Winter? What winter? The seasons are a changin’

I loved Halloween as a kid. It was that time you could escape reality and become whatever you wanted. I was a bride, a cat, a witch, a flapper girl, a baby, the I Dream Of Jeannie character, and so many more. I remember many Halloweens in Chicago where it was so frigidly cold and/or snowing buckets outside so that all the kids trick-or-treating had to bundle up and wear their heavy winter coats, mittens, hats and scarfs over their costumes which covered the cuteness and took away half the fun of asking for candy.

The seasons are clearly changing, though. Not only do I go to bars instead of going trick-or-treating now, I also recall that two out of three of the past Halloweens have been warm enough to go to the bars without wearing a coat.  If my memory serves me right, the first snow fall of 2010 was on December 1st.  It wasn’t until Feb 2, 2011 when the city had its first HUGE blizzard of the season. The city completely shut down because of the Thundersnow & Snowpocolypse Blizzard of 2011 which dumped over 20 inches of snow in about 24 hours.

Now, here we are again in the middle of winter. Accuweather & Farmers Almanac predicted that the winter of 2011-2012 in Chicago was going to be the coldest and worst winter in the nation. Because of last year’s horrible record-breaking winter, they warned us that, “Bitter cold is expected to come on strong early in the season during December and below normal temps in January.” Turns out, we’ve had two real snow falls so far and a winter so warm that this year is being dubbed the year without a winter. Our first snowfall was not until December 9th but it didn’t stick around long.  The calendar says February, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. It was 45°F on Christmas, making this Christmas the warmest here in 17 years. On January 31st it was almost 60°F, and currently, as I type this on February 25, it is 49°F with the forecast predicting the next few days to follow suit.

It was recorded that last winter O’Hare got 57.9 inches of snow and 67 days with an inch or more of snow on the ground. This winter, as of February 14, O’Hare has reported 15.7 inches of snow with only 10 days with an inch or more of snow on the ground. Granted, last year we had the blizzard so clearly that accounts for more inches, but the day count is notable too.

Some statistics according to Tom Skilling of WGN: (He is THE weatherman of Chicago. If you are a Chicagoan, you know who he is.)

“We have the numbers to back it up.  This has been the 8th warmest winter in Chicago to date.  To find a winter this warm you have to go back 80 years to 1932! We’ve had an uncommonly skimpy 1.7 inches of snow on the books for January 2011.  This is the mildest December in 13 years- December finished nearly 13-degrees warmer than a year ago.  The 2011 reading is warm enough to place the month among the mildest 10 percent of Decembers which have occurred here since records started in 1871.”  That’s some crazy shit, no?

Changes aren’t only occurring in Chicago.  I heard on the news that even Fargo, North Dakota hit 55°F in January, breaking a more than a century year old record.  Across the midwest, temps have been higher than normal with many cities averages being several degrees warmer than last yearWhile we may be enjoying this unusually and pleasantly warm winter here, France is freezing.  The news is reporting that this is the harshest winter Europe has seen since almost 30 years and that over 500 people across Europe have died as a result of this unusually frigid winter.  

Usually when schools get out in June and kids are singing Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s out for the summer’ it is not just because they’re celebrating being out of school (which they clearly are), it is also because the weather is sunny and warm and they can spend their days doing nothing but lounging poolside or at the beach. But not last year. I didn’t go to the beach once. 2010-2011 season seemed to skip Spring – there were no “April Showers Bring My Flowers” – it was still cold and snowing in March & April of 2011. My mother’s annual plants budded and died super early.  It seemed we went from a long drawn out winter straight into rainy weather, in what is usually thought of as ‘the summer months.’ It wasn’t until August through October that we had really warm summer-like weather in Chicago.

This change is making people into wusses.  It was predicted that we were going to get 4-8″ of snow this past Friday.  As a preventive measure, both Midway & O’Hare cancelled flights as early as 6PM the night before.  It would have been one thing if it was even snowing at that point, but it wasn’t. It was barely raining! To cancel 300 flights for nothing is absolutely stupid.  Last year the city of Chicago came under attack for not being prepared for Snowmaggedon, so my gut says they were being over-cautious this time and didn’t want that to happen again. While places close to Wisconsin did get snow, the city didn’t even come close to getting a full inch.  Some schools closed on Friday which would have been unheard of in my day. IT IS WINTER IN CHICAGO, PEOPLE!  It is supposed to snow. No need to cancel flights. That is why we have technology to de-ice planes! 20″ in 24 hours; yes, I can see canceling flights. But at least wait for it to start snowing! Grow a pair, people.

Effects on Mother Nature: I have very mixed feelings about the unseasonably warm weather we’re having. While no one is complaining about the warm weather, warmer winters are dangerous for Mother Nature.  It scares me to think about what is happening and how this will affect the climate and animals. It also scares me that very few people seem concerned.  Temperatures like this can cause the glaciers and polar ice caps to melt and that water has to go somewhere…  The polar bears are dying because their ice platforms are melting.  Great Lakes are not freezing which is causing ice fishing huts to collapse (see slide 18). The unseasonable weather is doing weird things to plants and animals too. It is February 26 and tulip buds are already breaking ground. This is way too early for those perennial spring flowers to survive as it is likely we’ll have some nights where the temps will fall to single digits, killing the plants. Birds are confused and some species haven’t flown south for the winter yet. Dry warm weather increases the risk of forest fires, and short winters can end up exacerbating the spring-allergy season. The flu season is off to a slow start with less reports of people getting sick. The flu transmits faster when people stay inside away from the cold and avoid fresh air but people have been more active thanks to the warmer weather. Weather patterns are unusual – even Texas was under a Tornado watch on January 25th this year.

My Theory/Prediction: This trend might be just a fluke this year. But maybe it’s not.  I have my own theory about what is happening.  Despite the fact that after mid February it is harder for snow to remain on the ground due to increasing sunlight, I believe that Chicago may still get cold & snowy days in the days to come. Even if the snow doesn’t stick around long, I think we still may get a winter storm after the usual winter period is over.  I think it appears the seasons are shifting to start later.  It seems that Summer is  July – Mid October,  Autumn is Mid October to December, Winter is Mid December to Late April and Spring is Late April – July.   And if my theory is correct, we can continue to get winter weather into April. I hope that because we had such a mild winter that doesn’t mean we’ll have a cold or rainy summer.But gosh, if there is ever a time to be wrong. I do I hope it is now!

Technically weather is what happens day-to-day, but climate is what happens over years and decades. I think the climate is changing.  Maybe someday we’ll be telling our children – when I was your age, it was common to wear snow suits over our Halloween costumes and we used to have white Christmases.

{UPDATE: There was a thunderstorm in Chicago, a tornado in Southern Illinois last night and a blizzard in Minnesota yesterday.  For those unfamiliar – it is HIGHLY unusual to see a thunderstorm or tornado in the winter months, let alone all happening in a 24 hour period. It is frightening to watch these Global Warming effects (or as I prefer to call it- Global Changes) continue to happen because things are clearly changing and the future is uncertain. Are we not taking Mother Nature’s warning serious enough?? }

{UPDATE #2: An astonishing 97 tornadoes ravaged the midwest on March 1st killing at least 30 people.  The weatherman on TV said that usually there is an average of 80 for the entire month of March and day 1 surpassed that already. My fear is that this is only the beginning. I predict that this is a warning that this years tornado/hurricane season along with earthquakes and tsunamis will be brutal and that there is a lot of destruction heading our way. I have never wanted to be so wrong in my entire life. It has been about a year since Japan was devastated by an earthquake that then triggered a tsunami. I pray that nothing that tragic happens this year.}

Finding Serenity on a Sunday Afternoon



I always told my self I had outdoor induced asthma and that was why running outside and I never got along. Usually I have trouble running outside and find myself coughing for hours even after the run is over. But Sunday was different. It was one of those days that you can only dream of where you wake up with no responsibilities, no chores to do, no phone calls to make and no one to report to.  It was one of those rare days where running actually came easy. On Sunday, I was lucky enough to not be dreaming.

Despite being woken up around 9am because Mr. Boyfriend had to go to work, I managed to get a little more sleep and laid in bed until noon.  I remembered it was supposed to be our first warm summer-like day so I looked outside for confirmation and saw people in shorts and tank tops.  I debated staying home and just relaxing on my balcony (which doesn’t get sun until later in the afternoon) or laying out on the patio downstairs. Seeing the shade on my balcony and no chairs on the patio, I decided not to be lazy. It seemed like a lovely day for some outdoor alone time, away from the apartment. So I got dressed, grabbed my iPod and headed out. What was initially my intention to just walk along the Lake Michigan waterfront path turned out to be a full days adventure! 

I don’t like leaving home without my phone, money or keys because I am always thinking that, What if something happens to me?  So I carried a teeny-tiny backpack. As I walked and watched people practically skipping with happiness, I thought about the blogs I had read like the Girl With the Red Hair or Bun & Burrows, and how they are always talking about their positive running experiences. (Thanks girls for the inspiration!) I thought about how I kind of went on a running hibernation over the winter, as I focused a lot on core and yoga classes, but didn’t run as often as I could have.  But something about the sun shinning, people playing and me being alone, lost in thought, listening to music on an absolutely gorgeous day made me oddly at peace.  So I started just running north along the lake path. I can’t say I ran the whole time, but I ran a majority of it. I am guessing that it was about a 2 mile path, in each direction. I saw a dog swimming in the lake, people playing volleyball, bikers, rollerbladers, runners, people running on a mission, and people strolling just taking in the day. When I got to the end of the path, I started heading back, ran into my neighbor (hi!) and then continued on.  I saw a friend running on a nearby path, so out of nowhere, this energy built up and I chased after her. I didn’t think I had it in me to sprint but I was motivated to catch her. I made it possible.  She was heading in the direction I just came from so I turned around and we ran/walked a bit together.  Since I had already done this path there and back again, I suggested we walk back through the zoo which is parallel to the lake front. ( I love animals so I am a sucker for zoo’s, even though I don’t like that they’re caged.)   We walked back through the zoo, through the park and then headed home. After we said goodbye, I met up with my neighbor again and we walked over to Whole Foods.  My feet and legs were tired, but I just kept walking. After a great workout, shopping for vegetables just completes the healthy feeling of the day. I bought a couscous and cranberry salad that was to die for! 

All in all, I was outside for three and a half hours and covered about 5-6 miles. I went out for some me time and came home completely rejuvenated and sunburned. I did not expect to get burned in April! But LOVE that we finally had summer weather!  Walking is bit rough, though I am not as sore as I expected. The second full day is always the worst, so I will not be surprised if I move a little slower than usual/waddle tomorrow.  

I never thought I would find peace and serenity running but Sunday turned out to be absolutely perfect. Just me, doing what I wanted to do.  I had no time restraints, no responsibilities, no worries. I was able to just be alone with my thoughts, my music and go at my own pace. We all need some alone time from time to time.  Maybe it was a mix of being the first warm day in months or having the freedom to follow my feet wherever they lead me, but it turned out to be the perfect Sunday afternoon!

How do you find time for alone time? What do you do that helps you find serenity?  

Love, Caryn

Bring On The Warm Springtime Sunshine!



It is still chilly outside in Chicago. This week will hopefully be in the 40’s. Doesn’t sound like spring, does it? I can’t quite retire my winter-gear, or take out the flip-flops and t-shirts yet, but I am excited for the temperatures to warm up.

When I think of Spring, there is always one image that comes to mind- like a still snapshot in my head. In college, there was this large open grassy field on campus where students would go to read, sleep, listen to music on their iPod, or tan in the grass. The field would fill with people playing Frisbee with friends or with their dogs between classes.  Just walking by this field in the Springtime made me want to smile and skip home. It wasn’t until college and seeing this field each year, did I realize just how much I love Spring. 

I love this time of year. I love when people come out of the woodworks, when restaurants put patio furniture out, and people are out and about going for walks.  Dog parks are loaded with puppies playing, animals come out of hibernation, birds chirp, tulip buds begin to sprout and trees begin to blossom.  I can walk to work and the days are longer. There is optimism that the end of the dreary days is near and that Winter is almost over.  The sun shines out from behind cloudless blue skies. People seem to have an extra spring in their step.  

You can feel love in the air.

When Spring is in the air, you can smell the crisp scent of freshly cut grass and possibilities. Springtime rain smells different than any other time of year. Now is the time, we plant our vegetable gardens and flowers.  You can smell neighbors barbecuing.  I love going to the park and having picnics. Colors, just like our attitudes (thanks Seasonal Affective Disorder), go from dark hues (like my favorite Russian Navy by OPI) to bright, cheery, pastels and florals. 
2011 OPI Texas Spring Collection colors {via}

We clean out our closets and homes, remove unwanted clothes and bad habits. It is our time to start fresh and remind us what we have been missing while cooped up for the Winter. Spring cleaning brings fresh starts. 

I love summer weather, going to the beach and soaking in the hot sun rays. But there is something special about Spring that makes me happy and gives me the feeling that anything is possible. 

Bring on the warm springtime sunshine!