Tag Archives: college

Life Moves Pretty Fast

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So many exciting things have happened in the past few weeks! Our oldest son, Patrick, and his fiancee, Samantha, bought a cute little house just 1.5 miles from our home. A small crew of us spent a weekend painting over the hideous colors on the walls which required a base of primer and two top coats of “Linwood Sands” by Lowes, a very calming beige color. I painted from 10:30 til 8:30 with only bathroom breaks and a small lunch break for pizza, and when I woke up on Sunday morning, I said, “OOOWWWW!!!”  Everything hurt.  My arms had rollered all day, I’d squatted to paint at the baseboards, and I’d gone up and down a ladder 100 times to do the areas at the top.   I hope they will enjoy being homeowners, and since both sets of parents are can-do people, their house will look “House Beautiful” in no time.  Seriously, I could not be more proud of our kids.

This week Hubby  got a new iPhone 6S plus– which is a Very Big Phone.  The first day he had it, he complained that his thumb did not reach the huge screen, and I suggested he create a “thumb extender” out of clay. Hubby looked it up, and apparently someone else already invented this apparatus. DRAT.  You may recall I invented the Concert Diaper which I thought of during a Dave Matthews Band show when beer vs. body collided, and I missed my favorite song while waiting in line for the loo at Desert Sky Pavillion back in 2009.  I had another “inventive” idea this week after a friend told me she’d been offered a shawl at a fancy restaurant.  I thought that was hilarious, but . . . wouldn’t it be fun to have a “costume” restaurant?  Guests would change into formal wear when they arrived. You’d be offered sparkly sequined or poofy ball gowns, tuxedos in many sizes, and bow ties and top hats, and tiaras, and faux-diamond necklaces.  We’d serve old-fashioned elegant dishes like Beef Bourguignon, Oysters Rockeller, Vichyssoise, and Chateubriand. We’d have chandeliers and lots of mirrors on the walls so guests could admire themselves, with low lights and candles on the tables . . . and people could feel like they were someone else for a few hours.  What to name it.  Hmmmmm.  The Cultured Cafe.  Chic Bistro.  Cafe Chandelier?  I’ll ruminate on it some more.

William was home for a whole week for Spring  Break, which was so wonderful.  But then the week was over too quickly and as he drove away on  Sunday afternoon to return to NAU for seven more weeks, I allowed a few tears to fall.  I felt sad all afternoon, but I know he’s where he is supposed to be and is working hard. I must say, all this coming and going is really hard on a mom (and a dad–Hubby was sad, too).

I have so much to look forward to!  It’s been a slow few months, but April 1st will find us at our favorite beach in Rocky Point for a long weekend.  April 11 we are seeing Bastille (my favorite band) who are playing in town at the Comerica Theater, and we are driving to seem them AGAIN at the Cosmopolitan Resort in Las Vegas on April 14 and staying for the weekend. Hubby is going to Berkeley, CA later in April on business, and I’m trying to talk him into letting me come along.  I’ve never been to that area of California and think it would be fun. William is coming home to take his best girl to Prom in early May, then just a few weeks later, we’ll be driving up to pack up his dorm and move him back home for the summer.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in awhile, you could miss it.  I hope you all are taking time to enjoy life in this beautiful first week of Spring.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Goodbye, Lola

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It’s been 10 days and 15 hours since we dropped our youngest child, William, off at the campus of Northern Arizona University.  I expected I would sob all the way home . . . and then I did not.  I expected it would happen the next day . . . but it didn’t.  Last night at happy hour I was explaining this weirdness to two coworkers  over IPAs at a local pub and said thoughtfully, “Maybe I’ll have a good cry after I go home tonight.”  Then Lisa says, “Wait, don’t do that!  Tomorrow is Picture Day—you don’t want to be puffy!” Girlfriend’s got my back!

And seriously, that’s been the theme of the past ten days:  Friends have my back.  I feel nurtured and fussed over, and I am proud to report that friends and coworkers have been so kind in asking me almost every day how William is doing and how I’m doing.  I’ve been waiting to be sad but it just hasn’t happened yet (not too much—I get a little weepy on my drive home because usually William and his friends would be here at the house when I arrived). I’ve spent time with friends every day after work, and maybe you’d call that avoidance, but I call it taking care of myself.  My only concern at this point is that William is doing too much homework.  It doesn’t sound like he’s had much time to get out and meet people or explore the campus, but it’s only week two.  He has good friends at NAU who will take care of him if he gets too serious!

When I tell you this next story, you’ll see exactly how shallow and small I am.  On Monday, we sold Lola, our old red Miata convertible which has been our “folly” for the past ten years, and I cried more tears over losing that car than I did over taking William to school!  However . . . . it didn’t make sense to own her anymore.  With William away at school, we now had an extra car.   We’d planned on selling it, but we weren’t quite ready. But when some of our best friends made an offer, it was too perfect to refuse.  Crossed fingers they’ll take me out for a spin in my Lola some day soon.  We bought her on a whim on Valentine’s Day, 2006  when we were having some major bumps in this Road of Life, and she instantly infused cheer and optimism into our world.  It’s hard to explain how a small piece of metal on wheels can bring a person so much joy, but I will say with complete confidence that it’s 100% impossible to NOT smile when you’re driving with the top down on a sunny day, your favorite song is playing on the radio, the wind is blowing your hair around, and the scent of freshly cut grass wafts in your nose. HEAVEN.

Similarly, it’s impossible to not smile when hanging out with small children, as I get to do five days a week at the Awakening Seed School.  I laughed so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes today when a boy in our classroom presented his “Sharing” items from home, which happened to be two huge coconuts he and his dad brought home from Hawaii this summer.  He explained how they found one on the ground, and then threw other coconuts into the tree to bring the really big one down.   All of our kids were so cute today, dressed to the nines for Picture Day.    So earnest and sweet, our students come to school with fun stories and tons of  love, and always, ALWAYS make me feel special.  Maybe that’s why I’m smiling instead of crying.

Cheers,

Mary

The Day William Left for College

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August 25th.  This date had been on our calendar for a year.  Northern Arizona University Move-In Day.  I felt so fortunate that Northern Arizona University had the latest start date of all our Arizona colleges.  Weeks ago when my friends were stressed and sad, inside my tiny little heart I felt gleeful that I had TWO MORE WEEKS with my kid.  But alas, the day arrived.

Friday morning we were calm and cool, checking items off the long supply list, me darting up and down the stairs to find the stuff missing from the huge stack of college-bound items. Ruby, the Wonder Spaniel sensed something was up and jumped into the car, refusing to get out. She was very sad when we pulled her out and made her go inside, then WE were sad as we saw her watching us from the front window as we drove away.  She and William are best friends, so I’m sure Ruby will be needing extra cuddles from Hubby and me with William away (sob).  On the road by 9:30, we stopped for “brunch” at In and Out. Oh man, I’ve not indulged in several years, and wow, it was tasty.   The drive up the mountain was a chore with so many commercial trucks going slow but we were not on a schedule and, three hours after leaving home, we arrived safe and sound to the beautiful, pine tree studded, cool fresh air of Flagstaff, Arizona.

When we moved our two older children into the NAU dorms years ago, it was a huge chore carrying heavy arm fulls of stuff up and down the stairs.  This time?  Three of William’s friends who’d arrived the day before emptied our car of boxes in two trips and set everything up in such a cheery manner  (thanks Jeff, Chase, and Tyler).  The room is quite large, and I think Chase and William will be very comfortable there!  They have a great view from their windows of the grassy quad below, and the snow-covered mountains above.  Lucky boys, I’d give my right arm to be joining them.  Think of all the people they’ll meet, the things they’ll learn, the adventures they’ll have!!!

When we moved our two older children to the campus at NAU, it was super stressful. I feel like it was karma that this move went so well. We drove through torrential rain that stopped just as we arrived to unpack the car.  The rain started again as we worked in his dorm room, but as we headed to the book store, it stopped. Same happened at dinner time as we met William’s room mate’s parents for beer at Mother Road Brewery, moving on to Beaver Street restaurant for dinner, where we got primo parking spots in a town where parking can be so challenging.  What a fun night laughing with Lisa and Dan–not sure we could have gotten through that night without good friends to hang out with!!!

All week I had daydreamed about the trails we would hike once we had William settled, but the rain was torrential and thunder boomed on and off both Friday and Saturday.  My disappointment was huge that we did not get to revisit the lush, fern-filled fields of Viet Springs where we’d spent a magical afternoon last summer.

Because what I needed overall was a little bit of magic to heal my grieving heart. A little bit of “wow” that only nature can infuse into my soul.  But  . . . it didn’t happen. Instead, we drove home and hugged our pets and then Hubby sat at his computer catching up on work, and I cleaned the kitchen, bleached the microwave, and scraped the play dough off the bottoms of my favorite sandals  (my life is very glamorous).

As of today, I have raised my three children to adulthood.  What a weird feeling.  Hubby and I are trying to not be blue. But the house seems SUPER DUPER quiet without William and his friends here.  I’m not sure what to do with myself.

My oldest son’s girlfriend, Samantha, recently said to me these words (and I am holding them close to my heart):  “A secret:  Kids always need their parents.”  Crossed fingers that her words are true.

Cheers,

Mary

Ghosts

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It’s been a great couple of weeks being back to school, where I work as an assistant in a Kindergarten classroom.  This year’s Kindergartners are hilarious and have SO MUCH to tell me every day.  They talk about their pets, their siblings, their favorite games and  tv shows. They tell stories of summer vacations.  I asked one girl if she went to her grandpa’s on an airplane and she said, “No, we didn’t take an airplane.  We stayed on the planet!”  Another one of our dear girls is so exuberant that when a thought occurs to her (and before I can stop her), she’s placed both her hands firmly on my head, putting her mouth to my ear as she whisper/spits something which I usually can’t understand.  And it always begins with, “Did you know?”  She messes up my hair and pulls my earrings . . . I love it.  Today there was quite the classroom upset:   I’m not sure how it started, but a wild rumor of a ghost living in the school bathroom spread quicker than spilled milk and before you know it, several of my friends were in tears.  While Awakening Seed is certainly innovative and unique, we are no Hogwarts!  I think we did a good job of explaining how pipes in the walls can sometimes make sounds, but there are definitely NO ghosts at school!

Speaking of tears, I’ve been trying hard not to cry every time I think about William leaving for college. Next week, we will officially be Empty Nesters (I hate that term, how about you?).  We’ve anticipated William’s departure all summer . . . and tomorrow is the big day when he moves to NAU.  I’m trying to focus on the fun parts of the weekend, and not the horrible/terrible/tragic/heartbreaking drive home without him. (A bit too much??  I know–but it’s how I feel.)  We are staying at a recommended resort called Little America, which is not fancy but has beautiful grounds and large rooms.  Weather permitting, we’ll do a bit of hiking after moving stuff into William’s dorm, and also find a hike on Saturday before driving the three hours back home.  If there’s rain, we’ll have fun playing gin rummy in one of the many interesting brew pubs in town.  Flagstaff is a fun little mountain town, and I’m so happy William gets to live there.  See?  Look at me being all positive and not weepy and melodramatic at all.  (I’m saving that for next week.)

I have so much to look forward to in the next few weeks!  The community pool has suddenly turned cold, which is a portent of Fall.  Our 105 degree daily temps are getting REALLY old.  Don’t get me wrong—I love summer, but I’ll be happy when we’re once again able to open our windows to let in fresh air.  Hubby’s birthday is next week, and we’re celebrating with friends here for dinner and our new favorite card game, Shanghai Rummy.  We’ll be back in Flagstaff for Parent’s Weekend at the end of September.  My art book group restarts after our summer hiatus, and since we are a group who loves to travel, I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s adventures.  And come to think of it, now that we’ll have no children at home, what’s to stop us from dashing down to Tucson (a two- hour drive) to see my sister and her family, or driving over to San Diego (a five-hour drive) for a mini-vacation?  I’m trying to focus on this being a bright, new beginning . . . instead of a sad, tear-filled ending.  Wish me luck.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

Weekend in the Pines

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Just a few days ago we were in the cool pines of Flagstaff, Arizona, participating in a two-day Freshman Orientation with our youngest son, William, who will be college bound in late August. Northern Arizona University has a beautiful campus and a starkly different climate than we are used to here in Tempe.  At an elevation of 7000 feet, the air is thinner (we were a bit winded walking about campus), the sun is closer (the three of us have pink necks and noses), and the rich smell of pine trees is simply intoxicating. Their winter weather is comparable to the Midwest’s, with freezing temps and lots of snow.  I heard many parents say what I was thinking:  we wish WE were the ones coming soon to live and learn in this beautiful city.  (I’m still bitter about having to live at home while attending ASU back in the late 1980’s.  Yes, I should get over it, but probably never will.  On my headstone you will read, “Never fully bloomed due to having to live at home and pay for her own college.  A bitter old crow ’til the end.”)

As far as Freshman Orientations go, this is not my first rodeo. All three of my children started at NAU.  For Patrick’s orientation back in ought 9, we had to be on campus at 9am. Hubby could not take off work and I am TERRIFIED of mountain driving. There’s one particular stretch of the road which swoops over a huge valley, and because you are traveling downwards, your car speeds up rapidly and anyway, the whole thing is completely terrifying and white knuckled, and I had to apologize to my children many times for using “colorful” language.  Eve had come along for the ride.  We took one look at the list of parent meetings, frowned, and headed for the Grand Canyon. We met elk along the way, saw deer scampering through the forest, peered into the canyon for a few hours, then had yummy tuna sandwiches at the cafe.  Patrick called us the next day when he was done with the student events, and we were home safe and sound by 4pm.  It was a lot of fun.

Eve’s orientation was much the same, however, it was just the two of us.  Again, I took a look at the day-long list of parent workshops and thought, “Oh God, no!”  Eve was taken away with the other incoming freshman, and  I attended one lecture to be a good sport, afterwards texting Eve that I would be at the hotel room for the rest of the day, where I spent the entire weekend watching cable tv in the hotel room.  I recall she called me to save her from the bitchy girls in the dorm at midnight, and naughty me, I was happy to have her back with me that night.

This time was much different.  Hubby wants to be informed.  I’d brought my hiking shoes, and was also looking forward to doing some shopping and dining on San Francisco Street. No hiking  happened. No shopping.  We spent the ENTIRE TIME trying not to sleep through boring lectures.  (That’s what I get for inviting him along.)  Seriously, I enjoyed the people watching and all of the free food.  We had fun Friday night comparing notes with another set of parents at the local Lumberyard Brewing Co. over yummy Flagstaff IPAs. The next day was spent waiting for William’s late afternoon advising appointment, so we thoroughly explored the campus, giggling in the silent-as-a-tomb library as my new shoes squeaked awkwardly, searching everywhere on campus for a place where we could buy a coffee, and sniffing all of the unfamiliar flowers that bloomed profusely in the university landscaping beds.

When William leaves in August, we will be empty nesters.  I’ve heard from friends how great it is:  Less laundry, fewer meals to prepare, you can walk around the house naked, and there’s more time for “fancy naps.” But truly we love having our kids around and are not taking this change lightly. Lucky for us we have jobs we like to go to each day and lots of friends to hang with and even after all these years, we  enjoy each other’s company, but . . . we’d rather the kids would stay home forever.

It was a great weekend, and I am proud to say, I did not cry at all. I did not think about how quiet our house will be with our last child off to college. I did not think about how I’ll miss the sticky messes on my kitchen floor from  William’s fruit smoothies. I did not consider we won’t be texting all day as we do now.  I did not allow myself to reflect on how much I will miss having breakfast with him before work each weekday. I did not shed a tear.

But just you wait until August.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

Big Ass Apple Pie

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I wrote this last week and was so busy that I forgot to post it!
Saturday, December 19th
What a busy week! I’m sure it’s the same for all of you. Only ONE WEEK UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!

Instead of shopping, I’ve been making my house shiny and cat-hair-free for our big party tonight. This is the ninth annual Christmas cocktail party at the Vaughan House, and every year it’s a special time to see good friends and laugh over the White Elephant gifts. Right now my batch of seven-minute-frosting is cooling so I can frost the coconut rum cake I baked yesterday (recipe on the blog).

One thing I did NOT have on the calendar was having a stern talk with our daughter last night. There are certain expectations parents have and when it was clear those had not been met, we said, come home–we need to talk. A Come to Jesus Meeting is what my friend Judy would call it. I’m not sure where that saying comes from, but it makes me laugh. I think it indicates there will be yelling, like one might find in a evangelical church where people are calling out for Jesus. Or perhaps it is a confessing of sins. Anyway, Eve promised to come, and we tried to calm ourselves and be wise and parentful (new word).

Coincidentally apples were on sale at the grocery for only 99 cents, and I had a premade pie crust that needed using up, so while Hubby led the “inquisition” at the kitchen table, I cut apples and glared silently from the kitchen island. I knew it would be more effective for her dad to talk to her in a calm loving way instead of hot-headed me. I tend to use lots of effusive facial expressions to enunciate my meaning which can easily be misconstrued. Plus Eve and I are so alike that she can read my mind (and I can read hers). So father and daughter talked, and I sliced apples and when it was all done, Hubby looked at my cutting board and said, “Wow, that’s a lot of apples!” So that is how I ended up baking a big ass apple pie that loomed five inches tall. I had to move the oven racks to accommodate the huge pie, but it is delicious and we are still enjoying it for breakfast each day. And hopefully Eve is back on track.

Truly we are so disappointed! But as parents we did everything, EVERYTHING, to ensure her success. We encouraged, reminded, threatened, and helicoptered in every way possible, so this is a good reminder that no matter what you do, your children will make their own mistakes. All we can do is love them, comfort them, guide them, and in the end, refuse to give them more shekels which they will waste anyway at Starbucks, Dutch Bros, and Chipotle.

I was so mad and sad for approximately 12 hours, but then I let it go. Eve is so sad too, missing her goal of taking the EMT certification by only 3 percentage points. 3 points! Hubby and I remember too well these crushing academic blows from our youth. Time to move forward. She is smart, and healthy and has so much to give. I can’t wait to see what she will do!

Which brings me to today’s poem lifted from Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.  I love it so much, and it certainly reflects my feelings this week. I lived the first ten years of my life in northern Illinois so even though I have been a desert dweller for most of my life, I still recall those snowy winter days so clearly.

I hope you are enjoying this winter holiday time as much as I am. I am filled to the brim with hope and happiness, and anticipation of spending Christmas Day with my family.

Snow
by Anne Sexton

Snow,
blessed snow,
comes out of the sky
like bleached flies.
The ground is no longer naked.
The ground has on its clothes.
The trees poke out of sheets
and each branch wears the sock of God.

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
I bite it.
Someone once said:
Don’t bite till you know
if it’s bread or stone.
What I bite is all bread,
rising, yeasty as a cloud.

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
Today God gives milk
and I have the pail.

Cheers,
Mary