Tag Archives: weather

Solstice Surprise

Recently, two of my friends, Rebecca and Cindy, invited me to go with them on a day trip to Weston, Missouri, on Sunday, April 15, 2018.  I had never been to this small town before and excitedly looked forward to the adventure.  I had envisioned a beautiful, bright spring day with a warm sun and cool breezes as my friends and I strolled around the antique shops and visited the wineries of Weston.

But that’s not exactly how the day unfolded.

On the 15th of April, I awoke around 9:00 am and quickly showered and dressed.  I told my family good bye and stepped outside to wait for my friends to pick me up.  Oh, my gosh!  What was going on?

The cold air wrapped around me and caused a shiver to shake my body as white, wet particles floated in the air in front of my face.  Oh, my gosh, is that snow!?  Yes, it was snowing!

But how was that possible?  The seasons were supposed to change weeks ago on March 21.  However, spring had been a horrible tease only showing her face on a few random occasions since the solstice.  The season was playing drama games with the Midwest…and I had heard that she wasn’t being too kind to the northeast coast either.  But maybe it wasn’t spring’s fault.  Maybe winter was a cranky old woman who was refusing to allow spring to make her debut.  I contemplated the past winter season of 2017 and 2018.  The weather had been much colder than expected.  The freezing Artic air drifting over the plains caused temperatures to dip below the zero degree mark many times.  It had been colder than I had ever remembered.  And several ice storms in the last six weeks made travel difficult.

Winter just would not end.  Even Easter, on April 1, had been a cold, gray, snowy day.  Now, the flakes of winter snow, like Mother Nature’s dandruff, floated around me for a moment before I quickly turned around and ran back into the house.  The cold air chased after me until I finally slammed the front door shut.  I stood in the living room and looked out of the large picture window as the flakes continued to dance on the air.  I didn’t venture back outside until I saw Cindy’s car pull into the driveway.  Then I ran out into the cold air once more, and shivered as I yanked open the car door and crawled into the backseat.  We were finally on our way to Weston on this winter (but should have been spring!) day.

It was about a 45-minute drive to Weston, and I still had a hard time getting warm even though we had stopped along the way for cups of hot coffee.  After Cindy parallel parked in front of the pink and white building of the Weston Winery Company, I hesitated before getting out of the car.  The snow had grown heavier and wetter, and I had to admit that I was a little annoyed that we didn’t have a bright spring day to enjoy.  But there was nothing we could do about it.  As I took a deep breath and stepped out into the cold, Cindy was suddenly standing beside me as she said, “Well, now that we are out of the car, I can give you a proper hug.”  And soon, her arms were around me and we held each other close.  Rebecca and I shared a hug as well and, suddenly, I didn’t feel so cold anymore.

My friends and I walked down the street with snowflakes falling all around us as we talked and window-shopped, and I soon forgot all about the winter weather.  Even with the harsh winter conditions, I was still enjoying a fun, relaxing day with good friends.

After shopping around for a while, we finally decided to stop for lunch in a small, rustic upstairs café of one of the antique stores.  I sat in the wooden chair closest to the large window.  As I chatted and laughed with my friends, I stared out the window and watched all of the people walking down the main street as snow fell like white glitter around them.  I felt so warm and peaceful that as we left the restaurant and walked back down the street to the car, I realized that it had been a perfect day.  I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a winter day so much.  Yeah, I love winter.

But then, just one week after that cold day in Weston, Missouri, I was sitting with my friend, Chandra, on a black, iron bench next to Wyandotte County Lake.  We sipped iced coffees and watched the ducks and geese chase each other around the muddy bank.  We were enjoying a warm, 70-degree day with gentle cool breezes and bright sunshine.  Chandra and I spent the afternoon talking, laughing, and enjoying a glorious spring day.

And I suddenly realized that it really doesn’t matter if it rains, snows, or thunders; it doesn’t matter if the temperature is 35 degrees or 70 degrees?  The weather doesn’t matter; I felt blessed with good friends, happy days, great moments, and surprising solstices that will create amazing memories.  Every season I have the privilege to enjoy is an amazing gift, and I am eternally grateful.


Kansas Winters

My sister-in-law, Mary, said it best.  “It must be great to be a meteorologist.  It’s the only job where you can be consistently wrong and still get paid!”

Over the last week, weather forecasts across the Midwest had predicted that a large ice storm would hit the Kansas City metro area on Friday, January 13.  Of course, this information sent waves of anxiety rushing through me.  I had moved back to my hometown of Kansas City, Kansas, in 2015.  I had been living in other areas of the country, mainly the southwest deserts, for nearly 25 years.  Though I love my family, I am not a winter person.  I never liked being cold.  I never thought that snowstorms were magical and beautiful.  I remember Midwest snow and ice storms in which my cars always landed in ditches or spun out on the highways.  When walking through snow, I usually end up in one of two positions—either falling forward on my face or sailing backwards onto my bottom.  I just can’t seem to stay upright whenever it snows.  I actually moved away from Kansas years ago because of the winter weather.  Okay, true, there were other reasons that sent me roaming, but the weather was a big factor.

So, now, a huge Game of Thrones ice storm was predicted for this weekend.  According to the weather reports, the storm was supposed to start at 4 pm on Friday, January 13, and not end until 2 pm on Sunday, January 15.  The reports warned of hazardous driving conditions, falling tree limbs, and snapped power lines with widespread outages.  All the forecasters on every network warned people to stay inside and only go out on the highways if it was absolutely necessary.  This is actually to ensure that the roads are not blocked for emergency vehicles trying to get through.  Elementary schools were dismissed early and afternoon sessions were cancelled.  Colleges, which were starting sessions on Tuesday, January 17, pushed back the first day of classes for a full week.  Many weekend events were postponed.  The NFL Kansas City Chiefs game was delayed from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Sunday, when the storm was scheduled to be over.  (Actually cancel football because of an ice storm?  Never!)  People were completely rearranging their lives and activities to avoid the consequences of the storm.

My personal inclination when I first heard the weather reports was to bury myself in my bed under a huge, warm pile of blankets.  Instead, I had to go to work on Friday.  I told myself that it would be okay.  The storm wasn’t supposed to start until 4 pm that afternoon and my work schedule ended at 1 pm.  I would have plenty of time to get to work and back home before any disasters happened.

I stumbled into work at the department store at 4 am and was surprised to find that there were several customers already shopping.  Though open 24-hours, usually, the store is empty at that time except for the overnight stocking crew.  By 7 am, the store was packed!  People were pushing full carts all over the aisles and grabbing as many food staples as they could get their hands on.  Unfortunately for most people, by 8 am, most items were sold out.  The whole cereal and potato chip aisles were depleted.  The store ran out of bread and milk by 9 am.  People were hoarding items.  It was as if they were preparing for a hurricane, an earthquake, Armageddon, or a Zombie Apocalypse.  People were frantic to get their supplies and get back home before “Ice-Mageddon” began.

Of course, with my estranged relationship with winter, I wasn’t calm about the situation.  My co-worker, Katy, and I continued to check our phones to track the approaching storm in between running boxes of groceries out of the stock room and onto the floor.  The time of the apocalypse kept changing.  It originally was scheduled for 4 pm but then the rumors started.

“I heard it’s starting at 2,” the grocery department manager informed us.

“It’s going to get bad around noonish,” the store manager confirmed at the morning meeting.

I tried to focus on my work tasks but couldn’t help saying a few prayers for everyone’s safety while having boxes of cereals grabbed out of my hands by frantic customers.

Though dark clouds loomed overhead, I was relieved to find that when my work schedule ended at 1 pm, the ice storm still hadn’t started.  But I didn’t go straight home.  I suddenly found myself caught up in the panic and hysteria.  After I had clocked out, I grabbed a basket and began to fill it with items such as ground hamburger until Katy reminded me that if the power went out I would be stuck with three pounds of defrosting, raw meat.  She was right!  Now, I filled my cart with vegetables, fruit, bottles of diet coke, and a few snacks.  Though I try to eat healthy, the diet coke and snacks were for those long afternoons and evenings without power when there was nothing else to do but sit around and eat.

Then, as I started to walk up to the registers, I thought of something else.  I wasn’t sure how much toilet paper there was at home, but there was no way I was going to risk going through a three-day ice storm without several rolls on hand.  I grabbed a couple packages of tissue and ran up to checkout.  Though I could see the storm gathering in the gray sky, the precipitation hadn’t started yet and I made it home while the streets were still relatively dry.

I put away the groceries, charged up my phone, made a cup of hot tea, and wrapped myself in blankets as I waited for the storm to arrive.  Two pm went by; four pm had come and gone…but still nothing happened.  According to the forecasters now, the storm would not be starting until after midnight.  I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for it.  I went to bed soon after 8 pm.  I was scheduled to be at work the next morning at 6 am.  I decided to set my alarm for 3:45 am so I had plenty of time to get to work without being late.

I was very nervous about the storm, but I didn’t want to be afraid.  I don’t like behaving like a coward in any situation.  I didn’t want to just assume that the threatening weather would grant me an automatic snow day from work.  I told Katy that I at least wanted to try to get to work on Saturday morning…  “But if I slid around just once…”  I said, adding a caveat.

I woke up early the next morning as planned and quickly got dressed.  I opened the front door and peered outside.  The neighborhood just looked a little soggy, but didn’t seem to be a problem.  Umm, I thought with a little bit of disappointment, what happened to all of the ice?  I left the house about fifteen minutes later.  The driveway was deceptively slippery and ice caked all over my car making it difficult, but not impossible, to unlock and pull open the driver’s door.  I settled into the driver’s seat and turned on the engine.  I immediately turned on the defroster and that’s when I noticed something.  The ice on the windshield was immediately sliding down off the glass.  I got out of the car and began to scrape the windows.  I was surprised when the ice fell off in solid sheets.

I decided I could probably make my way to work that morning.  I think I was mainly curious.  I wanted to know how bad the roads were.  I slowly backed out of the driveway and drove away from the house.  Immediately, my car began to slide.  My tracking light kept flashing quickly on and off as if repeating over and over “You’re sliding!  You’re sliding!”  It made me think of a small child annoyingly calling out over and over again “Momma.  Momma!  MOMMA!”

“I know!”  I screamed back at the yellow light that kept flashing on my dashboard.  “My car is going sideways and you think I don’t know!”

I pulled the steering wheel hard as I fought to keep the car on the street and off the sidewalk.  Finally, I made it out of my neighborhood and on to the main street.  State Avenue wasn’t much better.  I could see the streetlights reflected in the ice on the streets as I slid around the next corner.  I was mainly surprised to see the deep potholes that were filled with ice which bubbled up over the openings.

Becoming suddenly concerned, I pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall.  I stopped the car and opened my door.  I reached out and touched the cold pavement.  “Oh, my God,” I screamed as my hand touched solid ice.

I quickly pulled my arm back in the car and slammed the door.  Oh, man, what should I do?  I really wasn’t sure because I really didn’t want to miss a day of work.  Well, actually, I couldn’t really afford to miss any work.  As I sat still for just  a moment trying to gather my courage to drive on, I suddenly heard a strange sound.  Soft thuds like awkward baby steps started echoing all around me.  I glanced out of the windshield and watched as tiny, crystal drops of ice began to smack my windshield.  That got my attention and forced my decision.  I started my car and slowly drove back home.

It was here!  It was happening!  Ice-mageddon and I wasn’t going to take any chances driving around town with sharp pieces of ice pelting down on me.  I could just imagine that it would be even worse in nine hours when I was trying to get back home from work at the end of my day.

I drove back home without incident and quickly ran back up to the house.  I didn’t feel any sense of relief until I was once more dressed in my old sweatpants with a heavy blanket wrapped around me.  But then I felt rather silly; the ice storm suddenly ended as quickly as it had started.  As I peered out of the large living room picture window, it looked as if the ice was beginning to melt.

I decided to try again to get to work even though I was going to be an hour or so late.  I changed clothes once more, grabbed my purse, slipped into my coat, and stepped outside…where I promptly slid and fell down the steps to the driveway.  Curse my crazy winter balance!  I absolutely cannot stay on my feet in winter even when I am wearing heavy snow boots.  As I pulled myself back up and went back inside the house, I decided then that I would stay in for the rest of the day.

And for the rest of the day, not another single piece of ice fell from the sky…

And for the rest of the weekend, nothing more than cool rain hit the ground.  The predicted 3-day ice storm had only lasted about 2-hours.

And now, I suddenly felt somewhat disappointed.  That was it!  What happened to the power outages and the downed tree branches?  The overall temperatures had stayed warm enough that the huge ice storm never materialized.  All the worry and the anxiety over the storm were for naught.

Now, I felt rather ashamed that I had let my fear and anxiety get the best of me.  I should have kept myself calm and stayed in control.  Instead, I had been as bad as Chicken Little, running around screaming about the sky falling from the very first storm report I had heard.

While I was living the last eleven years in California, I never worried about the weather.  I never really had to.  The desert only experienced maybe two rainstorms a year.  Otherwise, it was always the same—dry, warm, and arid.  I hate the unpredictability of a Midwest winter.  Will it rain, snow, or ice over?  Well, yes it will…but then again…maybe it won’t…but if it does…but, no, it won’t hit our area….but should it happen….On and on and on and on…

I don’t like being taken by surprise and not being prepared.  I don’t like not being in control of my environment and my life.

And maybe that’s why I was guided to return to Kansas.  There’s always lessons to learn in every situation.  Maybe the ridiculousness of our predicted ice storm was a way of telling me to put my faith only in God and everything else will work itself out.

And just why did I put so much faith in other people?  Why did I give the weather forecasters so much power over me?  I let my panic and anxiety take over, and I had stopped thinking for myself.  I just trusted whatever the forecasters told me and got caught up in mass hysteria.  It’s amazing to me how much authority we give to other people, everyone from doctors to fortunetellers, instead of trusting the universe within ourselves.

I don’t know if I will ever get over my anxiety about winter.  Since November, I have already sworn ten times that I was moving back to the southwest.  But maybe, I just need to slow down now and enjoy my present moments.

There is nothing like a Midwest sunset.  And autumn in Kansas is the most amazing time of year.  There is so much to be thankful for right now exactly where I am.  And maybe, in years to come, I’ll learn to trust myself.  I’ll learn to control my thoughts and my anxiety if I can’t control the environment.  And maybe, in the years to come, I’ll learn to relax and truly appreciate a beautiful, God-given Midwest winter…

First Snowfall

Last summer, when I was making plans to return to Kansas, there was one thing that caused some anxiety for me.  It was the reason I had originally left the Midwest and the reason I had stayed away for over twenty years.  I have hated winter ever since I was a small child.  I never liked playing in the snow, catching flakes on my tongue, building snowmen, riding sleds, or having snowball fights.  I have faced many challenges on my own, but I still whine like a spoiled child whenever I am cold.

I have a fear of falling on the snow and ice, so I tend to walk with very tiny steps and my toes pointed directly to the middle whenever I have to go outside.  My mother noticed my little baby steps one time and laughed at me.  “Jamie, what are you doing?” she asked in surprise.  “You’ll be okay.  Just walk normally.  The way you actually pigeon walk on the ice is what makes you fall.”  I did not take her advice, however.  I still continue to walk in tiny little toe pinching steps across the snow.

I think my problem with winter began when I was just five-years-old.  My mother did not have a driver’s license, so my maternal grandmother always took me to my kindergarten class which started at noon every weekday.  One morning, Kansas City, Kansas, experienced a record-breaking snowstorm, which left over two feet of snow on the ground.  My father had taken my two older sisters to school on his way to work that morning.  As snow started to rain down out of the gray, wet sky, Mom was left at home with my baby brother, Tony, and me.  My grandmother called to say she would not be taken me to school that day.  She refused to drive in the snow.  Yay!  A snow day for me….no!

For some unknown reason, my mother was determined that I was going to school that afternoon.  She dressed me in a pair of red tights, a plaid red dress, a white sweater, big white plastic snow boots, and a small blue jacket.  She bundled Tony up in his little, puffy, blue snowsuit.  Then, with baby Tony in her arms and gripping me by the hand, Mom left the house.  She was determined she was going to walk me all the way up to school.

I was absolutely miserable!  I cried and begged and whined for Mom to take me back home as we walked the three miles to Stony Point North Elementary School.  The snow was so deep that it came to the middle of my tiny thighs.  I remember gripping Mom’s hand as I raised my foot almost up to my chest every time I needed to take a step forward.  I would put my foot back down on the icy surface and plunge into two feet of snow.  Every step was a challenge.  I was chilled to the very depths of my being as snow filled my boots and froze my feet and legs.  Twice, I lost my balance and fell face forward into the snow.  Mom would just yank me back up again by my hand and sigh wearily as she saw the snow encrusting my nose and mouth.

As Mom struggled to keep me moving forward, the challenge was made worse by my baby brother, who kicked and screamed and pounded his tiny fists.  He was fascinated with the snow and wanted to dive head first into the clean, white powder.  Mom struggled to keep me standing and Tony securely tucked into her arms as we made our way to the school.

I don’t know how my mother handled it all, but we made it to the school just fifteen minutes past twelve.  I had arrived in class with a red, runny nose and cold, soaking wet feet.  I don’t know how my mother was able to get me all the way to school and then make the long, wet, cold walk home. She never complained or talked about it again.  It was just something she did and a choice she made as a mother.

I did not have to walk home.  I was eternally grateful that my father had left work early to pick my sisters and me up from school.  I am grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they made for me…and, yet…I still hate winter!  This fact spun around and around in my head endlessly as I returned to my childhood home in Kansas.

At the beginning of November, I began to prepare for the upcoming winter.  I bought coats, sweaters, gloves, boots, ice scrapers, defrosters…I had been living in the desert of sunny Southern California for the past eleven years.  I didn’t even own a single pair of warm wool stockings!  I felt completely unprepared and at the mercy of a harsh cold winter season.  Throughout the months of November and December, I held my breath and waited for the snowstorms, freezing rain, sleet, and hail to begin.

November and December weather, though, was surprisingly warm, calm, and mild, except for a 5-day storm over the Thanksgiving weekend that was more rain than ice or snow.  I prayed that the weather would stay tame throughout the holidays.  Just let me get to Christmas, I prayed.

And it happened, my prayer was answered.  Friday, December 25, 2015, was dry, warm, and beautiful with a high of 46 degrees.  The first snow and ice storm didn’t occur until the following Monday, December 27, 2015.  I was a little apprehensive as I listened to the news reports about the approaching storm. The storm would start late Sunday evening and continue all day on Monday.   It would first produce rain which would later turn into freezing rain and sleet until a heavy snowfall closed out Monday evening.

I awoke Monday morning around 9 am to see the storm already in progress.  Light freezing rain was falling from the leaden sky.  “It’s not bad yet,” my brother, Tony, observed.  He has lived in Kansas all of his life, so I decided to accept his word for it.  Around eleven am, he stated, “Let’s go out for a while.  Let’s go to lunch before it can get really bad.”

Over big bowls of hot soup and salty chips at the local Chili’s, Tony, my sister-in-law, Mary, my nephew, Logan, and I laughed and teased and bonded as we told stories of our childhoods. It was an extremely pleasant, enjoyable lunch that made all four of us feel warm and safe even as the storm continued to rage outside.

The only confrontation came when Tony noticed the way I was pigeon walking and toe hopping across the frozen parking lot.  “What’s wrong with you?” he asked.  “Why can’t you walk right?”

Mary quickly stuck up for me.  “She hasn’t been in snow for years,” she said.  “She’s not used to it.  That’s why she’s walking funny.”  I nodded at Mary as she gripped my arm and pigeon walked with me across the snow and ice.

The weather had gotten much worse as we left the restaurant.  The sleet was now stinging our skin and pinging off the tops of the cars.  Large snowflakes were beginning to drift in the air.  “We better get home now,” Tony advised and I wasn’t going to argue with him.  I quickly pigeon walked to the car and climbed into the backseat.

That afternoon, when we were warm and safe back home again, Mary called me over to the back door.  “Come here but be very quiet.  I want to show you something.”  Mary was looking out of the large full-length window of one of the French doors that lead to the backyard.  Through the glass, Mary pointed at the large, beautiful, fir tree only five feet away from the porch.  She whispered, “Look.  Do you see them?  There are blue jays trying to find shelter from the sleet in that tree!  Look to the inside of the tree and you will see them.”

I looked where Mary directed and laughed.  Five beautiful blue jays were jumping from limb to limb as they searched for a warm, dry place to stay warm.  As the sleet and snow continued to fall, the backyard was suddenly coming to life.  Squirrels raced up and down the trees as they scurried around looking for food.  Birds flew from tree to tree.  Mary and I sat together for a while as we watched the animals running around the backyard.  Mary’s face glowed with delight and wonder as she watched all of the critters still preparing for the rest of the winter.

I realized then that winter did not have to be a cold, lifeless, hard season.  This day was a perfect example of what winter should be.  I had a great moment bonding with my family.  I had watched adorable little creatures preparing for the cold.  I had felt the peacefulness of watching large white snowflakes tumbling to the ground.

I think I could grow to love winter….

…As soon as I perfect my pigeon walking technique!