Category Archives: From the Snow Drift

Phil, Protests & Winter Woes

Photo courtesy of Punxsutawney Phil’s Facebook page. Because, of course, he has a Facebook page.

For the past 133 years, the residents of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania have, without fail, every February 2nd, hauled out a chubby groundhog name Punxsutawney Phil to predict the end of winter. This year, right on schedule, here comes Phil, likely wearing his Pat Mahomes Kansas City Chief’s jersey, to check on the existence of his shadow and announce the prospects for spring. Since 1887, it’s really been a lot of fun and games … until the protestors get involved. Enter PETA.

PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. (It does not stand for People Eating Tasty Animals. That’s a completely different group that likely hosts outstanding barbecues for members.) PETA is the world’s largest animal rights group with gaboons of members who actually do good things to keep lipstick off pigs and monkeys out of labs. This year, though, they took notice of Phil and clamored to have him replaced by artificial intelligence – a rodent robot.

To be clear, it’s not okay to replace humans at McDonald’s with kiosk computers, but it’s okay to rob this defenseless creature of his identity as a beloved weather icon deserving of his own nationally recognized holiday and replace him with a machine. Maybe he can get a job at McDonald’s.

The PETA people argue that a robot would provide a more accurate prediction. This year as he was proudly held high above the cheering crowds, Phil did not see his shadow and proclaimed the arrival of an early spring. So, you know what, I’m Team Groundhog all the way! I honestly would rather have a nocturnal, burrowing woodchuck tell me those sweet lies that I want to hear over some National Weather Service computer droid explaining why the jet stream, global warming and the El Nino doom me to winter that will last until early May.

Sadly, no sooner had Phil prognosticated (that’s today’s word to Google!) hope of spring and driven off with Bill Murray but it started snowing. Everywhere. The Texas panhandle was at a standstill while even San Antonio froze their fajitas. The Midwest got buried and Michigan has officially been annexed into the Arctic Circle. Which, I’m not going to lie, makes me want to strangle Phil. Fortunately for him, my hands are too frozen to actually follow through with that.

Spring is March 19th for those keeping score.

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Santa 101

Three hundred Christmas trees in Target stores the first week of October is bad. Three hundred Santas in the lobby where you work the first week of October is crazy good! It means your facility is hosting one of the oldest and preeminent Santa schools in the country and class is in session! Try having a rotten day at work when the line in the ladies’ room is all jolly, holly-draped grandma-types who drank too much peppermint tea during the “Being Mrs. Claus” breakout session.

 One might wonder – okay, it’s me. I’m wondering! – what exactly goes on at Santa school? Do you debate the number of ho’s in your ho-ho-ho’ing or frosted sugar cookies vs sprinkles? I tried quizzing random Santa’s between classes to see what I could find out, and they were all pretty tight lipped. It’s not like I was asking for the secret formula for flying reindeer corn. They just all chuckled and told me to work harder to stay off the naughty list (like that’ll happen). While Undaunted is not one of the reindeer team, it’s exactly what I was, so I went to the internet.

According to the Charles W. Howard Santa School website, aspiring and seasoned Santas can, among other things, “Practice Santa Flight Lessons.” That sounds a little like Santa has a posse covering the exits and a plan to jet the scene if the po-po shows to break up the ho-ho. Do we really want Santa to be a flight risk?

Santas can also attend the session on “Live Reindeer Habits.” What? I’m doing a quick check with building maintenance to find out who gave clearance to have a 400-pound caribou in the auditorium. I’m hoping the first habit that’s getting covered is how many times does a 400-pound caribou need to be walked outside every day to avoid a localized carpet catastrophe. Exactly how many Santas have a reindeer anyway? It’s not like you can run over to the local animal shelter and adopt a Rudolph.

As expected, there are sessions on handling terrified toddlers, what must-have toys need to be coming off that elfin assembly line in China, and accounting advice to keep Santa off the IRS naughty list. But most importantly, they’re all learning “He errs who thinks Santa enters through the chimney. Santa enters through the heart.” (Charles W. Howard, 1937)

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Frozen Dead Guy Days

DV9A9031-Edit-350x438Take one dead Norwegian grandfather, a few too many long winters, and a repurposed Tuff® shed then add in a quirky community located in the first state to legalize the use of marijuana and you almost have to expect some kind of strange party. That party is “Frozen Dead Guy Days” in Nederland, Colorado. How did I not already have this on my bucket list?

A rather unremarkable Bredo Morstoel, a retired parks and rec director, died in 1989 in Norway where he was born and raised. But rather than bury him, his family packed him in dry ice, shipped him to a cryonics facility in California, and let him languish in liquid nitrogen for almost four years. Maybe he got lonely or there was a personality conflict with a neighbor, I don’t know, but he was moved to Colorado in 1993 to stay with his daughter Aud Morstoel and his grandson Trygve Bauge.

It’s always nice to live near your kids, except Grandpa was in a shed. Shed of the Dead? Then Grandson Trygve got deported because his visa expired, and Daughter Aud was tossed soon after, leaving an uncertain future for the favorite frozen family member. Enter the “Ice Man.”

In 1995, Bo Shaffer answered a want ad and for the past 23 years has worked with a team of volunteers to deliver 1,600 pounds of dry ice every month to pack Grandpa Bredo in his Tuff® shed sarcophagus, surrounded by foam padding, a tarp, and blankets so he stays at a steady -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Okay, that’s just weird.

But Nederland, Colorado – population about 1500 – digs weird. So Frozen Dead Guy Days became the hottest thing to hit town ever. Coffin racing, polar plunging, icy turkey bowling, frozen salmon tossing, live music, lots of beer, food, more beer, they live for this stuff. While you’re there, don’t miss a showing of the documentary “Grandpa’s in the Tuff Shed” or a performance of “Call Me Ned,” a musical (no, really. A musical!) that looks at what would happen if the Frozen Dead Guy wasn’t frozen anymore.

With festival-goers pouring in from all over, including international journalist, cryonicists, film-makers, investigators, and the occasional odd psychic, the festival has taken on a life of its own over the past 17 years. So much for that whole “Rest in Peace” idea, Grandpa! I highly recommend you mark your calendars for next March, pack your thermals and plan to be the life of the party at Frozen Dead Guy Days!

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A Texan in Winter

ColdThe power went out at my house last night for four hours. While this may not seem like a major catastrophe as it was the middle of the night and I was sleeping, except for the fact that when the power went out, so did the heat. And it was cold last night. Really cold. The kind of cold that completely explains why Michigan is shaped like a mitten. The kind of cold that makes a Texas girl wonder, What the Heck am I Doing Here?! And then it started snowing. Again.

It is only the first of dadgum December! In the last month alone, I have collectively experienced more winter than I have in my entire lifetime combined. But get this: Winter doesn’t even officially start for another couple of weeks. What really makes that remarkable is that last winter only wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. I’m almost positive that there are winters here that just overlap right onto each other. You never know if one winter has stopped before the next one starts.

While I am a great advocate for clean oceans, preservation of endangered species and conservation, I am also now a great proponent of global warming. As temperatures hover in the teens and 20’s, I’ve put my wool sock covered, insulated booted foot down that I will refuse to leave my house until the temperature is at least my age. And for the first time in my life, I’m happy to be as old as I am. Bring on the birthdays and the heat!
For that matter, at my age, where the heck are the hot flashes that are supposed to be showing up? What does a girl have to do to get a decent hot flash around here? Thankfully, I have friends my age and I will bask in the heat of their hormonal misfortune. Let’s face it, I am a silver-lining kind of girl like that.

As we push towards that longest night and the official start of winter, I’m increasingly concerned about the fact that there’s now only about 20 minutes between sun up and sun set. I have tan lines from the sun light simulator lamp on my desk and monitor my cravings for salted whale meat as a sure sign that I may be transforming into a polar bear.

Oh, and it’s snowing again.


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Road Rumble: Deer v Infiniti

BambiDeer Season everywhere pretty much starts the middle of November. There are strict dates on when you can hunt deer with a bow, firearms, muzzle loaders, light sabers, the power of your mind. But when is sports car season for deers? I found nothing on the guidelines for taking out a deer with an Infiniti G37. Fortunately, since I failed to bag my fawn-faced hood ornament, there is, at least, no fear of a poaching fine. An insurance claim, however, is another story.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I hit Bambi or if Bambi ran into me. I was making a run to the local, small airport at the freezing cold butt crack of dawn and driving along a dark rural road, not even doing the speed limit which is nearly unheard of for me. When out of the corn field alongside the road jumps Bambi and his mother! Geez, can we not get reflectors tagged on these animals?!

I stood on the brakes. Bambi stood on the hooves. Momma deer leaped on across to safety and Bambi hit reverse. But my fender hit his fender and he took off my passenger side mirror. He ran off; I drove off. I pooped my pants; he pooped in the woods. We’ll both likely be fine. The car can be fixed.

So like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. Again. I think my long-suffering agent cringes every time my number comes up on the caller ID at his office. As long as the deer doesn’t file a claim against my policy, my deductible isn’t too bad. Not that Bambi would have much trouble finding me since my license plate is probably imprinted on his butt. And if he pursues it, I’ll happily pay his vet bills and he can pay for the overpriced body shop that works only on specialty imports.

Meanwhile, I’ll put the car in the shop, cruise around in a conservative, rental sedan with added safety features, and stock up on those worthless whistle things that are supposed to scare animals away from your car (I already know the research says they don’t work). Hopefully, though, this is will be the last time the local wildlife and I go antler to engine. Otherwise, I’ll have to see if there’s an after-market cattle guard for my little hot rod.

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Transplanting this Texan

hellHeed my words: Do not pray for patience as God will provide the opportunities for you to learn it. Never ask, “What else can possibly go wrong?” Trust me, nothing tempts the Universe to yell, “Hold my beer!” more than that. And never ever, don’t ever say never. I actually said once I’d never live in the Middle East which landed me in Saudi Arabia for three years. As Harvey threatened Texas, I said, “My house will never flood.” It flooded. And then I said, “I’m never moving again.” Fill out the change of address card because I’m moving. TO MICHIGAN!

Imma gunna freeze!

Michigan, where cold fronts are six foot deep! You don’t understand, people; my blood is so thin, it’s invisible! I fully expect by the end of my first winter to be found encased in ice like a Yeti on the backside of Everest, a look of miserable shock forever captured on my face. Ice belongs in tea or cream, not spread in deadly sheets across the road with the sole purpose of sending your car careening into a ditch so no one finds you until the “spring thaw” in July.

We’ve already bought a house there from a very nice couple who are gleefully laughing with giddy joy as they hippy-hop off to retirement in Florida. I think I may hate them. Despite that, they were so very kind as to agree to leave the outdoor patio heater and the snow blower for us. Snow blower? Are there YouTube videos for how to operate that? I mean, do you run out as soon as it starts snowing and blow the offending fluffy ice masses back into the sky? Do they have plow attachments for the mower? And in the name of all things holy, how do I get a pizza delivered in January?!

I’m trying hard to see the positives. I’ll have seasons and Hurricane won’t be one of them. I can look forward to summer – all 26 days of it. White Christmas will be more than just a song. I suppose, too, if I can survive three plus years in Saudi Arabia, I can probably survive Siberia. Wish me luck. Imma gunna need it!

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