Finding the beauty

ice covered tree against winter sky

I don’t think I’ll ever say I love winter weather as an adult, but I’m working on not hating winter. I loved winter as a child when I would put on my snowsuit to go outside and play in the snow with my brothers. Once I started driving in snowy winter weather and experienced the panic of getting stuck in a snowbank and sliding backward down a hill, my love for winter vanished.

Although it got a late start (thankfully) this winter has been especially unpleasant with the unending snow and ridiculously frigid temperatures. During the day, I work at my desk with a blanket over my legs and a space heater by my feet to stay warm because my house leaks like a sieve. I hung insulated curtains by my desk and even installed an outlet insulator on the nearest plug, but I still feel a breeze across the top half of my bundled-up body as I work.

The sun has been in very short supply recently so when it made an appearance this morning, I was thrilled! I watched it rise over the hills, I took pictures, and I tried to memorize what it looked like. Unfortunately, it disappeared a few hours later and the dull winter sky returned.

As I worked, I silently urged the sun to return and magically enough, it did! By noon the sun was in full shine amid a blue sky and I knew I couldn’t pass up such a beautiful opportunity for a walk, especially since it’s supposed to get back down below zero tomorrow. I saddled Jazzmin in her backpack, put on my shape-up boots, zipped up my coat, and led my pup out the door and into the 30 degree winter weather.

snowy field upstate NY

Knowing we wouldn’t be able to walk again for a while, I took us on the winding hilly road that’s more fun to walk than drive in the winter weather. Jazz was very well behaved and the scenery was cold but lovely. Yesterday a snowy fog lingered all day so today all of the trees were coated with a shimmering layer of ice that reflected the sunlight. As we walked, the ice and snow began to melt off the trees and at one point we were standing beneath a tree that was creating a gentle, mini snowfall.

ice covered tree against blue sky

During the walk, I felt my mind and spirit restored and I thanked the universe for the gift of warm sunshine. Finding the beauty in winter weather isn’t always easy for me, but after today I know it’s not impossible.

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Winds of change

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Blue sky this afternoon

This morning when I took Jazzmin out it was 51 and sunny. I enjoyed the “mild” temperatures as much as I could because I knew the forecast called for drastic cold the rest of the week.

We’ve lucked out up here so far this winter with only one storm that dropped a large quantity of snow. The snow has been melting in mild temperatures pretty regularly, but I fear that’s at an end. Oh well, only another 5-6 months until warm temperatures arrive…

As I figured Mama Nature was giving me one last chance to “batten down the hatches,” I decided it was time to finally put plastic over some windows. My house was built in the 70’s and a lot of the windows are old, wooden, and leak rather badly. To try and keep the cold winds from blowing through my house, I put plastic up over the bedroom windows so we don’t freeze at night when we’re sleeping. It does help quite a bit in the frozen tundra where I live.

I completed that task rather quickly this morning because I’ve done it the past three winters and have it down to a science. On the upside, I never have to worry about stale air in my home as fresh air is always circulating through various gaps around windows and doors.

The temperature as I write this is 30 degrees but feels like 21 thanks to wind gusts at 40 mph. The high tomorrow is 17 with a low of 7. They might as well just say that it will be so cold it hurts to breathe, but I suppose that wouldn’t be proper meteorological terms.

Eventually the winds of change will bring warmth back, so for now I’ll just hunker down and ride out the rest of winter. Good thing I have lots of blankets and kittens that love to snuggle! 🙂

“Neither snow, nor rain…” how about both?

“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” – Herodotus, 503 B.C.

That is the unofficial motto of the United States Post Office and it sprang to mind (though I didn’t know the exact words at the time) as I contemplated walking Jazzmin this afternoon. The wind was gusting at up to 30 mph, the temperature was rapidly dropping out of the 30’s with a wind chill in the teens, and the clouds couldn’t decide if they wanted to spew out rain or snow so they were throwing down a combination of both.

When I took Jazzmin out to answer nature before I headed into town, the wind chilled me, the rain beat at me and I thought to myself “No way am I walking in this!” Then as I led her back into the house, my thoughts shifted to “Well, if I put earmuffs and gloves on, it won’t be so bad.” It’s not a challenge to take the easy way out and say it’s too cold and yucky to walk, and no one would blame me for skipping it today. Nonetheless, I really wanted to keep my promise of walking Jazzmin every day because she and I both need it. Therefore, I chose to rise to the challenge and head out once I got home from errands.

Jazzmin is always excited about walking, even if the snow is up to her chest and the wind freezes her nose and ears off, so when I got home, changed, and saddled her up in her backpack, she was happy as could be! When we stepped out the door and she started being pelted with the tiny, hard snowballs descending from the sky, her enthusiasm waned a bit. We set out anyway and her step was as light as usual, even as the sleet/snow/frozen mess bounced off her head, ping-ponged off my coat, wove into my hair, and sometimes snuck down my neck.

The view as we turned the first corner.

The view as we turned the first corner.

As we turned the corner off my road and onto the next, the sleet snow started to come down harder and Jazz’s ears flattened to her head. We continued though and I actually laughed at how ridiculous it was that we had voluntarily chosen to be out in such weather. If Mama Nature thought she was going to force us to turn around, she was wrong!

Jazzmin is NOT impressed!

Jazzmin is NOT impressed!

The sleet snow was stinging my face but I thought to myself that it was a wonderful and 100% natural exfoliant for my skin. The wind was freezing my body but I reassured myself that shivering must burn more calories. My hair was drenched with cold wetness but I knew from past snow experiences that when it air-dried my natural wave would bounce back happily. I knew the cold, wetness, and discomfort were temporary and that the walk was good exercise for Jazzmin and me.

My road is waaay down that way...

My road is waaay down that way…

When we returned home, the mini snowballs of precipitation had accumulated into a noticeable layer on my deck. Jazzmin was eager to go inside to thaw out her cold paws and I was happy to be inside the warmth where I could start warming up again.

Jazz's paw prints from where she stood waiting for me to open the door.

Jazz’s paw prints from where she stood waiting for me to open the door.

Despite the chill in my body, I was proud of myself for venturing out when a lesser woman would’ve huddled home, safe under blankets, sipping a latte. I’d kept my promise of walking every day for the third day in a row and with this blog, I’ve also completed my daily entry. As far as winging it? Well, I think if Jazzmin and I had possessed wings today, the wind would’ve carried us off into the sunset.

Foggy flurries and furry fluffballs

My snowy house this morning.

My snowy house this morning.

Today marked the first substantial snow for the season here. The calendar may still say it’s fall, but Upstate NY has never been a place that abides by such silly notions. I don’t mind snow when it first begins and my girls both seem to love it. I remember loving it when I was a child, but once I became an adult who had to drive in it, snow lost a lot of its magic. The “magical first snow” today started overnight and hasn’t let up since. It’s not accumulating fast but it’s heavy, wet, and perfect for making snowballs.

And make snowballs I did! When I took Jazzmin out this morning, I made a couple snowballs and tossed them at her. She happily caught them in her mouth before spitting them out when she realized they were strange, cold tennis balls. I then took a snowball in to show the kittens and they were fascinated by the cold, white, balls of water. They love water and I’m always plucking them out of the sink, bathtub, and dog’s water bowl. I eventually plopped the snowball in their water bowl and Daisy watched it intently until it melted.

Once the girls were off at school, I did a bit of freelance work and then settled on the couch beneath a blanket to begin some new beading projects. I’d reviewed a new set of instructions for making earrings this morning and I was eager to try them. What I created came out better than I expected, but I discovered I need to start using a thimble to avoid poking my pointer fingers constantly. Thank goodness fingers heal quickly! It’s worth it though because I’m so pleased with last week’s creations that I need more hours in the day to create all the jewelry designs that have popped into my mind.

Modeling last week's beaded earring and pendant creations.

Modeling last week’s beaded earring and pendant creations.

The snow never let up so there was no point in waiting for it to stop before taking Jazz for a walk. I bundled her up in her booties (which she hates) and warm, blue sweater and I bundled myself up similarly in my winter jacket, boots, and earmuffs. It wasn’t exactly frigid today but there was a breeze and I wanted to keep my ears warm. Our walk wasn’t very long but Jazz was happy to be out and we both became thoroughly coated with snow. As we were heading back home, fog began to roll in from the top of the hill which detracted from the beauty of the first snowfall.

Jazz in her sweater and booties.

Jazz in her sweater and booties.

The snowy trees.

The snowy trees.

Jazz smells something...

Jazz smells something…

Yuppers, it's snowing!

Yuppers, it’s snowing!

The fog rolling in down the road.

The fog rolling in down the road.

Jazzmin and I were both happy to get home and thaw out. The kittens were fascinated watching the falling snow and took turns looking out the window or hogging my desk chair because it’s so cozy.

Daisy looking out the window.

Daisy looking out the window.

Angel hogging my desk chair.

Angel hogging my desk chair.

I had to get my snow shovel out of the shed to clean off my deck steps and create a path to the door and it’s now resting beside the door, ready to be used again. Winter has definitely begun but with the combination of foggy flurries and furry fluffballs, I know it will be anything but dull!

 

The lions of March

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There’s that saying “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” It’s usually in reference to the weather, but for me it’s effected me inside more than outside.

The last day of February I came down with a cold, my first cold of the entire winter season. I’ve had colds before, I’m familiar with and can handle the constant sneezing, coughing, nose blowing and proverbial trail of kleenex I leave in my wake. What I was unprepared for was waking up this past Friday morning with a horrible earache and partial deafness in my left ear.

I took some ibuprofen to dull the pain and as I’ve dealt with plugged ears before, I knew it would unplug eventually. Unfortunately, by the end of the day I felt worse and by Saturday, I knew continuing to hope for the best might not be the wisest course. So I drove myself to urgent care, was told my ear wasn’t infected (thankfully!) and left with a prescription for antibiotics. Once home I took more pain meds, my prescription and went back to bed, the place I’d been spending much of my time since Friday morning.

Despite my discomfort, I know how fortunate I am that I work from home and am able to rest as needed. I’ve managed to get work done because I can sit down somewhere comfortable to do it and don’t have to worry about making anyone else sick. Even so, I’m not getting done as much as I’d planned for March.

I’d planned to make March my lion month, my month to roar and get things done! Write about more Amesbury businesses, work on my clay projects, expand my freelance writing, start spring cleaning and so on. Alas, I’ve been too tired to focus on much of that and I fear I’m falling behind. I can catch up, I’m tenacious and determined enough to, but first I need to get well.

Today I woke feeling more human and functional than I have in several days and for that I’m truly grateful! I’m still moving a bit slower than usual, Jazz seems worried I’m dying and ibuprofen is my best friend but I know I’m on the road to recovery. Every improvement, even minor ones, are major victories. Even so, I’ve dealt with enough lions of March and I’m ready for some nice, fuzzy lambs!

Naming winter storms? Really?!

Image courtesy of The Weather Channel

Image courtesy of The Weather Channel

In their questionable wisdom, The Weather Channel took it upon themselves to start naming winter storms in 2012. The reasoning they list on their website is that giving the storms names makes them easier to track, identify and refer to. There was also mention of how they get more Twitter and media attention when they have names. Is that really necessary?! Don’t the storms get enough attention when they trap us inside our homes with frigid temperatures, high winds and multiple inches of snow and/or freezing rain? Does it really make us feel better when we can grumble about how Hercules and Leon messed up our travel plans? It sounds more like we’re complaining about deadbeat friends than winter weather.

With all the lovely winter events we’ve had the past few months, the weather channel names are already up to the current named storm of Maximus. Pardon me, but why are these storms given such powerful sounding names? Won’t they take that as a challenge to live up to such a strong name? Why not give them names that are less threatening so they don’t feel the need to prove themselves? It seems quite logical to me. If you’re going to be silly and name storms, suck the wind out of their sails with more appropriate monikers. Yes, I do have a touch of cabin fever/winter insanity but here’s my suggested list of names for the remainder of the winter season:

Minimus – Much less intimidating than Maximus. Maximus was a fine name for the horse in Tangled, but for a storm, unwise.

Nominal – Named just because a name was needed, trifling, minimal.

Obtuse – Dull, indistinct, unnoticeable. The kind of storm that makes you wonder if you actually saw a snowflake or if it was a hallucination.

Pitiful – Some of the storms predicted to be monstrous have been quite pitiful and that’s fine with me!

Quagmire – Bog-like, soft or flabby. Definitely not a storm with any real initiative to get going.

Relaxing – Quite the opposite of how stressful winter storms can be and something all of us up north would prefer doing instead of shoveling!

Sleepy – This storm just keeps hitting snooze on the alarm and never got its rear in gear.

Trivial – Barely worth noticing and so minute, most people don’t remember it.

Uneventful – Goes right along with pitiful.

Vole – Give a storm the name of a small mouselike rodent and it’s certain to tuck its tail between its legs and hide.

Wobbly – It just never got its land legs under it and couldn’t muster the trip across the country.

Xylophone – X names are just hard to come by and I do love the sound of a xylophone, kind of impossible to play it wrong.

Yosemite Sam – Like the Looney Tunes character, full of incomprehensible grumbling that never amounts to much.

Zilch – Zip, zilch, nada, this one just isn’t happening!

Frozen Frolicking

The view across the field behind my house tonight

The view across the field behind my house tonight.

I don’t exactly frolic happily when I take Jazz outside to answer nature but we do move quickly and that’s as close to hopping and skipping as we’re going to get in this weather. I’m not a fan of running but when it comes to getting inside out of the cold, I’ll run! I’ll think of it as conditioning for when the weather’s warmer…and I still don’t like running.

There’s nothing to do about the weather really except keep bundling up and finding ways to stay warm. Another day, another prediction of negative wind chills and snow. There’s also sun with the negative temperatures and it does give the illusion of warmth and help heat the house toward the end of the day so it’s not all bad. Not all bad but definitely all cold.

The sparkle of the snow in the sunlight has a distinct beauty despite the deep chill in the air. It reminds me of the Disney movie Frozen that my girls both enjoyed. They have some of the toys from the movie and we all like the song entitled “Let It Go” so much that I downloaded it to my phone. I played it this morning to wake Jaycie up and the moment she heard the first chorus she was sitting up and curious. I love the words of the song and beauty of the sequence of the movie and it reminds me that even the frozen tundra can be magical when you view it from the right perspective.