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Winter Survival Kit for the Un-Winterable

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Despite the bally-hooed trumpeting of impeding global warming and the outcries of rich environmentalist-types who believe it is only by taxing responsibly recycling Americans into poverty that we can offset the damage done in smoggy Third World countries, the truth is clear. The climate historically suffered a long cool-down period lasting most of the 20th Century before taking an uptick in the 1980s. Now we are back to cooling.

But climate change is neither here nor there when you live in an area where winter is always a brutally cold experience. When I hear my West Coast and Southeastern friends bitch and moan about their winters of rain, wind and/or fire, my ire is raised to the feverish level of whipping out my American Express card to purchase a one-way plane ticket to Whoop Ass.

I know I should not complain. I purposely moved from Colorado to Minnesota in 1975. Now, the Front Range can suffer from severe weather, but winter there is a crap shoot. I have witnessed sunbathers out in full force on a 70-degree January. In other years the same day could bring temps of 30 below. In 1986, I moved from the Twin Cities to Southeastern Michigan, akin to moving out of the igloo and into the refrigerator.

Had I really been high in high school, I might have followed a boyfriend or two to California and saved myself 35 years of torment.

When I was younger and more foolish, and especially after having children who could (miraculously) skate and ski, I tried to participate in winter sports. By that time, fear of falling (brittle bones) mingled with fear of failure (looking like an ass). After a tumble on the bunny slope – you really DO see stars when your brain has concussed – I gave up trying to enjoy winter.

Let’s face it. I am un-winterable, a certified spring-summer girl. I like flowers, green stuff and growing veggies. Flowers and green stuff turn into freeze-dried dust during winter. Although I have given up two-piece swimwear (my neighbors thank me), I still enjoy basking in the sun. Unfortunately for me, the sun decides to take a vacation Down Under when I need her most.

Since my exile here in the Lower Tundra (thanks to our tanking economy, I will have to work until I die, therefore I am banished here enslaved until I die), I have become adept at wintertime coping. For those of you who share my dislike, here are some tips for dealing with Old Man Winter.

  1. Get medicated. I have SAD (seasonal affective disorder), so loading up on antidepressants before Daylight Savings Time is a good strategy. If you do not suffer from SAD, pre-stocking the liquor cabinet with ingredients for hot toddies is a very good second choice. (You do not want to go shopping when there are ten inches of snow on the ground.) If the high is projected to be 10 degrees, take my word for it, you will not want to drink a cosmopolitan or Long Island iced tea.
  2. Make sure your Internet service and computer are in tip-top shape. There is nothing like being stranded in your house cut off from the rest of the world. Don’t let it happen to you.
  3. Hobbies, hobbies, hobbies! I use winter to write. And knit scarves. And make jewelry. I am a jewelry-making machine these days, having invested a ton of money in stones and wire. Hobbies not only keep your mind and your body off the ice and snow, they can also serve as the fountainhead of handmade Christmas presents.
  4. Winter cleaning. I like spring too much to be stuck inside spring cleaning. Besides, when April rolls around, I am too delirious with joy to concentrate on vacuuming up the massive dust bunnies – the size of jackalopes! – under the bed. Same thing goes for the basement.
  5. My husband takes advantage of winter to paint a room. This year’s project is my son’s old room. I hope he makes it out of there and starts on the hallway. Summer is not for painting.
  6. Have an abundance of heat available. I have a space heater under my desk at work. That is because our building is old, cinder blocked, drafty and cold. Have an electric heater available at your home in case your furnace goes out, like ours did again last night. You do not want your butt to hit a toilet in an unheated house at 6 a.m. Even my grandma with no indoor plumbing in the Minnesota outback had a toilet seat by the stove for those trips to the outside facilities. Comfort is key, my friends.
  7. Fur. Despite what PETA says, in my experience fur is the warmest covering a human can buy, outlasting and out-performing fine cashmere and down. It is a necessity for residents of the Lower and Upper Tundra. If and when I ever move to a warmer climate – like when donkeys fly – I will donate my fur to an unfortunate Michigander who needs it. And my warm gloves, and my scarves and hats.
  8. Import the tropics. I’m a huge fan of orchids and tropical plants. Even dolts with brown thumbs can grow houseplants. They smell good and are natural. You can talk to them when you’re feeling rotten. They are also environmentally sound. You give them carbon dioxide and they reward you with oxygen.
  9. If at all possible, go somewhere warm, or somewhere warmer. It’s not as far out as it seems. Warmer for me would be Chattanooga, a day-long car trip.

    Most important of all, keep dreaming. Dream about hitting the MegaMillions so you can buy your desert island. Dream about palm trees, sun-kissed beaches and warm water. Dream about retiring before you die. Dream about landing an agent who will give your manuscript a rousing trip around the block. I take my seed and plant catalogs and dream about summer.

    Give yourself the gift of warmth, because baby, it’s cold outside.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • I so needed someone else to agree that cold sucks and the reminders of how to get through it. Thank you, thank you!

  • Well, Jon, if the last ten years are any indication, it’s getting colder around here. There was ONE day of 90 degree weather last summer. When my son was born 22 years ago last summer, it was during a ten day heat wave of 100 degrees plus. I was thankful for an air conditioned hospital room.

    That’s not to say I don’t think people affect their environment. But environment has been known to change even without people – look what happened to the dinosaurs.

  • Good work, Joanne. I’m in Chicago and woke up to an outdoor temperature of 1.2 degrees. I’ve never seen them use a decimal before!


  • Nice stuff, Joanne! Except it’s sad to me that you’re buying into the “there’s no global warming” conspiracy theories.