Tag Archives: Winter

Holiday Topics I Wish More People Would Blog About

Can you believe it’s November already? It feels like January ended last month, and yet here we are moving quickly into the 2018 holiday season.

As someone who doesn’t observe any winter holidays other than nodding slightly in the direction of the winter solstice since it means the days will soon be filled with more light, this might seem like a slightly unusual topic choice for me today.

I think there’s something to be said for being aware of the things I’m going to mention today regardless of what you do or don’t celebrate, though.

Trigger warning: while I won’t be going into any details, I will be briefly mentioning issues like abuse and grief in today’s post. (I will also be talking about much happier stuff as well!)

Why The Holidays Are Painful for Some People

To give just a few reasons why someone might find this time of year distressing, some (extended or nuclear) families are:

  • Abusive or neglectful
  • Grieving over the loss of one or more members
  • Separated for financial, medical, career, legal, or political reasons
  • Estranged
  • No longer in existence

When someone is in this situation, it can be difficult to be surrounded by so many images of and references to happy, intact families between now and the end of the year.

In no way am I trying to discourage people who have never experienced this from sharing stories of visiting safe, appropriate, and living relatives.

It makes me happy to see all of the joy in their lives, but I’d also love to see more posts from people who have had to limit or end their relationship with certain relatives for safety reasons, who live far away from their loved ones, who don’t have families, or who will not be doing big familial celebrations for other reasons. These stories are important and need to be told if the bloggers involved in them are willing to share a basic overview of why the holidays aren’t a cheerful time for them.

Chosen Families

On the other hand, not all families are comprised of folks who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption. It is perfectly possible to choose to become a family with people you meet long after you’ve taken your first step or graduated from high school.

As someone who is trying to do this, it would be so interesting to read other people’s accounts of how they assembled theirs.

Navigating Health Problems During the Holidays

My various allergies can sometimes make attending certain functions tricky or even impossible. I’ll often eat before going to certain gatherings to make sure I’m not sitting there with a growling stomach and the inability to eat anything there due to North America’s tendency to toss milk products into so many festive foods.

If someone has a cat, I cannot enter their home for any reason. No, not even if they vacuum really well and banish the cat to their bedroom. It has nothing to do with my opinion of their cleaning skills or cat and everything to do with how difficult it is to get dander out of a couch well enough that I won’t react if I sit on it.

It would be so interesting to me to read other blogger’s stories about how they handled their own health problems or accommodated someone else’s medical needs during the holidays. I’m well-versed in allergies, but I know far less about how other health issues can affect someone’s ability to attend or enjoy an event. It would be helpful to hear what should or should not be done from people who are living with other conditions.

Traditions from Non-American Cultures

One of the coolest things about making friends with so many people who didn’t grow up in rural, (mostly) midwestern portions of United States has been getting to hear stories about all of the traditions that exist in other parts of the world.

Some holidays that are widely celebrated here in North America like Halloween are either totally unknown or barely observed in other places. Likewise, I’ve learned about all sorts of other celebrations that my family didn’t know anything about when I was growing up. These range from major holidays like Diwali to smaller, more regional ones like Saint Nicholas Day.

Creative Gift Ideas

I’d be especially interested in reading posts about gifts that are inexpensive and not a knick-knack.

Those of you who are good at buying, baking, making, or planning personalized, meaningful presents have my admiration. That isn’t an easy thing to do….or at least it’s not for me.

Honestly, the more posts that exist about this, the better. It can be written about for so many different ages and types of interests that the possibilities are truly endless.

Reflections on the Past and Future

What were the highlights of the past year for you? What do you wish had turned out differently? What are your hopes and dreams for the new year?

I know that some bloggers aren’t comfortable sharing such personal details of their own lives, and I respect that. If they’re willing to share, I adore getting these backstage peeks into other people’s lives.

Something I struggle with might be effortless for someone else, but they also might find it hard to do something that I’ve always found incredibly easy. There’s something reassuring about seeing examples of how this works while I hope that next year will be better for everyone no matter what this one was like for them.

What topics do you wish more people would blog about during the holiday season?

Previous posts in this series:

5 Things I Wish People Would Blog About

5 More Things I Wish People Would Blog About

 

Should You Exercise Outdoors in March?

If you live in a part of the world where March and the winter season in general isn’t cold, icy, and snowy, this post may not be helpful for you. (Also, I am a little jealous of your tropical or temperate environments at the moment!)

For everyone else, keep reading. I have some questions for you.

Is it a smart idea to exercise outdoors at this time of the year?

What should fitness enthusiasts keep in mind about working out in slippery conditions and when the weather patterns are shifting rapidly as the season changes from winter to spring?

Let’s dig into these questions as well as other some points that everyone should ponder before deciding whether or not exercising outdoors between the months of December and March is a good decision for them.

Your Gear

The right gear makes all the difference in the world when it’s raining one minute, snowing the next, and everything could and probably will freeze into a slippery mess overnight.

Do your shoes have a strong grip?

How warm is your coat?

Does it rain often enough in your community that waterproof gear is recommended?

How easy would it be for you to add or remove layers of clothing during your workout?

Will any of your sports equipment be damaged if it’s regularly exposed to snow, ice, rain, or freezing temperatures?

One of the many reasons why I don’t exercise outdoors during the winter has to do with the type of gear I have. It’s perfect for the other three seasons, but it doesn’t work so well when the ground is covered in snow or ice and with the windchill it feels like -20C outside.

Sure, I could buy shoes and outerwear that’s suited for these conditions, but this isn’t something I’m prioritizing. Indoor workouts suit me just fine for the time being. When my current gear wears out, I’ll revisit this topic then.

Your Current Health and Fitness Levels

I didn’t want this post to make any assumptions about the health and fitness levels of the people reading this post. Several of my friends are living with chronic physical health problems that limit what they’re able to do when they exercise no matter where they are or what season it is. This is even more true for them when there’s an increased danger of slipping on icy surfaces or tripping over piles of snow.

Even as someone who is able-bodied and in pretty good shape overall, I’m still extra cautious on slippery paths due to how many times I’ve sprained my ankles and wrists in the past. My body is strangely good at injuring itself in that way, so I try to avoid hurting myself yet again when I’m outside and the ground is slick.

Your Goals

The kinds of questions you’ll need to ask yourself for this section are going to vary quite a bit based on your interests and current physical abilities. So much depends on what kinds of exercise you’re doing and how much progress you’re hoping to make while the season changes from winter to spring.

All of the types of exercise I do can easily be done indoors, and many of them honestly work much better under those conditions given the part of the world I live in. For example, weightlifting outdoors on a snowy or rainy day honestly isn’t something I ever want to try!

In no way are my fitness goals hampered by indoor workouts. If anything, July and August is the time of the year when I tend to slack off a little in this department due to how muggy it is then and how much I dislike working up a sweat when the hot weather already has me perspiring.

This isn’t true for every sport, activity, or goal, though.

Your Neighbourhood

There are certain practical questions that should be asked before deciding whether exercising outdoors is a smart decision in the area where you live.

How often and how well are the roads shovelled and salted in your community? If you’re a cyclist, how safe would it be for you to ride on them after a big storm?

If there are sidewalks in your neighbourhood, how often and how well are they shovelled and salted? Is there truly enough space for joggers and pedestrians alike there?

Imagine you fell and broke a bone or sprained an ankle while working out. How long would it be before someone noticed that you needed assistance and came to help you?

What have you seen other fitness enthusiasts doing? If other people are exercising outdoors at this time of the year, that’s a good sign.

The sidewalks where I live are sometimes half-covered by mounds of snow that were ploughed off of the road.  At other times our sidewalks do have plenty of space on them to accommodate everyone, but after big storms there really is only enough room for a single-file line of walkers going each direction.

There are people here in Toronto who go out for a jog at all times of the year, but they’re pretty selective about where they go for their runs. I see many more of them once all of the ice has melted away for the year.

Your Personal Preferences

As you may have already guessed, this is something that ultimately boils down to personal preference once all of the practical and safety considerations have been taken into account.

I’m not someone who finds outdoor exercise all that enjoyable, so I’d much rather wait until spring has officially arrived and the sidewalks are free of ankle-spraining debris before I change how and where I workout.

Of course, your mileage may vary. If you love exercising outside, good for you! Come tell me why and how it works for you in the comment section of this post.

Winter Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Toronto has been enjoying milder winter weather this past week or two, but it looks like our temperatures are soon going to plummet once again.

Every time this has happened during the winter of 2017-2018, my mind has drifted to the stories I’ve read about imaginary or otherworldly wintery places that appealed to me for a wide variety of reasons. Winter is my least-favourite season of the year, but it does become slightly more appealing when I think about experiencing it in places that are nothing at all like Toronto.

Narnia as It Was During the End of The Long Winter

From C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I spent four years of my childhood in Laramie, Wyoming, so C.S. Lewis’ descriptions of a world where it was always winter actually sounded kind of familiar to me.

We could experience snow there at any point between September and May. Even the brief Wyoming summers were much colder than the ones I experienced later on in life when my family moved back to the midwest.

Some kids might have been frightened by the idea of a winter that never ended. I liked the long, snowy winters of my childhood, though, and wasn’t particularly bothered by the idea of them lasting forever. (Although, now that I’m an adult, I feel very differently about this topic!)

One of the nice things about the reign of Jadis, the White Witch who cursed the land with everlasting winter, was how resourceful the creatures who lived there learned to become. The book never exactly described how they managed to find enough food to survive for so many generations in the bitter cold, so I’m going to have to assume that both magic and luck were involved.

My favourite scene in this book was the one where Lucy and Susan noticed the first sign that The Long Winter was coming to an end. I won’t give it away for anyone out there who hasn’t read this story yet, but it was a very fitting twist on what many people consider to be the best part of this season.

Alaska as It Was in 1920

From Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child.

Jack and Mabel, the main characters in this tale, had no idea what was happening when they first caught glimpses of a child running around in the Alaskan wilderness alone in the dead of winter.

This is the kind of story that can’t be pinned down to any one genre, and that’s one of the many reasons why I love it so much.

Is it a fantasy tale about a childless couple whose overwhelming desire to be parents magically summoned a daughter for them?

Are the main characters’ sometimes-bizarre interactions with their daughter a metaphor for how unresolved grief can pop up in all kinds of unexpected ways over the years?

Did Jack and Mabel meet a real abandoned child who had somehow figured out how to survive in a fiercely cold and unforgiving environment before they took her in?

The winter weather in Alaska could easily be used to support any of these theories. It could almost be considered a character in and of itself because of how influential it was on how the plot unfolded. While I wouldn’t want to experience that time and place for more than a few minutes, I am curious to know what it would feel like to live in a small, isolated cabin in the middle of a gigantic Alaskan forest during one of their many blizzards.

Jack and Mabel must have yearned for spring unbearably by this time of the year.

I have a very strong opinion about how this book should be interpreted based on the clues provided by the weather, the characters, and the circumstances under which the child is found, but I won’t share it publicly to avoid giving anyone spoilers for the ending.

Europe as It Was 30,000 Years Ago

From Jean M. Auel’s The Mammoth Hunters.

The Mamutoi were the first band of humans that Ayla, a human girl who was raised by Neanderthals, had ever met.

Other than the joy of seeing a herd of mammoths in person, by far the most appealing part of this book to me was how closely-knit the Mamutoi were. The climate they lived in was far too cold to allow for much outdoor time during the winter at all, so this tribe spent those months indoors working on small projects and celebrating various festivals.

The best scenes in this book showed what it was like for roughly twenty adults and children to live in a cramped space together for months on end. Yes, there were times when the introvert in me wondered if anyone ever went outside for the express purpose of having a few moments of pure silence, but there were many other times when I saw the benefits of this kind of living arrangement.

For example, the children in this tribe were doted on by everyone. They knew who their parents were, but they also all felt perfectly comfortable going to any adult for food, comfort, entertainment, or to learn new skills.

Chores like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of people who were too sick, injured, or elderly to do certain things for themselves were also shared pretty evenly. Given how lonely Ayla had been earlier in her life, this doesn’t seem like a bad way to spend a winter at all.

What winter worlds from your favourite stories do you wish you could visit?

Saturday Seven: Cold Weather Reads

Saturday Seven is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Since this is the first Saturday Seven, I’ll explain it briefly for my readers. It’s a weekly meme for writers, bloggers, and book lovers in general. Every week you pick any book, writer, or author-related topic you’d like and make a list of seven things that fit it. Go click on the link above if you’d like to learn more about this meme or if you want to read the contributions from other bloggers.

I talk about science fiction and fantasy quite a bit here, so many of my future Saturday Seven posts will probably be related to those genres somehow. If hashtags were a thing in blogs, I’d end this paragraph with #YouHaveBeenWarned. Ha!

It’s been bone-chillingly cold here in Toronto over the past few weeks. Temperatures like -25 C (-13 F for you Americans) have often been our daytime high when you factor in the windchill. We’ve had multiple extreme weather alerts, and our city government has opened extra warming shelters to keep everyone who is living on the streets alive through this cold snap.

I feel very grateful, indeed, to have a warm, safe place to live. While we’re waiting for the weather to warm up a few dozen degrees, I’ve been thinking about books that are best read when it’s far too cold to go outside for non-essential reasons.

1. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

As freezing as Ontario is at the moment, at least we know that our winter weather generally ends by April. The citizens of Narnia had no such guarantee!

2. The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel.

While this is the second instalment in the Earth’s Children series, they can all be read as standalone works. This tale follows the adventures of a teenage girl named Ayla who attempts to survive in a harsh Palaeolithic landscape on her own for years on end. I wasn’t even allowed to ride my bike past a certain point in our neighbourhood when I was her age, so I’m always fascinated by how someone so young survived all of the challenges that came her way.

3. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.

Wang Lung and his wife struggled so hard to survive. I always enjoy reading about how closely their well-being was tied to what the climate was like and how their crops did in any particular year.

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.

The chapters that dealt with Jane’s years as a student and teacher at Lowood School are an especially good read on chilly days. Even something as simple as a cup of hot tea and a piece of fruit feels like a luxury when you’re in that section of the storyline.

5. Robert Frost’s Poems by Robert Frost.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Mending the Wall,” and of course the classic “The Road Not Taken” are a few of the best poems to read from him on days like today.

6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

While I’m not a huge fan of gardening in real life, I did enjoy the descriptions of how Mary and Colin coaxed the abandoned garden back to life in this story after winter passed. They made it sound like such a magical process.

7. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

This was my least-favourite Little House book the first time I read that series. I couldn’t imagine how Laura Ingalls and her family would survive such a long, snowy, and bitterly cold winter while they were also running out of food. My subsequent readings of it were much more enjoyable, although I still always wince when I reach the scene where Almanzo risks his life to leave town and buy wheat to keep everyone alive until spring.

What are your favourite cold weather reads? I don’t host comments on this blog, but I’d love to discuss it with you on Twitter.