The Ugly Coat Came Out Today!!

That’s right, this coat has a name and few people have ever seen it; I can think of five including myself, Erin Lee, Meghan Lee, the original owner and her daughter, who is no longer with us.  It is ugly, which is one of the reasons it ended up with me 🙂  An old friend who dislikes brutal cold even more than I do had purchased it years ago, then was forbidden by her daughter  to wear it in public.  When I moved out here to the Homestead, my friend gifted it to me figuring that living in Shawano Country, it probably didn’t matter how ugly the coat is, it may well come in handy.  My daughters rolled their eyes, and the coat became an annual joke.  I comment every year when the coat comes out; it’s my temperature gauge and for it to come out means it’s fairly cold.  I should keep track of the date each year.like an almanac of cold; haven’t done it so far, but today it’s going in the planner, to be transferred on New Year’s Day to the 2014 planner for future reference 🙂  

How ugly is it, you might ask?  I’ll try to explain in words and a visual just what it’s all about.

Faded purple, puffy everything, hood, even an emblem of something on the sleeve

Faded purple, puffy everything, hood, even an emblem of something on the sleeve

 

 It is big, HUGE, puffy, doesn’t all fit in a single photo and full-length   That’s right, no short little thing that leaves your behind exposed.  This comes right down to the top of my boots, even has a hood and large sleeves that allow for several layers.  It’s so heavy that it has to go in a closet on a double hanger.  I tried hanging it with the  others on the back porch coat tree, but it tips the whole thing over. I”m one who collects jackets and coats, the fact that this one item outweighs all the others combined should give you some idea 🙂  

Thinking about that, I could wear it around the house for exercise, maybe it would act as a full body weight instead of the girlie wrist and ankle weights I use; perhaps it could be like a personal sweat coat.  Who knew that it could be multipurpose, all the while in the house where no one but Soleil can observe and he promised never to tell:)  As far as I know there are no photos of this coat being worn because even here in the country, I’d be hard pressed to wear this into town.  It has not yet been that cold, even in Wisconsin and I do have a fur that is much more attractive.  Either way, the outfit is completed with my ancient white Sorels – big, insulated, waterproof, you know the kind that last forever, you just update the liner occasionally and yes, they are very white.  I bought new gloves a few weeks ago, supposed to be guaranteed to keep hands warm and dry to  -30º, we’ll see :).  Now that The Ugly Coat has been taken out of storage, I’m ready for for whatever.  

And there’s one more thing – the ice cleats that go on your boots.  Used to have a pair, lost one and found out the hard way last winter that one is generally insufficient to keep a person upright.  In the interest of staying on my feet and avoiding another concussion, when the back steps were slippery yesterday morning, I went on the hunt for a PAIR of cleats, which I found and now own.  That said, now I may be ready for whatever.  

As good ol’ King Solomon said back in the day, every season has its time.  I’m not so sure I’ll ever agree that there’s a time for brutal cold, or even just regular cold, but I am as ready as I can be now that The Ugly Coat has shown up again.  Stay warm, be blessed!!

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I’m so cold you should put on a sweater

Memories…  My girls and I have been talking about memories, fun things, funny sayings.  The title of this post is an example of a line that makes us smile.  I’m known for always being cold, well before any surgeries or health challenges – I’m just cold-blooded.  The girls would say with eyes rolling, “Mom’s cold, we have to put on a sweater.”  That’s a favorite.

The other day I saw a saying about dancing in the rain.  Reminded me of my girls.  In a text to  ErinLee, I shared the line and reminisced about how she loved to play in the rain.  She reminded me of the time she went  into the backyard to play in the rain in her underwear and accidentally locked herself out.  Big smile at that memory 🙂

There are so many.  Last year at this time I was posting a Countdown, counting down the days until I was in warmer climes with my Meghan for Christmas.   This year I haven’t been counting down until today, when Meghan reminded me that it’s only five days till we’re together.  Five crazy busy days during which I’ll clean my house – another whole set of memories from my own childhood, carried  into my children’s  lives and  into the present day.  Thanks, Mom –  a story in itself.  I will take two final exams, and as promised back in August, finish the dreaded algebra.  Not to mention laundry, packing, paperwork, banking,  a Merry Christmas hug for my favorite Auntie Arlene before I go, so many things to finish.

It won’t be long now.  Temperature here in the North Woods is heading toward a wind chill of 20 below tonight. So as I get back to the business of finishing a semester and  preparing to be away for a couple weeks, I’m telling you, I’m so cold, y’all get those sweaters on, you hear?

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Gaining Ground

I’m still playing catch-up from the weekend misfortunes, but at least I’m playing.  I definitely had an attitude challenge going and thankfully,  have moved through it.  My house is almost normal, though my ears are tuned to the on/off cycles of the furnace and I”m less than completely unpacked.  But my truck is running and I was able to get groceries and sand from the pile kept by the city for ice emergencies such as we had.  Hard to imagine that clearing away ice is a topic of local news, but it is.  I heard that cities nearby are going to begin sending out workers to chop/scrape ice from the sidewalks and homeowners will be charged $80 for the service.  That’s winter where I live.

I don’t have sidewalks.  I have a fairly long driveway that empties into a circle around which the house, garage, shed, barn, etc, are grouped, a fairly large area to attack with traditional methods like sidewalk salt and/or sand and a manual ice chipper.  So I mixed salt into the 32-gallon trash barrel full of sand and spread it strategically, hoping that a slight rise in temperature would facilitate some melting.  The weatherman said it wouldn’t happen today, but how often is the guy right?  Today, of course, when I have to make sure that my students and their parents can get in and out of the driveway and the house safely.

Being a generally positive positive person and no longer dwelling in self-pity, I looked for the humor.   Today that was visualizing myself trying to carry a bucket of salt/sand from back steps to garage – remember it’s an out-building -while utilizing ski poles to stay upright – how many hands did I say I have?  But at least the ski poles were handy, already out on the back porch as part of seasonal decor and they did, indeed, aid in keeping me on my feet and a brown salt/sand path now runs from the house to the garage making safe passage  more likely.

As for getting the truck started, thanks to the wood stove out in the garage and numerous trips to stoke it with kindling and all the paper I’ve been meaning to burn, bundled and booted against negative wind chills,  I produced enough heat to thaw the lines of the truck and on one of those trips to stoke the fire I decided to just give it another try.  Singing like a child at the top of my lungs – another reason to live in the country fairly far removed from neighbors – “I am trusting Thee to guide me, Thou alone shalt lead, every day and hour supplying all my need,”   I turned the key in the ignition and, voilà, the truck started.

To quote my father once again, “There you have it.”  When feeling sad, defeated, low, I resort to music and prayer, sometimes together via old favorite hymns, or playing my piano.   Try it, sing like no one can hear you, unless you have a beautiful voice – then sing so everyone can.

And remember, you cannot – it’s not physically possible – you cannot be singing  praises out loud and dwelling in despair in your mind.    The brain doesn’t work that way – we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

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Welcome Home, so they say, anyway…

An eventful weekend.  First of all, I didn’t leave South Carolina Friday night on my scheduled flight.  There was an airline issue and my choices were stay with Meghan and leave Saturday morning or leave Friday night later, miss my connection to Green Bay and spend the night at O’Hare.  Hmmm, wonder what I chose?

So I had a whole extra day with Meghan.  She had taken a 1/2 day off work so we could go out for lunch and hang out before going to the airport.  Now we could hang out for the afternoon and the evening!!  Didn’t someone once say the Lord works in mysterious ways?  Sure worked for me to have a canceled flight and extra time with Meg.

My arrival home here in the country was another story.  Back into the cold, literally, as I had a furnace issue and the house temperature was hovering right about 40°.  And my truck refused to start – not the battery, that was working.  Something else was wrong.  Yippee.  Now I’m home and freezing and stranded and it’s late Saturday afternoon.  Try finding emergency services on a weekend, after hours.

Long story short, $800 later, the house was beginning to warm up.  By 2:30 a.m. it was 62°.  I kept throwing blankets in the dryer, then wrapping up in them to keep from shivering.    Sleepless night, no unpacking, no working on the photos, just a frantic effort to be warm.

The UPside?  No burst pipes – one frozen one, successfully thawed in a relatively short time and no major damage. Could things have been worse?  Lots and I’m thankful for what WAS, not what could have been.

I also have a confession to make – last night and this morning were rough.  I was on the verge of discouraged – sad and feeling defeated.  Back in the cold, and it’s bitter here, brutal, pick your word,  with an overnight glaze of 1/4″ thick ice over everything, my truck not starting, no groceries other than a some bread and a couple oranges.  For the first time EVER I questioned whether I was on the right path as I have believed for so long.  Thank the Lord for people in my life who help me stay on the path.  I expressed my concern out loud to my cousin, Dan.  He’s one of the people  I can call for everything and HAVE !!

Bat in the house?  Call Dan.  Sump pump running non-stop?  Call Dan.  Computer issues?  Call cousin Dan.   Well, he came and parked his car outside so I could sit and be warm for the couple hours it took to get someone out here and then for them to do their thing.  He has a great car with SEAT HEATERS and he sat and let  me be warm and didn’t leave till the challenges were on the way to over.

So that’s the tale here and I’m no longer sad, discouraged or questioning.  Dan reminded me that it’s not defeat, it’s testing and that can be powerful conffirmation that one is, indeed, on the right path.  So I had to pull myself up by my boot straps – the 15-year old white Sorrels, stop questioning, despairing, whining, whatever.     That had to stop and I’ll talk about how in the next post.  Just goes to show that even  Encouragers sometimes need encouragement.  That was me late in the night and in the dark of the  early morning and for the sake of honesty I’ll share my technics in the next post.  I am now smiling in the face of adversity and if this is a test, I’m going to pass with flying colors.  Adieu…..

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Countdown 57 hours – First Day of Winter

Okay not even the low number of hours till I’m hugging my Meghan can begin this post.  The feature here is, get this, minus 6° (6 below zero) air temp with a WIND CHILL of  minus 28 degrees.    That’s a wind chill factor of 28 DEGREES BELOW ZERO right now, as I’m writing.  Didn’t I use the words brutal cold yesterday?  We are there and it is indeed brutal. It even looks harsh out there and winter officially began just hours ago.

Am I heading out to church?  No, and I’m reasonably certain the Lord understands.  I will visit one of my favorite preachers online, Pastor Greg Laurie at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside California, and listen live because they stream the video during each of their services.  I can  watch/listen three times today.  In between their services I can pop over (virtually)  to Appleton Alliance Church, a wonderful place, but  difficult to travel there from here especially with blowing, drifting snow.  Pastor Dennis there was a powerful pray-er for me prior to my second brain surgery and is a gifted preacher.  I download and listen to his sermons regularly.

My own father, the most gifted preacher I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard many,  doesn’t yet have his sermons on their Web site.    I chuckled when I first moved out here and ran into some of his former parishioners.  The wife was telling me how they were out for a Sunday drive, flipping through radio stations and they heard “The Voice”  and knew immediately who it was. At 83, he’s still got it.  Having grown up with the best, I do admit to having fairly high standards for preachers.  While I certainly know that it’s supposed to be the message, not the messenger;  the messenger makes a difference.  And my father is a very powerful messenger.  Maybe he’ll get his sermons on the Web and you, too, can hear him preach.  Are you reading this, Dad?  🙂

So that’s my Sunday – I have my last transcription job of 2008 due tomorrow morning in addition to hauling out the snow-blower AGAIN and bundling up against the wind AGAIN, then more cleaning, laundry, packing, the usual pre-holiday (as in vacation) routine previously referred to .  Don’t think I’ll get to “wiping up the floor” at all  and to use one of my father’s famous lines once again – There you have it.

In 50 hours I’ll be at the airport in Green Bay, waiting to take off for Columbia, South Carolina, where my Meghan will be waiting to pick me up.  I will surely be dancing through the cleaning and packing today, amen 🙂

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Countdown 4 days or about 96 hours!

So I started this on Friday and as so often occurs, time got away from me and this is now out-of-date.  Let’s see what can be salvaged.  I was excited about it being 4 days or 96 hours, and that is now reduced to three-and-a-half days and 84 hours – the inevitable passage of time.  Sometimes it seems to work against us, but now time is on my side, to quote an old Stones song.    In less than 90 hours I’ll be warmer and hugging my Meghan for the first time in too long. I’m focusing on how very happy that makes me, staying away from the thought that we’ll be missing one very special person, my other daughter, ErinLee, living in Seattle. Yep, opposite coasts.  Now there’s food for thought AND another post.  I know it can’t be helped that she won’t be with us and I’m grateful for the time I’m getting with one of them.  So I put a special letter in the mail to ErinLee yesterday, hoping it arrives before Christmas Day. Thankfully the mail carrier attempted to get through the pile left by the snowplow even though he had recently left me written instructions on proper access to mailboxes and  mine wasn’t quite up to par. Kind of right up there with garbage bags to the road by 6:00 a.m.

Does it sound to you like we may have gotten more snow? Sure did, several more inches along with big wind. We’re on a roll toward breaking last year’s record-breaking snowfall. As Meghan was telling me about temperatures in the 70s in South Carolina yesterday I was remembering looking out my kitchen window very early Friday morning.   The snow was coming down pretty hard and the wind – you can actually SEE the wind. Meghan and I talked about that – see the wind? Oh yes, out here in the country with large open areas, the wind moves across the front yard and the fields, picking up the snow as it rolls and blows along. You can see what looks like a wall of snow not unlike ocean waves rolling onto the beach, beautiful.

We’re above zero now – what a difference that makes – and may even stay there throughout the day though for tomorrow night they’re predicting wind chill of 25 below.  That is brutal cold and even for me, hard to find the beauty or the bright side there.  The only thing I can think of is that when it’s hitting minus 25° here I’ll be just 48 hours away from what will seem like a whole nother world.   So we’ll leave yesterday behind and go on to new thoughts in a new day –  à toute à l’heure…

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Countdown 6 days!

Actually I got an e-mail from my Meghan  – the South Carolina daughter with whom I’m spending my holiday – this morning and she had the countdown in HOURS – hours, not days.  How thrilling is that?  She had it at 152 hours and just happened to mention that it’s very warm there today, said she walked her new dog this morning wearing a tank top and drove to work with the windows open.  Beats the daylights out of a wind chill of minus 3°.  My dogs don’t even want to go out and we got more snow overnight.  And though the sun is shining now, the snow is NOT melting, which means that shortly I’ll take a break and head out to the back  steps to assess whether or not I can get away with just broom and shovel or if I need to fire up the snowblower.

So where’s the fun part, the bright side, LeeAnn’s way of looking at the world?  At 5:00 this morning  I was taking the garbage up to the road and there were sparkles everywhere, thanks to the big Mag flashlight and the dusk-to-dawn yard light.  It was absolutely gorgeous – another little gift to me outside in the cold, quiet dark at a very early hour.

Another little quirk of life out here.  Not all that long ago my garbage bags were left, as in not picked up.  The time was taken, however, to slap a bright orange sticker on both of the bags telling me that the garbage is to be out to the road by 6:00 a.m. And because I’m me, my first thought was,  what?  Someone from the county drives up and down these country roads at 6:00 a.m. sharp making a list (and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty – bags to the road late – or nice)?  Okay, bad joke, but it is approaching Christmas so forgive me, a little grace, please.

And there you have it, as my father often says.  Grace – another gift, so precious, yet so often missing from our lives, personally, within our families, relationships and even within the church.  But that’s a big subject and probably best saved for another day. So now I head into the great outdoors.  And by the way it’s warmed up to 12° and a wind chill of one degree.  A virtual heat wave and off I go 🙂

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AFFIRMATIONS aka LITTLE SPARKLES Part One

If you live where I do, known by several names, among them Lake Country or the Northwoods, you may know what I mean by Little Sparkles.  When it’s really cold as it is today, minus four degrees this morning, thankfully no wind, the snow becomes  drier and it appears that someone shook glitter over it.  If the sky is bright and blue sometimes it is so cold that the very air seems to sparkle, again like glitter, or like being in a real-life snow globe.  Those are special moments partly because they come at a time when many of us are downright uncomfortable – we’re COLD!!  Isn’t that just like our Father, to send us little sparkles of beauty to remind us that even in the midst of discomfort He’s with us, aware of our situation and urging us to look beyond our current circumstances.

I received Little Sparkles this morning in the nick of time.  As I said already it’s cold here, “Too early,” said the neighboring farmer, “don’t bode well for the rest of the winter.”  Why on earth was I outside talking to him?  Because my truck needed to be warmed up before going to church and he happened to be in the barnyard (called the feedlot) that he rents from me and where he keeps pregnant cows.  More on all that later.  Anyway, didn’t want to go out, wasn’t in the mood for people, a little cranky, in fact, frustrated with other things, oh, and did I say cold?  Okay, even encouragers have their moments – it’s what you do with them that counts.

But I’ve learned that when I don’t want to is probably the time I most need to head down the road to my church out here in the country, aptly named, Hope Community Church.  So off I went, bundled in 4 layers plus my warmest coat, hat, boots, gloves, pre-warmed truck, I know how to do this.  STAY TUNED….for Part Two.

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