Tag Archives: Winter

Classic Post: Booting Up

This post first appeared on January 3, 2018.

“Don’t go outdoors without your boots!”

These winter words echo across decades.

Actually, this child liked clumping boots. Despite Mom’s belief I would catch 19 diseases, their podiatric force field protected me when stomping ice-covered gutters.

Unfortunately for my parents, their children’s feet grew hourly. While my sister acceded to wearing my hand-me-downs, I drew the line at my brother’s galoshes. However, recycled boots weren’t always an option because we had honed losing winter wear to a fine art.

The positive side: Lack of sufficient winter garb kept us inside warm classrooms at recess. While friends shivered outdoors, I read favorite books.

Some stories featured boots. In Little Women, Jo March’s boots helped her play swashbuckling heroes and villains in homegrown dramas. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, a traveling cobbler designed Almanzo Wilder’s first manly pair. Puss in Boots never would have brought his master fame, fortune and a princess if he hadn’t strutted about in that all-powerful footwear.

Still, most boots seemed mundane until go-go boots invaded the fifth grade fashion scene. My ignorant mother refused to buy me white boots amid the muddy slop season.

I whined. I pined. I promised I wouldn’t lose them, not even one.

She wouldn’t budge. So, I languished without the go-go boots every girl owned except me — and Becky Andrews, who wore thigh-high black boots like Nancy Sinatra’s when she sang “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”

Ten years later, I wore a similar pair that stretched my height well past six feet.

But snow time with my toddlers required mommy boots. My little ones readily wore garage sale Strawberry Shortcake and Ninja Turtles boots, even with PJs. They, too, waded in yucky gutters, despite my warnings.

Years later, they cornered me in a boot discourse similar to my go-go debate with Mom decades before. My children wanted me to spend a gazillion dollars on short-topped “boots” designed to frostbite toes.

When I refused, they left a row of sensible boots to an undisturbed existence in the closet — until I discovered my son’s worked well when I shoveled sidewalks.

I couldn’t wear the tall, black leather boots (my size!) I’d found on sale for five bucks.

I still wear them. I just leave them home when it rains. Or sleets. Or snows. Or. …

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Fess up. Do you wear your boots during yucky weather?

Classic Post: Brown vs. White Winter

This post first appeared on January 24, 2018.

Today, we’re experiencing a brown winter.

Typing those words makes me quiver with fear. Do I dare mention the weather to neighbors, coworkers or friendly convenience store clerks? With a few unguarded words, I may jinx the entire Midwest!

Despite brown winter’s dreariness, some consider it a gift, especially after enduring Snowmageddon. Anyone who mentioned “global warming” then was sentenced to shoveling the town’s driveways with a teaspoon.

No one battling the notorious Midwestern blizzard of ’78 had ever heard that term. If a foolhardy soul had suggested such to brides whose winter weddings were postponed indefinitely, they might have strangled him with tulle bows and buried him in uneaten wedding cake.

Others who survived that months-long whiteout not only stopped driving, they gave up finding their vehicles until spring.

Brown winter, by comparison, seems good.

  • Midwestern weddings should happen on schedule this weekend.
  • Cars start. They move!
  • Even if buckets of rain fall, we don’t have to shovel them.
  • Lower heating bills and fewer frozen pipes give cause to celebrate.
  • Mothers rejoice. Their offspring won’t need the 25 pounds of clothing required on snowy days. My son rated snowsuits along with vaccinations and boogeymen. Every outing resulted in a mother/son smackdown, the loudest always occurring at either the library or church.
  • A thaw dramatically reduces the likelihood of mistaken identity. Government statistics state that due to warmer temperatures, 77 percent fewer parents bring home the wrong kid from school.

To be sure, skiers and resort owners long for the white stuff. Ice skating rink owners anxiously await frigid temperatures.

No town wants its snow and ice festival to morph into a Sleet and Slop Spectacular. Nor do cities that have busted budgets, buying snowplows and stockpiling mountains of salt, look kindly on brown winters.

Worse, snowbirds cannot bear photos of friends back home visiting mailboxes in their shirtsleeves.

Yes, brown winters remain unpopular with some.

Me? I’m a coat-hater from decades back. (My son’s snowsuit antipathy is no surprise.)

Still, I welcome whispery snowflake kisses on my hood as we walk to church. Thousands of priceless diamonds glittering in my sunny backyard. Wind-carved curves of snow defy human artistry. …

Uh-oh.

I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

The Weather Channel predicts snow’s soon return. Do these scientific drama kings and queens truly know their stuff?

Brown or white winter today?

Stay tuned for our latest paranoia.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which do you prefer, a brown or white winter?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Maybe They’re Not Flattered

O Lord, I’m curious. When I’m on my back, making snow angels like a child, what do actual angels think? What’s that, Lord? “The kids are cute, but that old lady is crazy”? OMG, they’re so right.   

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Keeping Them All Satisfied?

O Lord, some of Your children give thanks because our area continues to escape snowstorms. Others whine because our sledding hills remain bare, with snowmen built only in our dreams. As a mom, I couldn’t please even three kids. When a gazillion of Your children spout their input at once, do You sometimes want to cover Your ears, too?  

      

There are some for whom a snowman — and his favorite arctic weather — are only too real!
Then, there are some who (sigh) live in the Brown Zone,

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.