Category Archives: Whining

Thanksgiving 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Mary

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When I’m Old

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Do any of you play Words with Friends?  I am absolutely addicted to this word game, which I play on my phone.  Each morning after my shower, I sit on the couch and play the 10-15 games I have going. I sip my coffee and pet my animals and truly, it’s a lovely way to greet the day.  During my school day, I can’t wait for a free minute to play a word or two, and lately, at night, I’ve been dreaming I’m playing.  Last night I dreamed I played the word “sofa” for 120 points!  This game is supposed to be good for maintaining healthy brain function and increasing memory skills.  A good player will be able to quickly find words in a jumble of letters, which is called anagramming.  Scientists have studied expert Scrabble players by examining MRI images while they are playing, and studies show that the expert Scrabble players are using different parts of their brains than non-expert Scrabble players and are strengthening areas of the brain associated with working memory.  I’m so happy to be addicted to a game that is actually good for my old noggin!  (Read more about it here.)

In general, I feel like my brain is keeping up with me quite well, but every once in awhile I can’t recall the name of an actor, even though I can see his face quite clearly in my head.  Or the name of a movie or book escapes me.  It usually comes to me later in the day, but it’s a frustrating feeling.  More embarrassing is telling the same stories twice to the same person. I’m especially guilty of this with Hubby, but in my defense, I talk to SO MANY PEOPLE during the day that I can’t remember whom I’ve told what!  I try to be entertaining and interesting and am always happy when someone cuts me off and says, “You already told me.” I also have incredibly vivid dreams, so it works the other way sometimes, in that I’ve dreamed that I told Hubby something and in waking life, I’ve never told him.  You know, just little things like we have company coming for dinner Friday, or my sister will be staying the night next Tuesday.  Lucky for me, after all these years, Hubby is used to my crazy ways!

The little lapses in memory do worry me, and lately I’ve been wondering what kind of old person I will be.  I want to be the nurturing, wise old grandma that always has banana bread baking in the oven and potato soup bubbling on the stove and time to listen to every story (like my Grandma Summers).  I’m so worried that I’ll be the embarrassing grandma with Turret’s Syndrome that shouts out things like, “PENIS!” at family dinners, or picks her nose or farts in public.  I’ve heard of elderly people who take their clothes off at the grocery store, or insist on watching the same tv series over and over again (and for me will it be Gilmore Girls, New Girl, or How I Met Your Mother?).  Will I stop bathing and get that old-person moldy smell?  Will I shuffle around the neighborhood wearing my bedroom slippers and bathrobe leading a chihuahua named Honey?

Well!  I’ve gotten myself quite worked up thinking about my future, so I’d better stop here and take a deep breath . . . and I’m pretty sure there’s a new word to be played.  If anyone wants to play WWF with me, message me, and I will send you my Zynga code name!

Cheers,

Mary

 

Kitchen Dancing

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It occurred to me tonight as I sat down to my computer to write this that I felt much like a pianist approaching a piano, situating myself just right in my seat and getting my mind in the correct place. I spent many years as a musician.  Did I ever tell you I was once a flute player?  All those hours in a practice room and again at home, trying to get every single note just right.  And I played piccolo, and ukulele.  I used to think I had a nice singing voice, but my allergies make me sound like a sick toad. (I miss my old voice so much that I have an appointment with the allergist next week.)

Moving on:  I told you last week that our refrigerator died, and we had to buy a new one. This week, our washing machine decided to spew all of its water onto the laundry room floor!  I put a load of wash in, went on a short errand, and came back to an inch of water on the floor. Hubby spent an hour fixing it on Saturday (Me:  “My Hero!  Thank you so much!”), but the next load proved the barrel was not spinning properly.  It’s ten years old and honestly, I’m glad to be done with this front loader with its stinky rubber seal! The next day, William’s car battery died, I found two termite trails, and the coffee pot gave up the ghost.   Also I need the carpets cleaned due to, well, doo.  Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is not waiting for me to get home and keeps “going” in Patrick’s old room. I hate to spend money on boring stuff like appliances and home upkeep, don’t you?

In other news:  I’ve just pushed through four weeks of personal growth.  (Cry, whine, scream, shiver, moan, sigh.)  Since William went back to college, I’ve been lonely.  I am NOT good at being alone.  Hubby works hellacious hours so for the first time in my life, I am alone in my house for many hours each day.  All that time alone was making me mad and sad and a bit grumpy.

Yet . . . I’m actually starting to enjoy it!  I’ve been meeting friends for coffee (or a pint of beer) many evenings after work, and it’s nice to not have to worry about being home at a certain time.  And when I’m alone at home, I can do WHATEVER I WANT!  For example, tonight I got home from work at 5:30 and began baking muffins.  All alone, I could choose the music with nobody complaining. It was really hot in our house, so I took off my pants. I danced in the kitchen knowing nobody would judge my poor dance moves. Then I danced with one of our cats, with nobody around to think that’s weird.  I talked to myself, with nobody around to think that’s weird.  Nobody was there to chide me for eating the ice cream straight from the container (and I smoothed it over so Hubby won’t notice–the freezer kills germs, right?).

Okay, I’ll finish this up with a poem about personal growth (by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) that I had on the front of my fridge for many years.  I am not religious, so I take out the word “God” and replace it with “Universe”.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste. 
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
— that is to say, grace —
and circumstances
— acting on your own good will — 
will make you tomorrow.

Cheers,

Mary

The Good Place

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I have to tell you about the funniest show I watched last week called The Good Place, in which a “bad” woman ends up in Heaven by mistake.  Who doesn’t love Kristen Bell? Who doesn’t love Ted Danson?  Who doesn’t love a story about the afterlife? Find it on Netflix, and wait a few weeks for the second season to begin soon on NBC.  A witty bit in the show is when our main character tries to swear (which isn’t allowed in Heaven), so her curse words turn into “Fork!” and “Bullshirt!” and my very favorite, “Holy Motherforking Shirtballs!”

I’ve been trying to incorporate those “almost” curse words into my own lingo, which is especially helpful when I’m raging at the zillions of self-driving Waymo cars constantly cruising through our neighborhood.  When I first spotted these abominations in March, I found it interesting. By May, I was thoroughly irritated . . . and now I’m simply unnerved! Seeing that bulbous-roofed vehicle on every street on every day . . . even Sundays (!!!) is just wrong.  These cars have cameras on them, and how is that legal???  Every time I see one, I say, “Forking Waymos” and give them a special hand gesture.  I contacted a city council member to ask if the city is getting kickbacks and the answer was no.  I’m on the HOA for our ‘hood, so I know we were never asked permission, nor are we getting any money for the inconvenience to our neighborhood.  Last week, I contacted Waymo by email asking when they would be done here and requesting they move on to another neighborhood, citing the fact that our neighborhood was designed specifically to reduce traffic and that having eight Waymo cars constantly driving down our streets is not something any of us likes.  I’m waiting for a response (and am not holding my breath) and will continue to say a heartfelt, “Fork You” to each vehicle that slows me down on the way to the grocery store.

In other news, last week I was super crazy happy to be getting rid of SO MUCH STUFF from my house and donate it to be sold at our high school’s annual percussion garage sale.  You may recall my horror at entering our ASU rental home after I evicted our daughter and her roommates to find they had left so much stuff behind.  Hand on the Bible, it looked like they had merely stepped out for lunch.  The kitchen was fully stocked with pots, pans, and silverware, the fridge and the pantry were full of food, and there was even a wet towel left in the shower. There were couches and dressers and desks. I was so happy to take all of that (in multiple trips in my small Prius) over to the school for sale.

I was also ecstatic to get rid an ugly antique velvet chair which we inherited from Hubby’s grandmother.  Hubby likes to hang onto stuff; he is not a hoarder, but is really sentimental.  The Grandmother Chair came with much history:  GG Mom always told us, “When I’m gone, you must take this chair that Ms. Hoff from across the street gave me. It’s one of a kind; it’s so special. Promise me you’ll take it!”  So of course, when she passed away, we had it shipped from Decatur, Alabama, and it’s sat collecting cat hair in the spare room for 12 years.  I was puzzled why the chair was so important.  Friends suggested there was cash hidden inside (no). I tried to sell it to an antique store, but no luck.  So on Friday, I snuck it over to the school garage sale, feeling so happy to un-clutter my house, and feeling pretty good about the fact that Hubby would never notice.

Well.  Saturday morning we woke up and were each looking at Facebook.  Hubby says, “It looks like the Percussion Garage Sale is today!”  I responded, “Hmmm, I bet everything is pretty much gone by now.”  A minute later, Hubby says, “HEY!  Is that my grandmother’s CHAIR!”  ACCKKK!  Somebody had taken a pic of the goods for sale and posted it!  I held my breath and I waited for World War III, but Hubby was actually very sweet about it, especially after I checked to make sure said chair had been sold to a happy buyer.  (We have toooooo much stuff, and it makes me crazy!)

I hope all is well with all of you during this crazy weather week. PLEASE, Mother Nature, help us out a bit.  Hurricanes?  Fires? Floods?  111 degrees when I get in my car to come home after school?  I’m sending SO MUCH positive energy into the Universe for all of those who are struggling in the hurricane and fire zones.  We have three empty bedrooms if anyone needs a place to wait out the disasters.

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

 

 

 

 

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

Peaks and Valleys

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One hot morning last week I took a walk past our old house, which is (quite ridiculously) on the SAME street we currently live on, but about a half mile to the east.  It was very quiet and as I walked the path leading down to the small playground, my mind was flooded with memories of the five years we lived there.  There were children everywhere on bikes, on skateboards, playing basketball, running through sprinklers. Our friends on the street left for most of each summer, traveling to California, to the Midwest, or to their cabins up north, and yet there I was with our three kids and no swimming pool.  I hated to ask favors, but looking back I think how silly I was to not ask one of them if we could use their pool while they were gone (and how ungenerous for them not to offer).  I remember waking up every summer day simply wishing that something would happen.  Anything!  Oh sure, we had fun at Zoo Camp, at pizza lunches at Costco, playing board games, and swimming at Grandma’s house a few times a week, but for the most part, those summers were very dull for me.

Looking back I’m amazed at how uncomplicated our lives were and how naive and innocent I was in my thirties.  I was always wishing for something to happen, because yes, I longed for excitement.  But now I know there is a balance. I know that so many things are out of our control.  I’ve learned that instead of working as hard as I can to solve a problem, so many times a situation calls for one to do nothing at all.  Doing nothing is the hardest thing for me.  I always want to offer suggestions, make strategies, list pros and cons, make phone calls, gather info, etc.

Now life is full of so many little emergencies that I find myself longing for those old boring days.  This week alone I had to deal with so much stuff. I think there’s something wrong with our oldest cat because he’s lost weight and seems to sleep too much.  Ruby the Wonder Spaniel’s had diarrhea for four days now, and I have NO idea what she got into.  What I do know is she made four large stinky puddles in Patrick’s room when I was at school one day.  I had to pick it out of the carpet with my fingers (eeeuuuwww–I pretended it was play doh but still gagged several times). Ruby seems better.  Today we woke up to find William’s debit card had fraudulent charges on it and had talk to the bank for 30 minutes.  And worst of all, yesterday my Eve had to leave her mountain job working with the wildlife fire fighters because she could not pass the arduous pack test due to a bad case of bronchitis.  My heart breaks for her—she was so excited about her summer in Happy Jack, AZ.  She has a great attitude and swears she’ll go back next summer and pass that test.  My oldest son and his best gal are stressed out trying to find an affordable venue for their wedding next year.  I sure wish I had a big enough house to host it here.  On top of all that, I have a large pimple on my nose.

First World Problems, all, and I might say, well, next week will be better, but lately it just feels like one problem after another.  I remind myself that life is full of peaks and valleys. I gave myself a stern talking to:  Keep breathing.  Keep smiling.   Make gratitude lists. Take pleasure in simple joys (a good cup of coffee, or meeting a friend for lunch).  Take a walk and listen to the birds.  Watch every sunset.

Cheers,

Mary