February 26, 2015 and I have completed all 7 stages of winter in Cleveland. I’m done. See you next year.

The 7 Stages of Winter in Cleveland

1. Shock and Disbelief: This happens in November when I realize fall is really over and I have to find the winter clothes and put away the last of the deck furniture. Sometimes overlaps with…

2. Denial: The front swing may still be out there in hopes of that elusive “last nice day”. I don’t need a coat, I’ll just throw a scarf over my blazer, I’ll be fine.

3. Anger: Why me!?!? Gridlock, because, hey, its SNOWING!!! Sequoia’s & F-150’s that think they have magic powers so they put everyone else in danger. Driving in general. And this stupid, bulky coat!

4. Bargaining: It’s just cabin fever. I just need to get out and DO more! Go shopping! Go hear music! See friends! It’s not Winter, its me! If I just try harder Winter will go away.

5. Guilt: I shouldn’t complain about the weather. This isn’t Boston. We aren’t in endless days of darkness. I should try harder to be cheerful. I’m making everything worse by complaining. My poor family.

6. Depression: Winter will never, ever, ever end. Its true. Why bother cleaning the car, sweeping the salt off the stairs, mopping up snow melt, shoveling the drive, or wearing anything nice because it’s just going to be smeared with slush and muck and have to go to the dry cleaner anyway. I’m just going to sit on the couch with a blanket, a book and a cat until further notice.

7. Acceptance: I’ll just buy a lottery ticket and, hey if I win, we’ll take a two-week beach vacation and get spa treatments and learn salsa dancing and parasailing. But that won’t be necessary. I know winter is almost over because the garden catalogs have started to arrive.

Time to take my coat to the dry cleaner.

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Given that the sun is shining at the moment I’m refraining from ranting about the unreasonableness of House Speaker John Boehner or how much I miss Tip O’Neill (for his ability to be friendly across the aisle even in the worst of times.)

I am trying to get back to normal after an intense, work-flooded couple of months, and, like a lot of people, am having difficulty getting out of my head. Its amazing how easy it is to ignore your physical body and live life between your ears. Ignoring my body isn’t just a matter of eating too much crappy food and guzzling gallons of coffee, its also forgetting to stand up from my computer for 6 hours in a row.

I also develop rock hard shoulders that make Massage Therapists weep with frustration as immovable muscle thwarts their efforts. I have yet to get a massage that didn’t end with a comment along the lines of “You know if I could work on your shoulders more regularly I could get those muscles to relax.” Sez you. 

All joking aside massage is an effective way for me to get my head out of the game and back on my body. I guess paying someone to rub every inch of my body is kind of hard to ignore. It’s tricky to mentally track your To-Do list while groaning in agony/pleasure as someone attempts to unknot your trapezius.

A cheaper, quicker (and therefore short-term) way I exit my brainpan is through music. A sad commentary on my life: I was in my late 30’s before I could afford a car with decent enough speakers to make me happy. I do however, now own a vehicle with an excellent sound system. I need that thump. It’s amazing how quickly I can tune in and be present if I can feel the bass. It’s like a heartbeat, difficult to ignore, easy to slide into.

Of course my rocking out to what we used to call “Fuckin-A” music probably embarrasses younger folks around me, but that’s their problem. I need the Stones & old funk & Fatboy Slim like they need…whoever. Leave the old lady alone.

It’s really their fault, the young club goers. If I could go somewhere and dance to house music for 6 or 7 hours I could be more composed and circumspect riding around in my car. But I can’t cuz I’m old. What I need is an old folks Rave that only admits women over 40 & men under 60, starts at 8:30 pm, and plays only music with 120 – 140 BPM until 11pm when it switches exclusively to rock & funk made between 1967 – 1987.

Until that old-people Rave is a reality I will rely on my car speakers to transport me out of my head for a few minutes a day. Here’s a song that needs good speakers. Turn it up.

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I am driving my father-in-law Sheldon’s car. Not his actual car as he passed away a few years back and no longer drives, but the car that he would be driving if he were alive.

This is a rental because I get to drive all over rural America for my work this month, and each time I do I rent. It ends up being cheaper and I don’t have the wear on my car. This time I have a 2012 Chrysler Altima 300 Luxury Series sedan – the car that practically drives itself.

I got the super premium upgrade because last week when I had to drive 2 1/2 hours (each way) with my current project team and I needed a mini van, which I dutifully ordered 10 days ahead of time. Which Enterprise called me on my cell phone the day before to confirm that I still needed it. Which was not ready and waiting for me when I arrived to pick it up.

The guy tried to hand me the keys to a 15 passenger panel van instead of the tricked out minivan with the captains seats for all the comfort of those I was toting around. Being short of temper I snapped at him that this was not an Orthodox Family Outing, I was driving senior executives and I expected the minivan I ordered.

So they offered me a van that was at another dealership and what choice did I have I let the guy drive me to the dealership 10 minutes away. I had one hour to get the car, go home and put my suit on and gather my files & briefcase. This whole transaction usually takes 10 minutes because the rental place is so close to my house. So off we go to the other rental place 10 minutes away. Except the rental boss calls the guy while he is driving me and says that place no longer has a van so now we have to go and additional 10 minutes. So now I am 30 minutes into my hour with no hope of being on time. Still trying to roll with it, make some calls and tell people I have a problem, and tell the kid to call ahead and make sure this van is ready to drive away the minute we get there.

Then he gets lost.

Because you see he’s never been to this location in the middle of East Nowhere so we get on and off the highway a couple times before he actually finds it. And there it is. The most piece of shit van I have ever seen at a rental place. It rattles. It makes clicking noises. And it smells like candy-coated smoke. I turn it on and the Change Oil light comes on. No kidding. And it has pickup like I’m dragging a U-Haul. But I am stuck so I off I go to run the red light camera gauntlet back to my house, pickup my team and drive for five hours in the nasty van.

So today I was treated to the super upgrade as consolation for the Van Incident.

This Altima is some kinda thang. Its like that Knight Rider car from the ’80s but better. Its got leather everything and is silent as the grave with the windows up. The windows open and close themselves because holding that button the whole time to make the window go up is clearly taxing. The lights and wipers “sense” when they need to come on, the cup holder keeps your beverage hot or cold, it has voice command for using your phone, changing the radio station, picking songs on your ipod, all controlled by a touch screen as big as an ATM in the center of the dash.

I could go on but there are too many features. You can see the crazy luxury at Chrysler if you like.

The reason this car made me think of my father-in-law Sheldon is because he was a man who could really appreciate both luxury and laziness. He would have loved this car. He would have pre-ordered this car last September and gleefully listed its qualities and features to anyone who would listen. Of course its really safe too. You need a lot of air bags to protect people who no longer know how to turn their wipers on.

The thing I covet from the car, other than the 100% silence and feeling like I am in the Mafia with the tinted windows, is the Satellite radio. If I was filthy rich and could buy whatever I wanted, I would pay for Satellite and have 150+ stations to choose from. I always liked the radio best. Punching the buttons, hearing the DJ’s, stumbling on something you forgot or never knew. On my drive I heard Wet Willie, Dan Hicks and Boz Scaggs mixed in with De La Soul, AC/DC and Pittbull. And I thought about Sheldon.

Sheldon was a hoot. I miss him. And I liked driving his car.

I live in a snowy place.

Also unpredictable in that it could snow anytime between October and April and last for any duration of those seven months. This is not because I live in Montana or Wyoming or any of these places where snow is a serious business, but because I live by a lake. Which means Lake Effect Snow.

The variability of the anticipated snowfall, can make it feel like a sport. People watch the weather reports, talk about the weather reports, speculate about rush hour and highway driving, make predictions and swear by their favorite weather forecaster.

I find that a persons Winter Driving Style usually fits into one of the seven basic writing tropes:

1. Man against Man (“Why am I the only one who remembers how to drive in the damn snow!)

2. Man against Nature (“I will conquer the snow with my F-150!” I believe this one is subconscious, but I can’t be sure.)

3. Man against Himself (“Oh s**t! Turn into the slide! Turn into the slide!?!)

4. Man against God (“Oh please, oh please, I promise if I make it to work on time I will replace these bald tires.”)

5. Man against Society (“I pay enough taxes! Why can’t they plow these f*****g streets!)

6. Man caught in the Middle (“Maybe I should go early & beat the traffic…or late when it’s clearer..”)

7. Man & Woman (“Will you just let me DRIVE!”)

Knowing your winter driving style, like AAA, can be handy. Accepting your driving style and trying to change it is more like AA.

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I am the swearing mommy, I confess.

I have been managing my impulse to use profanity with mixed results since my daughter was born. Driving is especially difficult and I was sure her first words would be “WTF!?!”

Swearing while driving remains a challenge.

During car pool one day last summer I reacted badly to being cut off in the drop off line by a massive SUV who pulled in at an angle blocking two rows of cars. I said loudly and reflexively – “What a f***ing cow!” – only to have one of the kids I was driving say “Where? I don’t see a cow.”

A better person would have been embarrassed. A calmer person would have apologized for her temper.

I however, explained to the questioning child that cows often drive shiny Escalade’s when they live in the suburbs. It’s just that their windows are tinted because they are Very Important and don’t want anyone to recognize them.

Children who visit our house are used to me always having baked goods handy and swearing like a sailor. Hopefully they think its colorful or edgy or something and don’t tell their parents. I would hate to be considered a bad influence on anyone except my own kid.

Reduced stress + Less driving = Decreased swearing.

I know the formula, I just need to stock up on the ingredients.

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