Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Long Time Gone: Arizona Days

Traveling. I love it. Even all by myself. But there are strong ties that call me back and as this latest trip winds down and I wait in the airport in San Jose, California, I have much upon which to reflect before I head happily home.

I left on a Friday and made it easily to a place that feels as much like home as a place where I don't actually live can: Phoenix, AZ. I got my snazzy rental Camry, synced up my phone to the bluetooth (love that-must look into upgrading my car stereo) and drove off to my big brother's house on the other side of the Valley of the Sun. I made it in time for a dip in the hottub and some nice catching up with my sister-in-law, my niece and her friend. Lovely, mild temperatures and the desert landscape I love so well made it seem like an instant vacation.

I slept well. I'm blessed that way. I seem to be able to sleep anywhere, and I'm glad because the next day was a big deal! I got up on the early side (for a vacation), drove 50 miles or so and was able to participate in a joyful family occasion: the baptism of my nephew. He's a smart, fun, observant, and sensitive boy who delights me with his personality. In our faith, baptism takes place at the age of 8 and above rather than in infancy, so an individual can choose for themselves whether to commit to the requirements of following the Savior in the full and life-filling way that we believe in. If you'd like to know more about our practices, you can read here. It is always a happy thing to see a child make this choice and continue in the path that his or her parents feel is the best road to happiness. We all want that for our kids, whatever our beliefs, so we all rejoiced with this darling boy.  Pretty much everyone at the service was family, and we gathered at my younger brother's home for a party later. It was emotional for me to see gathered in one place some 20 or 25 people to whom I'm related by blood.

There was much of eating wonderful food and talking and catching up and of playing Just Dance 4. Yes, I got up off the couch and joined the little ones and the other sisters for a bit of crazy dancing. Fun times! I did not take many photos because I think my family is pretty tired of the constant clicking of my camera, but there are a few visual evidences of the fun we had:

A cute collection of small and medium boy nephews.
I also have large boy nephews, but they weren't here. 
Just Dancin' with my peeps. 
My bro with his boys 
The birthday people
A blurry, drooly photo of my youngest nephew. He still steals
the show. 
Cousins checking out the gifts
A. makes a little noise. 
On Sunday, I went to church in a building next to the new Gilbert, AZ temple. It's going to be really beautiful. The worship service was great, and it set the tone for a peaceful day. I toured my brother's recently completed, incredible, professional grade garage; sat in the sun to knit; visited with my sister-in-law; and generally moved at a slow pace. Later in the day, my niece and I headed toward Tucson for her official graduation photos to mark the occasion of her finishing at NAU. Here is a peek. Is not she GORGEOUS??

It was such a joy to spend that golden hour with her, trying to capture who she is at this moment. I hope she can see in the photos just what a good and light-infused person she is.

That night, I spent the night at my mom and dad's cute new home in the hills of Marana, AZ. I have two new sisters, and I have been hearing about them but FINALLY got to meet them! Here they are, with the catchy monikers of Phineas and Ferb. I can't tell them apart yet, but I'm sure as we get to know each other, I'll see their unique qualities and have no trouble. My parents are quite proud of these two, so I thought it important that I give them a proper welcome to the family.

In case you're wondering, they are
Sonoran Desert Tortoises and will someday be
about the size of half a football helmet or so. 
Monday was a wonderfully local day in Tucson. We went to the Rodeo and also to a fab Mexican restaurant called El Guero Canelo. I loved the Rodeo. We were only there for preliminary rounds called Slack Days, but it was fascinating to see the skill involved in calf roping. It was also fun to soak up the atmosphere, complete with cute cowboys in wrangler jeans and hats, lots of beautiful animals, and a general sense of Cowboy Pride. El Guero Canelo was a walk-up place with a covered pavilion for sitting down. I got the authentic Sonoran Hot Dog and was glad I did. I also got a delicious agua fresca called something that I can't remember, but it was yummy and fruity. There was a gentleman serenading us with guitar and singing, the sun was shining, the peppers were spicy, and it made me feel very laid back indeed. I have often said that if I'm ever lucky enough to live in Arizona, Tucson would be the place for me. Much lower-key than the Phx area, and quite colorful, artistic and multi-cultural.

Well, I still have 2 more days in Arizona to write about, but it's time to pack up and get on that plane to ride the jet stream back to MD. I will finish up my chronicle of this trip very soon.

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