Blossoming

The world outside is coming to life again and so am I. As much as I try to fight it, the winter months quiet me. The long stretch of cold, sharp months make it hard to find my energy and motivation. Many of those days find me slogging through my daily routine. And I don’t even often realize what a rut I’m in until the air begins to warm, the sunshine visits more frequently and suddenly I feel as if I’m exiting a long, dark tunnel.

Spring makes me feel alive again and I know I’m not the only one. A coworker who was tanning during the last weeks of winter told me, “I know it’s bad for me. I just need the light and the warmth right now so much more than I care about the health hazards.”

Last weekend, as Kacey and I were running errands, she exuded joy when she exclaimed, “It’s so good to see the sun! It just makes me so happy!

I know what she means. Just a little sunshine and warmth is all it takes sometimes to make me realize what a cocoon I’ve been in the last several months.

It’s been warm this week. It’s been a no-jacket kind of week (and what a treat that is!) It’s been a week when I welcome the sound of the alarm clock, lace up my running shoes and head to the gym. (It’s still just a bit too dark and cold at that hour of the day to do my exercise outdoors.)  It’s been a hop in the car, roll down the windows, crank up the tunes and sing along like nobody’s watching kind of week.

The robins are back!

The robins are back!

It’s rainy and overcast this morning. And tomorrow will bring a dip in temperatures and I may have even heard there’s a slight chance of the S-word. But it’s not going to bring me down. The extended forecast calls for more spring-like temperatures. Winter’s in the rearview mirror now!

And the sun came out

The weatherman was saying last night that a big snowstorm was on its way. Yesterday, we enjoyed the one “warm-up” we were going to see in January and already, he was telling us that the weather was going back in the wrong direction. He pointed at a map of the state that was dotted with colors. The big, blue blob moving over our area signified snow; lots of it. He said this morning’s commute was going to be a mess. I only half believed him. The weather has been a presence lately, but you just never know when it will decide not to live up to the hype. Figured I’d get up at the usual time and if a snowstorm was in progress, I’d skip doing yoga and just go straight to the shower. If there was no snow, I’d exercise and go about my normal routine.

When the alarm went off, I shuffled to the family room to look out the big front window and see whether the weather guy had been right. I couldn’t quite decide. Under the glow of the street light, I could see it was definitely snowing. The flakes were tiny but the snowfall was dense and it was coming down fast. Looking across the front yard to the street though, there didn’t appear to be much accumulation. But I knew it wouldn’t take much to mess up the morning drive. So straight to the shower I went.

Within the hour, I had showered, fed the dog, prodded Jake to get up and  get a head start on his own commute. I unloaded the dishwasher, drank a cup of coffee, blow-dried my hair and applied some make up. The last thing I needed to do was make a lunch and while I was doing it, I kept an eye on the falling snow. It was obvious. The weatherman had been dead-on.

I was in my car and on my way a good forty minutes earlier than usual. The roads were covered with snow, the division of lanes indecipherable. Traffic on the freeway crawled. It took me over an hour to get to work and the sky remained dusky; no hint of the sun. My windshield wipers struggled to keep the window clear of melting snow and ice. The defroster blasted on high but couldn’t keep up with the crusts of slush and ice forming on the other side. Several times, I rolled down the side window and reached out to wipe off the snow that kept building upward where the lower portion of the driver’s side wiper was failing. (I have got to get some new wipers!) Clumps of snow flung backwards beneath the tires of the cars that surrounded me.

Driving in these conditions stresses me out. This winter, I’ve seen more stalled vehicles, spin-outs, crashes and rollovers than I can ever remember. Earlier this week, there was a car in the ditch, upside down. The scene moved along outside the passenger window in slow motion while a state trooper pulled over to help. That kind of thing freaks me out. And there are always a handful of drivers that think they’re invincible, driving faster than the flow of traffic, cutting off others, zipping from one lane to another with little regard for anyone else. I’m so tired of feeling like I’m putting my life on the line every day just to get to work.

I couldn’t breathe easy until I was safely parked in my company lot. I felt worn out before I’d even begun my work day. So when I walked in, before I took off my jacket, I decided I was not going to carry that weight around with me for the rest of my day. I poked my head into my coworker, Lori’s cube and with more enthusiasm than I really felt, I smiled big and said, “Isn’t this a beautiful day? Don’t you just love these Minnesota winters?”

Playing right along, Lori exclaimed, “Oh, yes! The snow is so pretty! What a lovely day this is!”

And then we laughed and rolled our eyes and went off to work. But honestly, I felt lighter and brighter than I had just a few moments earlier. The snow continued to fall outside while I immersed myself in my job. And when it was time to go home, the sun was shining fiercely, casting dramatic tree shadows over a new, crusty layer of snow. And it was cold again. Really cold. But the sun was shining. Not for much longer. But it was shining. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask.

Sun 2

And again with the weather!

20140126Boy, the weather sure is demanding our attention this winter, isn’t it?

My weekend did not go as planned, thanks to the weather. I was looking forward to some family time. Brad sent a text message early in the week, asking what we had planned for the weekend. I responded, “Nothing much. Just bowling. You thinking of coming home?”

“Maybe.”

I figured he was bored. I think all of the various hunting seasons are over and it’s probably too cold to go ice fishing. But I was more than happy to let the kids come here and hang out for a couple of days. We let Kacey know that Brad and Heather might be coming home, and soon she was contemplating coming home from school after her last class of the week on Thursday. I love that my kids like each other enough to rearrange plans to spend time together. There was a time when they would have done anything possible not to have to be in the same place at the same time.

Brad’s maybe turned into definitely and Kacey was home by dinner time on Thursday. It had been a really challenging week at work and all I wanted was to walk away for a couple of days and spend time with my kids. Wouldn’t you know it, though, the weather forecast began to look a little sketchy by Friday morning. Brad didn’t think he’d be able to leave work before seven o’clock and he sent me a text message that afternoon saying that if he and Heather couldn’t get on the road before the snow began to fall in their area, they would probably just stay home. I understood. As much as I love to see them, I don’t want them risking their safety to get here. The highway that takes them from there to here is notorious for white-out conditions when it snows and I always worry when they’re out on the road.

In the end, it wasn’t snow that kept them away, but sleet. Brad wisely chose to avoid traveling several hours in the dark in such slippery conditions. I was disappointed, but relieved that I wouldn’t have to worry about them.

And so a quieter couple of days loomed ahead. Still, Kacey was home and I wasn’t the only who was happy about that. Lucy knew she was in for some pampering.

So instead of big family breakfasts, Kacey and I cooked up an omelet to share on Saturday morning. Instead of dogs racing and chasing in the back yard, Lucy soaked up the attention Kacey showered on her and only her. Instead of everyone being home, Jake went to work on Saturday to earn some extra money. Earlier in the week, I envisioned family movie nights, when we would all get into our comfy clothes and wrap up in fleece blankets in front of the living room t.v. Some of us would fall asleep before the movie’s end. Instead, Kacey and I discovered a new series to watch on Netflix. By the third episode, I was losing the fight to keep my eyes open!

I pictured games around the kitchen table and imagined conversations full of laughter and so loud that one would overlap another. But those things weren’t to be. Instead, Kacey and I got out of the house. In spite of the cold and wind, we did a little bit of shopping. She had plans for some of her Christmas money. We grocery shopped and spent time in the kitchen making granola and a batch of soup for her to take back to school. We missed Brad, Heather and Dacotah-Dog because we didn’t get to see them in person this weekend. But thanks to the wonders of technology, we got to see them and talk a while on FaceTime. (For the record, dogs do not appreciate FaceTime. Neither Dacotah nor Lucy was interested in talking into the iPhone camera!)

We made the best of the change in plans and we had fun. Kacey headed back to school after dinner this evening, but not before making Brad and Heather promise to give it another try in two weeks. I sure hope the weather cooperates next time!

Snowfall

The deep freeze went away. Last weekend, Lucy reveled in the freedom to run and play in the back yard without freezing her cute little paws off. I think we made it past the thirties! And believe it or not, I saw a few people in shorts on Saturday!

007b

Looking for a stick in the brush pile

Sniffing scents in the snow

Sniffing scents in the snow

Last night and early this morning, a snowfall came to our area. It was pretty typical as far as snowfalls in Minnesota go and it left a few inches of clean, white fluff on the ground and a bit of a dip in the temperature. During the week, I get up for the day while it’s still dark outside. There’s a street light on the corner across from our house. So the first thing I did was to go to the window and watch big, heavy, wet snowflakes rain down in a slant beneath the glow of the street light. It was pretty. And I knew the drive to work would be slow.

It was a small challenge just getting out of the driveway. The lines separating the lanes on streets and freeways were invisible. I listened to the radio, laughed at the morning show antics and sang along to favorite songs as my car crawled along in traffic along with hundreds of others. It’s a good thing I left early. My usual twenty-minute to half-hour drive took an hour.

It was a busy day at work and I was immersed. Lunch break passed me by. I ate while I continued working at my desk and it was time to go home before I realized it. When I went out to my car, it was a simple pleasure to see daylight. The sun has been scarce lately or I’ve stayed at the office long enough to miss it. Thankfully, the roads were cleaner and drier for the drive home. Unfortunately, the driveway wasn’t.

The unspoken division of duties at our house means Mark usually handles the outside stuff and I cover the inside stuff. I expected him to tackle the snow in the driveway before he went to work this afternoon, but he ended up starting earlier than planned. The driveway was not visible when I pulled up after work. I had to gun it to get my car up the slight incline and into the garage. I knew that when  Jake got home, he would have trouble getting his car through the crusty lip of snow that, thanks to the snowplow, edged the end of our driveway. And then he’d have to navigate the blanket of snow the covered the rest of it and into the turn-around where he parks at the end of each day. I thought I might clear it out for him before he got home.

My parents have a snow blower. This is what Mark uses to clear our driveway and theirs, when he does the snow removal. I don’t know how to run it, and besides, it’s finicky. I bundled up and grabbed one of the many snow shovels from the selection hanging on the garage wall.

Our driveway doesn’t seem so big. Until I’m shoveling it by hand. Then it feels enormous! As I scraped and pushed and scooped up snow, I heard the whir of snow blowers all around the neighborhood. I wondered if nobody just shovels snow anymore. Neighbors drove by periodically, honked and waved. True or not, I felt like somewhat of an oddity. About halfway through the job, I was sweating, sniffling, and the cold air felt sharp in my lungs. I was getting tired! Thankfully, Jake pulled into the neighborhood just then. He left his car on the street for the time being and grabbed another shovel. Together we cleared the rest of the snow away. It’s true what they say. Many hands make light work.

Just before we finished, I realized that dusk had fallen and the moon was hanging in the sky, just behind the neighbor’s tree. It was picturesque.  I stopped a moment to appreciate the moon, recognizing the hush of winter around us. I might not have noticed the moon or the hush had I been pushing a snow blower, and for sure wouldn’t have if I had been warm and cozy in the house instead of outside in the cold.

Winter Moon

Winter Moon

That moon can come back any time it likes. I won’t mind if the snow doesn’t.

Shivering, Coping, Playing Around

While all the schools and many businesses were closed during the past couple of extremely cold days, I was not one of the lucky ones whose employer shut down for the weather. And even though I joked sarcastically about the loosening of dress code standards which allowed employees to wear hoodies in order to cope with the temps, I was grateful to be able to dress more casually. I put on jeans and a couple of layers of shirts and stayed pretty warm throughout the day.

I tossed some snow pants, thick fleece mittens, boots and earmuffs into the back seat of my car before I left for work yesterday morning. On the off-chance I ended up having car trouble before arriving at work, at least I could dress appropriately for extended exposure to the elements. Those of us who actually made it in to work congratulated one another. A few coworkers took the day off or worked from home because their cars wouldn’t start in the cold. At the office, there was a steady stream of people coming and going to the parking lot throughout the day to start their cars. I thought my nine-year old car might be a bit reluctant to start in this cold, but she fired up like a champ. I later learned that it might not be such a good idea to start the car for only a short period of time. Something about not letting it run long enough… moisture forming … causing problems the next time you want to start the car. Or so said my coworker’s husband. Today I didn’t start my car between arriving and leaving. And it still started up like a champ when it was time to go home.

When I got home after work yesterday, I found Mark, Kacey and Connor in the kitchen. Mark and Kacey were preparing the makings for Chef’s salads. Connor was boiling water. Slipping a hot pad on his hand and grabbing the pot by its handle, he said to me, “Come here! Watch this! I’m gonna make it snow.”

I grabbed my cell phone and turned on the video function while following Connor out the sliding glass door. I’d always wanted to try this myself, but never did. Connor flung the boiling water up into the frigid evening air and…

Well, it didn’t exactly look like snow to me. More like fog. But still kinda cool.

After  a lovely Chef salad dinner, it was time to go bowling. As the league president, I’d received plenty of inquiries from fellow bowlers, wondering if bowling would be cancelled. But the bowling alley was open. Leagues were on! I passed the word that we weren’t cancelling, but anyone who didn’t feel safe driving should feel free to stay home and we’d use their blind score. Most everyone showed up and we had fun. I made use of the remote starter on my car (spare key) so I could let it warm up, safely locked, out in the frigid parking lot before I got in and drove home.

Oh, it is cold! Bone-chilling cold! A FaceB00k friend made a prediction. Nine months from now, there’s going to be  baby boom. Maybe so! It may be cold, but we find ways to keep busy in spite of it! :-)

Cold Weather Crisis

We’ve reached that point in the winter; the point in which the cold weather becomes big news. The Cold has been one of the top stories on the nightly news and The Cold was worthy of space on the front page of the local section of today’s paper. The Cold is so cold that the governor decided already on Friday to close the state’s schools on Monday.

Weather 20140105It really is seriously cold, and it’s going to continue like this for the next few days. From the radio and television, we hear constant warnings about dressing appropriately for the outdoors, taking extra caution in letting our pets outside and being aware of the needs of the elderly during this time of extreme weather. Makes me glad I bought those big furry hats for all the kids last Christmas!

Bomber Hats 20140105

We wore these today to go take care of our elderly and their pet. Seems my parents’ dog, Little Bear, got his short little legs stuck in the snow and couldn’t get back to the door to come in. My dad, who has just returned home after several days in the hospital with a bout of the flu and is still weak, thought it was a good idea to go traipsing around out in The Cold and the snow to rescue the dog. Suffice it to say that this didn’t all turn out so well. A frantic phone call from Mom sent us running to help Dad up out of the snow where he’d fallen and get him back inside. Thank God we’re only a block away.

After everyone was back in the house safe and sound, I’ll admit it – I was mad! I proceeded to gently scold my dad about his poor decision and reminded him that his health was already in a fragile condition. He needed to remember to stay inside, and now more than ever, call us for help if necessary. We’re right here! We could have come to rescue the dog, easily.

Mark suggested we get a rope or a cable for the dog and hook it up to the railing right outside the front door so that Little Bear can only go so far from the house. If he gets into trouble, my parents won’t have to go chase after him. They can just lead him back with the rope. I volunteered to run to a nearby store and pick up a rope.

Dad wanted to argue that this wasn’t necessary. He insisted that tomorrow, when The Cold will be even colder, that he will just put Bear on his leash and stand outside with him. We argued back and forth, with me reminding Dad that neither he nor Mom should be outside of the house at all for the next few days. My dad is stubborn and sometimes there’s no talking any sense to him. Mark left in frustration. I stayed behind and found myself in a role reversal with my dad. An image came to mind of one of the many times as a kid, when my smart mouth landed me in the family kitchen and on the receiving end of one of Dad’s famous lectures. But this time, I was the one lecturing. I don’t ever lose my cool with my dad, stubborn as he can be, but as he continued to tell me it was okay for him to go outside with the dog tomorrow, I lost it. I said, “Dad, you just got out of the hospital! Have you watched the news? Do you know how suddenly this weather can turn dangerous if you’re not careful? Tomorrow, I’ll be at work. So will Mark. We won’t be here to come bail you out and I do not want you outside with the dog, even for two minutes!”

Dad dismissively told me to do whatever I thought I had to do. I felt bad. But he is so stubborn. And I felt better about yelling at him to ensure his safety than I would have had I backed down and then something bad ended up happening to him.

“I’m sorry if this makes you mad, Dad,” I said. “I’m going to go buy a rope for Bear.”

Kacey and I headed off to Menard’s, just a mile away. We found the pet section and a nylon rope that would work just great. We stopped back home to put on boots and the big furry hats and grab some shovels. Then back at my parents’ house, we shoveled clean a patch of yard straight out from the front door. This way, Bear could get hooked up to his rope and go do his business where my parents can keep an eye on him from inside the house. After making the clearing, we hooked up the rope to the railing and brought the end of it inside the house and made sure the door would still shut. It worked. And Dad told me he wasn’t mad. I said that was good and that I only want him to be safe.

I went back home, frustrated, but relieved that the crisis had been managed. Mom called a while later. She said the rope and the cleared area of the yard worked perfectly for Bear and he had no trouble getting back to the door. And she also thanked me for yelling at Dad.

I feel better now.

 

Cold Weather Effects

The sky has been cloaked in a hazy blanket of clouds today. Even at 7:30 this morning, it seemed like it must be much earlier; the daylight was still so dim. When the sun finally peeked through for a short period of time, it was as if through a filter. Now in the late afternoon, the sky holds a sense of foreboding. The wind picks up here and there, and I can hear ice crystals pelting the house with each gust.

I slept hard last night and only began my day just as Mark was coming home from the night shift. Brad, Heather and I lounged lazily in the living room, sipping on coffee and shivering with cold. Having had enough of the constant repeat of news on Sports Center, Brad surfed channels until he landed on The Brady Bunch. He left it there and it made me chuckle that he actually continued to watch while Heather and I each took a turn in the shower and got dressed.

I ran a few errands with Brad and Heather before they left today. We stopped at my parents’ house to visit briefly with my mom. She said Dad would be ready to come home from the hospital today, but he didn’t want her venturing out in the cold to come get him. She seemed relieved when I offered to pick him up. It’s a slight bit warmer today and doesn’t feel nearly as frigid as it has been the past few days, but still best that Mom stays inside if at all possible. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The governor announced today that schools across the state will be closed on Monday. It’s just going to be too cold to risk sending kids out to the bus stop or letting them walk to school.

Weather 20130103coldMy employer is taking extra measures to ensure their employees stay warm on Monday too. Since I have the day off, my coworker sent me a text message to let me know that an announcement was made today. Hoodies, normally banned by the corporate dress code, will be allowed in consideration of the extreme temperatures on Monday. I don’t mean to seem ungrateful, but, really? Hoodies? If my car stalls out on the side of the road in protest of the weather while I’m driving to work, am I going to be safer because I’m wearing a hoodie? Maybe I should bring my Snuggy along for the workday too.

Brad and Heather left early this afternoon to spend the rest of the weekend with her parents. After  we hugged goodbye and they’d gone, Kacey and I headed to the hospital to pick up Dad. The short drive was uneventful except for one weird encounter. Upon approaching a three-way stop, the traffic from both of the other directions was stopped. Two cars in both oncoming lanes were stopped, each with three vehicles lined up behind them. There was also one car to my left stopped on the cross street. No one was proceeding, but since they were all there ahead of me, I waited. No one moved. I looked at Kacey and she shrugged at me. I craned my neck to look all around. Was I missing something? Were there emergency vehicles approaching? Were small children or animals in the intersection?

Nope. Nothing.

Still, no one made a move to proceed. Oh-kayyyy, I said and slowly made a left turn through the intersection. Kacey continued to watch as yet another vehicle took my place, hesitated in similar confusion before finally proceeding slowly forward.

What the heck? I asked as she explained what was happening in my rearview mirror. We may never know. We’re chalking this up to stupidity caused by extreme winter. I can hardly wait to see what Monday morning rush hour brings.

At the hospital, I pulled up in a line behind other cars awaiting their passengers. A nurse delivered Dad to the front entrance and I hopped out of the car to help him into the passenger seat while Kacey relocated to the back seat. Dad quickly remembered he was supposed to be wearing a mask. It’s mainly for everyone else’s protection, he said. I might still be contagious. Kacey fished a mask out of Dad’s bag of belongings and he put it on, but it seemed to bother him the moment he spoke. I didn’t realize, since I was driving, but Kacey later told me that he pulled it down and wore it below his chin for the remainder of the car ride! That’s my dad for ya.

We picked up a prescription at the pharmacy and got Dad safely home. He was welcomed by Mom and Little Bear, the dog. And since the mask meant for our protection was now nowhere in sight, I quickly made excuses and we were on our way. I was ready to hunker down at home for the rest of the day and night. This is definitely hunkerin’ down weather.