Winter is Coming

Just a little chilly. Maybe put on a jacket.

Just a little chilly. Maybe put on a light jacket.

Before we moved to Nebraska, people said things like, “You’re gonna freeze out there. It’s practically the tundra.” I read books like My Antonia where the endless Nebraska winters produced suicidal tendencies in settlers living in dugouts. Even cashiers in grocery stores and people in our new neighborhood, upon finding out that we had arrived in June, said things like, “Oooh! You haven’t lived through a winter here yet.” I began to wonder if we had moved ourselves to Siberia on accident.

Prettymuch what we expected before we moved here.

Prettymuch what we expected before we moved here. It turned out to be more like what Cincinnati got after we left!

Then the winter hit, and it was cold. Temperatures reached down into the -20’s with wind chill factors in the -30’s. But guess what? Back in Cincinnati, our friends had the same kind of cold with one additional fun thing: lots and lots of snow. Like, many-snow-days-of-cancelled-school snow. Our kids pouted as they trudged to school day after day with only one cancellation the entire winter. We had very little snow here. I couldn’t help but smile when remembering the warnings about moving somewhere so violently freezing.

Around the end of April something interesting happened. It got warm. Really nice and really sunny and really warm, and the grass actually started getting green. Spring! By now, it’s summer, and we are experiencing the beginning of hot weather. Last summer it got up to around 105 or so, and I expect the same this year.

Summer view of the area around the college where I work.

Summer view of the area around the college where I work.

A couple of days ago, I stood in my office and looked out the window. I saw green fields and a few trees, their branches swaying in the wind. I saw beautiful blue skies with puffy white clouds. I stood there thinking about how beautiful it was outside, and I realized something. I realized I could not remember what that view looked like just a few months ago when the cold wind ravaged that prairie. I mean, intellectually I remember that it happened. I know in my mind that I used to dread Tuesdays and Thursdays because I had to walk from the building where my office is located to the building where chapel was held and the cold wind forced me to lean into it and stuff my already-gloved hands deeper into my pockets. While I do remember that, I don’t feel it. I don’t feel connected to it. I caught myself thinking, “Eh, it wasn’t all that bad.”

Winter view of almost the same spot as the above picture.

Winter view of almost the same spot. Note the side mirror in the picture…no way I was leaving the car for this one!

Maybe this is a Midwest thing. Maybe we’re so used to the extremes in weather that we just accept them. We complain about them, but we accept them. Then when they leave, we enjoy the new season. I know that some people love living in places where it’s warm all of the time, and I can definitely understand that. However, a big part of me thinks that the change of seasons is a gift. Right about the time I’m sick to death of hot weather and think I won’t be able to stand walking from a nice, air-conditioned house into the near-jungle humidity that is the Midwest summer, fall hits and cooler temperatures bring a sweet relief. When winter drags on and the darkness feels oppressive and the gray colors drab and I think I’ll be able to double-wrap my house in all of the crocheted items I’ve been creating all season to medicate my winter brain, spring comes, and I forget about winter.

One of those crocheted items I created to keep my fingers from freezing in the winter weather.

One of those crocheted items I created to keep my fingers from freezing in the winter weather. Yes, I may be showing off just a little.

Two weeks after I graduated from college, I moved to Ukraine. I spent the next five years there. The first winter dragged on for me. Weather that winter was colder and icier than any of the subsequent four I spent there. I lived alone, and, even though I had a job and spent most of the day doing it, I had lots of long, dark, quiet evenings full of reading and watching ten-year-old reruns of Santa Barbara. When spring hit, I learned two things:

1.  If you are the first to stop bundling up and start wearing regular clothes in public, everyone thinks you lost weight over the winter.

2.  When you survive something that was difficult and long, you remember it, but you also sorta forget it.

That spring, my friend and I were talking about whether we’d ever get married and lamenting the singleness that was our life at the time. I remember saying, “It’ll happen someday if it’s supposed to, and when it does the single times will be like last winter. We’ll remember them, but when the spring comes, they’ll seem like the distant past!” That goes for more than just singleness (and, let’s face it, some seasons of married life make the winter of my singleness look pretty good!). I’ve found that to be true for the Winter of My Children’s Babyhoods, and the Winter of Difficult Job Situations, and the Winter of Stressful Family Times. When those times subside and the spring hits, the intense emotions of the winter fade. Just as the pain of childbirth seems less after the baby is born (well, so we mothers claim!), the cold of winter and the pain of difficult times lessen when spring or resolution hit.

The gravel road leading to the college did get a little snowy. At least it kept the dust in place!

The gravel road leading to the college did get a little snowy. At least it kept the dust in place!

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that surviving hard times doesn’t require work. Sometimes getting through the winter requires resourcefulness, ingenuity, and downright toil! When the bulk of the work is done, though, and the light of spring starts to show through the cloudy, gray winter, and when the moment comes when I can stop and look out the window and finally take a deep breath, I realize I don’t remember winter the way I thought I would.

Ahhh! Spring has arrived!

Ahhh! Spring has arrived!

I write this because I need a reminder to enjoy today while I have it and not to stress out over the difficult things. I write this as a reminder to myself that if I focus on what’s good today, someday the bad things will seem like one of those distant winter memories. “Eh, it’s not so bad after all.” I write this so that this summer, when it’s 110 degrees and spending even three minutes outside threatens to turn me into a burnt ember, I will remember that soon all of the heat will be a memory, and the cool temperatures will rescue me!

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Location, Location, Location!

I grew up in Indiana, so I’m no stranger to tornado weather. The secretary at the elementary school I attended used to run through the building blowing a whistle as loudly as possible during severe weather to alert us of impending doom. Then, of course, everyone hurried to the lower levels of the building and assumed The Tornado Crouch: kneeling with hands on the back of the neck, fingers intertwined, face inches from the floor. If you grew up in the midwest, you know the drill. Most of those tornado scares amounted to just a lot of sitting on the floor in near silence listening for the sound of a freight train (whatever that sounds like!). For the most part, life went on pretty much as usual. It sometimes felt like the weathermen overreacted.

OK, the school secretary did NOT look like this, but she might have had this face when she ordered us all downstairs for the tornado drills.

OK, the school secretary did NOT look this young and beautiful, but she might have had this expression when she ordered us all downstairs for the tornado drills.

When we moved to the Great Plains, I assumed that thunderstorms and tornado warnings/watches would be the same here as back East. I mean, we read statistics about tornados and how often they hit this area, but I also heard those types of statistics about tornados in Indiana as a child. So we were nonchalant.

But then we noticed something. We noticed that when the weatherman predicted thunderstorms, things like youth group events and church meetings got cancelled. We saw our neighbors scurry home to beat the weather, and we started thinking that if the native Nebraskans were worried, maybe we should be, too.

This was taken in Omaha, just north of where we live. Looks like something from the Left Behind series.

This was taken in Omaha, just north of where we live. Looks like something from the Left Behind series.

Then yesterday the weather service predicted severe thunderstorms: the kind that produce tornados. We heard that planes at the nearby Air Force base evacuated to other states in anticipation of the storm and that those working on base were sent home “to prepare”. Pictures of radars and storm clouds popped up all over social media.

We are in the yellow box, near Omaha. The weather guy said they describe the storms as train cars because one rolls in just as the last storm cell rolls out.

We are at the bottom of the yellow box, near Omaha. The weather guy said they describe these storms as train cars because one rolls in just as the last storm cell rolls out.

 

This is some of the group. We holed ourselves up in the basement and watched Madagascar. We wanted to watch Twister, but our internet did not cooperate.

We holed ourselves up in the basement and watched Madagascar. We wanted to watch Twister, but our internet did not cooperate.

We did what good Nebraskans should do. We cancelled piano lessons and ordered a pizza. Oh, and we invited friends who don’t have a basement over to share the pizza and have the first ever in the history of our family Storm Party.

At about 11 pm, our guests and I crept outside to look at the storm. From the shelter of the back porch, we watched lighting streak across the whole sky. Thunder boomed, and rain poured. We looked at the trees, though, and realized that there was no wind at all. Just a regular thunderstorm. We went to bed.

This is the campus of the college where we work. No, it's not normally that dark and brooding!

This is the parking lot at work. No, it’s not normally that dark and brooding!

In the morning, I woke and realized we made it through the night fine. Our neighborhood sustained no damage at all. I saw no downed limbs or fallen trees. No power outages. Just life as usual. I started to think the weathermen overreact everywhere, but then I saw pictures from North Omaha and a town called Blair just about 45 minutes northeast of Omaha.

Might be a good time to buy a new car if you live in Blair. That is, as long as you don't mind a few dings here and there. Or maybe a broken window.

Might be a good time to buy a new car if you live in Blair. That is, as long as you don’t mind a few dings here and there. Or maybe a broken window.

Looks like maybe this house in Blair saw some hail last night...you know, just a little.

Looks like maybe this house in Blair saw some hail last night…you know, just a little.

I guess when it comes down to it, a few miles can make all the difference! At this point, I’ve decided that following the lead of the neighbors and listening to the weather report may be a good idea. Even though this damage happened about an hour from our house, it could have easily been us. Thank goodness the most excitement we saw was when the pizza man arrived!