February 2, 2012

A Southern girl's survival kit for winter in Chicago...

So.  Things have been a little heavy around here lately.  Sorry 'bout that.  But when I feel all light and airy and free, I rarely need an outlet for that on my blog: I simply live it.  It's when things are difficult and stretching that I often come here for relief in a pent-up breath exhaled and an understanding reader.  Thank you for being that.  

But yesterday, as I walked my chilly half-hour walk to work, I realized this: out of six in Chicago so far, this is the second winter I've not complained all the way through, and the first I'm actually enjoying.  Of course, that could be utterly due to the a-to-the-mazing temperatures we've been experiencing here.  I don't know what it's like where you are, but here in the Midwest, we've had one heaven of a wintertime.  Well, maybe snow-lovers like my kiddo Matthew disagree, but me -- I'm all about 40's and 50's when the average is closer to 10's and 20's.  Yessirree.  

That said, I've now spent one-fifth of my winters in Chicago, and if (heaven forbid) it were 12 degrees and blizzarding outside (which is actually doubtful because -- as we (now-) northerners know -- there is such a thing as "too cold for snow"), I wouldn't sweat it (which sounds logical, but under all those layers, you'd be surprised!).  Of course, it almost seems like spring here right now; but as Chicago's springs are often confused and put off by lingering winters, I wouldn't be surprised if it were also true the other way around.  Either way, winter ain't over yet.  And I'm OK with that; I'm ready for it.  Because if there's one thing Chicago winters have taught me, it's "Deal with it."  Yes, Chicago winters are that prosaic and heartless.  

So, for all those who wonder how and why I deal with it and don't just move back South where I belong (coughmomcough), here's my list, my three (yes, only three!) essentials for happy-ish survival.  This is how I get through winter in Chicago, and -- if you find yourself here one wintry day -- how you can, too:

1. Long Underwear = Life-savers.  Forget the those bulky thermals you wore as a kid when it snowed a quarter of an inch and school was declared out and you somehow managed to roll a very tiny, very dirty "snowman" out of the grass (based on my North Carolininian experience).  I honestly don't know how I'd have gotten through a Midwestern winter without these -- well, for lack of a better term, underpants.  They're made of the same fabric as a slip, so as you can imagine, they don't make you feel 5 inches wider, but they absolutely keep you warmer.  I try to walk to work every day if it's not absolutely horrid out, and this is how I've done it.  Nineteen degrees with a wind-chill of 7, you say?  No prob.  I've got my long janes.

2. The Beach Boys.  Oh yes.  Again, this has saved my wintry walks to work.  When I turn on the Beach Boys in my ipod, the world gets brighter.  The snow begins to melt, the winds die down, the sun boldly shines through the dissipating clouds, and a smile appears out of nowhere on my wrinkled up grumpy face.  Or at least that last part.  Who doesn't get warm feelings when listening to "California Girls" or "Surfin' USA"?  Also, listening to songs like "Fun, Fun, Fun" inevitably makes me walk a little faster, which not only burns more calories but also gets me to my destination and out of the cold even faster.  Win-win.

3.  Clementines.  Or as one Trader Joe's cashier called them, Adult Candy.  I didn't grow up eating clementines, but now I don't want to face another winter without them.  They not only give me the extra-needed Vitamin C that my body craves as it fights off all the colds and stomach bugs that are viciously making their rounds this time of year; these pint-sized oranges also give one a warm feeling of tropical beaches and itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny, yellow-polka-dot bikinis and summery smoothies.  In case you haven't noticed, half the battle with a Chicagoan winter is in one's own mind.

So that's it.  My sensory three-step plan to a less-than-grumpy season of death.  My trifecta of happiness in the midst of what would otherwise be dark and dreary and frigid-beyond-your-imagination-if-you-haven't-yet-crossed-the-Mason-Dixon-line bitterness.  A Southern girl's survival kit for winter in Chicago.


  1. I love it! I haven't even had to break out the double layer of leggings + jeans like I've done in winters past--we are TOTALLY getting spoiled here. And next time I'm feeling blue I'll pop some clementines and put on the Beach Boys--that sounds like just the ticket.
    I'll add my 2 revelations from this year:
    1) Vitamin D--it's made me happier
    2) Twinkle lights! They make winter feel like the holidays the whole way through

  2. Yes, this is the BEST WINTER EVER!!!!!! so far. I am a little scared that suddenly we'll be hit with cold weather until like, June, but I need to just focus on enjoying what we have right now!

    As for me, I find hot drinks and soft blankets to be my winter lifesavers. Inside, obviously. But it gets me through the cold outdoors when I know I can get to my cozy apartment and turn on the tea pot.

    Also, let's actually do that coffee/tea date you mentioned. I'd love some Carrie time!

  3. It's a weird winter even down here in TX, which means instead of 50's, it's been 70's! Feels like Chicago in June.

  4. Carrie, it sounds like you've adapted well! The only thing I'd add to your list is "hot chocolate" (or a lovely cup of tea) when you get home. Guaranteed to take the chill off, per this former Minnesotan!