Surviving Winter with Clipped Wings

Have we approached deep winter yet? Because it sure feels like it.

As I type this, the temperature in Toronto is hovering somewhere around minus seven degrees Celsius, with a wind chill of -17 … which isn’t great, but compared to recent weeks is, sadly, not horrid.

Winters here are typically milder than other parts of the country. But it’s been a roller-coaster season (everywhere) so far. When we haven’t had cold snaps, we’ve had snow globe-type flurries to keep snowplows (and people who have driveways to shovel) occupied.

My mom’s shuttered herself in her apartment, and she’s going stir-crazy.

Know who’s really had it up to here? Commuters battling traffic and slow transit, bundled like sausage rolls, just trying to get to work on time. Don’t even start with them.

And me?

When I’m not sweating as I’m bent over in my outerwear, trying to lace up my boots, I’m slipping and stumbling along snow-covered sidewalks, the cold harsh wind trying its best to sting my legs, while gnawing at my exposed face.

Image result for why does the air hurt my face

(Dude*,  you have no idea how relatable this comic is right now — thank you.)

I’m constantly tired. Part of it’s my own doing. But I attribute the other part to the weather.

And I constantly. Feel. Dry. Everywhere.

If it’s not my lips or mouth, it’s my nose. And if it’s not any of the other holes in or on my face, it’s the skin on the rest of my body, which I constantly have to stop from picking or scratching off.

I’m using whatever lotions, balms, and homemade body butters are within reach, and am trying to drink a reasonable amount of water. But this dryness is relentless.

The only thing drier than me and my wrists (my latest fashion accessory: dermatitis bracelets) might be the Sahara Desert.

I fully acknowledge (and can appreciate) that there are folks who love — and live for — winter. Ice-skating, playing hockey, skiing, snowboarding, jogging in the mornings or evenings – any activity that invigorates them, gets that brisk Arctic air into their lungs.

I … am not one of those people.

I simply do not care that I’m Canadian and should be used to it. Every winter that passes, is one more that saps my energy. I’m. Spent.

If it were up to me, my apartment would be a blanket/duvet tunnel, leading into a blanket/duvet cave, from which I wouldn’t emerge until the end of March.

For the past couple of years, I did have one (not cheap) coping mechanism.

For at least the first two months of winter, I’d pull on two (or five) layers of clothes and do my best to soldier through the crisp cold weather, doing my best to manoeuvre around coughs, runny noses, seasonal affective disorder and the lack of vitamin D.

But I’d make sure that at some point – in February or March, when I’d had enough – I’d book a trip, board a flight and get my backside to a warmer country. My brain would get a bit of a rest, my skin would clear up, and I’d have a good mood that would carry me for a few weeks.

This year, there’s no winter break travel money. So the warmest I’m going to be is under the covers or standing next to the baseboard heaters in my apartment.

Yes, I realize that having the money to travel is a privilege in itself. But as a personal philosophy, I never put myself into debt for the sake of travel (or anything, period). If I can’t afford to pay for it, I start saving.

So unless I suddenly trip over $3000, I need to find a bunch of ways to cope until the weather gets warmer.

Perhaps this is the winter I find solace in the art gallery or the museum … or in a lot of movie theatres … because at the rate I’m going, I’m going to be a wreck by April.

So readers who live in cold countries: if you’re not the outdoorsy type, what do you do to cope with winter? How do you keep from not going stir-crazy?

And for those whose moisturized skin is defying the cold: what are your secret (paraben-free) weapons?

Let me know in the comments!

 

*Comic is from DepressedAlien.com.

Oh, Rhinovirus.

When I said I wanted to start taking better care of myself, I didn’t think it meant having to tackle a cold.

Sniff. Cough. Yaaaatchoooo! Snooort.

Ugh.

Oh January, you cruel mistress. You couldn’t leave your oh-so-draining boyfriend Rhinovirus behind, could you?

Guess a combination of late nights, the recent cold snap, and a circulating holiday virus has finally nabbed me.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been throwing vitamins and oil of oregano down the hatch when I’m awake, and knocking myself out with cold-and-sinus medication when I sleep.

I’m also trying to drink lots of fluids and get some reasonable amounts of sleep. It’s been tricky now that I’ve returned to work. But hopefully I can get over this sooner than later.

Hack. Sniiifffff.

My Winter Cocoon

Nothing like winter to bring out the recluse in even the most gregarious person.

If you’re wondering why this blog has laid dormant in well over a month, well … I can’t give you a good reason, really.

I’ve been feeling a bit defeated lately. And uninspired. I suppose that’s what January does to some people.

But here’s what’s new with me as of late (although not much, I’m afraid) …

At the end of December, I got a spontaneous proposal from a friend to travel to South Korea with her in February for two weeks. I was taken aback – and instantly excited. Visions of plane tickets danced in my head. I even bought a travel guide …

Which turned out to be premature, since the trip fell through.

While in conversation with another work-mate, she’d mentioned possibly going to Cuba at the end of March, which once again stoked the embers of my wanderlust. That would also turn out to be short-lived.

My continuous condo hunt brought me very close to putting an offer in on a property. But that, too, didn’t materialize. I’m presently without an agent – I ended things with her about a couple of weeks ago.

Compounding said fruitless condo hunt, was unwanted mail from the taxman … which (a) resulted in a small financial setback (about five months’ worth, if my shoddy math skills are correct) in the life savings I’d steadfastly been squirreling away and (b) squashed out any possibility of going to Cuba like a helpless ant into the pavement.

So, I decided to call a time out and take a break until that issue was dealt with.

I’m also taking an indefinite hiatus from the online dating site. I can’t deal with that right now. It would probably just get on my last nerve.

So I’ve simply taken to living inside my own head, the way a crab might adopt an abandoned shell or tin can lying on a sea bed, and just curling up inside. All I do is think. About nothing. About a lot of things.

I could just let it ooze out somewhere. Write it down, like I’m supposed to. But I feel as if I’d just present the same song and dance, play the same record over and over. And you’ve all heard it before, so why bother hashing it out again without sounding like a do-nothing whiner?

Amid all this, I quietly marked my 33rd birthday a week and a half ago.

There was no fanfare, no dancing on the table. Just a small gathering of close friends (the ones who happen to have Mondays off, anyway) over a healthy lunch at a Bloor Street West cafe. I wasn’t disappointed at all about the low-energy festivities. Frankly, I was tired from the gruelling work-week I just had.

I don’t know what, but I felt something was missing. So I didn’t feel like trying too hard.

(I guess that’s the downside of having a winter birthday … unless you put forth the energy, it’s very easy to forget about it.)

I did end up going ice skating the day after, which was a bit of a pick-me-up.

But – fingers crossed – the dreary fog might be lifting a bit.

There have been a few microscopic movements for me within the last week. So perhaps while January has been lost, February could make up for it. We’ll wait and see.

But in the meantime, I’ll do my best to leave the tin can behind.

Maybe this month I’ll aim for two entries instead of just one 🙂 .

Where There’s Snow …

… There’s the Kensington Urban Snowpark.

While most of us spent February:

(a) cursing the gods, stumbling and grumbling through the cold, snow, windchill, sleet and God-knows-what-else in nine layers of clothing to and from work, etc.,

(b) shovelling our driveways and sidewalks, while inwardly cursing the aforementioned gods, or 

(c) fed up with the horrid weather, electing to flee the True North for sandy beaches down south

a friend of mine and his three roommates

(d) built their own snow ramp. From the roof of their house, onto their back deck. While relatively sober. 

I’d heard my friend talk about building this when winter hit, months ago … but I didn’t take him seriously

So imagine my surprise when, while last night on The Facebook, two of my friends mentioned they heard he’d constructed the mythical ramp of which he previously spoke.

“What?” I thought to myself. So I paid a visit over to his profile and discovered this video, which nearly made me fall off my chair.

The video was even posted on Torontoist yesterday.

Apparently the ramp’s melted, but if they get enough snow from what’s fallen between last night and today, they might repair it. 

Yes, it’s official: some of my friends ARE crazy.

(Even though I question their sanity, I do not question their use of the song “Final Countdown” as the soundtrack to this nutty video. Nice touch, guys.)

Insufferable Sickness 2, Loquacious D 0

Just when I thought I got the okay to leave the Chicken Soup Posse two weeks ago …

I was sidelined by blocked sinuses and a fever late last week.

I haven’t left my house in three days. My ears still pop, and my raw, tender nostrils alternate between blockages. And it’s driving me nuts.

Of course, when I do leave my house tomorrow, it won’t be for Family Day mischief in Toronto like a number of grown adults my age.

I’m going back to work. Like 60 per cent of us in this province.

Yes, I’m being whiny. But still …

*sigh*

Time and a half … Time and a half … Time and a half …

The Brown Snowsuit

It’s on cold days like these when I remember the days of my childhood …

And that time my mom decided to get me a snowsuit.

snowsuit.jpgPicture it: Scarborough, 1981.

My mom went shopping around for a durable, decently-priced snowsuit in which to clothe me during the harsh winter months.

And she found one which fit all her criteria. So much so, she didn’t even blink twice at the colour.

It was brown. Not reddish-brown. Not dark brown. Just. Brown.

Looking back, I can completely understand the adult’s point of view. I mean, if you get a really good snowsuit built to last, why care what colour it is?

Well, if you’re a four-year-old boy, no biggie. Slap that bad boy on and you’re ready for some play in the snow.

But if you’re a four-year-old girl, well … it kind of causes problems.

Once I was at the supermarket grocery shopping with my mom, in the brown snowsuit. We were in the produce section, and I guess I’d wandered too close to one of the fruit or veggie displays.

The next thing I know, the produce guy says to me, “Buster, be careful. You don’t want to knock over the display.”

According to my mom, I didn’t say anything. I just looked at him. And I was probably frowning.

Another time, I was with my mom at the doctor’s for an appointment. It was Christmas time, and there was a huge tree set up in one corner of the waiting room. The place was full of patients waiting their turn.

According to what my mom told me, I’d wandered over to the tree to take a look at the decorations.

The receptionist apparently turned and said to me, “Sonny, don’t touch the tree. You might break the ornaments.”

That did it. She had gone too far for this pre-schooler. 

“My name is not Sonny,” I replied. “My name is Diane.”

The receptionist just ignored me. Me being four, I figured she just didn’t hear me. So I repeated myself.

Still, nothing. She didn’t even look my way.

According to my mom, I continued to try and correct her … getting up on my tiptoes to get her attention over the big desk. And still, the woman ignored me.

But everyone else in the waiting room was paying full attention at the scene I was making.

My mom – seeing my plight and how rude the woman was being – said, “Honey, why don’t you show her your pretty braids?”

And that was all the ammunition I needed.

I apparently clomped over to the receptionist’s desk, ripped off my toque and yelled in a shrill, four-year-old voice:

“MY NAME IS NOT SONNY!” I squealed, my tiny, multi-coloured, barretted plaits shaking. “MY NAME IS DIANE!”

Apparently my mom nearly lost it and was trying so hard not to laugh.

And the receptionist finally noticed.

“Okay, Diane,” she replied sheepishly. “Don’t touch the tree.”

It’s memories like these that make me miss that sassy little four-year-old who didn’t take shit from anyone.

I should try and summon her up one of these days.

Sniffing at Courtesy?

About this time last winter, I remember sitting on the subway one morning – part of my routine commute to work.

I know I was sniffing, either because it was really cold that morning, or I had a cold – I can’t remember which.

I suppose I’d been sniffing excessively, because the passenger sitting next to me – a young man about my age – handed me a tissue to blow my nose.

I’d never had anyone do that for me before. He probably did it partially out of courtesy, but probably also because he just wanted my sniffing to cease. Looking back on it now, I honestly don’t blame him.

But reflecting upon it now, I appreciate the gesture. In fact, after it happened, I appreciated it so much that I wanted to extend the gesture to other people. 

A few days after that, I was sitting on the subway as per usual, when I noticed the female passenger next to me was sniffing.

I was hesitant, because the TTC is strange – cold and unfeeling, even – in that you very rarely come across people who don’t act all weird when you say something or make a gesture out of courtesy. I just didn’t want to start off my morning with cut-eye from a complete stranger.

And so, as the man did for me a few days earlier, I reached into my bag, pulled out tissue and offered it to her. She kindly accepted, thanking me. I was kind of shocked, actually.

Fast forward to last Wednesday. For whatever reason, I now find that people sniffing does kind of get on my nerves, as it was on this particular morning. As I was sitting in one of the single seats on the busy, trying to read, this high school student was standing over me, sniffing … and sniffing.

So, deciding to extend some goodwill and a Kleenex, I took my time and then turned, looked upward at him and said, “Would you like a tissue?”

The kid looked at me blankly, as if I started speaking to him in a man’s voice, in Czech.

I added, “I noticed you were sniffing.”

Nothing but the same blank stare.

“So you don’t want a tissue?”

He shook his head.

“Okay, then,” I replied, quickly muttering to myself, “So stop sniffing.”

I dunno if he heard the last part, because between the time I stopped speaking and the time he got off the bus a few minutes later, it seemed like he miraculously stopped sniffing.

Maybe I had the wrong approach. Maybe my offering wasn’t with the sincerest of intentions as it had been last year. Or maybe what works on a subway on its way downtown, just doesn’t roll on a bus driving through Scarborough.   

*sigh*

I’m SO getting an iPod.

The Cross-Country Experience

I’m not gonna lie. I hate winter. I haaaate it. Despite having a January birthday, and being Canadian-born and bred. 

For years I’ve been convinced I’m not genetically predisposed to this sort of climate. (Yes, even though I live in Toronto, where it isn’t nearly as cold as some other parts of the country, it’s still too cold for me.)

I complain about the cold, whinge about the wind, and lament about having to wear layers on a regular basis. If I can help it, I try to stay out of it for as long as I can.

One blogger I like to read, No Pasa Nada, shares this hatred of all things snowy and cold (but south of the border).

Or, at least, she did.

A couple of weeks ago, she recently discovered an outdoor winter activity she actually likes. Now her hatred of winter is more of a mild dislike because of it.

I read her post and at the time I thought, more power to her. I, on the other hand, didn’t think I’d find something – other than skating – which would bring me out of the house for prolonged periods of time.

After this past weekend, I’m almost willing to reconsider.

Last weekend, a small group of friends and I drove an hour up north, to go cross-country skiing.

Part of me still thinks I was nuts. A sista on skis? Not that it’s unheard of … but the last time I was on skis of any kind was during a downhill ski trip in eighth grade.

But the other part was, why not? The friend in charge of organizing the trip used to be a kids’ ski instructor at Cypress Mountain. If she was going to help me learn, who was I to say no, right?

Several days before the trip during an evening out with friends, the friend was trying to convince me that it wouldn’t be that bad, while I was trying to convince her of the exact opposite.

“Let’s put it this way,” I said. “I have a feeling that my skating is probably better than my skiing.”

Her eyes widened a bit. “Um, that’s not good.”

Before we all knew it, Saturday morning had arrived. We got to the ski centre at just minutes to noon, in two cars. We all changed into our warm woolies, grabbed some food while watching the learn-to-ski DVD playing on the TV above our heads, then got the boots, skis and poles. Not at the same time, of course. It took a while for all of us to regroup.

My friend Cara and I waited outside the chalet for the others to emerge. While we waited, I noticed Cara clicking on her skis.

That’s when I learned the first thing about cross-country skis: the tip of the snow boot is actually the only part secured to the ski.

(Hello? Black girl from Scarborough? Like I would’ve known that.)

So, not feeling particularly eager to start gliding away without being able to stop, I thought I’d wait a few more minutes.

Cara turned to me and said, “C’mon – put on your skis.”

Not that I knew how, but she eventually helped me out.

Then she started moving around the general area on her skis, while I did my best impression of a child learning to walk – but on two pieces of fibreglass – while actual kids whizzed by me.

Eventually the rest of the gang emerged, got on their gear, and off we went, on the nearest trail.

Luckily for me I was one of two first-time skiiers, so it made the discomfort of not knowing what I was doing a bit easier.

Before I knew it, I was starting to get the hang of things. Apparently I was doing pretty well for someone who’d never cross-country skiied before.

First off, I have to say how winded I got. Man, was that ever a workout! I wasn’t wheezing or anything, but I was panting slightly, and I could feel all that cold air I was inhaling, in my chest.

And with all the movement, I didn’t really feel cold at all, other than on my face. I was sweating.

And as moved, I was taking in the beautiful winter scenery. Yes, I said “beautiful” and “winter” in the same sentence.

The other thing that I still haven’t grasped yet: how to get down hills (which, to British Columbians, would be slight inclines in land, not actual hills). I tried to “snowplough”, as my friend instructed, but a few times I ended up wiping out. Which wouldn’t have been bad, except that the hardest part was trying to get back up into a standing position.

By the end of the day, I – tired, sweaty and a bit sore – had a whole different opinion of cross-country skiing. I may not be as obsessed as No Pasa Nada is about snowshoeing, but I’m willing to give it another go sometime this winter.

I just have to get some of my stiff-legged skating in first.