Clover is all over!

All spring I have been fighting weeds in my yard and in Arizona spring starts early (January?!?). Just when I think I have the weeds under control, they pop up somewhere else. Now I suddenly noticed something strange about my lawn. It isn’t actually grass any more, it is clover!

The clover is all over and I am now wondering how to get rid of it. The sad part is that the clover doesn’t seem so bad. It seems to have created a lush carpet-like surface in the middle of the lawn. Dare I say I actually like the invading clover? I am sure this is blasphemy for those who pride themselves on a weed-free, lush, green lawn.

As much as I like the clover, I doubt that it can survive the 115 degree heat of summer here in Arizona. So my clover enjoyment is fleeting. Should I kill the clover with some herbicide weed killer? I almost don’t have the heart. Can’t I just let the blazing summer heat do the job for me? Should I let nature take its course? It may come July and I will have a large brown patch of dirt where the clover once was. Either way, I am confident the clover will disappear.

Funny how sometimes things that we don’t like (clover on the lawn) we can actually grow to enjoy and we hate to see them go. The invader becomes loved. The annoyance grows on us, literally.

I will be happy to have all the other types of weeds disappear over the next few weeks as the weather heats up, but I will definitely miss the clover. Maybe it will return next spring because as much as it annoys me, I love it.

To Plan or Not to Plan?

Sometimes the best laid plans are better off thrown out the window. On Saturday I learned (or remembered) that the best things in life are unplanned. I recalled a trip from several years ago where I stumbled upon a national park in New Mexico called El Morro. It was a hidden gem in the middle of nowhere that provided amazing views and a memory for a lifetime. So what fun did I discover in my spur of the moment Saturday? Spontaneity? A feeling of freedom? Or just plain fun?

The day started with a last-minute decision to go to the Japanese Friendship Garden in downtown Phoenix. It was a place I learned of months prior. The gardens provided an oasis of peaceful energy nestled between high-rise apartments and athletic fields. I sat meditating quietly overlooking the waterfall while the sun bathed me. A foreign woman asked to take my photo. Maybe my true bliss and happiness were evident to her or maybe I just blended into the peaceful environment. I guess I was supposed to be in a stranger’s photo album that day. It was only 10 AM and there was a lot of daylight left, so where to next?

A drive to Canyon Lake was the final decision as the next stop after the White Tanks and Squaw Peak ideas were thrown out. The drive to Canyon Lake along the winding roads and single lane bridges was beautiful. After arriving at the marina and exploring the possibility of kayaking I discovered that a warmer day, warmer lake temperature, and a swimsuit were required for a fun kayaking experience. Now what? The conveniently located Boulder Canyon Trailhead at the marina enabled a journey to a very high place above the canyon and a 360 degree view of the area. It was amazing. A return trip down the trail and a discussion about going to Blue Wasabi made the trip back to the car quick and painless. Thoughts of sushi danced in my head as my feet scrambled over the rocks in the last section of the trail.

What seemed like only minutes later I arrived at Blue Wasabi. It was almost happy hour. How could I be so lucky? Numerous sushi rolls later it was evident that the activities from the day had tired me. All that was left to do was to head home for a relaxing evening on the patio as the sun set. With vodka and orange juice over ice, the sun set and my energy waned further resulting in canceled plans for salsa dancing. Did I really care? No! The unplanned activities ruled and were more rewarding than anything I could have planned.

When you go with the flow and yield to the day’s opportunities, you really feel like you are living. Instead of scurrying around to meet the schedule of the clock, you work with the moment. What better way to live? Imagine if every day could be so carefree. Next time you have the opportunity, you may want to ‘unplan’ your day and see what adventures you find. You may surprise and exhaust yourself. Living life to the fullest has a way of doing that.

5 going on 15?

My daughter turned 5 just a few short months ago, yet instead of heading toward age 6, she seems like she is heading toward 15. I look over at her now as she chomps away on goldfish while 20 brightly colored necklaces hang from her neck. She looks like she just stepped off Bourbon street after a fun evening in New Orleans during Mardi Gras or she raided Claire’s Boutique at the mall.

Unfortunately it isn’t just necklaces, it is also the shoes that seem to be propelling her to teenhood. For the two weeks leading up to Christmas she asked me every day to buy her ‘high heels’. At 5 years old you can give them the dress-up plastic shoes to satisfy them, at least temporarily. Even Santa was smart enough to imbibe her with more ‘heels’ in the form of Ariel dress-up shoes. Surprisingly my daughter even managers to jump rope in these things. I look down at my own Dansko clogs and shake my head, why does my daughter look ready to dance at the club (or at least an upcoming ball) while I am stuck in comfortable shoes?

After receiving fancy dress-up shoes from Santa, one would have thought the need for shoes would end. But, no. One day after Christmas she was asking me to take her to buy boots. Not the practical winter variety (you don’t need them in Arizona anyway) but some pink cowboy ones or ones with pink fuzzy edging around the top. I sadly admit that I was over 40 before I bought my first pair of stylish boots, so should my daughter have them before she reached her 6th birthday? Through distraction and procrastination I have avoided the fancy boot shopping spree. If I can delay a bit longer I will be spared since it won’t be long before it is time to pull out shorts and flip-flops for Arizona spring.

My final straw and realization that my future ‘teen’ problems were brewing was a trip to ToysRus. She found lip gloss. Not just 1, 2 or even 3, but 5! When you open one of them, music comes blaring from it. Not Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, but some kind of rock music. I know, I should never have bought a set of 5 lip glosses, but what was the alternative? Nail polish and eye-shadow? Lip gloss sounded good. It is clear anyway so it doesn’t even look like she is wearing anything (thank goodness!).

Each of these individually didn’t seem like a big deal, but when I put them together I already had a teenager on my hand or a least one brewing. Now I just have to sit and wait for the hormones to start churning. Hopefully the lip gloss, high heels, and fancy necklaces will be enough to keep her busy for a while – like 6 years? A mother can hope can’t she?

“Hair” in Dallas

I realized that pretty much anywhere in the U.S. has more humidity than Phoenix, but I had forgotten about my hair’s ability to measure the humidity. When I arrived at the airport in Dallas, Texas I immediately walked outside to grab a taxi, and the heat washed over me. I could tell there was a change in the air because of the sticky feeling on my skin that I recalled from my days of living in Annapolis, Maryland.

The real measure of the humidity came this morning. I dried my hair with a hairdryer, but left it a little damp for my trip downstairs to eat breakfast. By the time I returned to my room, just 20 minutes later, I could see the humidity in my hair. I was brushing my teeth and when I looked in the mirror I realized my hair looked scary! The hair humidity factor was the reason that I gave up bangs a decade ago and the reason that I continue to live on the West Coast. I have avoided this humidity for a long time, but here it was (my hair) staring me in the face.

Fortunately my hair was in need of a haircut, which here in Dallas meant that it was just the right length because the humidity shrunk it up at least 2 inches. If my hair was red and a little shorter, I would have looked like Shirley Temple (for those of you old enough to know who that is). If my hair was a bit longer, I would have looked like Sarah Jessica Parker. My hair was curly, frizzy and wild. Too bad I didn’t have a wacky wardrobe to distract people’s attention from my hair like she does.

At least I knew this hair condition was temporary and would return to normal once I deplaned in Phoenix later in the week. In the meantime, I had to live with the hair and hope that I don’t petrify my new coworkers. All I can say is, thank goodness for hair elastics! Besides getting back home to see my family I was also looking forward to seeing my hair return to a straighter state in Arizona.

I live in a refrigerator in Arizona…

As I sit outside on this May morning I wonder why I feel chilled after the high 90’s temperatures of yesterday. I am wearing long black yoga pants, a long sleeve shirt, and flip-flops. My feet are a bit cold, or is it my ankles? Strange, but my body temperature (and comfort) seem to be solely determined by my feet. To warm up I have covered myself with a down duvet. It actually feels like I am in a cocoon. One might ask,”If you are cold, then why don’t you go inside?” Oddly, the temperature inside is about the same as outside, although it is air conditioning dependent.

If I could live without air conditioning, I would. I think that it is silly that all summer when the mercury is hitting 110+, I am sitting inside with long sleeve pants, long sleeve shirt and my precious down duvet. Insanity? Yes. This is what happens when you love the heat but your husband has a different idea about temperature comfort.

I constantly run around the house (in vain I might add) to change the thermostat for the air conditioning up to 82 (from 75?) so that I might gain a reprieve from the arctic air being blown at me. Of course, I am the one who always ends up getting seated right in front of the air vent!

Why can’t we as humans be more comfortable with the outside temperature? I totally understand not wanting to leave the house when the temperature hits 110 in the middle of August, but what is wrong with 80’s? I mean, it is still 30 degrees cooler than the outside? Why do we need to waste so much energy cooling the house just so I can suffer in the cold? If I wanted cold, I would move to Wisconsin. Then at least I would have the comfort of a ‘hot-dish’ to keep me warm regardless of the outside temperature.

I have made a choice to appease my husband and his need to live in a refrigerator (and leave the thermostat alone). I have retreated to the patio to enjoy the outside temperature. It is a lot more comfortable, and fortunately last year we invested in ‘outside’ furniture (not plastic chairs or wicker…real furniture! I sit in my comfy upholstered chair with my feet relaxed on a stool. This really isn’t bad at all. I could get used to this. Come August I will need someone to bring me some kind of iced beverage when it heats up. Although I enjoy the reality of the outside temperature, I am not completely oblivious to the heat – I need something to keep cool. How are you staying cool this summer?

Baby Cactus and Children…Hands Off!

I am sitting outside on the patio enjoying the warmth of the morning Arizona sun. For some reason the morning sun is warm vs. the afternoon sun which is scorching. I stare at the cactus sitting in front of me. It is so small and fragile. Just a tiny seedling found in the yard, now in its safe home in a miniature pot. I just watered it, although I wondered if that was even necessary. I mean it is a cactus? How much watering does it need?

The water absorbed into the soil, but I can see a few tiny water droplets clinging to the smooth surface of the cactus (not the spines!). The sun is shining on the cactus in such a way that it glistens. It makes me think of a child being nurtured and protected by a parent. The plant is glistening, shining and is so beautiful. I don’t want to do anything to interfere with its inherent beauty in its natural state.

Our children have that inherent beauty too, so why can’t we just let them be. See the beauty, enjoy the moment, and savor it, instead of stepping in and thinking we can fix them or make them better. What children (and plants) need sometimes is just to be admired for who or what they are. They really can be amazing and grow without us.

Running – easy breezy!

After two weeks of feeling chest congestion, having a runny nose, having a stuffed nose, and feeling like moving from the sofa was impossible, today I finally felt ‘better’. I had been contemplating whether my illness was a virus or just due to this vile allergy season (the worst in Arizona in years). Since I was feeling pretty good, I decided to do my regular run (2.7 miles). I still can’t believe it. I finished it in about 26 minutes. It was fast, or at least it seemed fast, because I could actually feel wind on my face. Another indication was the sweat rolling down my cheeks and the fact that my arms and legs seemed to move without my brain telling them to. There is something about a run where you get into the groove and it feels smooth – obviously I forgot what it was like.

I found I was breathing hard during the run, but not the kind of hard where your lungs feel like they are attacking you. You know, the kind where your chest is unable to intake enough oxygen to keep your muscles going? Last week on a run (or should I say attempted run) I found myself having to walk most of it because even when I ran as slow as I could (a slow jog if there is such a thing) I fell into an asthmatic type of attack. Since I don’t have asthma I wasn’t worried, but more annoyed that my body just wouldn’t work like I wanted.

Today I was listening to my IPOD (a requirement for any run alone) and listening to an odd compilation of Hebrew songs. I was thinking about other music I needed to add to my collection. I just heard of some Turkish music I need to get, as it might be a good complement to what I have already. I wondered if I should try running to my belly dancing music? Wow, I guess I just revealed a lot about my IPOD. Is that kind of personal? Like leaving your panty-hose hanging over the shower rod in the bathroom when you have dinner guests over?

For some reason on the run I felt out of my head. Or was it really in my head? I guess I was in my head where there hasn’t been space for several weeks because of my cold. I felt focused on my running because I wasn’t wasting any time thinking about my lack of oxygen or my darned shin splints (that seem to keep recurring). The running shoes I bought a few weeks ago (and broke in by walking around Disneyland for three days) were finally ready for prime-time running today and they worked great! The air temperature was about 80 degrees at the start of the run, which to some might seem too hot, but for me it was perfect. I love to sweat out toxins and hopefully lose a few pounds in the process. When I stepped on the scale after my run I was a bit disappointed, but I guess I cannot expect miracles from a single run. The feeling of a ‘good run’ was the reward anyway. I can only hope to avoid another cold and shin splints so I can have another great run tomorrow.

Why is my pool waving?

As I look out the back door of the house I see the water of the pool splashing around and the waves are so high that the water is splashing out. My first fear is that the kids snuck outside and started playing in the pool without me knowing. I quickly look into the living room and see the kids are playing quietly. So why is the water of the pool moving around? Is someone out there? Has the automated pool cleaner gone mad? I can’t see the pool cleaner moving at all. What is going on? I look into the living room and see the lamp above the dining table is slowly swinging back and forth. My suspicions are confirmed, we just had an earthquake. Oddly I didn’t actually feel the earthquake.

I had no idea when I moved to Arizona three years ago I would be experiencing earthquakes here. I thought I was escaping the regular seismic activity of Portland, Oregon, but apparently this is not the case. Then again, it wasn’t that big of an earthquake (since I didn’t actually feel it). Maybe all the wine I was drinking caused me to already be swaying so I didn’t notice the additional swaying caused by the earthquake.

In reality the earthquake was not that big of a deal here – more of a novelty. I mean none of us at my house on Easter actually felt it (although the pool and hanging lamps may beg to differ). We were more surprised than anything that we saw the signs that an earthquake had occurred. Given the size of the waves generated in the pool, I wondered what people in California must experience. Also, do they avoid having pools built too close to their house? I pondered this, because if our pool splashed more than it had, we might have found ourselves swimming in our living room.

Based on the news out of Baja, Mexico it was a 6.9 earthquake. I was feeling happy that I lived in Chandler (just outside Phoenix) instead of closer to the earthquake epicenter. Over the last 12 years of living on the west coast I realize that earthquakes are just a part of life (and have experienced a number of them). Just like shoveling snow in New England in January or boarding up coastal store fronts in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in preparation for a hurricane in September – no matter where you live you have some strange earth or weather generated phenomena to experience. The sooner you realize we are living in a place beyond our immediate control, the better because sometimes you just have to deal with the unexpected. For this Easter Sunday I am just happy that I was not sitting pool-side during the earthquake, otherwise my chocolate bunny and eggs would have been washed away in a pool “tsunami” and my ham dinner would have been waterlogged.

Rain to shine in an Arizona day…

I was sitting on the patio enjoying rain this morning. You would think living in Arizona that I would hate the rain, but really it makes for a welcome change when it is day after day of blue skies and sunshine. My Oregon friends are laughing right now, I can hear them! Nine years of living in the rain still didn’t ruin my love of rain. If anything it fine tuned it a bit. The rain to me means luscious green  grass and flowers in bloom – especially roses. What is not to like about that?

You mean you don’t want to have to wear a raincoat and rubber boots all day? Or carry an umbrella? What about the soggy feeling from just being outside in the rain? I guess I am lucky sitting outside in the rain protected from the roof covering the patio. Many writers and film-makers use rain to symbolize sadness or the feeling of doom in a story. I like to think that rain means life. Nourishing life. And not just plants. Rain made us “take a break’ today as a family and feed ourselves…with meatballs. We watched ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’. Pretty fitting for today, huh? It was probably the funniest movie we ever watched as a family and we never left our house, you know, because it was raining!

I recall numerous days in Oregon where my son Tucker (about 2 at the time) would slog around in his rubber boots stomping in every muddy puddle he could find on our pot-hole-filled unpaved street. We would return to the house and have to pour the water out of his boots that had accumulated from his frolic in the rain. Now when he sees it raining, I think he remembers that time too. He looks outside at the rain with longing. I think he wants to stomp around and get really wet and dirty like he used to. (Not that he doesn’t do a fine job of that already in the Arizona desert.)

Not every day in Arizona (or elsewhere) can be sunny, but hopefully it doesn’t have to be like ‘art’ and you can make it fun anyway. Snuggle under a blanket, watch a movie, or even eat real spaghetti and meatballs. It is like when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, if life gives you rain, make it shine anyway – make a happy memory.