Friday, January 24, 2014

It May Not Be A Snowstorm to You...

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.  
Anaïs Nin

Snow Day! Snow Day! Okay, not quite the snow days my family and friends are having in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Boston, and New York. In fact, they would probably laugh that our city shut down last night and this morning due to a dusting of snow and little layer of sleet.

For those of us that run barefoot many more days than not, this is a snowstorm. Just look at what I saw when I looked out the window this morning.

My neighbor had a white roof. 

 My garden in front had actual definition. I frowned thinking of my poor agapantha under that old sheet. "Be tough," I whispered.

Best shot comes from my picnic table. One can really tell how much snow has fallen by checking out the picnic table.

Wow! Look how high that's piled. 

Okay, I'm done trying to Wow you. You can stop laughing. I truly am still a Yankee in real life. Twenty-six years living below the Snowbelt hasn't erased my memories of a real snowstorm. I recall getting my car stuck in snowdrifts, shoveling snow until my back ached. Scraping ice off my windshield. Shoveling out my driveway, again, and again, and again, and again...

When I was a kid, I didn't know any better. The weather was what it was. I eagerly awaited the first snowfall, always asking my dad if that stuff on the neighbors roof was snow. "No, just frost," he'd say. Until that one day each year the depth of the color and consistency of the substance on the roof, and the lawn, and the street indeed declared that snow had arrived.

My older brother and I ached to sled at Skinner's Hill.  For the ice to freeze on the lagoon so we could use the new/used skates we traded for the previous year's now small size. (The bike shop switched to tables of used skates come every November.) 

Often we had to wait a few snowfalls to get enough snow on the hill to sled or enough cold days for the lagoon to be safe. Often we argued with our parents for more minutes to play outside at night -- the entire neighborhood of kids out in the cold air making snow forts and sledding in the yards. 

"Ten more minutes, please, Dad?" We pleaded, we begged. We offered to trade minutes off the next night for more that particular night. We peeled off our layers of socks and snow pants, our boots and wet mittens, snow covered hats and scarves, winter jackets and sweaters. With our faces scorched red with the cold and our noses running we stated our case. "Please, ten more minutes."

What the hell were we thinking?

I can't believe I walked every Minnesota morning to school, walked home for lunch and back to school for the afternoon. Then home again. I played outside until dinner and most nights went out again after. 

Even if I stayed at school for lunch, I ice skated. Our "recess" came with our lunch hour. The firemen would shovel off a square at all the elementary schools and shoot out water to form a rink. Bundled in my winter attire, I was far from being able to imitate Peggy Fleming on ice. But, my imagination made me believe I was her as I swirled and skated backwards.

Even moving to Colorado in middle school and becoming a snow skier didn't dim my zest for the cold and winter. That was just life. I didn't know any better.

But age and awareness always seems to come creeping. When I was a student at Michigan State and couldn't afford a bus pass winter quarter, I became more than aware of the cold. My classes always on the opposite end of campus from where ever I lived. No longer immune to the cold, I shivered.  Froze my ass off walking, each step swift and hellbent for the warmth found at the end of journey. Basically had no ass from walking so fast.

More years again in Colorado, then Utah and Connecticut bound me to the cold. I still skied. I still shoveled. I still shivered. One day in New Haven, while scraping ice off my windshield, a car came by and splashed slush all over my boots and coat. I looked up to the sky and took a vow that someday I'd live in a warm place.

Even though there were fingernail marks in the freeway all the way from Connecticut to Texas (my mindset of warmth was more of the southern California variety) I had to admit I was lured by the idea of pansies growing in my yard in winter.

I do have pansies in my yard. I will run barefoot again in a few more weeks. But, they don't make heaters here like they do in Minnesota. The high today will only be 34 degrees and I'm cold. I'm wearing two pair of socks and two sweaters. Sitting under a wool blanket. 

Last night I listened to the sleet hitting my skylight and awoke not to a winter wonderland this morning, but as close to it as one can get living below the snow line. 

I'm fixing to brave the cold to visit the grocery. Invited friends over for Chicken Chili.

Thinking I won't be hanging my sheets out on that line today. 
It's a SNOW DAY!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why I'm Not at the YMCA -- and other tales

There is no truth.  There is only perception.  
Gustave Flaubert

I'm supposed to be at the Y. Sweating. I'm not.

I'm enjoying a morning at home. The Y is open every day, isn't it? How often does one get to enjoy a morning at home? Alone?

This is what I'm telling myself as I sit in my favorite spot - my bed. I have this view to my backyard  if I just lift my head ...

And this view, if I look to my right.

And all my crap spread out on the bed before me. Journal, book, phone, computer, coffee cup.  Lunch. What more could you want?

Well, there is that svelte body the Y reminds me I want.  And the gratitudes I haven't written yet today.  I'm also in need of a new journal for this morning I finished my old one and once again it is time to make a new one.

I've long been an advocate of journal writing, dedicated to the cause, anxious to write in it every day. Not only does it provide an avenue to bitch, but also a place to share my ideas, joys, novel notes, New Yorker covers, stickers ranging from tea cups to birds. An email or letter from someone I want to save. A hatred I want to rid from my brain. An event I want to remember. A plan to improve myself. Another plan to improve myself.

Yes, my journal pages are personal. I don't worry about what I've written for I'm fairly certain no one will ever read them. Anyone willing to peruse the pages would probably die of boredom and if they perchance came upon that one little nugget here and there, most likely they'll have flipped past it while yawning.

For years, before children and with children, I started journals. I don't know how many I had with only a few entries before I forgot about it. Five entries seemed to be a magic number before I no longer remembered the dedication I'd sworn to uphold. Finally, finally about 15 years ago I began a much more defined foray into my thoughts. I'd read where if you did something 21 times in a row, it would become habit.

I passed my newfound knowledge onto my mother as I sent her another pretty blank book to collect her memories and thoughts. "Twenty-one days in a row, Mom. That's all we have to do." (I also used that method to entice her to wear her seatbelt. Twenty-one times, Mom. Then it will become habit. "I just don't like being confined.")

Need I add that when I cleared my mom's house I found most of those journals I'd sent - complete with empty pages. However, there were many a plain old spiral notebook filled with incredible gems of her thoughts and past.

To each her own in the type of journal, but I digress. The point of this story is that I didn't get to the Y because I wrote my three morning pages in my journal this morning and I finished the last available page. Twas time to put it up and create a new one.

I keep old journals on the top shelf of a bookcase in the bedroom.

Up there on the top shelf. That black binded stack. Here's another reason why I know no one will ever read my old journals. None of the men in my family would look up that high. My husband sleeps in this room every night for sixteen years and he probably doesn't even know there is a bookshelf in there. Even though that's his baseball signed by somebody famous on the second to top shelf. (Okay, he probably knows that is there but chances are that is all he sees on that shelf.)

That's my Michigan State football music box. Go Green!

Anywhoo, when I went to add my newly finished journal to the shelf I discovered the stack was crammed to the top. Therefore, I needed to move that stack to this box in my closet (which I'm also certain no one in my family knows is there. See, you all know stuff now that those closest to me don't.)

Before adding them to the box, I spread them out on my bed and leafed through a few of them.

What I found surprised me. Even though it was a healthy stack of writing, the journal I'd completed before this one today encompassed almost two years of time. That the one I had finished this morning only the past year. That the other sixteen covered the three years before that.

I knew that the last few years I'd become remiss. That events in my life had left me cold for words. That those years, although filled with many joys, had been hampered by a few deaths. But still, so few words during a time of such activity and emotion.

I blame my Midwestern upbringing.

Something about stiff upper lips. Something about don't brag and, most certainly, don't whine.

Okay, I get that. But it never occurred to me that that thinking would transfer to my personal thoughts in a journal. That the times that rang high through graduations and weddings I couldn't translate into words on my morning pages. Having too much fun. Or that the events and emotions leading up to and after the deaths of my parents wouldn't convey either. Much too painful.

Perhaps it was my Midwestern upbringing in regard to the bragging. Perhaps I was just a chicken shit for the whining.

At any rate, it is time to make a new journal. Obviously I make my own. Here are my ingredients:

Empty pages - spirals, black-spotted line or blank book
Paper - either scrapbook paper, old wrapping paper, newspaper, whatever appeals on the day

Construction paper for inside flaps
Ribbon for a placemarker
Spray glue

And there you go. A new journal.

Here are my choices today, always based on mood, for my next journal.

Butterflies. For new beginnings.


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