Ah, finally the new year arrived. It slipped in quietly here in Tucson, long after the warm sun drifted behind the mountains, the bright moon followed, and we were left with peacefully blinking stars. Well, it was quiet for a moment—before our neighbors began setting off fireworks.
We stood out in our backyard gazing at the colorful lights with a merry fire crackling, surrounded by friends and family. While we realize we are fortunate to have our health, home, friends, family, and each other—we have never been so thrilled to shut the door on a year such as this last one.
It was a span during which we lost several loved ones; people who enriched our lives in a myriad of ways. While we miss them dearly, their passing has reminded us to treasure each new day and the people in our lives.
As for the year ahead, we’ll let Ralph Waldo Emerson make the toast,
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends.
Santé! Cheers! Salute! Prosit! Skoal! Sláinte! Salud!
The last two months of 2011 zipped right on by since they were filled to the brim with friends and family.
- The middle of November found us savoring delicious barbecue and fish cake (or more correctly a fish-shaped cake) as we celebrated Scott’s birthday.
- We chatted the night away with our friends Aaron and Jenny who were visiting from Ohio.
- We hosted our first Thanksgiving in this house, Rancho Soleil. The food was tasty, the company was delightful, and the games were hysterical. For those who attended I have two words for you: Charles. Volcano.
- The day after we zipped down to the Portal area to spend time with some of my family: Grandma Eileen, Aunt Paula, Harry, Uncle Lance, and Aunt Sharon. We had a wonderful time sharing memories and eating way too much food.
- Back in time to help celebrate Geoff’s birthday by sliding big balls at ten shapely white things. In other words, bowling. I always go for low score—that’s how you win, right?
- Few days later was a sad pizza dinner—time to say goodbye to Aaron, Jenny, and their two boys, Nate and Sam. The pizza wasn’t sad, just the pizza eaters.
- The first weekend of December Lance and I joined my sister Desirée and her husband Scott for dinner to help my Aunt Coralie celebrate her birthday. Afterward we had a Skip-Bo tournament that my sister handily won (I think she had a couple up her sleeve, if you know what I mean).
- We enjoyed catching up over dinner with Lance’s sister Adria and her husband Joel.
- Lisa and Gino arrived to warm and sunny Tucson from cold and gray Portland, Oregon for a long weekend of R & R…
We hiked, toured the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, caught sunset at Gates Pass, devoured Mexican food at El Charro, wandered through the Tucson Museum of Art, browsed the 4th Ave Street Fair, grubbed on cowboy fare at El Corral, watched the gunfights in Tombstone, and dropped them off at the airport twice (canceled flight, long story).
- Mingled with friends and colleagues at the annual Gathering of the Greens holiday party. Always a fun time!
- Hung out with the Spoke6 crew at their white elephant holiday party. Ugly orange tie, anyone?
- Attended Adria’s lovely Christmas Eve luncheon with Hank, his grandfather, and his mother (Adria’s husband Joel was out of town).
- Spent Christmas and the day after in far southwestern New Mexico with some of my family. It was sunny and warm which made the recently fallen snow sparkle and shine.
- We wrapped up the year at our house, accompanied by friends and family. Noshing yummy food, playing games, sharing stories around the bonfire, and watching fireworks—not a bad way to end the year.
To view all our other photos from the end of the year, see Fall Social Events, Lisa and Gino Visit, and Christmas 2011.
After a doozy of a start to the year we are finally getting our legs back under us again so I thought I’d tried to catch up around here.
I’ll start with a recap of March. The weather has been all over the place this year and not just for us here in the Sonoran Desert—the midwest, south, and eastern states have all had exceptional storm events. Down here in southern Arizona we are getting a bit jealous of everyone else’s precipitation. So far at our house we have recorded just over an inch of rain for the year, a paltry amount compared to the six inches we average in the winter. Though I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t trade our mild (to warm) temperatures for snow and bitter cold.
As you’ve probably noticed things have been awfully quiet around here lately, with all of my heart I wish we could say we’ve been busy having fun. Unfortunately, it’s been one heckuva rough start to the year. I’ve heard it said that bad things come in threes and after the January and February we’ve suffered through I’m inclined to believe it.
Roughly one week after the dawning of the new year our quiet, small desert town was shattered by the reprehensible shooting on January 8th. Lance and I were shocked, emotionally drained, and physically exhausted—as were so many of our fellow Tucsonans. Tucson is no utopia yet I have always been proud of our community’s diversity and tolerance for all walks of life.
As we close the cover on the year our minds riffle back through the pages. Our narrative was an eventful one and there were a few plot twists along the way. Lance made the smooth transition from small business owner to full-time, location-independent employee, while Erin’s work as an environmental educator kept her busy during the school year.
We took what turned out to be the final trip in our RV this summer. We toured the frontier states, wandering through some beautiful country and visiting with friends along the way. In an odd twist we toured the Kansas City area for the first time which it turns out is where one of Lance’s sisters will be moving soon with her family.
We spent much—though not all—of our free time working on our house in preparation for moving in. After four and a half years of living full-time in an RV we are finally living in a house without wheels! While we loved our travel adventures we are ready to embrace this next stage of our journey.
On a poignant note, we had to say goodbye to two of our elder family members. Never an easy thing to do yet we are comforted by all the shared memories. Which reminds us again that the most important things in life aren’t things. Here’s to the New Year and all the wonderful memories we shall make!
Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone. Do not be troubled by the future, for it has yet to come. Instead, live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering. —Anon.
Out here in the Sonoran Desert, the land of five seasons, Spring is a short event running from February through April. Usually our Spring features a gentle warming trend that signals the end of our admittedly short and mild Winter. This year was a bit different as we experienced multiple rapid temperature swings over the past few months. There were several times when one night’s low temperature surpassed the next day’s high! Not really sure if it was at all related to the El Niño currents in the Pacific Ocean though I do believe we owe our extra rainfall to the phenomenon.
The crazy weather may have kept us guessing but it certainly did not slow us down. February was a month filled with visitors. We have many reasons to love Spring in Tucson but one of our favorites is that Tucson hosts the Gem and Mineral Show every February which brings our good friend Brendan to town. The majority of Brendan’s time is occupied with rocks and rock geeks but he always finds time for a small adventure. This year, since we have a house again, we were finally able to return all his generous hospitality and host him. Our first houseguest! Good thing he is easygoing because our house was (and still is) a work in progress. We promised him that by next February we’ll have things whipped into shape.
With as busy a month as December was, it is no wonder that the time disappeared quick as a wink. Since it was the season, there were various holiday gatherings and celebrations mixed in with our house projects and work assignments along with a smattering of interesting short excursions.
Tucson is so diverse that there never seems to be a shortage of events and activities to attend. Work and other obligations limit what we can participate in but thankfully we still manage to get out there. December was a crazy busy month for Lance so he had to skip a few of the outings. But hey, when work comes your way during this difficult economy you’re grateful for it.
Early in the month I attended a bird walk at Sweetwater Wetlands led by Rick Wright, a very talented “bird nerd.” We know Rick since he manages WINGS, a birding company, one of Lance’s clients. While we enjoy birding and have learned a great deal in the past several years we still feel like amateurs so I was a wee bit intimidated to be in such renowned company. Thankfully, my worry was for naught. Though Rick’s skill was prodigious—he identified far off tiny dots as birds without his binoculars and deciphered species from mere snippets of song—his main goal was to make the rest of us better birders. Anyone that encourages me to think of a Northern Shoveler as a floating football is cool with me!
It is that time of year again, when we say adieu to the departing year and anticipate a new one. Though 2009 was filled with ups and downs the moments that come to mind are those that were dear to our hearts: time shared with friends and family.
- Hiking with Brendan,
- bike riding with Aaron, Jenny, Nate, Geoff, and Lauren,
- celebrating Grandma Eileen’s 93rd birthday,
- spending time with Shirley,
- celebrating nephew Aiden’s first birthday,
- Letterboxing with sister Desiree,
- birding with Nancy and Denny,
- celebrating Charles’ birthday,
- participating in hummingbird monitoring with Alison,
- enjoying a visit with relatives from Ohio,
- touring the Chihuly exhibit with Aunt Coralie and Desiree,
- spending time with Tom and Libby,
- celebrating Lance’s birthday,
- attending cousin Dan’s family-filled wedding in Rhode Island,
- celebrating Desiree’s birthday,
- celebrating sister Adria’s birthday,
- attending Danny’s wedding in San Diego,
- spending time with Rich and Karen,
- visiting Lanny, Sharon, Dave, Emily, Rusty, Angelika, Sarah, Megan, Ronja, Shane, Steve, Frankie, and Gracie in Ohio,
- celebrating cousin Shane’s birthday,
- celebrating second cousin Sarah’s birthday,
- savoring Mexican food with Bev, Hector, and LeeAnn,
- sipping tea with Boubacar,
- celebrating Scott’s birthday,
- cheering on the UA Wildcat football team with Adria and Joel,
- sharing Thanksgiving with Jed, Heidi, Andrew, Aiden, Joel, Bruce and Barbara, and
- catching up with Dave, Tori, Lori, Dennis, and Heidi.
These are just a few of the experiences that have enriched our lives this past year: a wealth worth more than all the money in the world. We look forward to many more such memorable moments in the coming year and we wish the same for you.
At first I doubted that we’d be able to drag ourselves away from our newly acquired property for a few months this summer. After all we are so excited about it and there is so much to do! But then something happened that encouraged us on our way: it got hot! Right around the first of July the temperatures catapulted past the tolerable low 100s to over 110. Joining the rising mercury was the humidity. Add to that the fact that we’ve been spared this meteorological phenomena for the past three summers and you might understand why we were suddenly eager to leave.
Of course it helps knowing that we’ll have a place to come “home” to in Tucson when we return from our RV adventures. At a speaking engagement in March author Charles Bowden, a long time Tucsonan, mentioned that it is a place worth standing up for. He also quoted one of his good friends (and one of my favorite authors), Ed Abbey, “Tucson is easy to leave. I’ve done it six times.” Tucson is funny that way—though we’d both left town numerous times we always ended up back in the Old Pueblo. And with our recent purchase, it’ll be our home for many, many years to come (at least in the Fall, Winter and Spring).
I will update you on our latest trip as we travel but first I need to bring you up-to-date. The beginning of June saw us flying back to Rhode Island for Lance’s cousin Dan’s wedding. Not only we were excited for the happy couple but the occasion provided us with a good excuse to return to the state and visit with family. Though it sure didn’t feel like it, it had been two whole years since we were last there.
We were able to stay for almost a week, which sounded like an ample amount of time but, of course, we were back on the plane to Tucson before we knew it. Our stay was quite comfortable since Lance’s cousin Laura generously opened up her cozy home to us. The wedding was wonderful and in a stroke of good luck the weather cleared up marvelously for the outdoor event. The days before and after the wedding were rainy and practically cold (to us) but on the day of the ceremony we were rewarded with a bit of a sunburn.
Finally, we have a chance to tell you why we’ve been in one place for so long. As many of you may know Lance and I have long dreamed of owning a spot of land where we could someday have a garden, chickens, and maybe even goats. A place where we would expand on our earlier attempts at water harvesting and composting, where we could collect and use the sun’s powerful rays. For years we thought this dream place of ours would need to be out in the boonies of some state other than Arizona, primarily because of sky high real estate prices.
Our travels in the RV these past few years helped us scratch a few potential locations off our list. For a variety of reasons we narrowed our list down to either southern New Mexico or southern Arizona. We knew we had far more ties to the latter but again, price made us lean towards the Land of Enchantment (and with a tag line like that who wouldn’t want to live there?).
But then the U.S. economy fell off the wall and broke into a zillion pieces. By September we, like so many others, were watching our retirement accounts dwindle. Since we usually wait until fall to max out our retirement accounts (it’s just the way our money comes in) we were sitting on a small pile of cash. A quick look around the economic landscape; faltering stock markets and lower real estate prices convinced us that it was the right time to start looking for our dream place.
By the time we reached the Tucson valley in November we had our list of requirements ready for our agent. We contacted the agent who handled both the buying and selling of our previous Tucson home; we figured we might as well stick with someone we trust. Poor guy—he had his work cut out for him—all we wanted was a small house on over an acre of horse property, close to town, and affordable. That’s all…