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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We Live in a Sod House

When we decided to move from Ohio to Nebraska, we realized that to people we knew in Ohio and Indiana, Nebraska seemed very far away. We heard jokes about how we were moving to the frontier and were we going to live in a sod house? We suddenly noticed how many tv shows chose Nebraska as a character’s home state when they wanted to portray him or her as being from the middle of nowhere.

It's right there, in the red.

It’s right there, in the red.

I sorta understand that. When we started thinking about moving, we had to get out a map to see exactly which of the big, rectangular states Nebraska was. (I’m not completely sure I can find it today on an unlabeled map, but don’t tell anyone that!). Having read every pioneer book available in the school library as a child, I could imagine Nebraska as a wide, rolling prairie dotted here and there by weather-beaten old houses.

However, one trip out here proved that many of those stereotypes aren’t really true. I mean, we take some pretty modern modes of transportation.

After I made them climb up for the picture, I saw a sign that said to stay off the wagons. Laura Ingalls would smack me if she knew I'd broken the rules!

After I made them climb up for the picture, I saw a sign that said to stay off the wagons. Ma Ingalls would smack me if she knew I’d broken the rules!

 

We have plenty of up-to-date highways.

The Oregon Trail cut across Nebraska, at Scott's Bluff.

The Oregon Trail cut across Nebraska, at Scott’s Bluff.

My kids got to walk along the actual Oregon Trail. This is where the real pioneers walked...or rode. It doesn't get more exciting than that to a pioneer buff!

My kids got to walk along the actual Oregon Trail. This is where the real pioneers walked…or rode. It doesn’t get more exciting than that to a pioneer buff!

Joke after joke about living in a sod home. Come on, you guys. You know that we have regular houses out here, right?

Sod home preserved the way settlers actually lived in it. This is the real thing!

Sod home preserved the way settlers actually lived in it. This is the real thing!

Our children have become rather style-conscious after moving here. They’ve always got to have the most up-to-date fashions.

I can totally imagine her a pioneer.

I can totally imagine her a pioneer.

Howdy, partner.

I absolutely refuse to smile in this ridiculous get up.

She's just sweet.

She’s just sweet.

 

And out here in the wild West, we have modern-day forms of communication.

We got the complete tour of this real life Pony Express station--all one room of it!

We got the complete tour of this real life Pony Express station–all one room of it.

Churches here are remarkably trendy.

Actually, the churches here are very trendy, even more than the ones we left. That's material for another post, though.

Actually, the churches here are very trendy, even more than the ones we left. That’s material for another post, though.

Of course, I’m being sarcastic. We took all of those pictures on our vacation to Scott’s Bluff and Chimney Rock. Our house looks very similar to the house we had in Cincinnati, and the town reminds me of my hometown in Indiana with some exceptions like fast food, a mall, and more amenities. People here go to college and work in offices and have lives just like people back where we came from. It’s not that much different.

However, in this part of the country we do have one thing I have never seen back home.

This is indeed a real place. The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. It is a wonder to behold. If you've never been, you should go.

This is indeed a real place. The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. It is a wonder to behold. All of those pictures, mosaics, decorations on the sides of the building are made of corn. Thousands of tiny kernals of corn. I feel for the poor person (probably someone’s intern…or administrative assistant!) who had to glue all of those things on there! If you’ve never been, you should go.