We Made It!

Spring...with a little snow in the background.

Spring…with a little snow in the background.

Days like today, when the sun shines and the temperatures soar into the 50’s, when the birds sing and the kids leave on their first bike ride of the season, these are days when the entire countryside emits a collective sigh. The sigh of warmth and hope and the sigh that says, “We made it! We made it through another winter!”

You could argue that it’s not spring yet, that spring doesn’t really start until March 20-something, and you’d be technically correct. You could also argue that it’ll get cold and maybe even snow again before warm weather hits for good, and you’d probably be right about that as well. You could argue that I’ll probably regret having turned off the furnace and opened the windows, and in a few hours when the sun goes down I’ll probably agree with you on that. But now, when I can sit in my house and hear the birds, when the cats nestle themselves up on the window sills to be close but not too close to the outside world that, in reality, scares them to death, when the dogs run happily in the back yard without threat of frostbite and when the sound of the wind chime means soft spring breezes and not an impending blizzard, I feel like spring.

These flowers are some of my favorites because I saw them every early spring in Ukraine. In Russian, the name means "under the snow" and I sometimes saw them growing up through the snow!

These flowers are some of my favorites because I saw them every early spring in Ukraine. In Russian, the name means “under the snow” and I sometimes saw them growing up through the snow!

When I feel like spring, I actually feel like cleaning the house. I feel like cleaning actually makes it clean and maybe even brings some of the spring inside with the warmer air instead of just moving around dust that I can’t ever get rid of in the winter. When I feel like spring, I feel like writing. Let’s face it, I didn’t write much this winter. I mean, I looked back on my blog, and I only wrote two or three posts all winter. Didn’t do any more than that in my journal, and I certainly didn’t put any words worth reading on any other sort of paper or digital file. When spring comes, though, my brain begins to emerge from the Netflix-induced haze of staying up too late and binging on crime shows. I start thinking things like, “why do I even care about watching that stuff when there’s so much good stuff in my head to get down for posterity?” (This may or may not be accurate, but I do think it nevertheless!)

I did create some stuff this winter. This is a baby blanket made with the most beautiful colors in the world (in my opinion).

I did create some stuff this winter. This is a baby blanket made with the most beautiful colors in the world (in my opinion).

That’s not to say I haven’t done anything this winter. On the contrary, winter is the time when I bury myself in blankets and, while vicariously chasing the latest serial killer on Netflix, knit and crochet enough scarves to warm a small village of the homeless I watch giving tips to the cops on Law and Order. It’s the time when I go to work and then come home and put on pj’s and don’t leave again. And if I have stuff to do in the evening and can’t hibernate, I lament the lost knitting/Netflix/pajama time alone. Winter should maybe be the time when I read more, but I hate to admit that I barely read because when I do I fall asleep. Probably because the night before I was up until 2 am…you know, twisting endless strands of yarn into clothing and keeping in touch with my cop friends.

Crochetin' it up! Sweet stuffed animals I made my kids for Valentine's Day.

Crochetin’ it up! Sweet stuffed animals I made my kids for Valentine’s Day.

I’ve thought a lot about this cycle. It happens every year. I like to do different things in different seasons, and the thought of doing them in other seasons really sorta repulses me. For example, give me a crochet hook and a ball of yarn in July, and I might just throw it back at you. No interest. Tell me to go and put on workout clothes and run a couple of miles on the treadmill in a dark (the lights won’t work for some ridiculous reason) garage in January, and my guilt cannot overpower my sense that nobody really notices the extra 18 pounds I’ve put on this winter, so why bother?

Just kidding…I don’t think I’ve put on 18 pounds…I may have…but, anyway, that’s all to say I don’t want to run in the winter, and in the summer I can’t imagine not.

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I used to feel bad about this, used to think to myself that I should enjoy my pursuits all the time and that I should practice them year round because I probably lost some ability, maybe diminished my talent in those times when I ignored something. In the last ten years or so, I’ve stopped chastising myself for my predictable inconsistency. I’ve started realizing that this is how people are. I mean, even nature in my part of the world reflects that. Always changing but always the same. Just about the time I think I’ll burn alive in the glaring sun of summer, fall hits and cooler weather brings relief. I break out my favorite sweaters and recall how comforting it is to wrap up and snuggle in and forget the world outside all winter. Then when the cold hangs around for a few months and I feel like my feet are permanent icicles and I move the heater under my desk at work closer and closer as the cold creeps deeper and deeper into my core, the sun comes out and ta da! It’s spring, and the cold becomes a thing of the past!

Snuggle up!

Snuggle in!

Ever notice how almost the moment spring hits, it’s hard even to remember snow? I mean, I still see snow piles at the end of my driveway today if I look for them, but I’m forgetting it already. That’s how it goes. If I didn’t have snow and cold, I don’t think I’d appreciate warmth and sun as much. The darkness of winter makes me more thankful for the light of summer. When the cold, dark days end and the spring arrives, we can start to forget the snow and the wind. If we didn’t, we’d move to Florida in despair!

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!