MN and AZ

This post is not about therapy at all and just my observations about living in Minnesota and Arizona.

One thing that’s weirdly similar is that growing up in Minnesota I was used to the idea that there is a season of the year where you can’t do things normally and the weather factors very much into your everyday life. I’m sure someone coming from Hawaii or Los Angeles or even Tennessee would have a shocking experience coming to either MN or AZ, but honestly if you grow up in either place I believe you get a certain awareness that The Weather is a force that you need to plan for and take precautions around. When I first moved here, I started asking around (I mean I was asking people at the bank and the auto shop, anyone) about how to take care of my car, weatherize my home, and make sure I stay physically safe. So here’s a primer on dealing with either extreme season in both states:

Winter in MN – I’m an expert, ask me anything.

Concerns are about getting stranded on the highway in a snowstorm, being stuck at home as your car may not start on a very cold day (just call in to work and go back inside), or worse, you may be snowed in by the plow (gotta dig it out) so you need proper equipment. By the way, when I talk about a “very cold day” I mean in excess of -20 F or -30 C. Anything more than that is normal and you just wear a hat, gloves, coat and good wool socks under your rubber-bottom boots. Frostbite is real, don’t leave exposed skin on fingers or face if it’s below -10, and don’t hang out outside longer than you need to.

Equipment you need includes these clothing items and rock salt, wiper fluid, de-icer fluid, a windshield scraper, as well as a wide, metal-tipped shovel (for the pavement) and a small shovel for digging your car out that you keep in your car. Don’t try and use a garden shovel cause it won’t work. Months you have to worry about are December through March, with the worst being January and February. Basically you want the salt for your sidewalk so you don’t fall on ice, which is worst in the colder months (Jan and Feb) and the shovel for the heavy snows, which are worst in the warmer winter months (March & April). November and December also count as winter but the snow is not a big deal. Some people keep kitty litter in their car trunk to “melt” snow under their car wheels, I advise on using your car mats to help you get unstuck. I’ve seen it done and done it myself and it works.

Drive slow and pump your brakes when you stop if it’s any point between November and April, I don’t care what’s on the ground. Just do it. Expect your car to have the bottom rust out in 3-5 years and probably have a few fender benders cause of ice. Watch the forecast for snow and call in sick if it’s gonna be more than 3″. Be forewarned that between January and April the forecasters will say a range of 2″ to 42″ and you have to just roll the dice. Don’t accept a job that’s more than 20 minutes away from home (in good weather) cause that turns into 6 hours in snow, and they will ask you to come to work in the snow (maybe not with COVID? Hard to say). Drivers are polite to an annoying fault. They will stop at a 4-way stop and even though it’s their turn, they’ll be “nice” and motion for you to go ahead. Then you’ll start going and then they’ll go. IT’S THE WORST.

Weather is dry, extremely dry, and it’ll affect your skin and hair. Amazingly, MN winter weather was worse on my skin and hair than AZ summer. I would have skin on my knuckles crack and bleed every winter due to dryness. Get some O’Keefe’s lotion, it’s the only thing that ever worked for me while living in Hoth.

Weatherizing your home – in late October, you should put coverings on your windows. If you have a nice, new house, you may not need to, but many houses have “storm windows” that are a thicker version of regular windows that keep in heat and withstand high winds and storms. You can insulate your windows with bubble wrap or cling wrap or a kit you buy at the hardware store. Ugly but it works. Save money on heat by doing this and turning your thermostat down.

Buildings are super insulated and built with all necessities indoors in case of severe cold or snowy weather. Many things are “weatherized” to withstand water over the seasons as rust is a concern.

Winter in AZ

Have a cardigan you wear in the morning and leave it in your car or purse during the day. Keep your SPF on and make sure you still drink water. Have a Four Peaks on your adobe balcony overlooking your Saguaros and you’re golden. There’s probably a golf tournament going on so maybe check that out.

Summer in AZ – I’m by no means an expert in Arizona precautions yet but this is what I’ve learned.

Um yeah it’s hot as hell. Like the surface of the sun but inside an oven. I’m talking highs of 115 F or 46 C. HOT. The interesting thing is, that it sounds hotter than it actually feels. My Minnesotan self heard that number and thought, “What? Doesn’t the blood BOIL at that temp? How can you LIVE!?” Of course it’s not comfortable at 115, but it’s not lethal or scary unless you’re doing exercise, in the sun (shade is important here!) not drinking water, or in the middle of the day.

Basically, adapt your habits. Do your outside tasks in the morning, cause once it gets hot, it stays hot. Hottest time of day is between 12 – 4 PM and in the sun. Months you have to worry about are July through September, but it’s pretty hot in June and October in midday too. If you wanna sit on your deck and drink in the shade, it’s not unbearable but you probably shouldn’t stay out too long. The good thing is that yard work doesn’t seem as intense since there are no leaves to rake or usually no lawns to mow. Drink twice as much water as you think you need. Don’t park your car in the direct sun, and if you have to do it, put a sun shade on the windshield so your steering wheel doesn’t burn your hands off.

Equipment you need – a sun shade for the windshield, sunscreen (with a REAL SPF, no 15 out here. And I don’t care how tan or dark you are, wear that every day and reapply it every 2 hours) sunglasses, baseball cap or other shade hat, good water bottle. Believe me I can FEEL the difference when I go out without sunscreen and when I do, I can literally feel my skin burning out here. Weather is dry here but it doesn’t hurt you too much with your skin and hair. Make sure you have moisturizer you put on your face when your skin feels tight, and use some hand cream and body lotion when necessary but it’s not too dire.

Car maintenance – you need to pump your tires with air like once every 1-2 weeks, depending on where you park the car most of the day. Heat and dry air wreak havoc on rubber so you’ll probably replace your tires once a year. Don’t keep things in your car that can melt – like chapstick, plastic, or groceries. From the highways it looks like cars have blowouts all the time on the highway, but in no way does this approach the danger that is MN roads in winter. Roads are a seamless, pothole-less dream. Drivers are another story – they love to go fast and cut you off, and there’s like 5 lanes in the highway so watch out. You put on your blinker and people are like, “Yeah, no.” (BTW I realize that “Yeah, no” is a uniquely Midwestern statement. It means “You think you’re gonna do this, but I say NO!” in a passively polite way to anyone outside the Midwest.)

Monsoon season – from June to August there are wind and rain storms called “haboobs” (Arab word) where sand gets whipped all around and the rain can accumulate on the streets. Even though the amount overall of rain falling at a time seems miniscule for a Midwesterner, (3 to 5 inches, or 7.5 to 12.5 cm) because the roads are dry and slick with oil, the water sits on top and doesn’t soak in and can cause a car to hydroplane. Super dangerous. Use MN brake-pumping skills, go slow, and try to avoid driving when there’s heavy rain in forecast.

Weatherizing – keep your shades drawn if they’re facing the sun during the day. Don’t open the windows unless it’s early morning or late at night so the heat doesn’t come in. If you see in the forecast there’ll be a haboob, consider bringing some breakable stuff inside (glass tables, vases, etc) or putting it against the wall so it doesn’t get knocked over. Get a humidifier for inside to help out with skin and hair. Don’t go outside in a haboob because there can be particles in the dust that will make you sick.

Buildings are not too insulated and often made out of adobe or clay-like materials which release heat and can keep in cold from AC. The highest level you’ll probably be on is the 3rd – 5th floor. Things may be “weatherized” to withstand dust or dry weather.

Summer in MN

Watch out for mosquitos, poison ivy, and humidity, other than that you’re golden. Have a Summit and sit on your wooden 3-season porch overlooking your oak trees and lilac bushes. There’s probably a fishing opener happening you can check out.

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