeks:

  • I binge-watched on Netflix Anne with an E, which is an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, which were favorite books when I was a preteen.  I loved every moment of this new series and am so sad that Season Two will not be available for a whole year.
  • I bought a squatty potty from Amazon which had been recommended by teacher friends and by my naturopath, but it turns out Hubby and I are naturally good at doing our business.  This weird stool thing actually worked against me, and when I went online to return it to Amazon, I was given a full refund and was informed they did not want the item back.  Imagine that!  (Let me know if you’d like to try it.)  (Note to self:  Do NOT buy trendy healthcare products.)
  • As long as I’m oversharing, I’ll confide that one hot day last week I decided to go for a long walk in pants that were very uncomfortable and developed a heat rash on my keister.  I was applying Desitin cream before bed each night and the problem was almost resolved.   I put the tube of Desitin in the same drawer as the toothpaste and one night when I was sleepy, I accidentally applied Colgate Optic White which had quite the opposite effect as the one which was desired and again, I think to myself, how can I be so bad at life when I’ve been alive for so many years????
  • I’ve not been able to lose any additional weight which I partially attribute to the fact that a little orange tube of Braunschweiger caught my eye at the grocery store a few weeks ago, and it’s become a sinful late-night snack.  I love it on Saltine crackers. When I was a child, my mom often packed liverwurst on white bread with mustard in my school lunchbox.  It’s not good for you nutritionally and is full o’ fat.  I love it.
  • Today I found a website called MyAnimalWeight.com where I found out my weight equals 7.9 honey badgers, 8.8 ocelots, 14.2 raccoons, 39 hairy tree porcupines, and almost HALF A LION!  Definitely one of the strangest websites I’ve visited–you MUST check it out.   I’m hoping to lose one honey badger by the end of the summer and a raccoon in the Fall so I’ll be slim for our oldest son’s wedding in January. Goodbye liverwurst . . . I’ll be seeing you in my dreams.

Cheers,

Mary

Comings and Goings

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It’s been a weird month with lots of comings and goings.  During the last week of April, my family members went in all different directions, and I was left here at home. Patrick was away on a business trip; Hubby was away on business.  Hubby came home, then Patrick came home (he lives just a mile away).  William was home for 36 hours and took his girlfriend to Prom, then caught the shuttle back to college to study for finals.  Eve was working her job and packing to move, then she was in Spain with friends for more than two weeks.  She came home and was in town less than 24 hours before she packed up her little car to drive up the mountain and report up north for her new job.

All of these comings and goings are hard on a mom.  When someone is leaving, I worry and fuss over them, wanting to lessen their load by helping with luggage, travel snacks, copies of passports.  “Is there anything else I can do?” I ask (too many times, which I’m sure is annoying).  And then while they’re away, I worry that some terrible thing has happened.  I wake with a start at 3:10 am—did something happen to Eve in Spain?  I’ve heard about people getting a chill, waking at odd times, somehow knowing when a loved one is in trouble.

But the most torturous part of comings and goings are the returns: I’m filled with anticipation and can’t wait to see my peeps. One recent Friday, William finally arrives and is here for two minutes before he’s whisked away by his friends, me barely getting a minute to give him a hug and notice he needs a haircut.  Especially deflating was the day Eve returned from Spain.  I knew her flight was landing at 9, so I was happily cleaning the house and had favorite “Eve foods” in the fridge.  I kept looking at my phone and at the front door.  I was positively GIDDY! Her flight was late, and she texted when she landed.   Ruby and I nervously watched the driveway through the front shutters, and finally at 1:30 I texted, where are you?  She’d gone to her boyfriends and it wasn’t until evening that she came by for a short while.  I felt ridiculous—she is 21 and of course she wants to be with friends.  Expectations are everything—why haven’t I learned that lesson yet?  That was supposed to be the best day ever, and instead it was a terrible day for me . . . and I have yet to hear the complete travel report about Spain.

Of course part of all of this is I am grumpy to be left behind. I’m a big baby about that. Picture me sitting in my quiet house, the only interruptions being the occasional cat fight, or Ruby barking out the window at dogs walking by, or maybe the ring of the phone with people wanting to sell me solar panels or home security systems.  I sit on the couch reading a novel, occasionally looking up at the front living room window, sighing dramatically. Then I remind myself to plant my own garden, to decorate my own soul, to seek out friends when the house is too quiet.

But mostly what’s hard these days is the missing of my kids being here at our house with us.  I want to see their faces, I want to hear their stories, I want to laugh with them over some silly thing, I want to eat a meal with them, listen to a favorite song together.

I read this poem and understood exactly what Tyler Knott Gregson meant (though I think he wrote it thinking not of his children, but of his wife):

I will miss you
always,
even in the moments
when you are right
beside me
and I do not think
it is a weed
that will ever stop
growing.
It will always live there,
but my god
it grows the most
spectacular
flowers.

This is the life lesson I’m trying to learn right now:   To accept the comings and goings and instead of being angsty and demanding and an obligation to my grown children, I want to be a calm wise thoughtful person—a person my children want to return to to share their stories.  I’m so proud of all three of them, and I’m happy for all their adventures.  I want to be peaceful and patient and serene, knowing deep down in my heart my children will return to me when they are able.  Like in the children’s book, The Runaway Bunny, I want to be the tree they fly home to.

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

Following My Bliss

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Raise your hand if you use the voice-to-text app on your phone.  I certainly do, and while it’s quicker than typing, oftentimes my words are “misheard” and can lead to very confusing text messages.   One time I mistakenly texted our daughter, “Please check your ass again,” and to our oldest son, I texted, “Has your new brother arrived?”  I can’t recall what I actually said to my phone, but to these texts my children usually respond with a “WHAT???”

Yesterday I could not find a box of Allegra D that I’d just purchased.  My friend Fran told me to buy the “good stuff” that has the decongestant, the one you have to sign for at the pharmacy window and swear you’re not cooking meth.  After I searched the house, it finally occurred to me perhaps William had taken it to college with him and yep, that’s where it went.  This is where the voice to text gaffe happened:

Me:  Did you try the pills?  I think you should only use them when you’re super snuggly.

William:  Have not tried them yet.  I’m not usually very snuggly though so it might be a while.

Me:  *snuffly* !!!!!

Him:  Oh alright then that makes more sense.

Lately, I’ve been super snuffly (and snuggly) but have decided to enjoy the good weather while I can, boogers be damned. Three times last week I hiked, twice at a new spot my friend Lois showed me which is a loop of the Desert Classic trail south of the big entrance at Pima Canyon.  It’s hidden in a neighborhood, and we practically had the place to ourselves.  I’m going again tomorrow with gal pals and am excited to show them this quiet mountain where yellow wildflowers bloom amongst the jumping cholla, saguaros, and red-tipped ocotillo.

I subbed two days last week in the early Fours class and had truly delightful days surrounded by adorable children and teachers.  My bucket felt full.  Both days I baked yum-yums to leave in the kitchen for hungry teachers, but both times, my recipes failed enough that I sent the baked goods to work with Hubby instead.  (Those IT engineers will eat anything!)  The first recipe was a tried-and-true carrot cake recipe from Susan Branch, however, I decided to bake it in muffin form.  Well.  The muffins were so sticky, you could barely get them out of the cupcake papers–plus they looked, well, too shiny.  The second recipe was a NY Times ginger cookie.  Shame on me for not using my Grandma Summer’s fabulous gingersnap cookie recipe which always works out perfectly.  This recipe produced flat cookies that tasted good, but looked terrible.  Hubby took those to work as well.

Last week I attended the first class of six studying a book by Louise Hay called, You Can Heal Your Life. We meet a mile from my house and the class only cost $100.  The teacher is a spiritual life coach and was recommended to me by two friends. While I certainly don’t feel like my life needs healing, I thought it would be nice to meet some new people and to explore a new philosophy–I’m always trying to figure out ways to make my life work better. This subbing job is not working out for me—I’m spending way too much time home alone, feeling lazy and not useful.  This week’s homework is to make a goal and then create an affirmation to be repeated 400 times (!) each day. My week’s goal is to make this job situation work for me, or find a new job, or start writing the novel I wrote in my head. So my mantra for the week is “I am following my bliss” which is shorthand for, “please, oh please, Universe, guide me to what it is I’m supposed to be doing every day which will feel rewarding and get me out of the house doing meaningful work.”   It all feels, well, a bit silly, but I plan to give it my full attention and see what happens.  Who know?  Maybe I’ll find my bliss.

Cheers,

Mary

Skeeter Hawks

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Summer has come early to our town in the desert.  We’re ten degrees over the norm, which means temps in the 90s.  Ugh. When you live in a place where it’s pretty much unbearable to be outdoors for six months of the year, this early summer is terrible news. We’re sadly pulling from our gardens lettuces that have too quickly gone to seed, spinach that has turned bitter, and every day I’m picking nasturtium bouquets to leave at friends’ doors because the high temps makes them crumpled and brown and I don’t want them to go to waste.  We’re also experiencing an invasion of “skeeter hawks” which, though harmless, float about the bright lights in the kitchen and whip our house cats into a frenzy.  I find their long legs and slow flight graceful in a weird sort of way.

I’ve had two stressful weeks trying to clean up our rental house near ASU where our daughter lives with two friends. (I wrote angry posts about this, but deleted them.)  For the past few years, we’ve been busy with our own lives and also cognizant of giving the kids their space, so the list of stuff that needs cleaning and fixing over there is long.  Hubby would say to me on a Sunday morning, “I think I’ll go over to Eve’s and do some work,” and I would say, “I’m sure they are sleeping in and do not want you there.”  So the place is a mess.  We crunched the numbers and (hip hip hooray) have decided to sell this sweet house built in 1952.  After the tenants leave in late April, we likely have a month’s worth of work to do.  I hope someone will be thrilled to have this charming little house so close to campus.  Our family has sentimental attachments to this house which we’ve owned for seven years, but our goal is to make sure we sell to someone who will love it as much as we have. (The only thing I absolutely hate about the house is bright red, plastic-fronted kitchen cabinets from IKEA, which were installed by the architect who owned the place before we did.)

About four weeks ago, I told you the house next door would be going up for sale due to divorce.  I hesitate to talk it up too much to anyone I know because we may not be the best neighbors.  Hubby’s method of relaxing after a long day of work is to watch tv; mine is to dance or sing to music in the backyard.  I swear I never play music very loudly, but hay fever has adjusted my voice to a definitely nasal tone.  Add in the bouts of sneezing that can last up to 15 minutes, which sometimes causes Ruby the Wonder Spaniel to bark incessantly, and Cosmo our Elderly Siamese to yowl.  In the big picture, I firmly believe dancing in the back yard is better than taking a daily mood-enhancing pill, something I’ve never done.  Plus the dancing is good exercise.

Excuse me for a moment.  I must go look at the sunset.

FIVE MINUTES LATER:

Oh my word–that was amazing.  The clouds looked like a long swath of fuzzy pink cotton candy . . . and then the colors deepened and it looked more like a scarlet wool blanket. Now I can see thought the front window that it is violet/gray overhead, with scarlet down at the horizon.  Well done, Mother Nature. Well done.

Life is strange.  For the first time in many years, I find myself with too much free time.  I thought of the word “tumbling” the other day, and it’s an appropriate word to describe my days in which I find myself wandering from room to room, finding something to clean or put away, then responding to my phone or emails, then tumbling upstairs for laundry, then tumbling outside to run an errand or two.  For awhile I had friends lined up to walk with most days, but lately people have been busy with Spring Break vacations, and I feel a bit neglected.  I use the word tumbling because I feel a profound sense of being off-center, with maybe a bit of dizziness;  a definite blurriness of focus.  Close your eyes and remember being a child doing a somersault.  Yes, that’s it.  Tumbling.

I’ve been reading too much (most recently Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, then Vivan Howard’s ten-pound tribute to her hometown in NC with lots of recipes, Deep Run Roots), and watching too much tv (Rectify‘s amazing latest season on Netflix, and rewatching for the millionth time the first few seasons of Gilmore Girls), and cooking too much (I made this carrot cake recipe in muffin form for breakfast and for dinner, and we enjoyed the Creamy Mustard Chicken recipe from the New  York Times, which I can’t access now because I’ve used up my freebies for the month.).

Yesterday I spent the day with my brother and sister-in-law.  They are good listeners, but Paul always says, “Mary, you need more stimulation than anyone I’ve ever met.” I know I’m not good at being alone.  I know I’m a bit spastic.  I’m trying so hard to relax into early retirement or a break from working–whatever we want to call it–to find peace in the quiet of my world.  Now that I think about it, I’m much like those early summer skeeter hawks, floating about without much purpose, simply enjoying family, books, garden, pets, and the fabulous desert sunsets.

Cheers,

Mary

Small Miracles

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January was such a traumatic month for everyone, whether you are red or blue, so it’s truly a small miracle that life is feeling more normal in this first week of February.  The weather is FABULOUS . . . though Spring has certainly come too soon. Our poor fireplace hosted only three nights of cheery fires, and I can hear my sweaters crying lonely, woolly tears as I walk by my dresser each morning.  Only a few of them made it out into the world during this very warm winter here in Tempe, Arizona.

The warm weather has brought out the birds.  I’m hearing doves cooing each morning, and yesterday Ruby and I surprised a long-legged white crane hanging out in our front yard.  It ran a few steps, then took flight, its long wings flapping over the greenbelt, likely headed back to the canal where we usually see them. I was awe struck by its beauty. Later in the day, a loud flock of ducks flew over head, making Ruby and I smile. The weather has been kind to our garden; the mesclun (mixed lettuces) needs daily harvesting. and we eat the bitter greens each day in salads and on sandwiches. YUM!

I subbed at the front desk at my wonderful school Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week.  I was excited to be at the helm; the power of the front desk!  Debbie left me only the barest of tasks: greeting people, answering the phones, and taking care of student meds and boo boos.  We had fewer boo boos than normal, so I sent messages of gratitude to the Universe for an easy week . . . and for not making an absolute boob of myself in this important role. I had a great time and am grateful for the experience.

This morning I had a walking date with my old friend Ann and my new friend Diane.  We walked three miles along the canal, catching up on each other’s lives and attempting to solve the problems of the world.  I felt so blessed to be in the company of these very intelligent, thoughtful, kind women. The two of them have been friends for 30 years.  I have been friends with Ann for 17 years, and friends with Diane for only a year and a half. We laughed as we walked on this sunny morning, saying hello to other people walking and dodging men on fast bicycles who yelled at us to get out of their way, “Bicycle on the left!” and “Coming through!”

For lunch I met my friend Amy (we met the first day of 7th grade) at Fired Pie. Facebook told me it is National Pizza Day, however, I did not order pizza but instead my beloved Buffalo Chicken Ceaser Salad.  Amy and I also attempted to solve the problems of the world, then talked about her recently published YA book, Die For You.  It’s so good; I urge you to read it as soon as you can!

After lunch I checked in with our remodeling company.  Six years ago we bought a small house near ASU—a place to stow our surly, unruly college-aged children. It’s been a blessing and a curse.  We love not living with 19 year olds, but every property needs attention  . . .and college students do not have the same idea of cleanliness that we do. Our oldest son lived there for three years while he went to college, and now our daughter lives there with friends.  She recently brought it to our attention that her bathroom shower wall was soggy, so we were forced to do a bathroom remodel. It’s so stressful! I love our renovation company, Bathrooms Plus Kitchens, and am excited to view the completed bathroom tomorrow. Of course they found mold AND asbestos which bumped up the cost, but that’s no one’s fault.  We bought the house when prices were low so it all evens out in the end. It’s totally worth the cost to not have to live with young adults and their terrible schedules, angst, and drama!

In other news, today I baked a new cookie recipe from Ina Garten–DELICIOUSNESS. They are Oatmeal Chocolate Dried Cranberry cookies, and I have a big plate of them ready to take to school tomorrow since I am subbing in the Early Threes class.  Bake yourself a batch for the weekend.  They are perfect when heated in the microwave for a few minutes and enjoyed with a hot cup o’ joe.  Happy Friday, everyone!

Cheers,

Mary