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The Second Half: Welcome the cold weather

December 15, 2010

By Kathleen D. Tresemer
Columnist

OK, now it’s cold. Finally.

Hubby says, “In January, these temperatures will feel like a heat wave!”

He’s right, it’s all relative. Committed to embracing all aspects of life in my Second Half, I assembled some reasons why living in a colder climate is a good thing. Repeat after me: “Winter is good. Winter is good. Winter is good!”

I located a website called “ThirdAge.com: Baby Boomer Health, Aging & Retirement.” A pretty cool site, actually, and they offered the humorous article, “The Top 10 Benefits of Cold Weather.” Here’s their list:

1. Dog poop doesn’t stick to your shoes.

2. There’s no need to lock the back door because it’s frozen shut.

3. The dogs don’t get on the sheets with muddy paws.

4. There’s no need to worry about driving the car because it probably won’t start.

5. You don’t have to bathe the kids because the water pipes are frozen.

6. The house will get warm without electricity because it caught fire when you tried to thaw out the pipes.

7. If it gets below zero, you can entertain yourself by throwing water in the air and watching it freeze before it hits the ground.

8. Your nose doesn’t run when you go outside. (Warning: It runs like a faucet when you come inside).

9. You get to buy new furniture because you use the old stuff for fuel in the wood stove when you run out of wood.

10. You can walk on water.

(Read more at thirdage.com)

I like to be known as able to walk on water, so this grabbed me. From a practical standpoint, the “frozen poop” issue is critical when you live on a farm and have a bunch of dogs, lots of cats and several horses. As everyone knows, frozen poop is wa-a-ay better than muddy poop, slushy poop or even just regular poop.

So that’s the poop on…poop.

Next, I found a real bummer of an article from the Environmental Protection Agency, about the impact of colder climates—their findings included the following:

1. Temperature extremes—hot or cold—increase mortality;

2. Winter’s low humidity causes an increase in illness and mortality;

3. Snowfall accumulations correspond with high mortality;

4. Rapid changes in the weather cause negative responses in the body.

(Source: http://www.ciesin.org/docs/001-338/001-338.html)

My response: “Well, DUH!”

Although I wouldn’t necessarily agree that rapid weather changes are negative. My body delights in any change, unless it is a drastic change from 40 degrees to 20 degrees below zero—then I stoke up the woodstove and read a good book until the cold snap breaks. Otherwise, I love waking up to a sudden change of weather: cold snap, big storm or balmy day. It’s the boredom of the same weather, day after day, that drives me batty.

I can see how people might die during big snowfalls. The first storm of the season only dropped about 6 inches on my place, but I thought I might die from hauling sleds piled with wood for the stove, tossing 70-pound bales of hay to the horses, and breaking ice in the water trough with my hatchet. Nevertheless, I didn’t die; I did have a pretty sore back for a couple of days, and I was left wondering, “When did we move the dang barn so far away from the house?!”

I found another website that offered the pros and cons of living in a cold climate at essortment.com. Their list included the fact that people in cold climates live longer.

“Well, with the exception of the Donner party,” I thought. Interesting facts about the Donner party:

Of the 36 who died, eight were females and 28 were males. Of the 44 who survived, 24 were females and 20 were males.

(Source: http://www.donnerpartydiary.com/survivor.htm)

The gals handily beat the guys in a survival contest while crossing the mountains in a snowstorm. Second-Half pal Terri retorted, “That’s because the women knew how to cook!”

Take that, boys!

Back to pros and cons of winter…con: “If you’re planning to travel, or are expecting guests, excessive snow can ruin your plans.”

I don’t know about you, but I might put that one in the “pros” column.

I think I might exercise more in the winter, what with all the outside work. Anything you do in the cold burns more calories. My trick is to pick the chores that require manual labor. Anything with whirring, deadly blades or engines that can suck in body parts, I leave to the boys. They like it better because it is noisy and smelly work (think Tim, the Tool Man: “More POWER!”). I like listening to the snow crunch under my feet, so pulling, lifting, stacking and hacking are OK by me. I figure by March I should have arms like Michelle Obama. You don’t get gorgeous muscles like that from sweeping and dusting, folks.

The Mikhail Levitin Institute in Tannersville, Pa., an alternative and natural medicine clinic, backs me up here and offers this advice to cheer you:

“Cold weather is a great fat-burning time of the year. Your body burns extra calories just to stay warm. Winter exercise helps to shake the ‘winter blues’ by releasing endorphins, the mood-enhancing hormones of the body. Your energy levels increase, and you sleep better. And when spring finally arrives, you are in better shape.”

Source: www.tuneup.org/coldweather.

Usually by March, I am pulling out my hair in frustration at being stuck inside by those “20-degree below” temps. I guess by then I have used up my endorphins. But for today, in the spirit of acceptance, everybody join me in saying, “Welcome back, winter!”

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

From the Dec. 15-21, 2010 issue

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