Category Archives: Self Improvement

An Even Pelican Kind of Day

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

I am in Mexico.

I’m grateful to have two days off for our school’s Fall Break, which gives Hubby and me FOUR WHOLE DAYS at the beach. I have grown so attached to my young students and just when I was starting to miss them, I ran into one of them in a restaurant in town!  How fun to compare stories of our day at the beach! (Over the years I have come to believe that many times the Universe gives you what you need.)

One of the favorite books in our class of three year olds is about Pete the Cat. When he has problems (like stepping in mud in his new white shoes) the book asks us, “Does Pete mind? Goodness no!” and then a picture shows Pete saying “Groovy!” or “Rock and Roll!” or “It’s all good!” This weekend I’ve been channeling our friend Pete the Cat.  The wifi in our condo is down and at first I was anxious about not having 24/7 access to the world, but it’s turned out to be a really good thing.  I’ve read half a novel, four magazines, and taken two really great naps. Rock and Roll! Groovy!

We made great time on the road and arrived at our beach condo Saturday at 2pm. We’d anticipated huge crowds of folks on Fall Break at the border, but for whatever reason, there was no line at all and very little traffic. We arrived to see a very pleasant group on the beach—nobody blasting stereos and everyone cleaning up after themselves.  We’re always disappointed to see a large group set up on the beach RIGHT IN FRONT of our place, and sure enough:  There was a large group of guys with umbrellas and a big pop-up shade.  I took a deep breath and channeled Pete the Cat and shrugged to Hubby, “It’s groovy.”  And it was–it turned out the the group of 14 guys were very quiet. In fact, they seemed downright bored!  I know if it were a group of women, Hubby would dub them a “Hen Party” so I searched my brain for a male equivalent. I settled on “Buddy Fest.” Bachelor party?  Church group?  Gay choir vacation?  Fraternity reunion? They politely sipped their canned beers, standing and chatting in the tide. One man flew a kite.  They packed up at sunset, and we never saw them again. (I love to make up stories about strangers, don’t you?)

If you’ve read this blog before, you know one of my favorite things to do at the beach is count pelicans. Over the many years of vacationing at this beach, I’ve come to believe that the Puerto Penasco pelicans travel in groups of odd numbers most of the time.  Well.  Yesterday ALL the groups of pelicans flying overhead were in groups of EVEN numbers.  I tried to skew the data by counting 18 pelicans, then adding the one guy flying solo about 30 seconds behind. This happened over and over again, until Hubby stated (in a wise voice), “I guess it’s just an Even-Pelican Kind of Day!”  All I know is I think I saw more pelicans Saturday than I have during the whole rest of the year!  We literally saw thousands that afternoon. Where are they going?  What will they do there?  Why are they in such a hurry?

Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is not at the beach with us.  Her hips have grown too painful for her to easily come up and down the stairs to our tiny beach condo.  She loves the beach so much that I’m thinking we will bring her next time, perhaps dragging her down on a blanket and at the end of the day, Hubby could carry her back up the stairs. I am missing Ruby and our cats, but how lovely for the two of us to have a short respite in this beautiful place where the sound of the ocean lulls us to sleep, and there is nothing much to do but enjoy each other’s company, read a good book, and appreciate the fantastic beauty of this Sea of Cortez.

Cheers,
Mary

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It’s Not My Dog

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Saturday morning, Hubby and I loaded into his SUV these things: our suitcase, our weekend reading, a bag of snacks, a jug of water in case of a car breakdown, and a large dog named Baxter whom we’d never met before.  And thus, we began our three-hour journey to my sister’s cabin situated high on Mt. Lemmon, NE of Tucson.

Let me explain the dog:  Baxter is a lovely mixed beast, part Lab and part German Shorthair.  Aside from being in desperate need of a bath, one couldn’t have asked for a nicer dog to travel with.  My sister had agreed to dog sit for a friend who lives near us.  It was easy for us to transport Baxter south to his ward for the week while his owner was on a vacation.  He was nervous in the car, so I sang a favorite song to him, which made his tail wag.  When we stopped in Summerhaven for a restorative coffee and cookie, people admired him and asked about his breed.  We had no answers, replying with a shrug, “He’s not our dog.”  We got giggling remembering a favorite similar scene from a Pink Panther movie.

Getting to Peg and Dean’s cabin is not for the faint hearted:  Their’s is the second highest on the mountain (elevation 8200) and is accessed by a series of rocky, hairpin, unpaved, steep roads.  Each time we visit I’m terrified on the journey up the mountain, certain we’ll end up in a flipped car with our lives flashing before our eyes.  This did not happen.  We arrived safe and sound to good food, interesting conversations, and I can quite safely say I made a few new friends (Baxter promises to write, lol).  We took several long walks through the woods, spotting fluffy squirrels, soaring hawks, and picking up all sorts of unusual rocks.  I’m currently in the process of trying to identify the minerals so I can share them properly with my students.  I’m also very curious about the swarm of small black butterflies which flitted about us at a look-out point on our ascent.  I can’t find any info on them online, but am eager to identify them.  I have to say after a weekend with highs in the 70’s, it’s hard to return to 110 degrees at home.

In other news:

William has settled in well to his college apartment near NAU.  He is very happy with several of his professors, something I never heard from his older siblings during their college careers.  This is a good thing!  He is catching the bus outside his apartment and has a 20-minute-ride to the “science side” of campus.  William is excited be studying Organic Chemistry, Physics, and is taking a biology class called Unity of Life II: Lives of Multicellular Organisms.  While I have a natural curiosity about my environment, I will say he’s definitely his father’s son in that he is eager to study these sciences and learn very comprehensively about how things work.  Go, William!

This afternoon, Hubby and I went refrigerator shopping.  The one we bought in 2004 has an ice maker problem that created a glacier in the entire upper half of the freezer.   After chipping at the glacier with a small red-handled pick for weeks, we decided it was time to replace the dang thing.  The plastic is cracked throughout, and the door seals are worn.  I feel comfortable with the number of years we used it before replacing it (don’t you hate sending things to the landfill?). We set off to Home Depot resigned to stainless steel even thought I really hate it, and it doesn’t match anything else in my kitchen.  I like soft warm colors, like bisque.  (Hubby teased me they probably didn’t have appliances in avocado or harvest gold either.) But can you believe our luck, that after choosing a fridge, we discovered it was $100 cheaper in BISQUE!  We were so excited that Hubby and I high-fived, shouting “Bisque!  They said it couldn’t be done!”  (I am no longer bothered by what folks think, one of the advantages of being the advanced age of 53.)  The young Home Depot clerk did not appear to share in our joy, but I’m excited about our new fridge, which arrives next week.

This Friday past marked the end of my third week back to school.  Our students are delightful and give us so many smiles throughout the day.  They are like little sponges, eager to learn about anything and everything!  This job is so rewarding but is a definitely overstimulating and physical . . . and at this point is still kicking my ass.  I need to get more sleep; I’m like a child at bedtime: “I don’t wanna go to bed!  I wanna watch more tv!”  I’ve never been good at transitions but am tired of, well, being tired.  I have new bedtime goals, as well as new “remember to take your vitamins” goals— and am excited to get back to work tomorrow.  I hope all of you had a lovely Labor Day weekend!

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

 

 

 

 

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