1.21.2018

the winter blues



There are two Michelles that live in one body: West Coast Michelle and Midwestern Michelle. For those not familiar with my story, I'm originally from California, as is my entire family, and almost all of them still live there. Growing up, we went back frequently. California will always be my homeland. Starting at age 5, I lived in Nevada until middle school when we packed up and moved to Ohio. It doesn't matter that The Best Coast hasn't been my home in 16 years; for the rest of my life I will say soda instead of pop and vacuum instead of sweeper. I live and die on these principles.

I hated the Midwest for years. Flat cornfields as far as the eye can see. No beaches, no mountains. Even the traffic lights look different. It took nearly a decade, but I changed my tune. It wasn't the fourth of July unless the corn was knee-high. People don't have sprinkler systems in their yards, they have riding lawn mowers. It feels more like small town America now than flyover country. I still clench my fists at the Midwestern colloquialisms that butcher my beloved english grammar, but I no longer take it as a personal offense. Instead, I get mildly offended when someone complains about the midwest. I've made it my home and I'm defensive if someone attacks it.

For most of the year, I'm good with the midwest. The cost of living isn't bad, we get all four seasons, our big cities are fantastic, and I finally got used to tornado drills instead of earthquake drills, though my knee jerk reaction during a tornado siren is to always head under a table or the nearest doorframe. All the farms and agriculture and slower way of life give the sense that maybe we're all going to be alright. Maybe North Korea won't nuke us all.

Then January hits. I like winter, I do. I love the snow. I like cold temperatures as long as they're not cold enough to cause a weather alert on my weather app. I love all things cozy. But it's a different story when you have a rambunctious child who needs some stimulation to help her nap. The walls start to cave in. You plan to run an errand in a desperate attempt to get out--Walmart? The post office? You're desperate. Then it snows again and it's just not worth the hassle of driving in the snow when they haven't salted the roads yet. And the driveway needs to be shoveled, and it's a scientific fact that the driveway grows ten more feet every time it snows, like Pinocchio's lying nose. So you sit at home again. And you call your grandma. And she tells you it's 75 degrees and sunny at her house, and she's gong to prune the rosebushes after lunch. Your eyes survey the room, wondering what you can sell for a couple plane tickets to California, never mind the fact that the highway to her house is possibly still closed due to the mudslides.

This is when West Coast Michelle takes over. Winter in the midwest is a long affair, much like the endless summers in the south. People post pictures and videos of beaches and walking around outside without a coat. Meanwhile, I'm bundled up in my robe and slippers for the 4th day in a row, my bedroom window is iced over, and all I do is think of the house projects we need/want to do and wonder if we should bother with them or use that money to just move where frozen pipes aren't in the vocabulary.

On the flip side, I am insufferable in the fall and at Christmas time. My family talks about 80 degree Christmases. People online complain about pumpkin picking in 90 degree heat. I look outside at our orange and golden trees and think "you poor dears. You're missing out on so much joy in your lives" while flouncing my cable-knit scarf. No chance of a white Christmas? That is depression itself. And then a few months into winter, I start to think that maybe the boiling hot autumns and Christmas in shorts is worth it after all. At the end of the day, do I want to live somewhere that doesn't experience all four seasons? Absolutely not. But in January and February, while I'm cooped up for another day, LET ME PRETEND THAT I DO.

We drove to church last week after a snow and ice storm. The trees were covered in ice. The post-harvest cornstalks were covered in snow. The sun was glittering on the snow drifts. It was magical. I couldn't get over the beauty of it. Winter scenery is like chocolate cake. It looks so tempting, so beautiful. Then you partake of it, and you have a stomach ache and hips that don't fit in pants. Or rather, your extremities are numb and you slipped and fell on the ice. So tantalizing, so deadly.

Every outing requires a cost-benefit analysis. How important is this errand? How close are we to perishing from cabin fever? We might be ripping our hair out at home, but how likely are we to catch a virus in the worst flu season ever? How many Facebook posts did I see yesterday on the number of pediatric flu deaths in Ohio? Too many. If we're going to the library, a virus is guaranteed. The grocery store? Possible. Ok, we'll do Clicklist. We get out of the house but the toddler doesn't get any energy out, so that's a bummer. How long will we be there? Is it worth the hassle of unbuckling and rebuckling the carseat and wrestling a screaming toddler who has staged a protest on outerwear for religious reasons into and out of a coat in 5 degrees?

These are the things I think about all day long, every day, from December-March. This is coming from the person who once wrote a post entitled In Defense of Winter. It is hilarious how obvious it is that I hadn't given birth yet, because I would not be writing a post like that today. I still stand by my preference of cold weather to hot weather and my love of winter clothes. But there is no such thing as a lazy winter day when you're a mom.

All that to say, we're all losing our sanity. We went to Lowe's last night for a refrigerator. We didn't buy one, but we bought curtains and an ironing board. Two random drawers in our kitchen have been painted white. Nothing else. I've changed my longstanding stance on houseplants and now I want them all. I spend every night shivering under the electric blanket in bed until I slowly warm up, then have to wrestle myself out of it at 2am when I wake up drenched in sweat. Gracie has memorized way too much Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. We've spent so much time in our pajamas that she insists on putting her Mickey and Minnie in her pajamas. I signed up for a gym membership, but I'm too scared to go. That has nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to throw that out there.

So now you probably understand why I dyed my hair blue and purple and why I almost ordered plastic flamingoes for our yard yesterday.

13 comments:

  1. There's a lot I love about Michigan...none of it has anything to do with winter. Not one winter season in the US goes by without me feeling ridiculously happy that my bones don't hurt from cold, I don't have to drive to work in a blizzard, and there aren't 4 ft. drifts of snow piled against my house. I like a little sledding or snowboarding but they are not enough to redeem Michigan winters. I love my tropical sunshine...

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  2. Oh hang in there! I used to enjoy cold winters (though only if there was snow involved) until I gave birth. Now...nope. Yes, I do want a couple days of snow (I'm sad that we've only gotten one tiny dusting of snow at all this year), but that's it. I cannot stand having to get a little person all bundled up for cold weather, especially when a certain toddler refuses to wear a hat or mittens. After a couple short spans of single digit weather I started slowly going insane, so I can't imagine how challenging it must be for you to have days on end of cold weather!

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  3. I can handle the cooler temps - the 30's dont even really bother me... but snow... & especially ice. Nope - makes me hate winter. It's rough about this point in january. Just counting down to spring!!!

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  4. I don't even have kids yet and the winter seems long and dark and never ending. In the spring and summer and even fall, I love to go for walks after dinner, or run some errands or go out with friends. In the winter, I get home at 4:30, put pajamas on immediately, and basically hibernate. January and February are so long and cold and dark and I have a countdown going until we change the clocks because I live for a later sunset.

    I also feel slight rage against all the southerners on Instagram who got a few inches of snow last week on one unusually cold day and now it's 80 and sunny again. Temps hit the 50s here yesterday and you would have thought it was July. People were out in tank tops. And now we're back down below freezing for the foreseeable future and I tried to clean the salt off my windshield today and my wiper fluid was frozen. :(

    I hope a warm front hits the midwest soon!! At least no more big snow storms because shoveling is the worst!

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  5. Hahahaha! I get like this right about March, because here, winter usually comes and goes until mid-May. We don't really have a spring ...if we do, it's like two weeks right before summer.

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  6. Yep, CANNOT handle winter. (I lived in CA until I was 4!) Also, the fact that you brought up the vacuum vs. sweeper thing makes me so happy. I don't know why, but the term "sweeper" makes me stabby. It's a vacuum, people! A broom sweeps, a vacuum cleaner vacuums!

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  7. I think I'm the opposite of everyone... I love the cold and dreary and ice and snow. I have reasons to dislike it all (black ice totaled my car, my dad is a truck driver, the cold weather makes my shoulders and back hurt, the dogs gets stir-crazy), but I just love it all so much. When the weather warms up I start to get sad. Spring is my LEAST favorite season. But all this could change, I s'pose. When we have kids I'm sure I'll feel differently about lots of things :) I'm definitely a Midwesterner through and through, though.

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  8. Well, if you're in need of a dose of sunshine and don't want to commit to CA, just head out to UT. We've been in a balmy anti-winter state all season.

    JK we just got a storm this weekend and little more last night. Not enough to protect the bottom of my beautiful new snowboard from the rocks underneath though. :( After last winter where we were under Snowpocalypse the entire time and I was living my best life, this winter has been the saddest yet.

    Same with the electric blanket, 2 AM hot flashes are real.

    and two things:
    1.Don't be afraid to go to the gym. I was the same way and did at home work outs for a long time, but finally bit the bullet and signed up. Now I realize that NO ONE is paying attention to me. They're all wearing their headphones, jamming out to lifting music and focusing on their own bodies. So you're good there. :)
    and 2: DEFINITELY buy the plastic flamingos for your yard.

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  9. Oh girl, I feel ya. Fall is still my favorite season but summer is running an extremely close second these days. Having a toddler makes all the difference. This summer is going to be exciting for you guys with your own yard! It's funny I just went to lowes last night and my first stop was the house plants. I love them! I found 2 little Christmas cactuses on sale :) 2017 was the year of the house plants. Although I managed to kill 2 succulents, how is that even possible �� Josh and Ben have had the flu and we've been cooped up in the house for like 4 days straight. Josh has been sweet enough to let me escape to Starbucks or Lowes or Walmart just to get out in the evenings. Ben dragged a stool to the window and wanted me to open it. When I did he took a deep breath and said "that smells so good!" Hurry up warm weather! I'm about to make a hair appointment myself. I haven't dyed it in 7 years and haven't cut it in 2. I'm thinking a nice chop and highlights will make me feel better ;)

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    1. That's so cute that he did that!! Our windows are so old most of them won't even open. We should probably do something about that before spring comes. I'm DYING for some fresh air. And yes....get your hair done! It always does wonders for me.

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  10. Hi Michelle! You are a really great writer! Your description of the cake icing snow was super. Plus you've gotta love a blog where 'rambunctious' is thrown in so casually. I am feeling it too now in deep January - but our dilemma here is cold, wind, rain, dampness and mud. It is a kind of festering dank. I could never describe that as a chocolate cake! BTW I've been there on the none stop chattering child. The nonsense is cute for a while - I used to take bathroom breaks which really involved a magazine and a cup of tea. Sending you all the best from Cumbria, England - Europafox x

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    1. Thank you so much! You made my day. The wind and rain is just as depressing as the constant cold and snow!

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  11. "Every outing requires a cost-benefit analysis." I feel like this every time we're out of something but it's not my regular grocery shopping day... it usually comes to "unless it's a medication without which someone will die by morning, it can wait until Grocery Day."

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