Hell has frozen over… and I’m living in it

It started yesterday with rain. Then snow, snow and more snow overnight. Then wind.

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storm6If one more person says, “You’ve got to admit it’s pretty though … “

I don’t. And I won’t.

Really, I’m trying to maintain a positive outlook, but I’m quickly falling into the same camp as my friend, Alishea.

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The Best of Canine Friends

It’s not easy to capture moments like these. If Lucy notices that I’ve stepped outside, she tends to come running, thinking I’m only there to play or offer a treat. But this time, I was very, very quiet and I caught them in action.

These two pups have proven that friendship can blossom and grow in spite of certain barriers. A little fence can’t keep Lucy and Gracie from enjoying each other’s company. I just wonder how long before Gracie figures out how to climb or jump right over to our side!

The next-door neighbors are early risers too. When I let Lucy out for the first time each morning, Gracie is usually already out in her own yard. As soon as the sound of a patio door can be heard sliding open and shut, the dogs race toward the fence that divides their yards. They greet each other with pure joy, tails whipping side to side, and they race each other up and down the yards along the fence as if it’s been weeks since they’ve been together.

There is often a stick involved in the dogs’ playtime. Lucy finds them under the massive pine tree in our yard, where Mark left a pile of sticks and brush last fall. Gracie? She has to work a little harder to find sticks in her yard. Actually, they’re not so hard to find. There’s just a little work involved in getting one. She goes to the row of shrubs that borders her back yard and grabs a branch in her teeth, biting, twisting and wrenching until one breaks off! I’m not sure how much will be left of the corner shrub come this spring!

Once a stick has been found, the dogs chase again, up and down the yards along the fence. If you listen closely to the video, you can hear Gracie dragging her stick across the chain-link, making a clickety-clanging sound. Sometimes one of them will figure out how to maneuver their stick through the fence so they can play tug of war. Gracie seems to share a bit more easily, passing sticks to Lucy generously. Gracie never seems to remember that once Lucy has the stick, it probably won’t be coming back to her. Still, there never comes a time when she’s not willing to share what she has with her friend.

The layers of snow in our yards seem to grow deeper by the day. I was walking in the yard yesterday. In places where the snow was not disturbed before I came along, it was over my knees! Lucy and Gracie have worn paths along their play area on each side. After a particularly heavy snowfall, Kacey went outside with the shovel to clear Lucy’s way again. The dogs often dig the snow away from their fence, as if thinking they might dig deep enough to tunnel underneath and finally be able to run in the same yard. They dig furiously with their paws and bury their faces in the snow. Lucy often forgets how cold it can be until one of her paws suddenly aches with cold. Then she’ll favor the aching foot and come limping to the door to come inside. Gracie seems a little more immune to the cold and at times like these, she’ll sit on her side of the fence watching sadly as Lucy goes back inside the warmth of her own house.

We’ve often joked with the neighbors that we should just cut a doggy-door in that fence so our “girls” can play together whenever they like.

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!

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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.

 

Beating a Dead Snowflake

Remember on March 5th when I arrogantly declared it the last snowfall of the season? Yeah, that was kind of stupid.

Just for the record – let me state that today is April 23, 2013. And we got more snow overnight.

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Even Lucy's enthusiasm for the snow seems to be diminishing.

Even Lucy’s enthusiasm for the snow seems to be diminishing.

Oh, it's SO pretty! (When it's NOT April!)

Oh, it’s SO pretty! (When it’s NOT April!)

Dear Snow: We are sick of you. Go away.

Dear Snow: We are sick of you. Go away.

Attempt to provide stress relief around the office.

Attempt to provide stress relief around the office.

But there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel!

Weather Forecast

 

Do you see that? (Check out Sunday!) Sixty-Eight degrees! 

I. Am. READY!

And in spite of it all, it was a good day

This morning arrived with a dark and heavy sky. The rain was already falling and when I let Lucy outside, it appeared as if it had been raining for some time. The deck, the trees, the streets – everything in sight was drenched. During the brief moments I was holding the door open for Lucy, a cold blast of air snuck inside. Just a little more than an hour later, before I left for work, I could see ice forming on the wooden decking. It promised to be an intense day.

At work, I had my head buried in a ginormous Excel workbook.  I was looking for a few needles in a haystack and was several hours into my task. I’d pinpointed the data I was looking for and had isolated it to its own worksheet when the unthinkable happened. excel error

Uuuuuggggghhhh! NO!

That’s what I get for being too confident. I was feeling pretty good, thinking I was on a big roll. I was getting all impressed with myself for tackling such a big problem in so much less time than I’d imagined. (I’m pretty new to this particular work. I like it and have a knack for it. But I need to learn to be patient!)

Had I saved my work? Not recently enough to let this roll off my back. Microsoft Excel was trying to recover my document and I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Fifteen minutes later when the recovery progress bar seemed stuck at about 10%, I went in search of an IT guy and made him look at my screen.

“PLEASE tell me you can do something,” I pleaded.

“Eh,” he said. “If your document is really big, your system probably just doesn’t have enough horsepower to recover it quickly. Just leave it be. Hopefully it can be saved. You can work on something else while you wait.”

So I sat at my desk and willed my document to recover, but it didn’t appear to be making any progress. I knew I’d saved my work at about the half-way point. I’d learned enough by running my process the first time that I could figure out how to shortcut my work to get to the same results. So I went back to it, setting up match formulas and filtering results.

Just as I’d pinpointed all of my “needles” again, the original document recovered.

Save your work! How many times have I heard that warning? Next time I might actually remember. I think this lesson was painful enough to make it sink in.

During a brief break, I glanced outside to see that it was still raining. It was coming down steady and sideways. Later in the day, the snow began.

I buried my head again in more Excel stuff. By quitting time, my brain felt like mush and the outside world had become a winter wonderland.

The drive home was slow. The freeway was a slushy, sloppy mess and the snow seemed to be shooting from the air at my windshield. But I made it home safely. When I’d pulled into the garage, I had the strangest experience. I could hear a chorus of birds singing from the tree in the front yard. If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine the color and warmth of spring. Except for the sound of cars slicing through the frozen muck out on the street.

We joke about the never-ending winter at work and among friends. Earlier this week, while discussing yet another forecast of snow, my pal, Lori wailed dramatically, “How will we go on?”

We all laughed, but really, I know we were all thinking it. “How will we go on?” This is crazy!

I’d be better off if I had an attitude like Lucy’s. She doesn’t even know or care what month it is. Snow makes her happy, no matter when it arrives. Maybe I could learn a thing or two from her.

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Then again, Lucy licks her butt. What does she know?

Still waiting for spring…

004bIt’s mid-April and it’s still snowing. It’s been snowing off and on since Wednesday.This morning there was a gentle drifting of flakes. Then the wind got blustery and the snow began swirling down from the sky. Then came the rain.

I know we were spoiled last winter by the absence of any measurable amount of snow. I think we more than made up for it this winter. And it’s spring now. Enough already.

Lucy found a wiffle ball out in the yard the week before last, when spring teased us and acted as if it were finally coming to stay. Each time she went outside this weekend, she’d race like a maniac around the frozen back yard and then “sneak up” on the ball and pounce on it. She’d pick it up in her teeth and run some more before dropping it again, only to run and pounce again. Today she kept trying to bring it into the house, but I stopped her at the door each time to make sure it didn’t come inside with her. The inside of the ball is filled with snow!

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At least it was a good weekend for getting things done. Weather like this tends to keep me inside. The house is clean. The laundry is done. I did some cooking and got plenty of sleep.

And outside, the rain continues.

005bI’m sure there’s a silver lining somewhere in this weather. Surely the never-ending winter means there will be a lush and green spring and a beautiful, mild summer. But for now… for the next week… it looks like more rain and snow. When the warm weather finally arrives, when the trees come back to life and when the flowers begin to bloom again, finally, it will certainly feel like a gift from above!

 

Numbered Days

Apparently that wasn’t the last snowfall of the season. I wasn’t really holding my breath. It’s only March and the Boy’s State High School Basketball Tournament hasn’t even happened yet. There’s always a snowstorm during tournament time. All true Minnesotan’s know this. Which reminds me, I’m supposed to be on the lookout for a snow shovel for my dad. He seems to be without one, and having been in Arizona for most of the winter to this point, he hadn’t really had a need for one until he and Mom returned home. I wonder if I can still buy a snow shovel this time of year. I mean, it’s March and so the stores probably have their Fourth of July merchandise out by now, right? Shovels may be hard to come by before July when the winter gear hits the store shelves again.

It snowed again today. It looked like it was going to be significant judging by the view out our office windows. It was falling down sideways and the flakes were big. But it stopped before long and there was little to no accumulation. This is good. Any measurable snowfall at this point will be met with serious disapproval on my part. I’m sure Mother Nature is shaking in her boots.

So while I wait out the remainder of winter, I’m taking note of anything that says spring is around the corner.

003bThis falling snowman is a pretty good sign. Really, I’m not sure if he was pushed over, if yesterday’s winds blew him over, or if the air actually got warm enough for him to start leaning. Kacey built him last Friday on her first day of spring break. She was supposed to go with Connor to visit friends in Eau Claire whose spring break isn’t until next week. When Connor came down with the flu, the weekend trip was cancelled and Kacey was left to her own devices. The snowman was born of boredom but provided at least temporary entertainment when Lucy, the big furry chicken, proved to be slightly leery of him. Over the weekend, Kacey’s friend Alex tried to convince her that if they doused the snowman in lighter fluid and lit him on fire, that he would burn.

Alex was wrong and everyone was disappointed. I just hope they didn’t use so much lighter fluid that it kills whatever grass might have been wanting to return this spring. This is the kind of activity we refrain from sharing with Mark as he would frown upon it. Actually, had I been consulted, I would have frowned upon it as well and forbidden it. Unfortunately, my permission was not requested.

While the spring breakers are enjoying their time off from school, hanging out at the mall, having parties, going bowling and staying up late, I’m going to bed early and getting up when the alarm clock goes off. Instead of snoozing for that extra hour, I’m going to the gym again. And I feel better. The winter funk is fading. Spring is coming. I can feel it!

 

Life is Good – 2/2/2013

Life is GoodIt’s that time of year that I knew would inevitably come, when winter feels as if it’s been here long enough already and there’s no end in sight. This kind of winter is what I know, gray days and bone chilling cold at times. It’s not the season itself that really bothers me so much. It’s what I let it do to me. When I can’t seem to stay warm, I slow down. I stay inside, doing still and quiet things, like reading books or watching movies. My motivation  to get these muscles moving fades away. I can’t seem to get enough sleep.

These aren’t bad things, when I allow them in moderation. And lucky for me, I always seem to recognize when enough is enough. And this has been that week.

I’ve been guiltily joking about falling off the exercise bandwagon lately. Sure, there were contributing factors in the past couple of months – varying illnesses and a back strain that left a weeks-long ache in my hamstring muscle. But those things have long subsided. I said I couldn’t run outside. It was either too cold, too icy or too snowy. And as for the treadmill in the nice warm gym, it was getting boring. And the gym was packed with new bodies anyway. I felt crowded by all of those enthusiastic exercisers hell-bent on honoring their new year’s resolutions. And each day that’s gone by without any attempt by me to keep my body strong has gradually added to my pile of guilt. The guilt became too much this week, but I knew I needed something new, something to make me enthusiastic again.

I’m exploring the world of yoga! Thank you, Cable T.V. for your on-demand fitness programs that are tailored for everyone from beginner to advanced. I am once again starting the day in a healthy way. And don’t worry. I’m not giving up running – just taking a little break.

The good mojo seems to have worked its way into my work life this week too. I’ve found myself steadily busy and productive, just the way I like it. There’s been no word from the CEO about the headline contest, but he did send me another assignment yesterday. Seems he wanted a press release for a new product that’s up and coming. He gathered all of his thoughts and ideas on the subject and spewed them into an email which he then sent to me. He asked me to give it a good work over and “tighten it up” and I found myself with company approved time to just sit and write.

Brad Diploma 2Things are all good with the family. Our winter laziness has at least inspired Mark and me to do a good amount of home cooking, which feeds right into my ongoing goal to eat better.

Brad received his college diploma this week and sent me a text message to let me know. “Turns out I graduated after all,” he said. The day of graduation, he was joking that he might be cutting it close and wouldn’t know for sure until days or weeks after the graduation ceremony. I never doubted it though, and I told him so.

Kacey texted me several times this week from school. Once was to let me know that two of her friends had mentioned they were craving some soup that I’ve made on several occasions. It’s nice to know that my cooking skills are adequate enough to generate requests for a repeat performance.

Kacey also texted me to let me know she and her friends have signed up to do the Polar Bear Plunge – a fundraiser to support Special Olympics Minnesota athletes. Kacey and her team will be gathering pledges and in order to collect on them, they’ll be taking a plunge into Lake Calhoun on March 2nd – which means they’ll be taking a plunge into a hole cut into the ice and dipping into the frigid water! I think they are brave, and I am proud!

And I actually saw Jake this week and spent time with him for about an hour, while he was wide awake and in good spirits. He’s been working a lot, so time with him is often hard to come by.

And this morning, after a long, dreary, cold week… it is still cold, one degree outside as I write this. It was snowing as I left work yesterday afternoon, big, fluffy, lazy drifting flakes. The snow continued into the evening and left the landscape clean and fresh. It’s the weekend and the sun is shining.

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Temperatures are predicted to rise up into the teens today. It’s better than single digits. I’ll take it. Life is good!

Someone please wake me when spring arrives

The days feel so short this time of year. It’s cold outside and the sun’s appearances are rare. All I seem to want to do is sleep. At the end of the day, I can’t wait to change into my fleece pants and a warm sweatshirt, then retire for the night under the usual bedding of  two blankets and a quilt,with an extra layer created by my fleece tie-blanket spread on top of it all. Add in a couple of dogs curled up next to me and I’m happy. It feels like my own personal cocoon and I love it.

I’m not entirely sure how much Mark loves it, though.

Dogs in Bed

Come morning, the sound of the alarm clock is a most unwelcome intrusion, even for a morning person, such as me. I slept much later than usual this morning. I went to the gym last night, so I gave myself an extra hour on the alarm clock. And when the alarm sounded this morning, it was just so warm and cozy in my bed that I kept delaying the inevitable. I hit the snooze button and burrowed deeper under the covers.

"My feet are cold. And so is my belly!"

“My feet are cold. And so is my belly!”

Eventually, I knew I could no longer avoid greeting the day. The dogs always follow me right out of bed and I lead them to the back door to let them out. They’re not big fans of the cold first thing the morning either, especially when it’s still so dark outside. But I encourage them to go do their business so they can come back into the warmth. Bella is sneaky. Or lazy. Or both. She meanders around the deck, sniffing and acting all non-nonchalant. She’s trying to avoid going down the steps into the snowy yard where I’m sure it feels even colder on her little feet.

I look at her with a stern warning on my face.

“Bella,” I say through the crack in the door. She looks at me like, “Huh? What? I’m not doin’ nothin’!”

I point to the deck steps and say, “Go potty… Down THERE!”

She hangs her head and looks at me sadly before her short legs carry her down the steps. If I’m not careful, she’ll sneak in a pee on the deck.

I drove to work in the dark, with wet, dirty snow spitting onto my windshield, the only scenery a sea of tail lights ahead of me. It can be hard to find motivation and energy in the midst of these gray, cold, dreary days. The dogs know it and so do I. Sometimes you have to look really hard to find sunshine and light. But it’s out there. I found it as I was leaving work.

The pond behind the office

The pond behind the office

I was happy to see some rays of sunshine, if only for an hour today.

The Aftermath of a Snowstorm

What beautiful scenery is created by a big snowstorm! The world is blanketed in white and there’s magic in the air. It is such a contented feeling to sit curled up in a chair with nothing but an entire weekend ahead, wrapped in a cozy blanket, just basking in the glow of the twinkle lights on the Christmas tree while fluffy, white, frozen flakes float to the ground.

love a big snowstorm.

Except when it comes time to leave the house.

Monday arrived in the wake of our first major snowfall and I knew I had to get to work. Not going into the office after a big snow is considered a sign of weakness. We Minnesotans pride ourselves on our ability to function in extreme weather. I woke up extra early and took a look outside at the driveway that had been snow-blown and shoveled several times the day before. More snow had fallen and blown over in the night and the driveway was covered yet again. The plows had come by overnight and left a crusty, knee-hi snowdrift across the entire width of the driveway. There was no way my eight year-old Impala was going to make it out the driveway, much less all the way downtown.

Luckily, I had my knight in Chevy armor who laughs in the face of snow encrusted streets. Mark came home in the morning after working the night shift, barreled through the wall of snow that enclosed the driveway and honked for me to hop in. He welcomed the chance to throw his pick-up truck in four-wheel drive and chauffeur me to work. I got to sit back and just be the passenger instead of stressing over traffic gridlock and the fear of spinning out or crashing. Almost as an afterthought, I grabbed my camera to document the aftermath of a good snowstorm.

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And I made it to work safe and sound and almost on-time. That’s okay though. Tardiness is acceptable as long as it is the result of braving the weather.