My daily labyrinth walk on Wednesday, January 30, 2019, in the middle of the Polar Vortex coughed up several lessons.
In spite of the bitterly cold morning, the snowshoes strap that slipped off and glasses that fogged up, it was a great walk! Nothing I want to repeat, though.
Here are some lessons:
(Think ahead.) Just like a little kid is reminded, it is better to use the bathroom before donning the multiple layers of clothes.
(Before starting out, make sure your equipment is ready and working. Think ahead number two.) Pulling the snowshoes down from the hooks in the unheated garage, I realized the straps were frozen. “Oh well, I can make this work.” Ha! At -25 degrees? Not. Gloves were too bulky to fix on the straps, so I took them off. Within seconds my fingers were numb.
(Be ready for consequences. Think ahead number three.) Not only were my fingers numb but also because I hurried putting the snowshoes on, one strap slipped off partway through the walk causing me to stumble. Additionally, when I wrapped my scarf around my nose and breathed out, my glasses fogged up. Between the two, I pitched off the packed trail into the deep snow. I regained balance and came back on the path. It was kind of scary even though I knew my husband was monitoring my adventure from the house.
(Have a back-up plan. Think ahead number four.) Oh, I could have done the finger labyrinth, or “walked” the outdoor labyrinth from the upstairs window. I also love a challenge. Yet, how much was just showing off for those who live in warmer climates and marvel at how the northerners survive?
(Turning back is OK!) A few times I thought about cutting off the path back to the beginning and just coming inside. That would have been OK.
(Persevering is also OK.) So, “keeping on keeping on” is valuable. Just be aware and safe in our pursuits. When a situation is hard, ask, “Why?” And, then make decisions from there. Move into a growth attitude of “I can do this.”
(Be of Growth Mindset) Learn from missteps. Just like my shortcut crossing on the industrial pipe above the dam and jagged rocks as a little kid, this adventure was good to do. Maybe not one to repeat. Get back on the path.
(Be grateful.) Always a valuable lesson. From small to large gratitudes express them many times each day. This changes everything.
celebrated the first day of 2019 with a drive in the country. An inch of crusty
snow had fallen a few nights earlier, and the countryside looked wintry.
Wildlife seemed tucked in on this frosty morning, but as we rounded a gravel
road’s bend, we spotted 20 huge white birds in the stubble of a picked corn
were too far away to identify. Were they snow geese or swans? Fortunately, our
binoculars were at the ready and we were soon delighted to watch trumpeter
swans feeding on corn missed by the combine.
previous years we would have had to rummage through coats, mini shovel, rope,
and other debris stowed behind the pickup’s seat to find our binoculars. Too
many times the birds we wanted to see departed before we found the optics. Not
We recently received a Bino Dock device. It fits securely in a car or truck cup holder, making it easy to grab our binoculars quickly. Roof prism binoculars fit snugly into the Dock, reducing the odds of damage caused when optics are stored loosely under or behind a seat. More important they’re instantly available should we spot an unusual animal or even vintage airplane we want to observe more closely.
We found only one downside to the Bino Docks. Because they hold optics at the ready, they are visible from outside the vehicle. This could make them a target of thieves who are able to quietly and quickly break a side window and be off with valuables. We solved this problem by simply putting a dark colored baseball or stocking cap over the binoculars when we are away from the car. Remember it’s never wise to leave anything that appears to be valuable visible within a parked car. Stow them in the truck, under the seat, or cover them.
When we bought our first home back in 1979, we soon installed a new wood stove. It was a Lange brand made in Denmark. The stove kept our home toasty warm the next 30 winters. When we moved to Winding Pathways, we had to leave our trusty Lange at the old place.
We enjoy wood heat and like cutting and curing wood, so shortly after we moved, we purchased a Heatilator wood stove. For seven winters it did the job of warming our home. On the first cool night in the fall of 2018, we fired up theHeatilator and were astonished to smell smoke in the house. Then, we discovered a large crack in the stove’s steel top. As smoke seeped into the room, we shoveled out the burning wood. Then, we contacted the store where we bought the stove.
We were told we were out of luck. The Heatilator had a five-year warranty and our stove was seven years old. It was frustrating to learn the warranty was so short and that the stove failed. The company offered us a discount on a new stove that was not a good discount. We were wary and decided to look elsewhere.
For about a month our only home heat came from our gas furnace. Although the thermometer read 70 degrees, we constantly felt chilled. Forced air heat feels different from that emitted from a wood or gas stove. The furnace forces out low humidity air that feels cool. A wood stove, in contrast, emits heat directly. It’s very warm near the stove, so when chilled we love huddling close to it. There is an indescribable pleasure in the comfort given us by our woodstove.
On Friday, December 14, Colony Heating in Cedar Rapids installed a new stove. It’s a Century Heating steel stove made in Quebec, Canada, and we’re already enjoying its cozy warmth. Here are some things we learned:
If a stove cracks or gives off smoke stop using it. Get it checked out. If it has failed the company that made or installed it might replace it. Or not. It’s a good idea to find this out before you purchase a stove.
Look for quality. A wood stove should last decades.
Check the guarantee. Most quality stoves have at least a ten-year warranty on the firebox.
Have a stove installed by a professional and connected to a safe chimney.
Notify your homeowner insurance company that you have a professionally installed wood stove. They mig add a slight premium, but then the home is covered should a stove cause a fire.
Burn clean dry wood accordingto the stove manufacturer’s directions.
Keep the stove clean and havethe chimney cleaned and inspected annually.
We had removed the fire bricks from the old stove’s interior, and the two guys from Colony Heating who installed the new stove loaded the cracked Heatilator onto our pickup truck. An hour later a giant machine with a steel claw plucked it from the ground and dropped it on a pile of other scrap metal. Marion Iron Company paid us $16 for it. Not only are wood stoves recyclable, and they can be sold for scrap.
We’re looking forward to our new stove’s gentle warmth as cold wintery Iowa air sweeps past our home at Winding Pathways.
WindingPathways LLC did not receive discounts or free services or merchandise from either Colony or SBI International, which makes and sells Century Heating stoves. We paid their normal fee. And, we’ve found their products and services to be outstanding. www.colonyheating.com and www.sbi-international.com. We purchased the stove at the Marion, Iowa, Menard’s store.
“Let’s play outside!” For baby boomers, that was something we said and did every day. Driving slowly through neighborhoods was a must in those days because the yards and streets were literally full of kids. We played outside after school and on weekends, 365 days a year. Every day was a “play date.” No need for mom or dad to arrange one.
In today’s world, you can drive for miles through town and not see a single child. What changed? Three main factors are frequently cited as the reasons for this retreat from outdoors to indoors:
High profile child abductions in the 80s and 90s.
Video gaming and screen time.
Organized sports and activities.
In the 80s and 90s, there was a handful of child abductions that became a part of the 24-hour news cycles, such as the Jacob Wetterling case. They gave parents the impression that these abductions were becoming more frequent, even epidemic So parents became reluctant to let their kids play outside. We now know, however, that for decades the number of stranger abductions of children has remained unchanged, according to readily available statistics, such as those from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Video gaming and screen time are obvious to us all. When we do see kids in public, their noses are glued to their phones.
Organized sports and activities are great for keeping kids busy and healthy, and, at least for a short time, away from their phones. But there is a negative side. Kids and parents are overscheduled, driving from school to sports/lessons to fast food to more sports/lessons. Stress and burn out are among the many negative results.
Solving the problem of squirrels raiding the feeder.
Henry adds to his squirrel-proof wall.
Development of creativity. Kids have to be imaginative to come up with their own games and play outside. A fallen tree becomes an airplane flying to China. A pile of snow becomes a fort. A rope tied between trees becomes a bridge over burning lava.
The more the merrier and playing outside means kids learn, by trial and error, how to be friends, share ideas, solve problems and resolve conflict.
Discovery and appreciation of the environment. Kids learn best through experience and an iPad doesn’t come close to helping a child learn about the outdoors like living in it does.
Attention span. The Wiley Online Library reports that studies show that green outdoor spaces reduce ADHD symptoms in children.
How can we get our kids to play outside? We can’t just open the door and tell them to go outside and play. In two minutes, they’ll be coming back in saying they’re bored and want to do their screens and games.
So, here’s how to start:
Go outside and play with them. Get them an idea (making a stick fort, playing touch football) and get them started. After a while, leave them to it and go back inside.
Limit screen time. If they know they only have 30 minutes per day of screen time (phone, iPad, TV) and they’ve already burned that up, that eliminates the desire for screen time instead of playing outside.
Let them get dirty and tell them it’s perfectly OK to do so.
Give them tools for playing. A rope, an old bucket, a frisbee, a glider, a jar. Be creative yourself!
Invite neighborhood friends over. The more the merrier.
Let them use the hose on a hot day. Give them a watering can and have them “water the trees.”
Don’t let the weather stop outside play. We live in the Upper Midwest and we know how to dress for cold weather. Playing outside in winter is a blast for kids, and it leads to things like hot chocolate and hot baths – which mean more socialization, family time and less screen time.
Teach your kids “new” games – the kind we used to play all the time outside: Kick the can, tug of rope, flashlight tag, frozen tag.
Set a limit. Not a maximum limit, a minimum. It was the other way around when we were kids. We’d head out to play on a Saturday and mom would say to be back before dark. (I’m not making this up). But for kids who are learning how to play on their own outside, try setting the minimum time – thirty minutes or so to start. They’ll come back to the door after five minutes saying they don’t know what to do. Send ‘em back out and let them know that only they can solve that problem. And guess what? They will!
Go outside and play with the kids for a while.
Kids can learn to exuberantly embrace the outdoors.
Savannah taps a homemade spile into a backyard maple.
Kids’ imaginations are powerful and given the chance, they will use them to create their own outside adventures. Pretty soon you may just find yourself yelling out the door that it’s time to come in for dinner and hearing, “Aw, Mom!! Just five more minutes!”
It’s amazing how many connections you will find when you travel to Alaska. My winter journey started with a fine chat with a Coe College student headed to the Twin Cities for a physics presentation. As a Coe grad, I was excited to hear about his work and know some of the professors I have long admired.
From Minnesota to Anchorage I visited with several X-C skiers taking part in the Tour of Anchorage and actually caught a glimpse of them on the trail later.
We literally bumped into Iowa State fans while walking to the Ceremonial Start to the Iditarod.
Thoughtful note from a parent.
On the way back I found on my seat a sweet note from a fellow traveler apologizing in advance and a few “goodies” in a small bag. How thoughtful! And, the infant was quiet most of the way, fussing only briefly.
Since my trip March 2017, I’ve met three people bound for Alaska, visited with a half dozen who plan to go there, and many who have traveled and are eager to share their adventures.
Alaska offers so much each season so check out the Alaska websites of the areas you plan to visit.
Winter or Summer Solstice events abound, and you will want to take them in.
Brain Ohlen, David and Brenda Hack of Alaska. Skhoops keep legs warm in winter.
Clothing: No matter the season you visit, plan for the varied weather in Alaska that can range from bitter cold to balmy days. In winter everyone really knows how to dress to stay warm and be able to move. A great innovation is skhoops which are insulated skirts. They come in varied lengths and women slip them on over their office clothing when they go out for short walks. They sure are handy for long times outside as an added layer against the cold and they allow movement!
Alaska towns have all sorts of indoor activities like concerts and even in the sophisticated venues, dress ranges from nice casual to formal.
Everyone knows how to keep the feet warm with well insulated, waterproof, and comfy boots.
All sorts of hats are the rage no matter the season. In winter people cover their faces and in summer they shield themselves from the sun, wind, and bugs.
Alaska is expensive so make sure your credit card is up to date and bring cash. Some places take only cash.
Visitors have a range of choices for lodging. Some stay with friends. Others use hostels and hotels and motels. Airbnbs are popular. Some folks like bed and breakfasts and lodges because they interact with locals. Lodges in Alaska are different from bed and breakfasts. So, check out what is included in the price.
Great meals in Alaska
Just like the lower 48, Alaska has its food trucks with tasty treats for those on the go at festivals. Cafés have lovely choices and attentive servers. Breweries are all the rage in Alaska. Perhaps one of the most elegant restaurants in the Anchorage area is the Crow’s Nest perched atop the Captain Cook Hotel downtown. It is a testament to the resiliency of Alaskans as it was part of the renovation of Anchorage after the 1964 9.2 Good Friday earthquakethat leveled much of the city.
One Alaska suggested for visitors to get in shape for walking, skiing, hiking and fat tire biking which is a terrific way to get around in winter as well as summer. Alaska is wild. So, stay within your limits and have a guide for those out-of-the-way trips.
Alaska in any season offers up a wonderful adventure. Consider winter when bugs and bears are sleeping and food and festivals abound.
All sorts of hats appear.
Scrubbing the ice.
A dog sled handler dressed up.
Cheering on the Iditarod
People know how to dress to enjoy Alaska outdoors.