Jan 02

In the bleak midwinter

"What rescue group considers bringing me to Wisconsin 'humane'?"

“What rescue group considers bringing me to Wisconsin ‘humane’?”

I’m just curious. I’m having a conversation with my best friend, who, though a couple of states away from me, also lives in the Midwest – the difference being that she grew up here, and I grew up closer to mid-Atlantic. We’re discussing a weekend road trip she and I are taking with our sons, and she was shocked that I had never been ice skating, owned no snow pants, and haven’t even gone sledding in years.

I do go outside in the winter, of course, but if I’m out there for any length of time, it’s usually in running tights and related gear. When I’m done running, I go back inside and spend the next three to four hours trying to stop shivering and shaking violently. I am not a cold-weather person. But is that so strange? I put it to you, any other grown men or women who have the dubious pleasure of living in regions that heavily feature snow: do you choose to spend a lot of time in it, or do you hunker down and grit your teeth, waiting for spring? And do you own snow pants?

My boys have them, but it’s pretty clear that Sam is following after me in this regard. (Perhaps it was to be expected.) If he happens to be around friends (his brother might count, but often doesn’t), he may choose to suit up for some sledding, but it’s usually brief, and then he’s fleeing for the indoors, where he’ll keep his hat on, and often his coat, as well. Gabe doesn’t mind the cold at all, but he’s capable of generating massive amounts of surplus energy all on his own; once he’s going, it would take more than a few feet of snow and a wind chill below twenty to put a stop to his fun.

Even the dogs are reaching their limit for tolerating what’s going on out there right now. Since yesterday, we’ve gotten more than a foot of snow on top of the big snow banks we already had (problem with Wisconsin: once winter hits, any snow is going to stick around for months, turning to concrete instead of melting), and the temperatures and wind chills are just unacceptable. We have jackets for them, but Evie haaaaaaates them, and she’d probably just go completely on strike if we implemented what they really need, which is booties. Seriously, within a couple of blocks, both dogs are whimpering, limping, and generally begging to go inside…where within five minutes, after paws thaw, they’ll forget their discomfort and beg at the door again.

As I said, I don’t mind running in it, since running warms me up pretty quickly and efficiently. I hate slipping, but that just means I need to plan and prepare. It’s fine! I ran yesterday, in fact, for our running club’s annual New Year’s run, in blinding snow and drifts past our ankles even on plowed streets. Just like in the summer, when I love running outdoors but loathe the idea of gardening or landscaping, there’s a narrow area of “reasonable interaction with nature” that I can tolerate. (Shoveling is better than mowing, though. Fewer opportunities for flying shrapnel, for one thing.) Perhaps my low level of coordination is also a factor. Skiing, skating, and most other winter sports have a certain baseline of grace as a requirement, and I have a knack for finding hidden layers of ice under any patch of camouflaging snow.

“Whee!” go my feet, flying into the air.
“Woof!” go the dogs, whose unexpected desire to sniff the yellow snow three feet to our side caused the slippage. “Get up, Mistress, so we can go back inside and then go out again!”

I would like to live in a place where owning snow pants would be considered a luxury, a sign that I was well-off enough to take vacations in distant, cold places. Failing that, I’d like a house with a big fireplace, which would pretty much be kept going from November to March, my butt planted in front of it. As it stands, I’m sitting here in three layers of clothes, a winter hat (okay, so Sam’s not alone in that), hot coffee snuggled to my chest (or else it gets stone cold in ten minutes), and a hound puppy across my lap. I don’t need snow pants. I just need a bigger list of excuses for when long-time residents raise their eyebrows at me. “It’s too cold for that nonsense” doesn’t cut it.

Somebody tell me I’m not alone. Also, how do you keep dogs from chewing booties off, or just lying down and pretending to be legless?


  1. andrea_r (@andrea_r)

    I do not own snowpants and as of right now I don’t even have winter boots. I go from the house to the car and back, that’s it.

    I do not frolic in the snow – if there’s shovelling to be done, I borrow the husband’s boots. or even snowpants.

  2. Diane Werle (@quiltbabe)

    The last time I owned/wore snowpants was in 6th grade when my mother forced me to wear them to the local frozen-patch-of-playground ice skating “rink” and my classmates laughed at me.

    I’m a Milwaukee native, and *I’m* sick of the cold. The snow I can live with (twenty years of living in a flat where I only had street parking, brushing off the car multiple times a day hardened me). But this cold (highs for the day in single digits or lower – above that I can cope) gets in my bones. I don’t willingly stay outside in winter (asthma makes the best excuse for this!), but do dress in the “just in case the car won’t start and my cell phone battery is dead” manner when I do go out.

    Our gorgeous (if muddy) spring, generally mild summer and spectacular falls make up for the winter, or so I keep telling myself.

  3. yasmara

    Grew up in Alaska, live in Minnesota now (for the last 20 years, interrupted by a 2-year stint in Madison WI) and yes, I DO own snow pants! My kids each have several pairs.

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