Monday, September 28, 2015

A Day in Flagstaff

The six peaks of the San Francisco Peaks are visible in the distance
as we travel west on Interstate-40 across northern Arizona.
Flagstaff is located just south of this mountain range.
28 Sept 2015

Today Mark had an appointment to see a neurosurgeon in Flagstaff, the largest city in northern Arizona and home of the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks (where I earned my masters degree). Since the drive from our little mountain town to Flagstaff is about 2 hours and 15 minutes, we decided to make it a day trip and have some fun.

We're getting closer! Next 5 exits for Flagstaff...

Mark's appointment was set for 1:40, so we left the house just after 10:00 this morning. We stopped in Snowflake to fill my gas tank (gas is 10 cents cheaper in Snowflake than at home: $2.47 per gallon for us, and just $2.37 for them) and add half-a-quart of oil to my engine before we continued north to Holbrook, where we caught I-40 going west toward Flagstaff. 

It's a long, boring drive on a two-lane highway with not much more to look at than high desert covered with yellow grasses, brown brush, and short, scrubby trees. And wind. Always lots of wind. Sometimes the highway is even closed due to blowing dust, for hours.

This will also be the first leg of our journey on Friday, as we travel to central California. Twice in one week. I don't know if I can bear it... Just kidding.

Mark in front of the medical building where the neurosurgery office is located.

We arrived in Flagstaff a little before 12:30 and drove directly to Carl's Jr. for lunch. Since we planned to eat out later, we kept it light. Mark had a western bacon cheeseburger, no fries, no shake, while I had a super-star lettuce wrap. How I love those! I wish they'd open a Carl's Jr. in our little community.

Then we went up to the neurosurgeon's office, where we spent the next hour. The results were a bit anticlimactic. We'd fully expected that Mark was going to end up having back surgery, and even hoped that it would be the end of his pain. However, the surgeon told us that surgery in the area where Mark's spinal stenosis is located would likely stop only the burning pain it's sending down the side of Mark's right thigh. He didn't think it would solve the worse pain in Mark's back. 

It almost didn't seem worth making the trip. So Mark is back to trying steroid injections, which are unlikely to provide more than limited relief. So far none of the painkillers (non-narcotic) Mark has tried have provided any relief. A muscle relaxant does help take the edge off the pain somewhat. Poor guy.

The corner of San Francisco Street and Historic Route 66.

Once that business was taken care of, we drove around the area a bit. We drove up San Francisco Street, which is in the center of the old, historic downtown area. (Interesting note: the San Francisco Peaks were named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, 147 years before the city of San Francisco was established in California.) Mark and I had walked up this street before, back in 1996, and it seems to have been revived along with most other properties located adjacent to old Route 66. Lots of people were hiking and biking among the eclectic little shops and cafes there.

I love the architecture of this old building on San Francisco Street. 
Courthouse? Library? Church? School? Abandoned? I don't know.

A limousine waits for someone on Route 66.

We spent some time cruising the portion of Route 66 that passes through Flagstaff. It's fun to see the old businesses from the '50s and '60s that have been restored and given new life, frequented by those who want to relive the "good old days." It appears to be thriving.

The entrance to Flagstaff Mall.

There really isn't that much to do in Flagstaff, at least not for those who are only spending a few hours. Great area for hiking and skiing and other recreational high-country activities, but for quick fun it is limited. It's still a relatively small town compared to metro areas like Phoenix and Tucson. 

The view from the mall entrance. Mountains all around.

So Mark and I headed over to Flagstaff Mall next. Again, it's small by comparison with malls in the larger metro areas, but you can always find ways to entertain yourself in a mall of any size.

Inside the entrance of Flagstaff Mall.
Mark and I wondered if they light up this fireplace when the snow comes.

When I graduated from ASU in 1990, I actually considered applying to schools in Flagstaff. We wanted to get out of the Valley heat, and the climate in Flagstaff is very similar to where we now live. The temperatures are comparable and so is the snow, although Flagstaff sometimes gets more snowfall than we do, depending upon the storm. 

Even the elevations are similar. While Humphrey's Peak, the tallest of the San Francisco Peaks, is the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet, Flagstaff itself is only 6,910 feet. Our town of Pinetop-Lakeside climbs from 6,804 feet at its lowest point (northern Lakeside) to about 7,200 feet at it's highest (southern Pinetop). I think our house is located at a little over 6,900 feet. The highest peak in our area, about a 30-minute drive away, is Apache Peak at Sunrise Ski Resort on the White Mountain Apache reservation. Apache Peak stands at an elevation of 11,155 feet.

Mark's favorite shop in the mall was this Halloween store.
Those wolf and dog heads were snapping, snarling, and growling viciously.
We spent a lot of time here.

As it happened, I never did put in an application for Flagstaff. I was offered jobs at a tiny town called Pinon on the Navajo reservation, at Bradshaw Mountain Jr. High in Prescott, and--of course--at Blue Ridge High School in Pinetop-Lakeside. We all know which I chose 25 years ago, and I've never once regretted that decision.

And now, after driving the crazy, congested streets of Flagstaff, I am doubly glad of where we ended up settling! It seemed there were stoplights every hundred yards, and they didn't change from red to green until the line of waiting cars was backed up past the last stoplight. Insane!

Even Sizzler had a mountainous backdrop.

It was almost 4:00 when we finished exploring the mall and decided we had enough room for some dinner, so our next and final stop was a Sizzler not too far from the mall. Being so early, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We had the sole attention of the cashier and waiter and cook!

We decided I should be in at least one of these pictures.

While waiting for our dinner, we tried to take some selfies.
They kind of sucked.

We finished dinner at 4:45 and headed back toward home. After another stop in Snowflake to refuel, we returned home by about 7:15. I suppose as day trips go, it wasn't the most exciting ever, but it was fun and relaxing. Just what I needed, a chance to put aside everything that's still on my long list and simply have a good time. Sometimes we really need to do that!

Mark and Mary, Sept. 28, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Vaya con Dios

Danielle and Jacob with all their worldly belongings loaded up.

It's been kind of a hard week. I knew this day was inevitable, but somehow that doesn't make it any easier. As parents, we know it's part of our job to teach our children to spread their wings and fly fearlessly away from the nest, yet we secretly dread the coming of that day.

Jacob and Danielle, 24 Sept 2015

That day came for me on Friday, two days ago, when Jacob and Danielle hopped into their vehicles, with Jacob at the helm of a U-Haul truck, and headed north to Midvale, Utah. They arrived safely at their destination around 5:00 p.m. yesterday, Saturday.

Jake, Jacob, and Danielle demonstrate their exhaustion
after a long day of moving boxes and furniture.

Of course I knew I wouldn't have all of my children nearby forever. Both my boys, especially, have looked forward to moving on in life and getting "off the mountain," the very place I love the most. Even Sarah, I suspect, would like to spread her wings a bit further someday, although I think there's a good chance she and Chris will stay within a 4- or 5-hour drive. That I could live with. An occasional weekend visit is doable at that distance.

Midvale is 10 hours away. I don't think that will work for a quick weekend trip.

Danielle, Jacob, and Jake in the now-empty sun room of their first home.
For the past 1.5 years it's been filled with boxes they never got around to unpacking.

Although my heart is broken to see them go, I think this move will bring Jacob and Danielle opportunities for growth. They were able to transfer to a Walmart in Utah, where their new supervisors are very anxious to have them on board, so they have jobs awaiting them. They'll be staying with Danielle's parents while they get settled, which will be nice for Danielle, who has missed her family since they moved to Midvale a year ago. So I respect their decision and see that blessings await them in their new life.

Mark and me and all three of our kids. Who knows when we'll all be together again?
23 Sept 2015

Still, our Sunday dinners will be a little bit sad for awhile, as we adjust to their absence. I have loved every crazy, messy, hilarious, busy moment of those weekly dinners, because I always knew in my heart they wouldn't last forever.

The three lights of my life: Dylan, Sarah, and Jacob.

The three goofballs of my life!

Sarah with Jacob and Danielle.

Dylan and Mark with Jacob and Danielle.

Mary and Mark with Jacob and Danielle.

We had our usual Sunday dinner last weekend, with grilled steak, green salad, and french fries, but then we followed it up with one more family farewell dinner on Wednesday night. Jacob wanted some of my famous potato salad (from my mom's recipe) one last time, so we grilled burgers while many hands prepared the potato salad. And we took lots of pictures.

Jacob adds the mayo and seasonings. He does it best!
We'll miss his mad chef skills.

Jacob is prepared to dig in.

Yes, I cried a little when we said good-bye on Thursday night. I'm not an openly emotional person, but in my heart the emotions run deep and strong, and the turbulence of saying good-bye to my son and daughter-in-law broke my heart in several places. Even so, I wish them every happiness for a rich, fulfilling future.

Jacob and Danielle in a rousing game of Hi-Ho Cherry-O!

Vaya con Dios, my children! Go with God!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Another Year Wiser

This is me celebrating my 61st birthday.

Last year we had a big blast for my 60th birthday. That is, after all, an important milestone. This year, I told my kids we didn't need to do much, since turning 61 isn't such a big deal. I suggested we just get together for some ice cream and cake. We could skip gifts this year.

Bless my children's pointed little heads, they had their own ideas, and it definitely included the giving of gifts.

Above: If you lean your head to the right, you can watch my insane family sing their crazed version of "Happy Birthday to You." Someday we'll learn to turn the camera the correct way when filming...

My actual birthday, September 1st, fell on Tuesday this year. However, Sarah had to work until 11:00 that night and Dylan had to work until 10:00. So we gathered at 8:00 on Monday evening instead, as soon as Sarah got off work. Jacob and Danielle provided the beautiful cake, while Chris and Sarah brought the ice cream, including my personal favorite, rocky road.

But we began the evening with a big stack of cards and gifts...

It began with Mark giving me a sweet card and a pair of spider web earrings...
complete with black, bejeweled spiders!

Nothing says LOVE quite like spiders from your ex... But I love them!
The kids said Mark was worried about having enough money to get me something nice,
but I really do enjoy humorous, off-the-wall gifts that say you care!

Next: a 5-headed dragon (hydra) from Dylan. A pocket for incense in the
dragons' butt causes smoke to come out of the dragons' mouths and nostrils.

Later, Dylan gets the dragon set up to start smoking. See below.

A short clip of the smoke-breathing dragons when Dylan first got it going. The longer the incense burned, the more came out of all the dragon's heads.

Then Sarah and Chris added to my Willow Tree collection with this figurine called "Shine."
It's a new style for Susan Lordi, with the blue shade at the hem and the golden rivets.
The funny thing is, I saw this piece at the Book Barn and loved it so much
that I was tempted to drop a hint to Sarah. I didn't ever drop the hint,
but she knew I'd love it anyway. That's my girl!


Dylan's friend Jake, who's been staying with us, gave me this gorgeous
white crystal necklace.


And, finally, Jacob and Danielle gave me this fountain featuring a dragon 
resting atop a castle. I do have a collection of castles and a few dragons,
so my sons both had that in mind when they made their selections. Sweet!

It's very cool when it's plugged in, lit up,
with the water flowing over the parapets.

And what's a party without the party-ers?
Danielle, Jacob, Jake, Dylan, Sarah, and Chris made it happen!

And let's not forget Mark. It was this Mom and Dad who started it all!

All the gifts in one place.

And the cards...I enjoy the cards every bit as much as the gifts!

After the gift opening, it was time for cake and ice cream.
Jacob and Danielle picked out this cake and the sparkly candles.
Everybody knows how much I love sparklies!

It was a fun night. As much as I love the attention and the gifts and the goodies, the best part is always having my children there with me. Without them in my life, a birthday would be meaningless. I'm so grateful to have been so blessed as a mom with such great kids. They are precious and I'll always be grateful they are mine, wherever they may go in life.

On my actual birthday, Mark and I went out to El Rancho
and enjoyed my free bowl of deep-fried ice cream!
1 Sept 2015

But wait...the celebrating wasn't over yet! We still had two special dinners to attend in honor of birthdays.

And then on September 3rd Mark and I went out to dinner at Darby's
with my dad and step-mom, Myron and Kathy, to commemorate
my 61st birthday on the 1st and my dad's 81st birthday on the 4th.
Happy birthday, Dad!