I loved growing up in the Midwest and raising my children there.

     The winters, however, were another story.
     Extreme cold, broken pipes, ice on sidewalks and roads, snowstorms that kept people stuck inside until someone could plow them out, and power outages were not pleasant. Sometimes they were downright scary. In fact, the weather-related cancellations of events made life uncertain. The worst time I can remember was the weekend of my father’s funeral in a February. A huge snow and ice storm blanketed the Midwest, my power went out for three days, and my children and small grandchildren were stuck in airports all over the country trying to get home. After that experience, I vowed that if I could live in a warm place in the winter, I would.

Phoenix has gorgeous sunsets. I’m told it’s the dust.

     It helped that all my children eventually ended up in the Phoenix, Arizona area. They remembered those winters too. I knew I raised smart kids.
     Now I sit at my computer in January and I can hear the plop-plop of rain failing outside the window. I don’t mind it at all and am struck by the irony of the current weather map where no precipitation is happening anywhere else on the US map. Phoenix, today, is the precipitation capital of the country. Amazing! In all the years I have lived here or visited, I have not seen rain like this. The early traffic report has numerous accidents since Phoenix roads are not made to handle lots of rain and people aren’t used to driving in it. We are setting a Phoenix record for rain today.

     Living in Arizona in the winter and having friends back in Illinois is like being in a different universe. Unless I see the snowstorms on television, I’m not aware of what is going on in the middle of the country. The first winter I lived in Phoenix I was in awe of every morning when the sun came streaming in the windows and the skies were always blue. The gray, Illinois skies were a thing of the past. As one of my parents said on a visit one time, “It doesn’t seem like a place where people should live. No character-building from rugged winters or wet, soggy springs. Sunshine every day just isn’t natural.”  Perhaps correct, but I’m getting used to it!

     Driving is interesting in Phoenix. Back in Illinois I can drive across my entire town in about ten minutes. In Phoenix I spend three times the money on gas compared to back home. It is a city of freeways. The first winter I spent in the city, I drove mostly on the surface roads because the freeways were daunting. The second winter I ventured out on the freeways occasionally, but I always felt like I should pray before leaving the entrance ramp with a green light indicating I could go. Now I drive on the freeways most days and it has become quite ordinary. Even rush hour traffic is do-able.
     I have threatened to live with each of my three children one month a winter. I know, however, that this plan would be cruel and unusual punishment for all of us. So I rent a house, and so far I have lived in three different houses out of four winters. That experience is always a challenge, filled with surprises. This year the plumbing under the kitchen sink flooded the floor, the refrigerator had a cracked part that flooded the kitchen floor, the smoke alarms [five of them] signaled a squawking low battery sound [always at night], and no one had changed a dead light bulb in years. I had my work cut out for me. Lately, no strange noises and no floods. Ah, peace and quiet.

     Even more satisfying is meeting former students and friends from back home for lunch. It is amazing how many Illinois people live in Phoenix. In fact, I have yet to meet anyone, anywhere in Phoenix, who has lived here for all of his or her life. They are often from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, or Nebraska. When I tell them I am from Illinois, they assume I am from Chicago or the suburbs. I guess downstate does not exist in the minds of non-Illinoisans..or, actually, in the minds of Chicago natives.
     The rain is starting to slow down and the gentle patter of it on the window and rocks in the yard is stopping. Another “terrible storm” is over in the Valley of the Sun.