Tag Archives: empty nesters

Is it Winter Yet???

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

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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

A Long Weekend

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Is there anything better than a three-day weekend?  Last weekend was a fun one, filled with time with friends.  The weather has cooled down enough that I’m able to walk with friends in the afternoon after work and in the morning on weekends.  I walked Thursday afternoon with my friend Debbie, and on Friday morning with my friend Mary L., both of whom I met when our kids were six years old and in first grade.  Well . . . now our kids are 22 so all I can say is I love being with my old, dear friends who’ve watched me raise my family and have seen all my ups and downs and have never judged.

Friday at lunchtime found me at Pita Jungle with my “Europe Gals.”  I met these ladies  for the first time five years ago, while on a European tour organized by our middle school.  After ten long days of sight seeing with our families, we were fast friends.  We love to laugh together!

Hubby and I met our Scout parents for dinner Friday night at Mac’s (home of my favorite sandwich, the BLTTA which is  a bacon lettuce turkey tomato avocado stack on toasted white bread, with a side of Cajun fries with Ranch dressing).  These friends are the parents of our youngest son’s friends, and even though we finished with Boy Scouts many years ago, I think we made our best memories camping and hiking and cooking together while our boys were in their teen years.  These parents helped raise our William on camp outs, sleepovers, swim parties, etc.  We always laugh when we’re together, even though we continue to worry about our boys, even though they are almost adults. Good grief, I’m ready for all of our boys to GROW UP ALREADY! (For those of you with small children, let me tell you:  the college years are tough!)

Saturday I got up bright and early at the crack of 8:30 to walk with “band mom” friends.  Fran, Erika, Emily, and I walked around the “fake lakes” just south of my house and clocked in at 3 miles when all was said and done!  We saw snowy egrets hanging out in the canals and lakes, plus lots of ducks . . . and lots of old people walking dogs.  We talked about every little thing, and mostly it just felt good to be together.

Saturday evening found us at my brother and sister-in-law’s new house in Chandler.  I LOVE IT.  It’s so pretty and fresh, and I hope that someday soon Hubby and I can purge ourselves of SO MUCH STUFF and move into a smaller home.  We have enough board games, Legos, and wooden train paraphernalia that we could open our own toy shop. Grandchildren will likely be in the cards in the next few years, so . . . I’m hanging on to them, even though our house feels a bit cluttered.  (I am NOT a hoarder.)

One final friend story:  Last night I met three teacher friends from my school, two of whom have moved on to different jobs.  I’ve only known these women for two years, but as I always say, “You do playground duty together, and you are friends for life!” We caught up on each other’s lives, and again, mostly it was just nice to be together.

After each of these encounters, I felt so happy. I commented to Hubby, “How did I get so lucky to find such intelligent, interesting, funny, and beautiful friends?” To which he said, “You’re intelligent, interesting, funny, and beautiful, too.” (He’s so nice to me.)  My mantra is “Just give your love, and don’t look back to see if anyone takes it.”  (Arlo Guthrie said that.)

And I’m sending out a THANK YOU with an I’M SORRY for bothering everyone with photos of potential dresses for me to wear to our son’s upcoming wedding.  I tried some on at the mall Sunday and shook my head and muttered, “Putting on these fancy dresses is like putting lipstick on a pig.”  I ordered something and promise NOT to bother anyone again.

At this time in November when we are giving thanks for friends and family, I can truly say that my cup runneth over.  I started out life as an awkward, shy girl and somehow grew into a woman who is so lucky to find new friends wherever she goes.  Recently I was asked what my favorite hobby is, and I responded, “Being with friends!”

Cheers,

Mary

 

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

A Love Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Mary

 

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

 

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