There are a few precious things in this world that I love fiercely and protectively with deep, abiding passion. There is the obvious list that everyone has…a close circle of friends, your kids, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, and then there are the other handful of things that are unique to you. A few things you discover over your lifetime that make it all worth it. On my list, right above foamy cappuccinos and the new Comedy Central series Broad City, sits my fair home state of Michigan. The problem is that until this year we have been struggling with an unhealthy relationship….I have always loved every minute of spring, summer, and fall, but would have an anxiety attack at the thought of dropping temperatures and shorter days approaching. I am ashamed to admit, I have been a fair weather fan. This year I made up my mind to change that, devised a plan, and put it into action. After all, as someone who lives for change, and fears nothing more than massively long stretches of sameness, I welcome living in a place with four seasons. I think I even need it. On my 33rd winter, I am pleased to say that I have finally fallen for the 4th season in all of her blustery glory.
I am home right now on my 2nd consecutive snow day. I’m wearing my flannel pj pants, looking out the sunny window at the aftermath of the worst snowstorm Detroit has seen in 44 years. In Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan closed after 18 inches of snow fell. The City of Rochester Hills declared a snow emergency and drivers were discouraged from leaving the house. Not a school was open for 100 miles, doctors offices, gyms, and small businesses closed their doors. The roof caved in on a nearby soccer complex unable to support the weight of the massive snowfall that blanketed our little world. Nobody said it was for sissies…but if you can stop whining and being a huge wuss about it, you will see that it is also heart stoppingly beautiful. Like someone shook the glitter in a snow globe and you were lucky enough to be inside.
I packed up the kids yesterday morning, ignoring the advisory not to drive, like any girl born and raised in Michigan would, and spent a phenomenally awesome day with two of my favorite people. Our combined 7 kids had the time of their lives tubing behind a four wheeler, snowboarding down a backyard ramp, tackling each other in the snow, and sipping hot cocoa occasionally to warm up. Meanwhile, we turned our chairs toward the sun and drank White Russians under the snow covered branches of old, towering oak trees. It was beautiful and awesome and there was nothing even remotely terrible about it. It just takes a few simple steps to ditch your winter blah’s for good and start having lovely, snowy afternoons that you will look back on fondly when you are roasting in July.
The first step toward the end of winter whining, is acceptance. Acknowledge that we live in a place with a real winter, and that that isn’t going to change unless you are going to beat feet to a new locale. If you are going to stick around, which I am, you have to stop dreading 1/3 third of the year (at least). That is a super lame move. You need to pull up your big girl or big boy pants, and choose your mood. (that is an annoying mom-ism that I say to my kids and I think it works well here) Then, spring for some quality gear. Do not try to sit outside sipping a White Russian wearing jeans and a wimpy little north face fleece when it is 17 degrees out, and expect to be a happy camper. You will freeze your ass off and hate your life and people will think you just moved here from Florida. Instead, put your vanity on a shelf and turn yourself into the St. Puff Marshmallow Man/ Woman. Own snow pants and wear them. They are not a decoration for your hall coset. Get huge clunking boots with fur on the top that weigh 4 pounds apiece and go up the middle of your calves. Bonus for the ladies- they look cute with your leggings. And I hope I don’t even have to mention that those leggings should be fleece lined. Get a hat that covers your ears and a down coat that covers your butt. One of the great luxuries of being into your 30’s is that you truly don’t care if you look good if it means that you feel warm. At least I hope you don’t. If you do, you have my deepest sympathies.
Next, actually wear that stuff and go outside. Find something that you like to do in the winter and do it. My 6 year old got skis from Santa this year and you have never seen someone more excited about a snowy day. I learn from my kids every day, and this attempt at winter lovin’ has been a great opportunity for me to take a cue from them. Snowshoe, ski, snowboard, walk your dog, sled, ice skate, have a bonfire, birdwatch…. come up with something you like and do it. If you just sit around with your face pressed to the window waiting for spring to show up then you aren’t going to be having a good time. And you will give everyone around you a case of the bummers. Moral of the story…White Russians are great inside too, but when you bust out your snow gear and use a snow pile as a drink holder on a sunny winter day with your pals, then they even seem special. Make your winter special. You deserve it.
Make soup, sit by crackling fireplaces, put booze in warm drinks, get cozy slippers, and put a sweater blanket on your lap every now and then for chrissakes. It’s not that hard. Most of all, stop whining. Do it for yourself. Do it for your friends, your husband or wife, your neighbors, and your coworkers. I have stood on mountain tops in the Swiss Alps, seen Venice at sunrise, looked out over endless rolling hills of vineyards in Italy, and there is hardly anything that can take my breath away like the view from the top of Sleeping Bear dunes. Nothing makes me happy like a drive through windy Leelanau County roads in the fall, a summer bonfire on the beach, sitting in a boat on Lake Michigan at sunset, or pulling off of highway 69 at exit 94 to visit the place I grew up. There are 3,228 miles of coastline, and I’ve known how to drive a boat by myself since I was 10. It’s awesome here. Nowhere will ever have my heart like Michigan. So love her for better or worse, in good times and bad, because we are lucky to call this place home. I swear by the holy trinity that is leg warmers, leggings, and boots, that I will do the same.