Two more thoughts

Utah and UW friends

My BFF from the University of Washington and me during one of her visits to our home.

Without my friends I would have been lost.

I’m talking about my recent visit with my mom. In case you missed it, I wrote about it HERE. It was difficult to find my mom in skilled nursing and to see how drastically she’s aged since my last visit.

I stayed with my best friend from college who lives six miles from my mom’s assisted living. Lots of times I stay in a small hotel close by. It’s not that nice, but affordable. It was so much better to come back each day to my friends’ comfy house and not be alone.

My BFF’s husband loves to cook and he shopped and prepared my favorite foods. The first night he made steamed clams, garlic bread and a delicious salad. Last time I visited, we went to Pike Place Market and I bought clams, which he cooked. They remembered how much I enjoyed them which was touching. I suppose they didn’t forget after I kept asking if they wanted the clams on their plates! They surrendered them to me.

steamed clams from Pike Place Market

It was so comforting to not stay by myself and to be able to relax and talk with close friends each day and tell them about my mom. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

The power of music.

One day my mom was kind of out of it. When I walked into her room, she was asleep. She woke up and said “Who are you and what do you want?” I was standing over her bed. To be fair, she didn’t have her glasses on and was groggy.

I got her out of bed and helped her sit in a chair while I sat on her walker. I turned on the TV, but she wasn’t interested and stared down at her hands.

I remembered my brother told me that she perked up listening to music. Mom was a coloratura soprano opera singer. My brother played her Joan Sutherland, a famous coloratura soprano, on his phone and he said Mom sang along with her. I played her favorite songs from Don McClean including Vincent, American Pie, And I Love You So, and Castles in the Air on my phone. She owned every one of McClean’s albums and played them over and over when I was a child.

After a few minutes of listening, my mom began to sing along. The music moved her and made her more alert. She focused on getting out of her chair to walk to her old room. I was amazed at the power of music and the effect it had on her.

“And I Love You So”

And I love you so
The people ask me how
How I’ve lived till now
I tell them “I don’t know”

I guess they understand
How lonely life has been
But life began again
The day you took my hand

And yes I know how lonely life can be
The shadows follow me
And the night won’t set me free
But I don’t let the evening get me down
Now that you’re around me

And you love me too
Your thoughts are just for me
You set my spirit free
I’m happy that you do

The book of life is brief
And once a page is read
All but love is dead
This is my belief

And yes I know how loveless life can be
The shadows follow me
And the night won’t set me free
But I don’t let the evening bring me down
Now that you’re around me

And I love you so
The people ask me how
How I’ve lived till now
I tell them “I don’t know”

One of my mom’s all time favorite artists and songs.

What are your thoughts about the power of friendships and the power of music? Do you have any examples of how they’ve added to your life?

Finding the Pharisee

Pathway to Main Street, Park City.
The one-mile path to Main Street in Park City from our airbnb.

One of the highlights of visiting Utah is spending time with my husband’s best friend from fifth grade through their senior year of high school. Did they ever stop being best friends? It doesn’t seem like it when we reunite.

My husband’s friend Scott and his wife Sara started CenterPoint Church in Orem, UT which we attended Sunday. Afterward, we spent hours together alternating huge laughs and ruminating about our country’s problems.

In Scott’s sermons he teaches history, the Bible — and he has a talent to bring the Word alive and make it relevant today.

I know I’m not doing the sermon justice, but here are a few things I’m thinking about days later:

The Pharisees were a sect of ancient Jews who modern Christians view as hypocrites. They were judgmental of Jesus because he spent time with sinners and tax collectors.

Jesus did not operate or think like human beings. He did not care what people thought of him.

We are all sinners and we worry about what other people think of us. Like the Pharisees, we want to present a view to the world that hides our shortcomings and sins — and we can be judgmental of others.

We need to find the Pharisee in the mirror. We get stuck where we are in life because we fear looking deep inside ourselves.

We are created with a hole inside our hearts. Many try to fill that hole with material things, alcohol, drugs, etc. This may satisfy us but it’s temporary. We need to fill the hole with love and The Spirit to be free.

Quotes from the sermon:

“Jesus loves us where we are, but he loves us too much to leave us there.”

“Pride is not thinking too much of yourself. It is thinking about yourself too much.”

If you’re interested in listening to the sermon for yourself and not relying on my bullet points here is a LINK. The sermon starts at 26:12.

During a morning walk we were accompanied by a little buddy.

What friends from your childhood can you get together with after years after not seeing each other and feel like no time has passed?

What are your thoughts about moving forward in life by not worrying about what other people think?

Sights from home and beyond

After spending the weekend in Riverside, Calif. and going to a wedding at a winery in Temecula, we noticed a few cacti in our yard in full bloom. We had rain the night before we left Arizona and apparently the rain continued through the weekend. I think that’s why we were treated to gorgeous blooms

hedge hog cactus with red bloms.
A hedge hog cactus in bloom in one of our planters.

Palm Springs Wind farm on Interstate 10
The wind farm outside of Palm Springs.

We drove past our old stomping grounds of Palm Springs on the freeway. I thought I’d feel nostalgic or sadness after living there for 28 years. But no, I was thinking “Thank goodness we got out of here!” That was a surprise. I was even happier to get back to Arizona and home.

downtown Riverside.
We stayed downtown Riverside in a hotel we used to stay at with our kids for swim meets. This is a shady street that is blocked off to cars and filled with restaurants and shops.

Riverside County Courthouse
There are beautiful buildings in downtown Riverside. This is the County Courthouse.
Sculptures outside a taco restaurant that was closed when we walked by. I definitely would have stopped if it was open. It’s called Tio’s Tacos.

The wedding venue was beautiful with gorgeous views of vineyards, rolling hills and mountains. We enjoyed the surprise of being seated with our children’s former teammate, family and swim coach. It’s fun to get together with people we spent so much time with years ago when swimming was a major focus in our lives.

Villa de Amore Temecula wedding venue
Villa de Amore, the wedding venue at a winery in Temecula, California.
Shannon with Maureen's sisters
One of my favorite photos from before the wedding. One of our kids’ swim teammates is photographed with the mother of the bride’s sisters, who flew to the wedding from Singapore.
bride and groom at wedding
The bride and groom before the pastor announced “husband and wife.” The bride was one of my kids’ swim teammates, too.
wedding friends
Sitting with our old friends from the swim team. It felt like a reunion and we talked about having one in the future.

It was a fun, busy weekend with most of the time spent driving. But I was happy to get back home to Arizona and my cat Olive.

How do you feel when you return home from a trip? Are you relieved to be back to your own home, or do you long for more vacation?

Wedding bells are in the air

1950s bride and groom
A photo from my mom and dad’s wedding in the 1950s.

We are driving six hours to a wedding this weekend. I’m a little concerned because I think it’s outside at a winery and it will be around 100 degrees. Hopefully only the ceremony is outside and the reception will be inside. We will see.

During COVID shutdowns, weddings were postponed. Now we are getting a plethora of wedding invitations.

The last wedding we went to was in February 2020 — right before the shutdown. We learned after the wedding that the father of the groom was hospitalized and put on a ventilator with COVID. That was scary but thankfully he recovered. I felt sick a week later, but that was before tests were available. I may have had it — or not.

My daughter was a bridesmaid in Montana recently. The next weekend she was at a wedding in Utah. The third weekend was a bridal shower in Los Angeles. I thought that was a bit much, because the three brides were all on the college swim team together and friends. Many of their guests overlapped. That’s quite the wedding gauntlet.

My kids are at that age. Their friends are getting married. Their friends’ parents are our friends — so we are getting invitations, too.

According to Forbes Magazine “The U.S. Expects a Wedding Boom in 2022.” No kidding. Written by Tanya Klich, she shares the data on the boom:

There will be more weddings in the United States in 2022 than any other year since 1984, according to a new survey by The Knot. The wedding planning site estimates that some 2.6 million weddings will take place this year, a boom that follows a record number of cancellations, postponements, elopements–and lots of Zoom nuptials–during the past two years. 

“Weddings are, without a doubt, back to pre-pandemic levels,” says Hannah Nowack, Real Weddings editor at The Knot.

While some couples will certainly continue to host small, intimate micro-weddings and minimonies, wedding vendors, venues and planners note a return to traditional ceremonies with larger guest lists. In the second half of 2021, The Knot saw the average guest count climb up to 110. In 2022, the average number of guests is projected to be 129, which is in line with pre-pandemic numbers, when the average was 131. “After so many months of planning, and time spent away from loved ones, these couples are eager to reunite and celebrate with a blowout bash,” says Nowack.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyaklich/2022/02/14/a-wedding-boom-is-expected-in-2022/?sh=68d0ec3b117c

I can’t imagine what a wedding would cost today with the increased prices of food, flowers, and supply chain issues. There’s something else I noticed….more and more wedding invitations are online with links to bridal registries. I haven’t received any thank you notes, either. Maybe it’s too soon.

Are you getting more wedding invitations lately? How many of your friends postponed weddings due to COVID?

Me and my hubby on our wedding day next to Aunt Ann and Uncle Luciano.

It’s time to kick

Two mornings in a row it’s been too hot to walk. I convinced my husband to kick with me in the pool. He set his timer for 30 minutes and off we went. I didn’t want to swim freestyle because I had just washed my hair. I know that sounds prissy, but I can’t stand washing my hair every day. So I put my hair up and kicked until my lower back hurt and my legs got sore.

A really cool coincidence is friends from Palm Springs moved one mile from us in Arizona three months after we moved. This was without knowledge of each other moving. The friend and I were school moms at the Catholic school our kids attended. They lived only a few blocks from us in Palm Springs and I golfed weekly with this friend.

We lost touch with each other when we both got hyper involved with our kids’ sports. My kids were swimmers — their kids were hockey players.

Hockey led them out of town to Anaheim where there was a competitive team. We lacked hockey in Palm Springs.

This past weekend they invited us over for a birthday party. We spent a couple hours sitting and standing in the pool while wasps swarmed around us. My friend’s husband stood in the pool with a can of Raid trying to keep the wasps at bay. It was a fun afternoon, but today I have sunburned hands.

My husband said everyone but me kept their hands in the water. I apparently talk with my hands. We were laughing and talking and I was gesturing all over the place. I’ve never had sunburned hands before.

The weekend before we had them over and I cooked sea bass, grilled corn on the cob, asparagus and a brown and wild rice dish. It was another fun night of friendship and laughter.

I feel a connection to this couple unlike the new friends I’ve made in our neighborhood through book club, the newsletter and coffee. It’s because we go back for decades, raised our kids together and have shared memories. It’s also amazing that we ended up in homes so close together because we are out in the sticks a good 30-minute drive north of Scottsdale.

What friends do you feel the most connection with and why?

Do deaths come in threes?

children climbing on me at the beach
Life at the beach with two young kids back in our Laguna days.

I’ve been struggling to find the words. My brain is hurting at the thought. We lost another friend. A close friend. Our son’s godfather.

I got the call last week from our friend’s wife. I cried all night. I need to send a sympathy card and I can’t get myself to write it. The words seem so tiny and small. Helpless. I don’t know how she and her daughters are getting through each day and night. My heart aches for them.

We have so many memories with our two families together. At one time, Joe was my husband’s boss. They moved from San Francisco to the Palm Springs area when our son was a newborn. They had three daughters close in age to our kids.

They invited us into their beach deal. They found an inexpensive house to rent in Laguna Beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day and asked us to split the summer with them. With summer temperatures ranging from 110 to 124 degrees in Palm Springs, this beach rental changed our lives. I was a stay-at-home mom taking the kids to swim lessons and hanging out at the beach building sand castles and boogie boarding with my children.

My husband took long weekends and commuted back and forth. We shared a few weekends with our friends during the summer playing volleyball, Trivial Pursuit and eating pizzas with the kids.

When they moved to New Jersey to corporate headquarters as Joe moved up the chain of command with the firm, we visited them and spent Christmas together. We shared time together on corporate-sponsored trips and visited them more often when they moved to Nevada (a four-hour drive from Palm Springs).

Joe was proud of his Catholic education at an all boys school on Long Island. He was a Lit major at Rutgers and he loaned my husband and me must-read literature we had somehow missed including “Atlas Shrugged” and “The East India Trading Company.”

Joe had charisma, charm and a great sense of humor. He had a band of employees at the firm and friends throughout his life that put him on a pedestal — our family included. The last time we saw him was on Coronado Island at his middle daughter’s wedding. It was a beautiful weekend filled with memories I treasure.

We planned on going back to Coronado to visit them that summer or driving to Vegas to visit during the winter, but COVID hit. I feel like a few years of friendship were stolen. Joe was diagnosed with cancer years ago but survived and beat it. His heath was an issue, but he was living his life in his big way until this last year when another cancer hit.

I sincerely hope that it’s true that deaths come in threes, because this is the third close friend we’ve lost since Thanksgiving.

Do you think it’s an old wives tale that deaths come in threes? Have you lost anyone close to you this past year? Do you feel like COVID has stolen time from you with friends and family?

An unexpected gift

Gary Gruber photo of pigeons.
Pigeons.

After we picked up Olive from boarding and unloaded the car, I went to the post office. That was Thursday after a nine-hour drive from Christmas in Santa Barbara. I was exhausted because I have anxiety on freeways and we started the trip home at 5:30 a.m. in the dark in the middle of storm. I could tell my husband, who is normally cool, was having a tough time with the drive until we left Los Angeles freeways and headed towards Palm Springs and the rain subsided. Nine hours of driving and riding in the car is bad enough without bad weather.

I was bleary-eyed at the post office and I discovered four slips for packages in my P.O. Box. I was surprised to see a flat package from Gary Gruber. He’s a photographer who I worked with during my PR career in the 80s and 90s. His wife was my boss and we shared an office for several years. She became one of my close friends and is my daughter’s Godmother.

Pool hose photo by Gary Gruber showing beautiful patterns
Pool hose photo by Gary Gruber.

When I got home, I tossed the mail and packages on my desk, but opened the flat package. Inside were three incredible prints. I’m going to take them to the framing store later today. I called my friends to thank them! Gary had included a letter to update me about his work and a gallery showing next week. He also sent me a link to his blog and his photography site. Check out his photos HERE. Be sure to go through all his tabs. The photography is stunning.

Bob Hope Classic girls, photo by Gary Gruber.
Bob Hope Classic girls.

I especially enjoyed the PR and Still Life photos. Above is a PR photo from the Bob Hope Classic golf tournament. I worked for the PR firm that put on the Classic in the 1980s. I love the photo because it reminded me of how the Classic Girls — who were ambassadors to the tournament — were selected. A group of old men affiliated with the Classic and Eisenhower Medical Center (the beneficiary of the charity golf tournament) would meet in an auditorium at the hospital. The girls one by one walked across the stage, turned round, etc. while being ogled by the old geezers.

My boss asked if I’d like to try out. I was an account executive at the time in my mid twenties. He commented that I could wear the “Bob” shirt. Chrysler became a sponsor of the tournament and the old geezers joked about the young lady they’d pick to wear all the letters of “Chrysler.” You get the drift? If not, it’s all about breast size.

Wouldn’t fly today, would it?

These prints are truly an unexpected gift that I’ll treasure. Also, I loved reconnecting and hearing about Gary’s success with his artistic photography in a gallery and in Palm Springs Life magazine. You can check out Gary’s blog here.

What are your thoughts about unexpected gifts? Are they more special than ones you know are coming?

This is one of Gary’s street photos from Italy.
Child photo with cat by Gary Gruber
A photo by Gary Gruber taken decades ago. I swear this is my Olive the cat.