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Happy Holidays (emphasis on ‘happy’)

After all the snow we got in November (16 inches before Nov. 15th, another good six inches on Thanksgiving, with little flurries many days in between), I was positive we’d have a white Christmas. In fact, I was a little nervous about whether we’d be able to make the drive to Illinois on Christmas day. It seemed entirely possible that we’d be snowed in.

In Illinois, we lived in a suburb about 35 miles west of Chicago. About half the time that snow was predicted, it wouldn’t show up at all. Usually we’d get just a little bit while other areas got dumped on. I love snow, and this used to drive me crazy. We’d hear the term ‘lake effect snow’ but it never applied to us because we were too far from Lake Michigan and in the wrong direction as well.

When we moved to southwestern Michigan, we got our first taste of lake effect snow. We aren’t right on Lake Michigan – you have to drive 30 to 40 minutes to get there – but we’re right in the little area where lake effect snow seems to develop. In fact, the towns right along the lake tend to get less snow than we do. The boundaries of the lake effect snow area are really dramatic – the storm that ultimately gave us 16 inches of snow dropped just a couple of inches in towns right around us.

So here we are, almost exactly halfway through December, and we’ve had no snow. Not only have we had no snow, but it’s also been fairly warm for this time of year (today I think it’s going to be around 50 degrees). While this is nice for the car – she actually starts up first thing in the morning with no hijinks on our part – it’s not really nice for the whole Christmas spirit thing in general. Even Dave, who is ambivalent about snow, has complained that we should have snow by now.

I’m used to this from Illinois – it was typical for us to have no snow on Christmas and then get tons of snow starting in January. But our ultra-snowy early start to winter had me pretty excited – I’d moved to the perfect place for snow!

Oh well – for some reason, I still feel full of Christmas spirit even without my beloved snow on the ground. Our grass may still be green, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m happy knowing we’ll be able to get to Chicago with no drama on the 25th (assuming the no-snow thing keeps up for the next 10 days), and I’m happy knowing I’ll be able to see my kids and my mom this year on Christmas.

We have cookie-baking plans with Paige and her boyfriend Michael, our gifts are mostly bought, and our budget wasn’t stretched too far beyond its tight confines. Earlier this week Dave pulled me out of the house for a nighttime drive to look at Christmas lights, something we both love to do. We brought out just the right amount of decorations for our little house, my doorway arch is filling up with holiday cards from friends near and far, and Dave has recorded the Christmas specials I remember so fondly from my childhood. (I still cry when Frosty melts – I can’t help it.)

My heart is full and content. While I’d love to look out the window and see white, glittery snow as far as the eye can see, I’m happy instead to look out on our birds and squirrels (and occasional wild turkey).

Winter in Illinois

Dave and I both slept fitfully last night, and I think part of it had to do with the snowstorm.  It started snowing yesterday afternoon, right around the time my mom stopped by to visit, and continued snowing through the night.

When everything is covered in white, it seems to give off a glow, a light – the bedroom never really seems dark, you know?  I kept waking up, sure that it was almost dawn, and then I’d see that it was 2 am or whatever.

Once the cats rousted Dave out of bed around 6:30, I woke up too but stayed in bed to play around on my tablet.  About an hour later, Dave came in all dressed for the outdoors.  He did a few things and then left, and I followed him to see what the situation was like outside.  I watched from the guest room window as he stepped outside and started shoveling the steps.  He made it to the driveway, looked around, then slid the shovel across horizontally, stopping at the end to fling the snow onto the already-huge pile where the yard normally starts.

I could see then that the snow was really deep – it looked like a foot of snow from where I was watching, but Dave thinks it was more like 6 to 8 inches.  I knew it would go a lot faster with two people, so I bundled up and headed out to help him.

Usually if I ask Dave if he wants help shoveling, he’ll wave me off.  We had a snowstorm earlier this week, from New Year’s Eve through Jan. 2nd, that dropped a foot of snow.  He shoveled two or three times before he finally agreed to let me help him.  I had mentioned that it was good exercise and he said, “OH, I didn’t realize you wanted the exercise.”  I laughed and said, “Why else would I want to shovel snow?  It’s not like I enjoy it!”

Between the two of us, we got the driveway finished in about 15 minutes this morning.  (A neighbor had already done the sidewalks with a snow blower.)  The snow, however, hasn’t let up.  Right now you can’t even tell that we shoveled.  I told Dave we can either shovel again in a couple hours, around 4 pm, or wait until Wednesday.  Tomorrow our high temperature is going to be -13F, and Tuesday it’s going to be zero.  We have nowhere we need to be, and I’m not about to get out in that kind of weather and shovel.  The temperature is dropping now; it was 18 when we shoveled this morning, and it’s about 8 degrees right now.

After our winter storm warning ends at 6 pm today, a wind chill warning kicks in from then until noon on Tuesday.  Tonight we could have wind chills as low as 50 below zero.

We did our grocery shopping yesterday morning so we wouldn’t need to venture out in the weather.  When we went, around 9 am, the stores weren’t very busy.  I saw pictures later that day on Facebook with people waiting in long lines in various local stores; it was even on the news.  It seems excessive to me; we didn’t go out to ‘stock up,’ just to get our usual week’s worth of groceries.  Why would you need to stock up for two or three days of nasty weather?

Our feral cat visitor, the one we call Goldie, has kept me worried for days.  The cold weather worries me more than the snow, really.  We have a house set up for her under the smaller lower deck (both decks are enclosed) but Dave discovered that she’s been sleeping under the bigger deck, which is attached on one side to our house.  (He thinks maybe she’s getting some extra warmth from the side where the house is.)  So he built a second little cat house and put it under there today, along with a heat light bulb that we used to use for the hedgehog.  I’m not sure the light bulb will do much or survive the cold temperatures itself (I’m hoping it doesn’t burn out right away) but Dave reassured me that it wouldn’t burn the deck down.  (!)

Ideally she would just come into our house; she eats right outside the patio door and we’ve opened the door numerous times to see if she’ll be brave enough to enter.  She did step inside a couple times, onto the mat by the door – just enough to look around a bit and then scamper back outside.  Usually she runs off if we open the door, though.  I hope she survives the next couple of days, poor little thing.  We’re doing everything we can for her (food, water, outdoor shelter) but I still feel like it’s not enough.

I’m kind of enjoying the Christmas decorations with all this snow as a backdrop, but they are coming down tomorrow.  (Sigh.)  I did my annual changing of the calendar on New Year’s Eve, where I use the old calendar to write in all the birthdays, etc. on the new one.  It never fails to entertain me, looking back at all the things that happened over the year.  Hopefully this year’s calendar will have less medical entries and more fun ones!

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