Heat wave

JK and I are going to Arizona in a few days to visit The Brother and Sister-In-Law. I can't wait. The temperature in Phoenix will hit 80 degrees this week. So far this winter, we've had 80 inches of snow.

I'm becoming one of those people obsessed with the weather. For example, our high this Saturday was 26. I've never before so eagerly anticipated 26 degrees, not even when I hated 7. Twenty-six means taking the dog for a walk without your nose hairs freezing. It means mittens are optional. It means the ice on the road turns to mush, and you no longer need to be terrified of driving to the grocery store.

To put it in perspective, 26 degrees is 38 degrees warmer than the temperature one morning last week when we woke up to -12.

We drove to the store Saturday afternoon with the windows partially rolled down. Passing by the lake, I could almost mistake the glare of sun on snow for the reflective glint of white-blue water, and I convinced myself the people skiing on the lake were surfers. "Isn't this great?!" I said, to no one in particular.

At the store, people walked around with stupid grins on their faces, liberated from scarves and balaclavas and practically jumping out of their long underwear. "Can you believe this weather?" they asked each other. Indeed, weather is almost all anyone here ever talks about anymore.

"Come on," one surly store clerk was overheard saying at Trader Joe's. "It's not that warm," to which a long line of customers responded with a collective gasp. If the relative heat wave hadn't instilled such euphoria, the crowd might've pelted her with their mini-muffins and packages of frozen edamame before kicking her out onto the freshly de-iced sidewalk.

The truth, though, is that 26 is cruel. Because tonight we're expecting another 4-6 inches of snow and freezing rain. And honestly, it's not like 26 degrees is anywhere close to warm. One might even say it's decidedly cold. We haven't seen grass since November, and we're not on the verge of seeing it again anytime soon.

The shine of 26 will wear off in a couple of days: We'll realize we really do need those mittens, the roads will freeze again, and we'll all continue going a little crazy as we wait impatiently for the end of April, when the three feet of snow outside will melt into dirty water and flood our basements.

But hey -- at least we'll get to wear T-shirts as we mop it all up.



Instead of New Year's Resolutions, I've decided to make Birthday Resolutions. The passing of one year of my own life seems much more meaningful than the random turning of the calendar.

Earlier this month, I turned 32. In the two weeks preceding my birthday, the following things happened:

1. I received a letter from my doctor, informing me of alarmingly high cholesterol.
2. I found my first gray hair.
3. I had a conversation with a friend, in which one of us said to the other, "You know, we're rapidly approaching the age when it's strange that we don't have children."

I've been thinking a lot about the passing of time lately and also the imperative to make moments count. Maybe not every moment -- I don't need to fondly recall the 30 minutes I spent in line at the airport ticket counter, for example -- but more of them than not.

They say 30 is the new 20. I hope 32 isn't the new 22. I don't want to be wandering aimlessly through the doorway of adulthood for the next 12 months. There comes a time probably for most of us, when we realize we know who we want to be. And we realize we have all the tools and powers to make that happen. And to not make that happen results primarily from our own laziness.

I want to be the kind of person who writes thank-you notes and sends tea bags home to sick co-workers and would rather take a walk with the dog -- under the sun, with wind on my face -- than watch old TV shows on DVD with the shades drawn. And lately, when I find myself hitting the "play" button on the remote control, with the blinds closed on a fine Sunday afternoon, I know I'm making a choice. The thank-you notes won't go out tomorrow. The dog remains unwalked. My world remains confined inside the walls of my living room.

JK and I were talking last night about the relationships we have, as adults, with our friends. When you live far away and lead busy lives and barely have time for your own family, friendships become valuable real estate. Sometimes ties become strained, and sometimes they snap altogether, for reasons of distance or time or inconvenience. The people who make your world a bigger, more enriched place tend to stick around. The others fade.

I'm thinking about this as a guiding principle for how to be the person I want to be: Does this decision or action or person expand my understanding of -- or impact in -- the world around me?

So this year, my Birthday Resolution (well, in addition to not eating as much cheese - check - and also to start exercising every day - check) is to live more deliberately, to make moments matter, and to choose paths that force me to live in the larger world, instead of staying tucked in my living room, with the television for company.



(This post includes pics, so you lovely email subscribers may want to pop over to the web version. Four words to make it worth your time: fun with hula hoops.)

Last weekend, some friends and I pulled off a huge feat -- a surprise graduation party for JK, who finished his grad program right before the holidays. Because he didn't go back to Alabama for the graduation ceremony, we decided we'd bring a little 'bama to him, in the form of fried chicken, okra, collards and cheap beer:

Our friend Adam is a semi-professional hula hooper (such things do exist, yes). He makes his own hoops and brought his nifty light-up one to the party -- the first pic is his wife, Stef; the second pic is Adam:

JK's parents came up from North Carolina for the festivities, as did friends from Chicago and Alabama. The best part was seeing JK's face when we arrived at Katy's house (ostensibly to "help move a dresser" at 7 p.m. on a Saturday), and his good friend Brian from Alabama answered the door.

I couldn't have pulled it off without the help of some very dear and patient friends (especially this one). Not to mention I now have enough left-over mac and cheese to last the rest of the year.