Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to survive a Prairie winter...

Weather reports for Regina indicated it was minus 53 with the wind chill last night. (That's degrees Celsius, for my non-metric friends...yeah, it's as bad as it sounds. I don't even know if Fahrenheit records that sort of horror.).

My advice for surviving a Prairie winter? Don’t. Go. Outside. Animals with massive fur pelts tend to thrive in, perhaps even enjoy, sub-arctic climates. If you're of a species not born with a rug of hair covering your entire body and/or your name is not Chuck Norris, then you may have a harder time embracing Prairie winters.

My distaste for cold weather is directly linked to the following incident. I was the seventh child in a batch of eight, and I made my appearance in the fall, just as my parents were building a new house to accommodate their expanding brood. (At some point during the path of evolution, stacking three kids per bed was considered cruel and unusual punishment. The shack had to be replaced.)

My first real crisis on planet earth happened that first winter, when I was a mere wisp of a creature, barely tapping the three month mark. By the time winter rolled around, the frame of the new house was up but the basement was the only part finished. So for a few months, we all lived down there like a family of badgers. As the story goes, my little crib was tucked safely against a wall, right up under one of those sketchy basement windows. You know the type - the ones that can get pushed in very easily. The ones that when not latched properly, certainly won’t withstand a massive snowstorm. Well my friends, on that fateful night, the howling winds blew that window wide open and subsequently, my helpless wee body was covered in a blanket of snow.

As my older sister likes to recall, I resembled one of those ramps you launch a snowmobile over. She’s pretty sure I was covered for hours before anyone realized where the mewling noise was coming from. My mom swears this isn’t true. According to her, I was covered for a few minutes, at most, before she responded to my wails of terror. They’re all suspect in my mind.

Here's a photo that was taken in said basement many years ago. From the look on my face, I'm presuming this image was captured shortly after my near-death experience...I look to be about three months old so the timing makes sense. I'm staring off into space, suffering from the mother of all brain freezes. Clearly, with my head resting on my wee fist, the caption should read: "I'm praying there's been some horrible mix-up at the hospital. As soon as I'm old enough, I'll be demanding a DNA test." Most importantly, why does it look like I'm wearing snap-on Lego hair? Speaking of pelts...I likely grew that mane in genetic response to the frigid conditions.

So how do I handle the cold now? By avoiding the outdoors as much as possible. I despise glacial temperatures, and you will never receive an apology from me for that statement. And yes, I was born here, grew up here, choose to live here, blah, blah, blah. But guess what? That doesn’t mean I have to proclaim my love for a wind chill that will freeze my face in under two minutes.

On days like this, my mom will often call up and initiate a wildly hilarious discussion, which inevitably goes as follows:

Mom: Oh, what a beautiful, crisp day today! That blue sky is absolutely amazing. Have you taken the kids out yet?

Me: Hmmmm. Right. Is Manitoba, like, 55 degrees warmer than Saskatchewan today? ‘Cause last time I checked, it’s not fit for humans outside.

Mom: Oh for heaven’s sake! It’s only minus twenty-five. And that blue sky! That's the one good thing about this cold weather, it almost always means a clear, blue sky. Bundle the kids up and get out there and enjoy some fresh air. They need their vitamin D. I love seeing kids with healthy red cheeks!

Yeah. Here’s the thing. That healthy red is also known as the onset of frostbite. As for the vitamin D, it now comes in drops. That, or I can set the kids by the window – our old double-panes offer up a bit of a breeze. And lastly, for the record, here’s my definition of too cold: if today you decided to wander outside for a stroll in your leisure wear, would you be dead inside the hour? Yeah? Then stay inside.

My mom also informs me from time-to-time that I should pick up a hobby, do something with my hands. She tells me this would help pass the cold winter nights and more importantly, stave off arthritis. Arthritis? Is this what I need to start worrying about?  The last bit scared me so I decided to sit down with her one evening and learn how to knit. Actually, truth be told, we started with crochet, however we aborted that mission shortly thereafter. I couldn’t really see what she was doing, and she couldn’t seem to slow it down to a pace where I could make heads or tails of what the hell was going on (translation: stop and hold for several hours so I could take pictures and make notes). It’s rather embarrassing to admit but I have this thing where I can’t figure something out unless it’s right in front of me, and I’m looking at it from the angle at which I’ll be attacking it. Like if I’m holding a map, I’ll turn it in the direction I’m actually driving, even if this means the whole thing is upside down. My husband has kindly informed me that this is an odd, rather disturbing, behaviour. (Perhaps that part of my brain doesn't work anymore as a result of lying frozen in a snow bank, left for dead by my entire family, when I was no more than twelve weeks old. Oh, sorry…did I mention this part already?) Needless to say, watching my Mom crochet from across the room was completely useless so I had to go and hover over her shoulder. Apparently my garlic breath was disruptive.

We then moved on to knitting. According to my Mom, I kept dropping the stitches, a term that makes little sense to me. If something doesn’t exist in the first place, then how does one go about dropping it? Either way, she suggested I use larger knitting needles. She then whipped out a set that were large enough to roast a coyote over an open fire pit. But still, the task proved too formidable for these (apparently arthritic) hands of mine, and after inadvertently spearing my cheek with a needle, I threw in the yarn and called it a day. My quest to make a scarf ended in a chorus of muffled sobs; mine as a result of my dire absence of ability, my mom’s from the sheer entertainment of watching me sweat. At one point, she asked me point blank if I was faking the whole thing. Faking what exactly? Incompetence? A complete and utter lack of skill? That kind of ignorance is hard to fake. (My final word on knitting? Go to Etsy, buy it, then tell your kids you made it...)

In the end, I tried to save face with my mom by suggesting that I would love for her to teach me how to bake bread. I think I even successfully faked a look of complete interest. This statement brought forth a fresh set of tears; she has yet to stop laughing. But when she does, I’ll secure a date with destiny and report back to you on what will likely be my finest (and last) hour in the kitchen. Really, how hard can it be? Yawn.

p.s. My 30-day date with Jillian has been postponed due to flu germs destroying all occupants of our household over the course of the last week. Just the thought of starting *The Shred* makes me all nauseous and queasy...or perhaps it was the large poutine I ordered from Dairy Queen last night, which seemed like an appropriate choice after not eating for two days. (My intelligence often surprises even me.) At any rate, I think it's about to repeat itself so I must dash.


Shannon Jones said...

Janita, one of the [many] things that I love about your writing is that it's so genuine that I can actually hear your voice in my ears telling the story! Almost feels like we've had a real visit!!

Janita said...

Shannon, you sure know how to make a gal's day!!! Thank you so much. My writing will never be mistaken for a literary masterpiece but if it makes you feel like you're chatting with a friend, then - check, check, babe - goal achieved. xo

Daniele said...

I'm in Chicago so I can relate (though I guess it's not -50 C here, geez! haha)...winters can be brutal here. "not fit for humans". Yes, this. :)

Britt @ The Magnolia Pair said...

Gave you an award today girl ! Congrats, you deserve it!

XO. Britt

Anonymous said...

Hey Janita

Your knitting adventure reminded me of a time I was golfing with my former boss...Did I mention I am a TERRIBLE golfer and he, well, lets say he's patient. Finally around hole 13 he tells me he thinks my problem is my LOFT. All interested and eager to learn I ask, "what do you mean, my loft?" He says, "You know LOFT...Lack of F*#king Talent!" Sounds like you have some knitting LOFT going on!! lol Love the blog girlfriend.

Janita said...

Marnie! LOL - "he tells me he thinks my problem is LOFT." That right there is going down on my list. I totally would have thought is was a blow-hole golf term. Is there a LOFT's anonymous group? xo

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