Life at 50 below

The last few days the wind chills were 50 below. That is a whole whopping 80 degrees below freezing. Have you ever wondered what it is like to live in a cold climate? Maybe you already do and we can commiserate together.

It is not terribly unusual for us to face subzero temperatures in a normal Wisconsin January. We are so used to it that the schools only close if it is 35+ below zero and we get over 6 inches of snow.

This week was rather extreme though even for us.

On Monday, we received a foot of snow. On Tuesday, the wind chills were around 25 below. Paul was in a hurry to plow out the driveway before it got cold out. He had some problems with the plow on the 4 wheeler and was asked to plow out a friend that just had surgery and my parents. After Paul got the plow fixed, he was able to plow everyone else out before the wind chill warning.

The kids had off of school Monday, Wednesday, and today.

Tuesday night Arabella and I had play practice. I drove to practice on the highway through the blowing and drifting snow. The snowplows put salt on the roads but it was too cold to melt the ice properly. There were patches of black ice on the highway that took my car towards the ditch. The ditches were already littered with cars and I passed a truck that just went in. I knew this because his lights were still on. I heard that there was a tow ban.

We made it home safely. I wore my goose down jacket, hat, mittens, and two sweaters. My son had a few friends over and they came over without coats and in shorts. They are so cool!

I was planning on working out Wednesday morning, but stayed home to man the fires instead. We have a very large old house. We wanted to keep the house warm without spending a fortune.

Although I sometimes want to spend more time at home, there is nothing glamorous about being trapped in your house when you don’t want to be. I decided to clean my kitchen washing the refrigerator and microwave.

The kids complained about how bored they were and I threatened to tell them about winters in the 1980’s. I wondered how our ancestors made it through the winter without modern conveniences like electricity and heat.

I kept the fires going all afternoon, stoking them every 20 minutes. I curled up on the couch with my cat and wrote a couple more chapters in my book. I listened to the wind howl and whip around the fresh snow. The sunshine glared brightly making it seem warm outside, tempting me to be lured out in the cold.

I looked at pictures on Facebook of tropical places, like Texas. A friend from Texas showed pictures of herself running outside in the frigid temps of 40 degrees. Jealousy stabbed me. To be able to run outside again! I would’ve been happy to be able to make it to the gym. But our world was shut down, even the postal workers didn’t deliver mail yesterday.

I went to sleep late last night checking to make sure that the dog was safely inside in his bed. I worried about the farmers and their livestock. The schools were closed and multiple businesses too. I even heard on Facebook that in WI some of the bars were closed.

I awoke early to the smell of smoke. Was my house on fire? There was a purple haze lingering in the air and a strong smell of smoke. We turned on the industrial dehumidifier to suck out the smoke which caused the boiler that heats our pool to error out and shut down from the cold air pouring in on it. We turned on the fans to get the smoke out. One of the vents was frozen and Paul used a small heater to thaw it out. The vent for the dehumidifier froze open. Paul ran outside to shove some old towels in the vent to keep out the cold air which caused thawing water to drip on electrical cords and outlets.

My parents lost power in their house today. Their house cooled down quickly which is tough since our furnaces cannot keep up running constantly when the power is on. I can’t wait to get our gas bill for this polar vortex.

It was another cold day, but I had to venture out to the gym. Thankfully it was open, although they reduced their hours.

Is it almost spring yet??

Although I complain, there is something beautiful about winter. There is nothing like curling up by the fire on a very cold day snuggled in blankets. The snow on the trees is breathtaking. There aren’t any bugs.

This weekend we are going to have a heat wave. It will be a balmy 40 degrees. Time to finally dust off those cross country skis! The guys will be heading to the lake to ice fish.

We are hardy people, we will make it through..




Opening the Door..


This past weekend, I visited the beautiful Door County located in the thumb of Wisconsin. I even broke some of my rules…

Namely, I was spontaneous. My mom asked me to spend the weekend with her and two of her siblings and their spouses. Less than a weeks notice is spontaneous for me. I did have other plans, like going through my endless pictures to delete them from my server that I almost crashed and cleaning the house for Thanksgiving. But I did blog earlier about needing to put my relationships above cleaning, so I packed my bags and went.

We had a great time away…we played the game Loaded Questions. Great game! We stayed at a large house right on Lake Michigan. The picture above was taken from the front yard. One of the questions asked during the game was what everyone would do on a whim. Most answers involved travel or jumping nude into the lake. Well, except for my mom who answered that she would have a cup of coffee. Hhmm, sad! I don’t take after her… Ha ha ha.

I was tempted to jump into the lake. They had a hot tub near the lake and when I got overheated I was tempted to jump right in. It looked so inviting, despite the cold and all of the empty beaches.

Saturday morning we awoke to the first snow flurries of the season. It was cold and windy. It was so windy at home that trees fell down on power lines and cars. We braved the cold to head out to the winery that morning (where I broke one of my rules). Aunt Jan said that it was too early to drink wine, but she changed her mind. Aunt Jan is usually the one in charge, so we followed her lead. At 10:45 AM, we were sampling wine. Hey, it’s noon somewhere, right?

I ended up buying 5 lbs of pitted tart cherries to make my homemade Thanksgiving pies and a bottle of Summer Breeze wine. They bottle it under the name White Christmas in the winter, but I couldn’t resist the picture of the sailboat on the summer label.


The above picture is why we don’t go sailing on Lake Michigan or the bay in the winter. It can be pretty vicious, which is why all of the sailors took their boats out of the water last month. No one wants to be on the water under these conditions. Just think of what happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in the gales of November. Great! Now I am humming the Gordon Lightfoot song!

As I was inching my way along the dock to take this picture, an older gentleman screamed out to me “No further!” People have drowned when waves like this have crashed into the dock knocking them over into and under the water. But I didn’t even get close.

We had a great time in Door County and in case you were wondering, I was able to get my house cleaned too!

Cabin chaos, part 4


A couple of years back, Paul wanted to learn more about sailing. He signed up for a beginner’s sailing class. At the end of the class, the instructor suggested that the students buy a small sailboat to practice sailing. That is exactly what Paul did. He bought a 1960’s model 12 ft Puffer, complete with retro life jackets.

At the time, the sailboat seemed big. We took this boat up north and learned everything that we could on it. Since we bought a sailboat twice the size the following year, this boat looks so tiny. Now we keep this sailboat up north year round.

There were a few things that happened up north with the sailboat that were a little scary at the time. Now it makes for a humorous story.

We were up north for an unseasonably warm weekend in late September when Paul and Arabella decided to go for a sail. My mom was the one that alerted me of danger. A wind gust caught the small boat and tipped it over. Paul and Arabella were treading in cool deep water.

I couldn’t see them because the boat was blocking my view of them at first. I was worried that Paul got knocked out somehow. I feared that they were drowning or freezing to death. I tend to go through all of the worst case scenarios in my head. 

Paul said that they seemed to fall in slow motion. The biggest danger that they faced was losing the center board which he later secured.

I sent Angel and Alex out on a rescue mission in a paddle boat. I know what you are thinking. Really, a paddle boat?? Did that take a couple of months, or what? We didn’t have any other boats to send out. 

Meanwhile, under the stress of the rescue mission, Angel and Alex started fighting. I watched as my oldest two children started yelling, screaming, and swearing at each other over who had control of the paddle boat. The fighting escalated into pushing and shoving. Next thing I know, Angel was pushed overboard. Eventually, Angel and Arabella swam to shore and walked back to the cabin. I am glad we made sure that all of our kids are strong swimmers.

Paul and Alex struggled to bring the wayward boat back to shore. No lasting damage was done.

Too bad I didn’t get any pictures of that!


My 1st transition from biking to running

It was a warm spring like day. You know the kind. It was mostly cloudy with temps in the 40’s with a light breeze. The warmest day predicted for this week. Perfect day to try out my new bike and learn a few lessons.

The first thing that I did was find an old helmet. Then I dressed like I was going to go for a run. That was mistake number one! I put on a hat underneath my helmet. I sure looked like a clown. I didn’t notice that any neighbors took off of work for the occasion. So, who cares?

I decided to go for a 6 mile bike ride to break in my bike. Everything went great, except that I was absolutely freezing. I had forgotten how much of a wind biking creates. I felt like I was running against a 25 mph wind on a cool day. The faster I went, the colder I got. My hands became red and swollen. Was that a little frost bite coming on? Even though I budgeted an hour and a half lunch break, I was off on that. I had to stop indoors for a few minutes to warm up. My ears were cold and my fingers were tingling.

After the 6 mile bike ride, I decided to transition over to a 5 mile run. Running was rather interesting. After getting off of the bike, I felt like I couldn’t walk straight. Almost like I spent the day sailing. My equilibrium felt slightly off. Watch out, dizzy blonde runner! I felt like I had a couple shots of whiskey after roller skating for a couple of hours. It took about a mile to retrain my body to run like normal. I had to tell myself several times that I know what I am doing since I have been running for years. I was able to complete my run like normal, but it was a slow start.

I probably won’t be doing too much biking in the next couple of weeks. My main focus right now is getting ready to run a marathon in May.

***Note to self***So far on my first transition I learned a few very important lessons. First, dress a lot warmer than I would if I was running. Second, it make take longer then an hour and a half especially if I do not dress right. Third, I have to retrain myself mentally to run.




Haze runner

Another hot and humid day in Wisconsin (for this time of year anyway). There is still no snow, no ice has formed on the lakes, we might break a record high temp from over one hundred years ago today, and there is another thunderstorm in the forecast for tonight.

I decided to get a 6 mile run in this morning before the rain and wind. It was a very foggy morning, so I did run outside with some trepidation. As I run I always look at all of the garbage littering the ditches. I don’t know why marketing people hang out at malls. They should be hanging out at marathons. Runners know their route. I could tell you that Marlboro’s are the cigarette of choice among litter bugs. Also, now this was a very close tie, most litter bugs prefer Busch Light beer followed closely by Bud Light. Now WI, I am very proud that you chose water over soda *eye roll*.

This week, on a road that I run on, the body of a pedestrian was found in a ditch. Apparently the person was walking on the road after dark and was struck by a car. The driver took off after hitting the person who was left to die.

I prefer my findings of garbage. How terrifying!

It was a foggy morning and I didn’t want the same fate.  It makes me terribly sad to hear about this family’s loss the week of Christmas.



Winter fitness forecast

Last year my husband and I bought cross country skis. We thought that it would be an excellent way to enjoy exercising outside in the cold snowy winter months. Running on icy snowy roads really isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. I did end up dusting off my treadmill last week. Not because of the snow, we haven’t had enough of that for my grandma to even write flurries on her calendar if she was still living. Last week brought about cool and very windy days. Even I am not crazy enough to run outside in the cold against 40 mph winds.

Last year we bought skis and didn’t get any snow. Really? Well, it figures. In the winter months, I cut back my running down to about 18 miles per week and let Jillian Michaels kick my butt an hour a week. I don’t have any races coming up until next May. I am planning on doing another marathon. Call me vain, but I love how I look all muscular, tone, and lean when I am training for a marathon. This time of year, who cares? I mean half of the month I don’t even bother to shave. I guess there are a few benefits to living in a cold climate.

I am really counting on snow to supplement my exercise routine. We really want to go cross country skiing this year. On average where I live we get a little over 50 inches (130 cm) of snow per season. Statistically speaking, we should be able to ski unless my buying skis last year gives me another year of bad luck regarding snowfall. Imagine if I bought a snowmobile?!? Geez.

My husband and I also depend on snowfall for our other form of exercise, snow shoveling. We have a moderately long driveway. All our neighbors hire someone with a snowplow or have a snow blower. We argue over who gets to shovel. Seriously, this doesn’t give us many sanity points with our neighbors. Yes, we are those fitness freaks. I am so happy that my husband and I are at similar fitness levels. We have so much of the world left to actively explore.

Trying to sail through life’s storms

We made it back home safe about 2 hours ago. I thought I would let everyone know since I left everyone hanging yesterday with some hard decisions to make about whether to weather the storms. After we last spoke, things did get a little dicey.  The first round of thunderstorms came through after blogging. We holed up on the sailboat. After the storm went through, we headed to the pool. We didn’t want to spend our whole anniversary huddled over our iPads scouring weather reports. We decided at that point to possibly wait until the next storm went past to head home. It was going to take some schedule juggling to stay another day. 

At the pool, we received reports of the big storm that was to come. Strong thunderstorms, 50 to 60 mph winds, large hail, possible tornadoes. It was one big blob of reds and purples over the whole Midwest. We met a man at the pool with his daughter, son-in-law, and two young granddaughters. They made a point of teaching the children how to be respectful of adults in the pool which was greatly appreciated. They had a small motorboat and were determined to beat the storm because plans couldn’t be changed. 

The large cold front came in. The clouds rolled, the sky eerie, lightening flashed, and thunder boomed. The man left with his family about 5 minutes before the torrential downpours with a bit of trepidation. I ran into the boat to grab some clothes while Paul closed things up for the storm. I ran bikini clad through the strange silence of electrically charged air into the shelter of the bar. Inside, Paul saw an old college roommate. Always nice to meet a group of people for the first time in a bikini when others are fully clothed. Priceless. The lights flicker. The winds blow, it starts to hail. An elderly couple at the gambling machines momentarily express worry because windows were left open at home but head right back to the machines. The band is set up to play next to the window. They abandon equipment to play their instruments closer to the bar. The music is quiet while the thunder cracks loud.  When the storm finally ends, it is late afternoon. Now we face the prospect of sailing through small bands of storms in the dark. We decide to stay. 

When we get back to the boat we find that the wind blew our hatch open. All of the clothes, pillows, and my sleeping bag is soaking wet. We try with some success to dry everything. If we saw the storms on Saturday morning, we probably would have stayed home. We faced cooler weather conditions, strong winds, and 3 foot waves most of the way home today. But we made it home safe, which might not have been the case the day before. Another adventurous anniversary in the books. 

18 years of smooth sailing?

My husband and I have been married 18 years today. We decided to take an overnight sailing trip to celebrate. We spent several hours on the water to get to our destination. We experienced smooth sailing with a moderate breeze that pushed us to our destination. We were warm and complacent. It was a very hot day, so we spent the day next to the pool listening to live music. We followed that with a great meal. It was a Midwest summer paradise. 

Then during the night, the wind whistled through our boat and the rain started. It was nice being in a boat and not in a tent. It was also loud. The fenders kept squeaking against the dock, rain drops splattered, the lines whipped imaginary slow horses with a crack, and the main sail swayed noisily with the winds. Despite the noise I actually slept better than I thought I would. 

This morning the forecast changed drastically from the one we heard yesterday. The one that said we would just struggle against the wind and probably have to motor back. The heat brought the volitile weather. Strong winds in the opposite direction. Chances of severe thunderstorms not ruling out a stray tornado. Not smooth sailing. As sailing newly weds, we haven’t weathered our first storm yet. I’m not sure how our skills will handle this. Will we be able to get through this first storm?

After 18 years, I think that we finally figured out this marriage thing. Found out what works for us. We may have to sit this one out or face the storm head on. Whatever happens, I know that we will be facing it together. 

Windy days

I hear the wind whistling through every cracked or slightly open vessel. I feel it wind its way deep down into my soul stirring up memories that I long for but are long gone. The wind cries with an urgency that begs for immediate release but when searched for cannot be found. For me the wind cries “grandma.” It transports me back in time to my grandpa’s truck. I sit peacefully between my grandparents with the window behind my head open a crack forever whistling with the wind. Every time the wind blows, I feel a nostalgic longing for them. 

My grandma is the main reason why I survived my childhood.  She also gets a lot of credit for helping Mark through too. She is right up there with Mother Theresa in my blog. Mark and I would take turns staying with my grandparents every other weekend. She did all the little things to make me feel special. We worked on puzzles together, she cooked my favorite meals, she made cookies for me, and she always had time to listen. We always celebrated holidays at their house. One Christmas off to the side was something hidden under a large bag. It was for me. Inside was a dollhouse created partially by grandma using little pearl buttons as light fixtures. She also made doll clothes for me from patterns, struggling to get her big fingers into the little tiny clothes to sew them together. 

Last week while cleaning out my grandma’s house, I found my old dollhouse. Maybe someday I will set it up the way it used to be in its finery. After 6 years of being vacant, someone wants to buy my grandma’s house. My dad never put the house up for sale and it was left as a shrine to her memory. Despite all of his shortcomings, my dad provided loving care for his parents and aunt in their final years. Every time the wind blows, I will be thinking of them and be thankful for the difference they made in my life. 

The goodbye rescue kind of sail

Paul may have saved a man’s life last night. 

Last night we went sailing with Tom and Lisa (my running partner and bff) to say our final goodbyes before they move from Wisconsin to Florida. We keep our boat on a relatively large body of water. I am not giving anything away as our state is practically surrounded by large bodies of water and contains large and numerous lakes and rivers. It is rumored that we have more lakes than our neighboring state of Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. But I do not want to start a debate. Let me tell you that sailing on a large body of water isn’t always a breeze. Ha ha. Last night was no exception. 

The night started off breezy even though the forecasters said that there wasn’t going to be much of a wind. We were sailing with the same friends that we went on the accidental overnight sail with that I blogged about earlier. We have had so many crazy wild adventures with them that I thought I would give them names which means future crazy wild stories. Anyway, we decided to take a sail out to a landmark for some awesome goodbye photos. Lisa and I share the love of running and photography. The sunset pictures were going to be divine. The wind took us to our destination in no time. It was so windy that there were whitecaps with two to three foot waves. We had our pants and sweaters on as it was a chilly July night. The water splashing up on us was not much warmer. Lisa and I went out on the bow and started posing for the camera when we saw a little guy in the distance out on the water struggling. We asked him if he needed help and he said he would be okay. We looped around taking more pictures. 

When we made it back to the man a second time he was clearly in trouble. He was in a small boat, about the size of a canoe with a small sail on it. He had tipped the boat over several times struggling with the waves and the wind. The water was cold, it was getting dark, he was 5 miles from shore, and we were the only boat around. It was going to take us an hour to get back to shore at dusk under motor. His situation was getting dire. I was picturing in my mind the morning news story of a man lost at sea drowning. A man in the background of our smiling pictures. My husband Paul did what any great captain would do, he threw out a line and kept us all from panicking. After the man swam to our boat, I did what any good captain’s wife would do. I wrapped him up in my warm, fuzzy purple robe and handed the guy a beer. Apparently, he headed out for a short sail about four hours before. The wind took him out and he couldn’t get back to shore. He was clothed in a swimming suit, life jacket, and inexperience. He had nothing on the boat to eat or drink and left his cell phone at home. He was in big trouble. 

Paul may have saved a man’s life last night.