AZ- A Year in Review

My summer days of leisure spent "basement" blogging and just doing anything my little heart desires have been temporarily sidelined by a serious need for income and the educational pursuits of some local youth. It has been three weeks of very, very long days in which I've maintained my sanity via a steady stream of creating and then crossing off items from my "to do" lists.

But I can't just let August 11th go by without recognition. Tyler, Leah, and I have officially lived in Arizona for a year. Originally, a "let's try it for a year and see what happens" kind of adventure, has transformed itself into a "we kind of really like it here so let's see how long we can function in the summer heat". And while I'm not sure where we will end up in the future, I am pleased with our choice right now. I even have an Arizona license (good for some 50 years), just in case we decide to stay.

Arizona's exposure to sun most days out of the year is my very favorite part of living here. I used to crave the sun so badly while in Washington, and even though AZ's summer can't even begin to compare to the beauty of a Washington summer, I'm happy with my decision to have made a change. Some of our experiences here in Arizona are so vastly different than anything I've known before and so...

I began my stay in Arizona plagued with dreams of scorpions. I knew they infested my thoughts simply because I was non-stop researching their habits, but I couldn't stop. I needed to know as much information as I assumed every other desert resident kept in the forefront of their minds at all times (they don't).  I worried about Leah in the backyard and while we were out walking. For the first three months at least, her little paws did not leave the sidewalk due to my, perhaps, irrational fears. I have since seen seven of the little arched avengers, four of which were dead. Two were found submerged in our backyard pool, one at the bottom of the community pool, and one dead on the sidewalk. I realized that my fears had calmed (only a fraction) when I was pissed that someone obviously went out of their way to premeditate the sidewalk casualty. There was no way that little A.A. (arched avenger) was bothering anyone. Two of the three that I actually saw alive were at my job, and even though the A.A's aren't on my mind every moment of the day like before, I'm absolutely positive I can be spotted "surveying the scene" anywhere I happen to be standing or sitting, in order to temporarily ensure my safety. Because you know, it's when you least suspect it. I just gave myself chills--moving on.
This is one of the avengers found in our pool.
While I was strategically planning my defenses against scorpions (like taking off the bedskirts), Tyler was waging his own war...against the West Nile virus. Almost as soon as we arrived in Arizona, what we thought was Tyler's allergies worsening was in fact him coming down with the virus. We had just moved here. We didn't have jobs or insurance. Tyler tried to wait out whatever was wrong him, but the mounds that formed on some of his glandular areas decided that would be a bad idea. Luckily, Tyler is  young and healthy, and the urgent care doctor was no where near as worried as we were simply prescribing rest, stating he'd be worried if Tyler were an infant or elderly. We learned from the doc that Mesa has the highest rate of West Nile due to huge amounts of unused, or un-managed backyard pools that become mosquito breeding grounds, and the virus is then passed like malaria. Awesome.

Bring on the Bees. Last Spring, I came home from work, let the pooches out, and grabbed the computer to play around and relax outside. As soon as I was comfortable, I noticed there were like five bees buzzing around the barbecue area. It didn't seem completely out of the ordinary since we had some flowering plants that they had recently been enjoying, but I wasn't comfortable sitting out there with them. I went inside and kind of forgot about them. I let Latimore out about a half hour later and watched as he lay on the ground only to get distracted and start to chase some of the bees. It seemed like there was more of them at this time. I brought Latimore back inside, and called Tyler. When he got home from work, a mere hour later, our backyard was swarming. Swarms of bees, checking out new real estate is apparently not a rarity, and according to a piece on NPR, some 90% of the honey bees down here are now part killer bee. Tyler took them out with spray you can buy at the store, and it was only after that we realized there was no actual nest yet, just hundreds of bees moving in. Watch A Bad "Bee" Movie(link) to see what it looked like before the massacre occurred. We are sorry it couldn't have been handled differently.

Believe it or not, insects are not my main focus in life, but I do love being outside. So I guess I learn to deal with the scary in order to see what I consider to be very cool. We have seen over 30 coyotes just in our neighborhood. They are small, and I don't worry about their presence. I more feel bad that their habitat has so obviously been taken over by us. One day I saw a mama and three baby pups. She was laying in the shade of a tree while she watched her pups wrestle around in the grass by our clubhouse. It was easily the most adorable thing I had ever seen.
This is one of the baby pups resting a few weeks later.

One evening, we sought out to capture some of our local coyotes on film. My original goal was to create a family tree of sorts, but they never seemed to show themselves like I wanted. It was no different on this particular evening. We turned to go back home and instead came across two crazy looking animals...Javalinas, or wild pigs whose teeth sharpen every time they open and close their mouths! We ended up seeing the same two, each evening, three days in a row. Meet Helena and Javier, the Javalinas. Aren't they cute?

And speaking of cute...we added a new member to our family this last year. Latimore fits in quite well with his constant tap-tap-tapping against the sliding glass door insistence to be outside, and then a minute later, inside, and then thirty seconds later, outside, etc... But he is ridiculously adorable. Tyler plans to start a website called because Latimore tries to sit on everything including us. Latimore loves swimming, sprinklers and long walks with Leah. He can often be found taking a dip even if no one else is in the mood.
While it may seem like the whole year has been our dealings with animals and bugs, Tyler and I have enjoyed our time together too. Tyler took me on a hot air balloon ride for my birthday, which was something I have always wanted to do.

We also participated in a few Desert competitions that you may remember. The Desert Pentathlon (link) and the Desert Decathlon (link) were some fun days for us. And we've camped and hiked some too: Coconino National Forest Camping (link), Siphon Draw Hiking (link), to name a few. Plus, with the additions of our kayaks, we made some trips on the local waterways, like Canyon Lake.

Lastly, we have come full circle. We started out with Tyler and the West Nile virus, and now my little Leah has Valley Fever, a fungus that infests and attacks the bone in dogs, causes depression, and in some cases death. And she almost did. She has been on medication for a month and is almost back to normal, but there were a few weeks where she wasn't eating and didn't even get out of bed. She has at least six more months of medicine but she is back to her old self of dominating Latimore and jumping into the pool. It makes me want to cry. 

So, a pretty interesting year overall. There is so much more down here that we want to see. I'm looking forward to another year in Arizona!


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