Tag Archives: middle age

Gum on My Shoe


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.





Big news:  I’m a winner!

That’s right—for the first time in my whole life, I’ve won an election.  I guess it’s not that amazing if you consider the fact that I’ve only ever “run” for something once before, and that was for 5th grade class treasurer.  I was new to Rural Elementary that year, having just moved from Illinois, so I’m thinking it must’ve been my mother’s idea.  I remember making posters decorated with tin-foil coins and buttons I made classmates wear that read, “Keep it rockin’—vote for Mary Koppen.”  It was not a surprise when Mary Ann Hendrickson won—I mean, she’d gone to school with those kids since Kindergarten . . . and in all honesty, I was a bit relieved.

This week’s election was for the Warner Ranch Phase II HOA Board.  My competition was a lovely neighbor who has served on the board for years, and a cranky woman I’ve never met who ran on the platform of breaking up “the old boys club” who didn’t even bother to attend the annual meeting!  I was a shoo-in, but still, I came home from the meeting feeling special about my glamorous new appointment.  (I’ve threatened to run for years.) My (hidden) agenda is to try to convince the board we really don’t need to call the attorneys every time somebody leaves their car on the street overnight.  I’m all about saving us some cash, yo.

In other news, Ruby the Wonder Spaniel is having a health concern.  Suddenly her breath is terrible, and when I say terrible, when we drove by the dairy farm in Maricopa last weekend on our way to Mexico, our car smelled BETTER with the windows down to allow her stink OUT, and allowing the cow small IN.  Her breath is so terrible the cats back up with their ears down and run away when she attempts to kiss them.  It’s so terrible that my car still smells like her death breath a week after our road trip, even though I’ve been driving around all week with the windows open.  Ruby has a teeth cleaning scheduled in two weeks, so hopefully it’s something as simple as a rotten tooth that needs pulling.  Her teeth have rarely been brushed since we are very selfish and value the existence of having ten fingers over Ruby having healthy, clean teeth.

This next week is HUGE.  You may want to sit down to hear this news.  Are you sitting? BASTILLE IS COMING TO TOWN!!!! My favorite band is coming to town on Tuesday, and on Friday, Hubby and I are driving to Vegas to see them a second time.  I’m giddy.  More than giddy, I’m nervous something will go wrong and I won’t get to go to the concerts. A sick child, a car accident, the loss of a finger when brushing a dog’s teeth.  I know I’m being ridiculous.  I’m THAT excited.  This morning I hugged Hubby and said, “You are the sweetest husband in the whole world to take me to both Bastille concerts this week!!!”  I think he’d forgotten because he looked stricken . . . and now I’m looking for a sub for him on Tuesday.  I think our daughter will go with me.

I know I should be embarrassed to be so excited about a musical group at my advanced age, but answer me this:  Why is it okay to be gaga over classical music, but not progressive music?  I went to hear Gustav Holsts’ The Planets a few years ago and there were PLENTY of old people there who were clearly exhilarated to hear this performance, yet when I mention going to a rock concert, I feel the quiet mocking.  And let me tell you, Bastille concerts are 100% more interesting than the Phoenix Symphony playing Holst (it was quite the snooze fest).

Last but not least, I was happy to see a new sculpture installed in the lobby of Phoenix Art Museum.  I’m a big Yayoi Kusama fan, and her large-scale aluminum pumpkin with holes cut out of it is whimsical and charming.  Come check it out!






Skeeter Hawks


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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






William arrived home at 6:30 pm Friday night, which was his first visit after moving to NAU in Flagstaff, AZ a month ago. He sat at our kitchen table with his siblings and their significant  others while we celebrated his 19th birthday with steak, mashed potatoes, and a chocolate birthday cake with colorful striped candles on the top.  It was as if he had never left.  He is comfortable at college and very interested in his Chemistry classes.  That is all a mom can ask for, right?  But having him home for less than 48 hours (and having to share him with his sweet girlfriend) has left me feeling more sad than happy.

It’s been an interesting month getting used to being “Empty Nesters.”  I hate that term, but after googling alternatives and seeing “Better in Our Fifties” and “Wise Owls” . . . and worse yet, “Emerging Eagles,” it’s clear I need to invent a new moniker for those of us who have successfully raised our children to adulthood.  Whatever it’s called, we don’t like it.   I have friends who couldn’t wait for their kids to leave and told their kids home would now be known as “Naked House,” and funny as it may sound, they were serious!  Kudos to them for not feeling wistful, and for creating a whimsical (yet truthful) moment to communicate to their two college-aged children they were expected to live near campus.

So many of my friends are experiencing this huge change in their lives:  Our children are at college and from now on, will only be home for school holidays.  We’ve been busier than ever hosting friends and family for impromptu cocktails and potluck dinner and afterwards, Shanghai  Rummy at our kitchen table. (Thank you, Universe, for sending me friends who are such good cooks, interesting conversationalists, and who are beating me heartily at cards.)  After work each day, I have either a coffee date or a happy hour.  My life is full.

I should be happy, but I miss cooking and caring for my children.  I know this will pass. Wish me luck with cooking for two instead of four.  I hate throwing away food, but as a person who lives for trying out new recipes, it’s been a challenge. Today I sadly threw away a tupperware full of the Southwestern Potatoes from the New York Times recipes I made for our family dinner last Sunday.

I have never been good at transitions.  What’s getting me through the most difficult transition of  my life is time with friends, cuddling with pets, listening to new music (Bastille, Banks, and Bon Iver), reading historical novel  (A Taste of Scarlet and Miniver and The Vanishing Velasquez), and tv shows like New Girl, A Chef’s Life, and Penny Dreadful. For me, it’s been difficult accepting the “new normal,” but I  hope to eventually bring my mind around to the “naked house concept” where we are happy to be here just Hubby and me . . .  or at least find happiness knowing we have raised our children so well that they are succeeding on their new independent paths, and that we can now move on and focus on our own futures. Tonight as I cleaned the kitchen of weekend messes, I left by the sink one small striped birthday candle. I need this candle to remind me of the gift of William’s visit home this weekend.







Yesterday I had lunch at my new favorite place, King Gyros. It does not put on any airs. It lacks pretension and what it’s lacking in style, it more than makes up for in deliciousness of food. “Greek is my favorite cuisine!” I announced happily to a friend. She nodded, her mouth full of chicken souvlaki. “Well, maybe after Italian.” She nodded in agreement and wiped a bit of tahini from her lips. I thought again. “But what about Mexican? Oh shoot, all I know is this is the third time I’ve had chicken shwarma this week, and it makes my mouth happy.”

I was moaning over my shwarma while lunching with old friends. These friends used to be cheery and fun, but have turned into glum and glummer. One has too much to do; the other not enough. (They do not read my blog so I can talk about them. HA!) I left lunch thinking and worrying about the fact that many of my gal pals are no longer living fulfilled lives now that their kids are grown. They’re blue, and they’ve lost their mojo. Of course I’ve been feeling a bit of this myself. I tried to think of something that might be cheering to all of us. We no longer care about shopping (who needs more stuff?). We don’t want to paint watercolors or paint dishes. Don’t even talk to me about a spa day—what a waste of money and time! That’s when it struck me: I should start an Exuberant Living Club! (Luscious? Gleeful?) I could give each of us a weekly assignment, and we could meet for lunch and share. I would assign silly stuff like tell your pet a story and listen to what they have to say, or read a funny book from your youth, like Pippi Longstocking, or write a fan letter to a celebrity crush! Then the next week I might assign something serious, such as tell us a childhood secret you’ve never shared before, or write a letter to a lost loved one. I picture our group growing with other “Wannabe Happy Friends” so that we’d have to meet in a bigger space, bigger than King Gyros. We could have a potluck and have it at my house! Previously unhappy people getting together once a week to smile and laugh and share and philosophize and give comfort. I think it could be a thing.

But I’ve “invented” things before: The concert diaper never took off. I invented that one at the Dave Matthews Band concert when I had to run with a full bladder from the lawn seating the mile to the bathrooms (okay, maybe it wasn’t that far, but trust me, it was far) and then had to beg someone to let me go in front of the long line since I was about to wet my pants. And I missed my favorite song! My idea to market attractive vitamin bottles never launched (aren’t those brown bottles so hideous on your bathroom counter?) and nobody liked my idea to create a website that lists the weekly grocery store specials with comparison prices. Let’s say you want strawberries to make a cheesecake. You’d access my website, search for strawberries, and you’d find that Safeway has them the cheapest this week at the price of $1.50 per quart. Maybe I’ll start a Facebook Group for my Cheering Friends Group and see what happens.

A few updates: I made the yummiest thing for dinner and used this recipe for Pasta Carbonara. I did not use the peas, because peas are mushy and taste bad. It was sooooo easy, but tasted fancy. This is a very fattening dish, and I loved every fork full.

William and Eve painted a lovely sea foam green over the ugly brown walls at our ASU house where Eve lives. They worked well as a team, and got the job done quickly and efficiently. Eve’s kitten, Maisie, thought it was a very fun project and ended up with a green stripe on her tail.

The letter “B” is sticking on my laptop. I have to hit the key twice to make it work. Tomorrow’s entry may be completely lacking in “B’s”.

The pests I identified as flying termites were examined today by a Termite Professional who declared them flying ants. What a wonderful relief. But I beg to ask why there are flying ants in my home? Mr. Termite Professional (“Please, call me Scott,” he said) was extremely handsome, and I found myself saying ridiculous things such as “Thanks so much for the freedom to not worry anymore that termites are eating my floor!” (the freedom???). But seriously he was THAT handsome. I wasn’t sure where to look. Blonde, blue eyes, young (of course), sparkling white teeth that almost blinded me. I’m just not used to being close to someone THAT pretty. While he was explaining to me How Termites Work, I found myself tilting my head sideways to examine the tattoos on his tanned, muscular arms. Oh Goodness Gracious, I almost hope we have another termite scare very soon. As I showed him to the door, Handsome Termite Inspector gave me the most charming smile as he pressed his card into my hand, telling me please do not hesitate to call if I have any concerns. Oh my. Perhaps he could be a guest speaker at our Luscious Living Club. I cannot think of anything more cheering.