Tag Archives: Winter

Winter Outerwear: The Mayhem, The Mary Magic

If you live in Florida … why are you reading this?

To gloat? Floridians do that.

So did Aristotle Onassis, who married John F. Kennedy’s widow, Jackie. Aristotle’s logic: “Because I am a rich person … I have to tip $5 each time I check my coat. On top of that, I have to buy a very expensive coat, and it would have to be insured. Added up, without a topcoat, I save $20,000 a year.”

Instead, Mr. and Mrs. Onassis probably spent cold months — and considerably more than $20,000 — where wintry mix is unknown.

If you, like me, endure cold weather and lack $500 million, you know the blessing and curse of winter outerwear.

The curse?

All Midwesterners recall being stuffed into snowsuits like sausage. Perhaps the sleep-deprived woman I called my mother, having stuffed, unstuffed (bathroom breaks), and restuffed five children into snowsuits, grabbed the wrong girl off the playground. Maybe she extracted, fed and hurried me to bed without recognizing she’d goofed.

I later endured her sweaty, August ritual of trying on winter outerwear. Buttons and zippers refused to cooperate. Tight sleeves crawled up arms.

Mom grimly calculated costs. Why couldn’t children grow wool like sheep?

As a second grader, I remember shopping for (drumroll) a rare new coat. I adored a blue parka with a hood — super-cool!

My mother’s choice: a long, old-lady coat. As school codes decreed girls wore dresses, it would have kept my legs toasty.

Mom bought the parka! She wasn’t so bad. Even if she wasn’t my real mother.

Eventually, I overcame my accidental kidnapping, acquired a job, and bought a double-breasted, navy coat. With a tam I privately tossed like Mary Tyler Moore during her TV show’s theme song, I felt like a star.

Sadly, I forgot the Mary coat in a restroom. Within minutes, it vanished.

Later, a young mother, I cherished a mauve parka with different magic. Diapers and bottles fit in kangaroo-sized pockets. Or a baby in the left one and a toddler in the right.

Only when I stuffed three little ones into snowsuits did I realize my not-real mom should have won a Purple Heart. Every venture outside included a howling smackdown with my son.

Now, he (heh-heh) wrestles his toddlers into snowsuits.

Since then, attractive coats have warmed me, but none possessed Mary magic.

Recently, Hubby took me shopping for a new coat. I almost settled for another serviceable one. Then I spotted it.

A Mary Tyler Moore coat.

With its furry hood, I’ll be super-cool when I brave Midwestern tundra.

Floridians, who never experience such enchantment, eat your hearts out.

Aristotle Onassis, you, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever possessed a Mary coat?

Classic Post: March Magic

This post first appeared on March 9, 2016.

Every year, winter-weary people wonder why God didn’t ban March long ago. March lasts for years in the Midwest.

Still, we survive, even thrive. Why?

Two words: tourney time.

Outsiders term our annual basketball obsession “March Madness.” We call it “March Magic.”

Six decades ago, I experienced my first taste of it in a rural elementary gymnasium packed to the rafters. The fans amazed me more than the skinny eighth-grade team. Upstanding grown-ups shrieked from bleachers like outraged crows. Teachers popped up and down, much more fun at games than in the classroom! At halftime, I exchanged my nickel for Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe gum. I chewed all five flavors at once.

None of these, however, compared with the games’ true marvel: referees. A bleat of their whistles, and players and fans alike stopped in their tracks. Even our school principal, a first cousin of God, stood at attention.

One referee power outshone them all: with upraised fingers, these omnipotent beings could change the scoreboard.

Though I tried to “score” points for my team, the Taylorsville Bears, holding up two fingers, I didn’t possess the magic.

Gradually, my awe of the game outgrew my wonder at the referees. Their movements paled compared to the raw poetry of farm kids running, guarding, shooting a ball into a basket with awkward grace.

One year, our center, a six-foot reincarnation of James Dean, kept my eye all season. With the rest of the lovestruck cheer block, I shrieked, “2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate? David!” The pretty cheerleaders definitely appreciated David more than the coach.

That year, when county tourney time arrived, the Taylorsville Bears were the team to beat.

In the early afternoon, Taylorsville defeated Wayne. Our evil archrivals, Rock Creek, pounded on Petersville. Anyone who has experienced small-town basketball can write the script that evening: the hats-off-hands-over-hearts moment of thin civility during the national anthem. The Coliseum roar of a crowd segregated by school colors. The wild choreography of young bodies driving, diving, shooting the basketball. The blast of songs by a Bobble-headed band. The final screams of winners, accompanied by popcorn confetti as fans stormed the court.

Of course, we won. Do you think I’d write this if Rock Creek had beat us?

March Magic persists, yet consolidation and categorization have changed sports scenery.  The sacred barn-like 1920s gymnasium, where I watched my first tourney game, disappeared years ago. Fruit Stripe gum can be ordered on the Internet — for more than a nickel.

While I still love basketball, I don’t get carried away. When March Magic tugs at me, I wouldn’t think of trying to up my team’s score by raising two fingers.

Now I raise three.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you give in to March Madness? Or, like this little soccer fan, do you invest your sports craziness elsewhere?

A Good Breakfast

Medical experts preach, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

I’m glad to comply. Unlike those who inexplicably avoid food all morning, I awake, ready to raid the kitchen. However, nutritionists and I cross forks here. Their idea of a good breakfast and mine don’t even try to get along.

During winter, who wants to leave a cozy bed to face a slimy bowl of vitamin-fortified, fiber-rich wood chips?

In the “good old days,” Sugar Blasters or Corn Syrupies were considered positive sources of energy. Question: Who ever gave birth to children who didn’t possess enough energy? We parents and grandparents are the people who should pack in energy-generating foods. Cheese Danish or chocolate-cream-filled doughnuts present a sufficient alternative.

My mother fixed hot breakfasts during winter: eggs; breakfast meat, when we could afford it; and unlimited toast dripping warm butter and jelly. Pancakes, stacked like records above a turntable. French toast, swimming in Mom’s homemade sugar syrup. “Fill ’em up’” comprised the key concept. She did, deliciously.

When we traveled, Dad decreed inexpensive breakfast as our main meal. Breakfast buffets had not yet made an appearance during the ’60s — which explains that period’s prosperity. Had they existed, my younger brother alone would have struck fear into the hearts of restaurant owners.

We did impact one corner of the international market. Upon seeing his citrus groves stripped, our Mexican mission caretaker referred to us tree-climbing missionary kids as “la plaga norteamericana” (North American plague).

I also savored tortillas baked over a community fire, spread with wild honey. Killjoy Mom worried that the cooks washed their hands maybe once a decade. I worried because the Mexican women, concerned about my skinny frame, attempted to make me eat raw egg.

Since then, I’ve encountered other global ideas of a “good breakfast.” Morning menus in England included: fried kidneys; baked beans on toast; and black pudding, consisting of oatmeal, pork, fried onions and pork blood. Russian immigrants my parents harbored preferred beet borscht and dill pickles.

Breakfasts Dad concocted when Mom was sick — watery canned soup and last-of-the-loaf butter sandwiches — almost seem delectable.

Decades later, when Mom suffered from dementia, Dad’s culinary skills improved. When I visited, I wolfed breakfasts of sausage, eggs, biscuits, and coffee strong enough to serve itself. My doctor would have run screaming, dragging me with her, at the sight. After days of these feasts — plus Dad’s dumping extra on my plate with the command, “Finish up! It’ll just go to waste!”— I almost craved my usual wood chips.

Not. Remembering such wonderful food and my parents’ I-love-you bickering — they now keep each other company in heaven — I loved that good breakfast.

One of the best.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite breakfast?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Is Heaven Tropical?

O Jesus, even though I’m allergic to bathing suits, I love Your beaches with palm trees doing their tropical dance. But, cabin fever notwithstanding, OMG, I hope Your heaven includes one winter planet swathed in Your magnificent snow.

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Crazy Christmases

O Lord, not a normal Christmas! We exchanged gifts with family, not around our Christmas tree, but met in a park we’d never seen before. Sharing fervent, but distanced love and hot chocolate to combat chilly Michigan weather helped, but — crazy!

What’s that? OMG, of course, You’re right. The first Christmas was pretty crazy, too.

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Giving Thanks for Winter?

O Lord, I’m tempted to gripe about dreary winter. Still, in January, I don’t do yardwork. I skip washing the car, because everybody’s car is grimy. And while poor souls in Hawaii must maintain abs of steel, my flab I conceal with warm, fuzzy layers. OMG, thank You for Indiana weather!  

March: The Dream Month?

Few Midwesterners regard March as the dream month.

Though Halloween’s goblins haunt October, March often qualifies as the year’s worst nightmare.

First, the time change disrupts biological clocks. “Spring forward?” Time saved?

That Sunday ranks as the crankiest of the church calendar. If I were a pastor, I’d refuse to preach until everyone had consumed two cups of coffee, plus three doughnuts apiece to sweeten tempers.

By March, we who have braved winters have had it with gloating snowbird social media — especially if Mother Nature goes off her meds, delivering a final winter blow.

Before attempting to consider March a “dream month,” let’s visualize it as a combination of pluses and minuses — a wintry mix, as weather gurus term it.

First, March weather in the Midwest presents a huge opportunity to complain. We love to complain!

Also, most snowbirds return by March’s end, when Indiana typically suffers its wickedest weather. Watching beach babies shiver in sandals makes it all worthwhile.

“This is nothing,” we stalwart Hoosiers brag. “Wait till you hear The Weather Channel’s predictions for April!”

Another March mixed blessing: my birthday — far more welcome during my childhood.

Now, though, my birthday presents a legal opportunity to abandon my wretched diet and silence my exercise video’s cheery nagger.

A new mixed blessing arrived with this year’s birthday: Social Security. I look forward to its benefits — but, Uncle Sam, haven’t you made a big mistake? I’m still in college.

Given my “young” mindset, I hardly plan to retire, as I’ve grown inordinately fond of shooting off my mouth via print. Good behavior doesn’t sound nearly as fun.

Plus, around my birthday, I dream of next year’s writing adventure. What stories will tease me? What new imaginary friends will visit while I write their novels? March brings the best writing weather of the year, when I rarely venture from my cozy writing cave.

March also presents a lo-o-ong transition time in which we can contemplate spring cleaning for a whole month without actually doing it. Ditto for yard work.

Winter days remain for camouflaging flab with baggy sweaters. Yet, during thaws, we can raid spare room closets for (baggy) spring clothes.

During March Madness, basketball fans dream of their teams winning it all. Yet, spring training baseball scores awaken cravings for the sound of bat on ball, hot dog fragrances, and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” wafting on spring breezes.

Daffodils, the ultimate dreamers, urge us to leave winter behind, as does the calendar that naively celebrates spring on March 20.

So what if they’re out of touch with reality? March is indeed the dream month, and I’m ready to celebrate. Who’s with me?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you celebrate/survive March?

Olympic Oddities

Along with with millions of other global spectators, I’ve been fixating on the Winter Olympics, averaging one blink per day.

No wonder. Guy skaters wear Vegas outfits and Norwegian curlers sport pajama pants stolen from Grandma.

Curlers actually win gold medals for wielding brooms. (Shouldn’t I receive one for vacuuming?)*

Competitors also careen on sleds at 90 miles per hour. How did insane sports like the bobsled, the skeleton and the luge ever come to be?

I discovered they all originated in the nineteenth-century spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, where, ironically, visitors hoped to improve their health. Caspar Badrutt, a hotel owner, pushed the new concept of winter resorts. However, complaints that young tourists were running down local fraus with sleds threatened the town’s reputation. A track built to keep them off the streets continues to serve Olympic hopefuls today.

That’s the official version. More likely, these sports were invented by snowed-in women whose men had been lying around the house. “Go sled to the store at 90 mph and pick up bread,” the wives ordered. “Better yet, do it face first.”

The husbands must have wanted to escape their women, too, because the idea caught on.

Perhaps cabin fever drove others to aerial skiing and snowboarding, when besieged parents told antsy offspring, “You need exercise. Go jump off a mountain.”

Even odder sports have been showcased during past Olympics. In the Paris Games of 1900, for example, champions took medals in firefighting, kite flying, delivery van racing, hot air ballooning and fencing with walking canes.

Club swinging, despite Neanderthal images that come to mind, often involved intricate choreography — and more trust of fellow club swingers than that required by ribbon-wielding rhythmic gymnasts today. Perhaps by 1932, when club swinging was eliminated, everyone had discovered new ways to get concussions.

Spectators need not fear that the Olympics will suffer from future lack of weirdness. The Summer Olympics include the equestrian sport of dressage. I assumed the horses wore clothes, a modesty trend not reflected throughout the Olympics. Authorities didn’t confirm this, but said the animals do perform moves “Dancing with the Stars” competitors would envy.

It’s not enough that perfect-bodied athletes flood my TV screen? No, a horse with two left feet outdoes me on the dance floor.

Worse yet, pole dancing, or “pole fitness” is now considered an Olympic sport — and no, I’m not making this up. Children will be told to turn off the TV and go jump off a mountain. Spouses will be sent on sleds at 90 mph to pick up bread.

Me? I cast my vote for more dressage.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Olympic sport keeps you glued to the TV?

*My friend, Ruth, awarded me this gold in the Vacuuming Olympics!