I awoke yesterday, took Nelson for a quickly walk around the block, and then — leaving my “I do not run!” puppy at home, I strapped on the full Camelpack and headed for the hilly streets near my home. Granted, these are Phoenician hills — so it is a gradual incline, but it is still there.
The first mile wasn’t bad. It was warming up quickly as my watch beeped 7 am on the hour — not quite 100 degrees. I kept it slow and tried to focus on my breath. My head down, legs strong, mood a little foggy from a generous glass of wine the night before.
Nothing like running it off! I told myself. Foolishly. My inner voice was happy.
“Look at you! You remember how to do this! Good for you!”
By mile 2.5, I was walking more than jogging, but still putting up a good fight. The heat came up at me from the pavement and down from the bright blue morning sky; a few cyclists said hi and I saw a couple other runners out too. We did the suffering together nod of acknowledgment and I loped on.
I was hurting, and my inner bitch screaming and whining.
“Who do you think you are? Feel your legs burning? That’s because you love burritos and the couch. That’s your natural environment. Why are you doing this to me? You belong inside. You’re too old for this. You look ridiculous. See those runners with definition in their legs? That’s because they are good at this. And you suck.”
By mile 3, panting, I was at home. It wasn’t exactly the Rocky-esque return to running I’d hoped for. More like Paul Blartt, suburban runner. But hey! It was 3 miles more than I’d done the day before. Or week, or month. It was something — a start.
Mercifully, that inner bitch took a nap and I got on with my day.
I went about my morning, washing the dogs, playing in the garden and hanging up laundry outside. I even sat outside with a cup of coffee, feeling the “cool breeze on my sweaty skin.” It wasn’t until 11 am when we were ready to leave for an afternoon of errands that I realized my peripheral vision was blurry. This has happened twice before in 15 years of “running” in Arizona; both times it meant I am soon to be down for the count.
Sure enough, I spent much of the next 18 hours in bed with an ice pack over my eyes. The pain of a heat-induced migraine feels a bit like this: someone with a hammer banging on your head above each eye ball. Also, your inner bitch in that “I told you so” tone going, “SEE?”
It has relented a bit today, but isn’t entirely completely gone. Essentially I feel rotten, and my legs are sore.
More so, I feel foolish. I’m not new to this game, even if it has been months since I’ve run outside. Rule one for an Arizona athlete? The heat is The Godfather, and you are wise to pay your respects. (Hydrate, wear sun screen, wear a hat and sunglasses and preferably be done with your outside exercise as the sun is rising.) August morning run where you decide to push it? I’m lucky I got to sleep off the damage.
When I came into work today, I was hit with far worse news. A local leader I met with just a couple weeks ago on suicide prevention ended his life this weekend. His staff reached out for support services.
I do need a nap. And a burrito. And a plan for what to say when I return to meet with them.
And also, new running shoes and more water.
Hey Arizona friends: want to spend a Saturday together crafting it up? Well, what are you doing Saturday, August 8th?
I’m on the 11:15 panel with Kitty Carlisle and Stephanie Liebold — both of whom I admire and am so excited to hang out with. We’ll be talking about craft blogging — what’s worked and what hasn’t. I’m excited to take a couple workshops, meet more like-minded lovers of pom poms, ric rac and 40% off JoAnn’s coupons, and spend the day learning.
So grab the mosquito spray, your project bag and let’s go to Craft Camp!
I am participating in a local envelope exchange, hosted by my friend Danna. It has been far too long since I’ve played along in any sort of craft-along — and this felt great. It was also the impetus to get the craft stuff unpacked and sorted and while the craft/office/crap room isn’t entirely sorted — I was able to sew and stamp and do what I needed to complete this project. I used an old Arizona Highways photography book of Arizona scenery and an envelope template to make mine. Each pouch included pens, pencils, stamps and a note.
I have no idea what I’ll be receiving in return, but it will be fun to watch for the postman!
Some friends are opening a restaurant in a Phoenix hotel. They were selected in a big contest and it couldn’t have gone to a nicer pair. I see them infrequently, but we follow each other online. When we do get together, we’re fortunate to pick right back up where we left off.
Joel asked me if I’d cross stitch this pattern for his wife Lara. She is a cheese monger. (And yes, that is one of the delightful reasons it is so nice to see them. They seem to always bring great cheese along!)
So, here I am. Squinting at this pattern and trying my hardest to get more than a few rows in before my eyes are exhausted. It is fun to pick this back up, and remarkable how universal most crafting patterns are. If you can read a knitting pattern, you can cross stitch.
Of course now I have a dozen other cross stitch project ideas in mind. And of course I’d find a hobby that is even more time intensive than knitting.
Praise the summer heat and lots of couch time!
The plate wall is up. I appreciate that it is a little wonky and full of trees. The green jadeite platter is my favorite, and I’m happy to showcase it. I used these plate hangers after a good bit of research and they are absolutely worth the expense. They worked like a charm!
The linen closet is sorted and it makes me smile to see this odd collection of vintage sheets in their new home.
I really am loving turning this place into our home! This week: selling a few pieces of extra furniture, putting together the dining room table, setting up the sewing/craft room and hosting some girlfriends for my first happy hour.
Nelson and I have found our new three-mile walking path. It is just long enough for him to need a nap on the cool tile when we return and for me to catch up on just enough world news. Once it cools, we’ll hit the nearby trails for morning adventures. For now, we watch the heavy gray afternoon clouds come over the Superstitions and pray for just enough rain to water the garden and break the heat, but nothing strong enough to damage the giant backyard mesquite.
We soldier on, trying not to complain too much about this heat. (And I’m plotting a quick beach getaway.)
This life is so much better than just enough. My heart is full and very happy!
A friend’s daughter mentioned that, “ALL SHE WANTED TO DO IN LIFE WAS TO RIDE A HORSE AND BE AROUND HORSES.” So, being the auntie who loves to spoil the little ones in my life, I started researching taking her for a lesson. Kerivan Farms in Gilbert was recommended and I cannot speak highly enough of the owner, Alison. She is great with kids, fairly priced and has this incredibly perky morning demeanor that I could never muster. Especially in 100 degree heat. With children. And giant animals.
The morning was great. K had fun and I had a blast catching up with her mom and taking photos of all the animals, including Louie — the smiling horse:
When it cools off, I hope to return. I’d love to take a couple lessons. Or go on a desert horseback ride.
We met a 12 year old girl who boards a horse there and was at the stable for a morning ride. I mentioned to her mom that I finally met the one girl who got a pony for Christmas and she smiled. I couldn’t tell who was happier: the girl on her horse, or her mom for having made that dream come to pass.
I’ve been lax in writing about what I’ve been reading lately. There have been some great books I’d like to discuss:
1. Ahab’s Wife. Let me just get this off my chest right now: I’ve never read Moby Dick. I KNOW. I have ordered a copy and plan on reading it later this summer. In the meantime, I got swept away in the book, Ahab’s Wife — a creative look at what the captain of the Pequod’s wife experienced both when he was briefly in harbor, and mostly far away hunting his nemesis — Moby. It is a long, beautiful story that weaves in real life characters who would have been near Nantucket during the same time. It is not an easy read, and it took me more than three months. I would read 50 pages and then put it down for a week, digesting it like a heavy meal. I was also savoring it, though. Naslund caught and kept my attention for three months — there is something to be said for that. 3.5 bananas, absoloodle.
2. Etta and Otto and Russell and James. This book was like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. I picked it up and didn’t want to put it down, it was so delightfully entertaining. It’s what I call a “stop light book.” I would drive with the book across my lap, catching another paragraph when at a red light during my commute. A delightful and fun read about a Canadian senior who decides she wants to see the sea before she dies. She leaves her house on foot and walks the thousands of miles to the ocean. Otto and Russell’s stories come to light as they miss her. James — well, I’ll let you read it to see who James is. The story is told creatively in flashbacks to childhood, paired with the aging and perhaps demented memories of current day. I loved this story. 4 bananas, absoloodle.
3. The Orchardist. I also heard of this book from NPR’s favorite librarian — Nancy Pearl. Both this novel and Etta were on her summer reading picks. I found them when we were visiting Bainbridge Island earlier this summer and am so glad I listened to that segment. The Orchardist is a tricky read — with very little dialogue. However, I am not sure I’ve read better character development, other than that of Harry Potter. Two pregnant young women wander into an orchardist’s field while he is tending to his apricots and apples. He decides to help them, which sets their lives on a perilous and twisting path. This is also a great story, and a debut novel by a 31-year-old writing phenom: Amanda Coplin. 3.5 bananas, absoloodle.
I’m currently reading Anne Patchett’s State of Wonder; Patchett can do little wrong in my book. I hold her close to Kingsolver and Garcia Marquez in my heart. Her book Truth and Beauty remains one of my favorites of all time, and who didn’t cry while reading Bel Canto? This woman knows how to tell a story. Next up: All the Light We Cannot See.
On the writing front, I’m happy to have found a new writing group. I’ve been newly encouraged to get back to the third novel, a murder mystery set in Colorado. I’m reading books differently these days. From the font to the story arc, I’m enjoying reading to see how others craft their art. I’d like to write a mystery as gripping as Gone Girl and as enchanting as Ahab’s Wife.
Shoot for the stars, they say!
Happy reading, friends.
The trip started so peacefully. We’d traveled from Phoenix to Seligman, Arizona — maybe you’ve seen Cars — and stayed in a clean, simple motor lodge for the night. We rose early (2:30) and drove the 90 miles to this view. We parked, unloaded the bags we’d send down by mule train, and hoisted on our packs. We had 10 miles ahead of us, mostly in a slot canyon, to reach Supai Falls.
The hike down went as planned. It was hot by the time we’d reached the campground next to the falls at 10 am. We had hours to wait for the mules, carrying our tents. So, we changed to bathing suits and jumped in the ice cold pools. I swam with the kids for a couple hours, only exiting to nap in the hammock with a good book.
Soon, our tents were up and dinner was warm. Even though I’d planned ahead and frozen meals for the trip, I didn’t plan well for spoilage. Ice leaked into the food container ruining ten meals. We scrambled to our packs, gathering the trail mix and granola bars we had to plan out the next few days. Others in our group shared with us too; we ate two meals during the next 56 hours, supplementing with handfuls of cashews and peanut M+Ms.
The temperature was around 100. If you were at the campground, you wanted to stay in the shade. Sleeping was a sweaty endeavor; thankfully we were all so tired from the hike, we collapsed the first night, rousing only to hold our breath during a spectacular monsoon thunderstorm crashing down around us.
The next day, we hiked on further to Mooney Falls. I didn’t climb down to the falls this time; the height and lack of ladder made my anxiety jump into my throat. I was fine climbing through the caves on the descent, but once I got a bit down the first section of chain link hand holds, I gulped and climbed back up to the edge. It was too much for me, and I’m sorry I couldn’t summon more courage.
See that path there? Straight down, holding those chains? About 70 feet. Gulp.
Instead, we returned to the previous set of falls and continued to swim the day away. We played cards, napped, read and had a blast. There were a few scrapes and bruises from going over small falls too quickly — but otherwise everyone was in good spirits. We’d just finished preparing dinner when a Havasupai park ranger on a horse came through camp, going tent to tent:
“Pack up. There are flash floods. Everyone must evacuate to the village.”
We were all still in bathing suits, enjoying the cool while it lasted. We scrambled into hiking clothes and boots, packing up tents and gear as quickly as possible. The mess kits were stowed away dirty, no time to wash. We left our bags in a pack in the mule corral and once again slung our hiking packs over our shoulders, headed the two miles to the village. When we arrived, there was space on a tile floor in a community center where they wanted everyone from the campsite to spend the night. We thought we’d try our luck and instead continue on.
We should have listened. We got a mile or so further down the path only to see rushing water and had to quickly turn around and head back to the community center. We slept a couple hours (again, the perk of exhaustion) on the floor, rousing a bit after midnight to try the hike again. Mercifully, the water had receded and we were able to carefully pick our way across what remained of the water and mud to get back to the slot canyon.
Under a full moon, we hiked all night back to the car, arriving at 4:30 am. We slept until the car became too hot. An Indian woman sold cold sodas and watermelon in the parking lot. I ate like I’d never seen food before. By noon, the mules did miraculously arrive and we were on our way home.
The swimming made the trip worthwhile, but I’m still catching up on sleep and calories. And I’ve said more than once, loudly, that our next vacation will include: a cabana, a view, massage, tequila and guacamole on everything.
A friend called the other day to share a story about her teenage daughter and a group of mean girls. They were calling names, isolating, and otherwise being unkind — the trifecta of a teenage bully clique. I have yet to live a time of life more frustrating than those early teenage years. Everything seems like an injustice, you want nothing more than to be accepted (and popular), and your maddening hormones are in control.
I have a new theory for why we behave the way we do: each time we are treated unjustly or unkindly, a pebble forms in our gut. Those pebbles may turn into boulders if the injustice is appropriately sized — molestation, abuse, neglect. Or, the stones of many less significant unkindnesses may gather together — avalanching collectively later when another small jab cannot be added to the pile.
I had an interaction with a neighbor a few months back that left me upset. Nelson and I were outside on the patio, and the gate was cracked. He was resting at my feet when he heard other dogs in the courtyard. Before I could grab him, he quickly escaped and tried to join the dogs — which were on a leash and barely being controlled by a woman whose face was purple with rage. Within the next few minutes, I was upbraided for being a bad dog owner. She had a lot to say, and I stood there with my cheeks burning, muttering a few ugly things back her way. I returned Nelson to the patio, secured the lock and went to her doorstep to try to explain.
I said clearly, “You are my neighbor. I don’t want things to be like this. Please accept my apology. I’m sorry my dog was off leash.”
She responded less favorably.
For the next two months, I made a point of waving at her like a maniac and making sure she knew I wanted to say hello. She never responded and walked with her head down any time our paths crossed. I smirked, my pettiness bubbling to the surface.
A few weeks later, police detectives filled the parking lot and banged at her door. Neighbors, myself included, peeked through windows to see what commotion was happening in our otherwise quiet community. A few hours later, she had a rented moving van and was hauling as much of her stuff away as possible, leaving a trail of trash behind her. The orange sticker went up on her window soon after: EVICTED.
I never saw her or the dogs again. The home remained vacant until I moved a few weeks ago.
Another neighbor mentioned the woman had long suffered to care for her adult daughter and grandchildren. Her daughter was ill and was in and out of mental health treatment. The kids came and went on occasion, but the daughter and her kids were removed from the home by police at some point too.
The stones of pain and disappointment in this woman’s stomach always rumble. Her grief and her unhappiness is unlike anything I’ve experienced. I am not giving a pass to people who are unkind — those who flip you off in traffic, for example — but do think they are carrying around more sadness than I am.
There will always be difficult, angry and sad people — but the way we respond to them shows our emotional depth. We treat people the way we’ve been treated, until something inside us recognizes we have to do better. We have to treat others the way we want to be treated.
The answer to those pebbles, stones and boulders are justice, love and kindness.
Look, there is nothing great about moving during a heat wave in Phoenix. Nothing. The silver lining on this one is sweaty — a damp, humid, hot and quickly cranky perspective. There is nothing like working outside in 110-plus weather to make me want to cry. In a pool. With something frozen to drink in my hand.
At one point, I drove to Costco just to stand in the produce freezer. Seriously. I stood there among the two-pound plastic clam shells full of blueberries and spinach, soaking in the cool until the goosebumps on my arms rivaled cherry tomatoes. My teeth chattered. I skipped back to my car.
But here is the thing: precisely no one thinks I deserve a pity party for deciding to move in June in the desert. So, grab a cool drink, slap on some SPF 45 and rest in the shade — I’m am delivering the bit of good I’ve gathered from the last week.
1. Organizing. This is every organized person’s delight. I spent three hours on Sunday consolidating spices and singing along while I worked. (There were no blue birds singing along, but their joy was present.) Also, I made a gardening chart for the new owners of my Tempe home. They are gardeners, and I wanted to emphasize a few critical points: NO MIRACLE GROW. And, PLEASE WATER.
2. Minimizing. My realtor mentioned she was happy there wasn’t much clutter when listing the Tempe home. And while I’d love fall over patting myself on the back, there was still so, so much to give away to Goodwill. Do you read this minimalist blog? I am enjoying it, and learning to live with far less.
3. Prioritizing. There are items I own that I love, and I can’t precisely explain why. Milk glass, for example, holds a kitschy, country chic spot in my heart. And there are those items that I simply will not do without. My mom’s quilts are at the top of that list. I am loving matching linens to beds with freshly laundered quilts in this new home. (Everything is remarkably more colorful.)
4. And of course — love! Why else would you move in June? Love, man! Lots and lots of love. But that is another post entirely.
Back to the unpacking. The “we’ve moved” cards have been ordered. If we regularly exchange letters, you’ll likely see one in your mailbox mid-July.
Hope you are well, friends!