July 27, 2012

The Summer Slump

For many this is turning into the hottest summer ever. Pictures of folks baking on the East Coast or Mid West fill the evening news. Here in Arizona the summer monsoon rains have been too sporadic to green up the lawns or lessen the humidity for even a few hours. Summer is in full bloom (or full withering). My satisfying retirement is getting a little brown around the edges.

The heat doesn't bother me terribly because there is no point in complaining about something that is a fact of life. I suppose someone in Minot, North Dakota or Duluth, Minnesota feels the same about cold and snow. If you live there that's what you get. That being said, I will be spending a month next summer in Oregon. After 27 years it is time for a nice, long, summer break.

No, what puts me in a summer slump is the cessation of most activities I enjoy. It is not the time of year for picnics, long walks, or strolling the paths of the Desert Botanical Gardens. My back yard sits empty most of the time, except for playing with our dog Bailey for brief periods of time.

I miss several church-oriented activities that stop for the summer. Our small group is a made up of a dozen great people who enjoy each other's company. From September until May we get together twice a month. But, with many of our members gone on vacations on and off all summer, trying to keep it going now is impossible.

I take part in a weekly Bible study at a friend's home that also stops for the summer for the same reason. We are a handful of folks who are good friends and are willing to discuss and argue issues of importance. I miss those exchanges.

Betty and I enjoy seeing traveling Broadway theater performances and the occasional symphony concert. Both have shut down as the city empties out. The theater stages and orchestra seats will re-fill in September.

I will be the first to admit I watch much too much Netflix in the summer. Yes, I have stopped watching regular TV, though the Olympics will draw me back. Except for the basic channels we had cable TV removed almost two years ago and haven't really missed it. But, watching a movie and a documentary on Netflix every night is really no different than cable TV is it? I am spending too many hours each night streaming something. It is too hot to have dinner outside, so there we sit, eating and watching.

How do I fill in the summer slump? On a positive note, I start guitar lessons this week. I have tried to teach myself using books and DVDs. But, I always get to a certain point, get frustrated at my progress and quit, only to restart a few months later. Regular reader, Chuck, convinced me that paying for lessons is the best way to get over that hump and really enjoy my playing. So, stand back, Eric Clapton. The new guitar star is tuning up.

Blogging helps tremendously. The need to produce three fresh posts a week keeps my mind active. As regular readers know, I am forming some really important friendships with fellow bloggers. There is always something to learn so I stay busy. And, I have begun my new book. That will occupy plenty of time between now and it's expected availability this fall.

Three blogging friends have produced (or will shortly) books. Sonia Marsh, Dave Bernard, and later this fall, Galen Pearl, are joining the ranks of published authors. Each has asked me to read and review their efforts. I love to do that, especially for friends. So, in addition to my three or four mysteries and current affairs books on my nightstand, I am adding the ones from Sonia, Dave, and Galen.

Betty and I are exploring different restaurants in the area this summer. We tend to get stuck going to the same handful of places. Now, we look for a  restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale or downtown Phoenix that serves a cuisine we haven't tried before. If it has happy hour prices on appetizers even better. It takes motivation to get a little dressed up and drive an extra distance. But, the results have been enjoyable.

We have switched to a mostly vegetarian menu for our evening meals. Posts from Sharon at Midlife Mom Musings blog have convinced me to give it a try. We will still have meat as the main course one time a week. But, we will give vegetable-based soups and main dishes a shot. 


That is how I handle the annual summer slump. What about you? In most of the country this is the time for all sorts of outdoor activities. Has the excessive heat put a damper in those plans or are you unaffected? Do you sort of shut down for the summer and gear back up after Labor Day? or, is this when you get all sorts of projects done?


Let me know. Maybe you'll have an idea or activity that gets my summer blood pumping and my satisfying retirement moving forward.

36 comments:

  1. Your summer sounds like our winter. Although our summer is strangely becoming more like your summer. For me, having the a/c on at the shore is like being stuck inside during the winter... I hate it.
    We've used it more this summer already than we've ever used it all season. Just weird.

    Can't wait for your video guitar solo!
    b

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  2. I started guitar lessons a few days ago and my fingers are sore!

    It is too early to predict if the extreme heat this summer is just a taste of the way it is going to be from now on, or just a cyclical aberration. But, with the number of heat records set over the past few years, I'm afraid you may have to become best buddies with that AC unit. When parts of Kansas and Nebraska are hotter than Phoenix then something is up.

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  3. Thanks for the shout out Bob! But funny thing, I just wrote about how I stocked up on meats that were on sale! :)!! Thanks for the reminder...must bring back vegetable dinners....

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  4. Hmmm, any possibility is was my vegetarian lifestyle posts that convinced you to try giving up meat for a bit? I believe our wonderful blogger Sharon is still a carnivore based on her recent meat stock up blitz post. :-)

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    1. Yes, she just admitted that! I'm not a vegan and have no plans to give up meat, dairy or cheese. We are already down to meat only 1 or 2 days a week. But, our vegetarian meals are in the rut so I'm looking for inspiration.

      Maybe you or Mike can give me pointers on how to get more taste into things like squash and spinach! What spices or ingredients are good for giving veggies a kick?

      Does PB&J count as vegetarian?

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    2. Oh Bob, we eat so well it borders on riduculous! If you are not feeling like you are getting flavor from your food, it's possible your taste buds need to detox first from processed food, fats or sugar. After a few days of eating more cleanly, your taste buds will once again be able to detect the more subtle, but no less wonderful, flavors that whole foods provide.

      Search CookingLight.com, BHG.com or FoodNetwork.com for vegetarian dishes. There are tons out there. You can also stick with what you know, but just substitute in faux meat substitutes like faux chicken, faux hamburger, faux sausage, faux hot dogs, etc.

      We still eat "normal" food, we just swap out any meat for a faux or vegetable substitute. :-)

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    3. Excellent insight, Mike. I'll check out those sites for some new ideas. Enjoy the rest of your RV trip!

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    4. I love a bundle of herbs added to almost everything. Less salt is possible this way too. That is always good.

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  5. I just picked a book at the library, "The Idiot's Guide to Plant-based Nutrition." It should help me with ideas and determination. We'll see. Betty and I made vegetable lasagna a few nights ago that was rather bland. I must be missing some secret spice or something.

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  6. For a long time I thought I was the only one suffering from "summer slump." I have recently discovered that's not the case, and was doubly glad to read this entry. Here in the suburbs of Washington, DC, it is so hot and humid in the summer. It *looks* pretty outside, but don't try and go out in it because you'll melt into a pool of butter. Feeling stuck in the house on a pretty day can be depressing. Remember when we were kids and summer was something to look forward to -- as opposed to now, when I feel that summer is something to be gotten through? I try and vacation as much as possible in the hot months, preferably somewhere further north. P.S. For the veggie lasagna, if you roast(or even grill) the vegetables in some lovely olive oil before putting them in, it can make a big difference.

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    1. We have sunshine with few clouds most of the time so on the days there are clouds it is a special treat! It always looks so pretty outside...if you are in a fire suit.

      I'll try the roasting idea for taste. Mike's suggestion above that my taste buds may need to adapt seems logical, too. It is too hot to consider a hot grill. That is dragged out for winter time when a 70 degree day is perfect for charcoal.

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    2. Excellent suggestion on the roasting of vegetables. I do that as well. Heat your oven to 400, sprinkle your vegetables with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and place on a cookie sheet. (I cover mine with tin foil first to aid in cleanup.) Bake for 20 - 45 minutes depending on the vegetable (less for asparagus, Italian squash, peppers, etc., more for potatoes, broccoli, Brussell sprouts, carrots, butternut squash, etc), stirring them around halfway through. Flavors pop out big time, it's quite amazing.

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    3. Just a thought...my son even roasted broccoli and makes broccoli into a puree very like mashed potatoes. I love when he is home from China. I always get so inspired...but the broccoli thing...no so much!

      b

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  7. I'm 62 not yet retired but have taken up guitar also. I have several books but probably the best is "Guitar for Dummies", most info and very helpful, ties all the different styles together. I have to admit I've started taking a few lessons but my wife helps me too (music major and church musician) my goal is playing at church and keeping the mind fresh(?). Just as a encouragement, the fingers do get better when the calluses build up.

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    1. I need the calluses and to stretch my fingers so that pesky 4th finger goes where it is supposed to.

      I did have the Guitar for Dummies book for one of my earlier attempts at self-teaching. Then I switched to the Hal Leonard series which, as it turns out, is what my teacher prefers.

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    2. I also have the Hal Leonard books one and two, very good. A 'Guitar Aerobics' and some other 'Easy' moldy oldies (mostly 60's stuff), they all have a spot on the couch in our great rooom that serves as the practice room. Watch out Paul (McCartney)!

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  8. This is the first time ever that I am spending an excessive amount of my time on a beach. I hate the sun, but because of the +90 temps inland, I have no choice. I sit under an umbrella, with tons of SPF 30 or 50 slathered on and other than an occasional dip in the ocean or a walk on the beach (feet must be in the water or it's unbearable)that's about all I can muster up to do this summer. I detest air conditioning and being cooped up inside my home.

    Also, due to the excessive heat in the northeast, the air quality has been poor. I find myself disoriented, fatiqued and not wanting to do anything.

    I started watching movies that have snow scenes!

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    1. Dr. Zhivago is always good to induce a chill.

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  9. I had never thought about a slump for those of you that remain in the desert in the summer. It reflects what I would feel in the winter in Oregon. I had always blamed it on the darkness but I always knew it was something more...it did feel like a sense of loss.

    The point is that taking a break is all about what does on inside our heads. It is harder when we don't have the social routine. No guitar for me but I am now learning about my new camera...it is a hobby that your wife got me enthused about again. I love that feeling that I get when I am changing in some way.

    Be well. Loved the post. Food for thought is always a good thing.

    Did you see Grandma's Briefs "Good News" blog post today. I liked that one too.

    Barbara

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    1. Your husband can blame Betty if you suddenly disappear behind the lens. We will be taking several of the photos taken in Oregon and have them printed on canvas for display in the house. We have done that before with some shots in Yellowstone and liked the effect.

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  10. Have used the air-conditioning more this summer than previous here in TN. While I love the sun, the heat has crimped our style. We have a large outdoor patio and nice enclosed sunroom, neither of which is getting much usage. I fear it will be that way until about the fall. Oh well, a small price to pay for escaping all the ills in the Northeast. Stay cool, my friends (spoken like the Dos Equis beer commercial guy).

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  11. It's been extremely hot in Ontario. We usually enjoy a mild summer on the shores of Lake Huron -- warm days and cool nights. Not this year -- most days are 90+ with a slight cool down at night. Swimming in the lake feels like swimming in the Caribbean. Sitting inside with the AC seems wrong when the summer is so short but some days have been intolerable. Farmers are very worried about corn and soy bean crops as there has been little rain.
    It's hard to find the energy to do required tasks!
    These complaints may seem trite when compared to the temperatures you tolerate during an Arizona summer but for Canada, this summer is unusual. It makes me wonder what will happen as the earth's temperature increases another 1 or 2 degrees -- yikes!!!

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  12. I have lived many places, farthest west was Denver though. I find your descriptions of life in Phoenix in the summer rather discouraging! I was happy to leave FL for NC, present locale, to have seasons again. At this point I think seasons are important to us, and preferably no extremes. Summer had been pretty mild here until last few weeks.

    Speaking of, we just returned from a long trip that included our son's place in Tanzania. No need for AC, no heat, what could be better than that? And on the subject of vegetarianism, he's moved in that direction out of necessity. The meat available is more than a little sketchy where he is. On the other hand, his kitchen overflows with fresh fruit and vegetables from his garden that would make a die hard meat eater reasonably happy. Bananas ripe from the tree, avocados, lemons, mangos, papaya, on and on. And it's all well cared for by his full time six day a week gardener...for $16 US a week! Same for the maid. Anyway, it was an interesting take on climate and food for this American!

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    1. It took me a few summers to get used to the heat in Phoenix. Now, it is just a fact of life. I so enjoy the late October through mid May weather that I've made my peace with summer.

      Tanzania? That is quite a distance from home. Glad your son is doing well. With that variety of fresh produce he is really amazingly blessed.

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  13. Here in Indiana, the summer has been harsh and dry. My husband is outside in the garden (large garden) most of the day. I head out early morning or late evening. Most of my volunteer activities still go on during the summer..with just periodic breaks. We keep busy putting up food that we have grown. But this summer, we have struggled with the drought and watering takes lots of time. We are on a well and hopefully,it is as good as we think it is. We can lot of things. This year, we already had lots in jars from last year thankfully. Therefore, the skimpy harvest of vegetables will not be felt as much. We are putting lots of fruit in the freezer. We have cherries, rhubarb, peaches and blackberries. This fall we will also freeze pumpkin and persimmons. My husband loves to share the veggies he grows, so he gets to drop off and visit with neighbors. He is locally known as the Produce Man. We also spend time at our county fair with the grandchildren exhibiting in 4-H and showing cattle. That takes preparation time also. We go to our granchildren's summer sports and the one grandson spends one to two days a week at our house while his parents are at work. We have found that we are reading more this summer because of the heat. Not pleasant sitting on the porch in 90 or 100 degree weather. So, I frequent the library regularly.
    Good luck with those guitar lessons. I really admire your venturing into something new. I need to be more adventuresome myself.
    Thanks again for always having such interesting "reads"on your blog. Glad to hear that you are planning your month in Oregon next summmer. I am sure you will really enjoy.
    I have jokingly said here in Indiana this summer that a person could get Cabin Fever very easily:)

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    1. I don't remember the exact percentage, but more than half the country is suffering from a serious drought this summer. Food prices are high and will climb much higher because of the lack of rain. I envy your ability to produce so much on your own property.

      Tell Produce Man to put on plenty of sunscreen!

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  14. While I don't love the heat that moves into S. California from mid-July to mid-September, I do love spending as much time at the beach in our RV as possible. We live 35 minutes from my favorite summer beach campsite, where we hike, ride our bikes and spend lots of time looking at the ocean.

    We also do most of our mountain RV'ing in the summer as well, to positively avoid any change encounters with snow!

    What's also different during the summer is the need to wake up early in order to get our runs and bike rides in before the heat of the day strikes. We often end up taking midday naps as a result, very different from what occurs the rest of the year.

    There are non-stop city and county run outdoor activities as well, such as concerts in the park, outdoor restaurant fests, parades, street fairs and movies in the park, as well as summer traditions such as The Hollywood Bowl and Pageant of the Masters.

    When summer ends I'm generally a bit sad, even though I enjoy the other seasons here as well. There's just something about summer that continues to bring out the carefree spirit in me.

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    1. Your recently retired-RV lifestyle seems to be suiting you well. You and Tamara have a tremendously active schedule and I'll bet you don't slack off much during the rest of the year. My wife and I will have our first RV experience in September, due in part to how enjoyable you make it sound.

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  15. You've gotten a lot of great comments on this post. Summer in Oregon, as you know, is pretty much the opposite of yours. We get into a winter slump here. Summer is a time to be outside and active. I think part of our seasonal slump is that we try to carry on all year just the same. In your part of the country, it is natural to slow down and rest in the heat, just as it is natural here to slow down in the gray, rainy days of winter. Finding a rhythm that suits us as the seasons change will ease the slump, I think.

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    1. Did you have drizzle and cool temps today? Could you send some to the Midwest and Northeast?

      You are absolutely right...it is all about matching personal rhythms to the season.

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  16. Bob, I started violin lessons at 58, and it was one of the best things I could do. RA has robbed me of the ability to play with facility, but at 62 I still practice 30 minutes to an hour a day. Good luck with the switch in eating. Your taste buds will change. My favorite (vegan) cookbook is QUICK-FIX VEGAN by Robin Robertson, and my husband loves the recipes there, too. You'll find flavor combinations that you might not have thought of previously, but which are scrumptious. Morever, most of the meals are quick to pull together. Eating this way is anything but bland!

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    1. The rather tasteless vegetable lasagna we made a few days ago is our leftover dinner tonight. Betty thinks she has some ways to add some flavor. We'll give it a whirl. I made a note of the menu book. Thanks.

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  17. A lot of people are jumping off the meat wagon -- see http://sightingsat60.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-meating-of-minds.html

    And congrats on taking up the guitar! We all need to keep flexing our minds, and our fingers, as we get older.

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    1. The flexing the fingers and stretching for those chords will take some time.

      I am with you, Tom. Fish and chicken may not be kosher for strict vegetarians but I think they will stay part of my diet. Red meat does weigh me down and is getting awfully expensive.

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  18. You should read "The China Study"- a very interesting book about the scientific evidence of the merits of eating vegetarian. It was an impressive scientific study. The book is a good read.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll take a look for that book.

      BTW, last night Betty added some things like sun-dried tomatoes to the rather bland vegetable lasagna and it did taste much better!

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