Tag Archives: Winter

Beach Day

Saturday, February 16, 2019, turned out to be an incredibly wonderful, happy day.  I spent the snowy winter afternoon on a warm and sunny beach in Kansas City.  I hadn’t planned to go.  I thought I would just stay in my room and work on my novel.  But my plans were soon interrupted.

Around 4 pm, there was a knock on my door.  I looked up to see my sister-in-law, Mary, standing in the doorway.  Mary was babysitting her 4-year-old granddaughter, Samantha, for the afternoon.  “Jamie, I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, “but I need to go to the grocery store.  Samantha doesn’t want to go with me.  She wants to stay here with you.  Would you mind watching her while I’m gone?”

“Oh, that’s fine,” I answered as I quickly saved my work on the computer. 

“I’ll be fast,” Mary said.  “I’ll only be gone for about 15 minutes, I promise.”

“It’s okay, Mary,” I answered as I followed her down the hallway.  “I’ll watch Samantha.”

And at that moment, Samantha ran over to me and grabbed my hand.  As Mary walked out to the garage, Samantha dragged me into the family room.  “We’re going to the beach, Jamie,” Samantha informed me.

I stood in the middle of the family room and looked around at the fireplace, the leather couch, and the red-and-black patterned carpet.  “Okay,” I agreed, “we’re on the beach.”  And suddenly, we were running around the house.  “Okay, Samantha, we need beach towels, and a ball, and a pail, and…”

“And a surfboard!”  Samantha squealed happily.

A surfboard?!  And then I had an idea as I ran to the hall closet.  I yanked open the door and pulled out a long piece of cardboard that I had seen in the closet a few days before.  I held it up proudly.  “We have a surf board!”

Samantha squealed excitedly as we gathered our beach items and ran back into the family room.  We spread the towels over the carpet as we mapped out where the sand was located.  We threw the “surfboard” onto another area of the carpet that we designated as the ocean.  The kitchen served as our dressing room as we pretended to put on our swimsuits even though it was too cold to even think about taking off our sweaters.  Once we were “dressed” in our swimsuits, we ran back out to the beach. 

Samantha and I spent the next half hour surfing in our imagined ocean.  We stood together on the piece of cardboard, held our arms straight out, and rocked back and forth as we pretended to surf the red-and-black carpet.  We were actually pretty good until a large wave suddenly swept us off the board and into the ocean, where we had to rescue each other from imagined sharks.  After out-swimming  the sharks, we lay down on our beach towels and soaked up the warm sun. 

Then after a quick beach snack of white powdered doughnuts, it was time to play volleyball.  Samantha and I stood at opposite ends of the family room and batted a small, red-and-white ball back and forth.  I was surprised that tiny Samantha was so coordinated.  I think she hit the ball more times than I did.  The whole beach experience was wonderful except when the dogs kept running onto the beach and interrupting our game.  Samantha and I had to stop several times to chase the dogs off our beach and back into the living room.       

Finally, after a long afternoon of “fun in the sun,” Samantha and I packed up our beach towels, buckets, and snacks and left the sand, the water, and the sun behind as we returned to the cold, the snow, and the ice of a Kansas winter afternoon.  The day at the beach in the middle of February had truly done me some good.  I was warm, happy, and relaxed…

…and exhausted…wow! 

Unless you are in good shape, never take a four-year-old to the beach on a winter day!


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…