Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Warm Up! // How to Do Winter Without Freezing



It's been getting miiiighty chilly around here lately.  I won't use cold yet, because I know better than to pull that word out while it's still consistently 30 degrees or warmer.  It's not really cold, but very chilly? You bet. 

In past winters, I've let winter take me by surprise.  I generally spend a few weeks wearing skirts over just my bear, naked legs and neglecting to start the car a few minutes early to warm it up and promote global warming before I wise up and start fighting winter back.  Not this year!  Last year's especially wintery winter has instilled an intense fear of being cold in me, and I'm determined to spend almost all, if not the entire winter in relative warmth.  Spending 5 months feeling like this will do that to you.


I live in Southern Michigan, so we definitely don't see the worst of it.  It probably gets colder and more snowy in the North Pole and Alaska and maybe some parts of Siberia, so if anybody from there writes a blog post about how to stay warm, they're probably righter than me.  However, as someone who has spent a lot of life trying to be warm, I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it, and I'd love to save you from a fate of sixteen cold years by just giving you the answers now.  Ladies and gentlemen, my expert guide on how to stay warm when it's -7 with relentless wind and snow, or any other version of cold.  

|  Buy a space heater. Make it your best friend.  My mom bought a space heater for her office last year, and I've gotten in the habit of keeping it about three feet from wherever I am at all times, plugged in and set to the highest setting.  Sometimes it smells like it's burning something, but then I remember that burning = heat and stop complaining.  (We bought ours from Costco - it's this one and I'm convinced that it's saved my life more than once!) 

| Drink hot water all day long.  Credit for this one goes to my mom, as well.  During winters when I was younger, she'd always drink a cup of hot water after dinner while the rest of us ate heaping bowls of ice cream.  We thought she was crazy, but I've since decided that she was definitely on to something.  Now, whenever I drink water, I heat it in the microwave for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes, and it is so much better.  You can feel it warming you from the inside out, and it's the best. Bonus:  drink your heart water in a cute mug like one of these.

| Learn how to best utilize your blanket.  And by that, I mean wrap yourself up like a burrito or baby Jesus.  No more half-hearted draping of blankets across your lap.  You deserve better.  Stand up, throw that thing over your shoulders, and wrap it around your whole entire body, feet included.  If your blanket isn't big enough, I highly recommend you buying a blanket that's man enough for the job.  (I'm so in love with sweater blankets lately - one of these should do the trick!)  Step two is to stay wrapped in the blanket as long as possible to generate body heat and keep it trapped inside.  This can double as reading time, Netflix time, or nap time, which is great because it won't interfere with your busy schedule. 

| Wear (ridiculously thick) socks. Feet + cold floors, especially ones without carpet on them, is a recipe for disaster.  You lose most of your heat through your feet and head, so you can take care of one problem area by getting some socks on you!  I personally really like long socks for this; the longer they are, the warmer I feel.  My mom swears by these - she wears them all the time, including when she goes running in the dead of winter and before the sun has even thought about getting up.  Even better?  Wear socks and slippers, or socks and boots.  I wear my boots in the house.  It's totally okay, because my feet are never cold.  

| Stop showering, or never stop showering.  Okay, it's probably best not to completely cut showers out of your routine.  All I know is that showers leave my hair wet for 3+ hours, which makes me a lot colder.  If you can avoid showering (which, in colder, drier months, you can probably do more than usual), do it.  Either that or get in the shower and never, ever get out.  I think that I'm probably the happiest I ever am all winter long when I'm in the shower because it is just so dang warm in there.  For maximum results, you're going to either have to be really unhygienic or drown and blow up your water bill . . . is this starting to sound like a cult? 

| Exercise.  It gets that blood flowing, and flowing blood is hot blood.  I usually do something active for about an hour a day, so there's an hour of warmth right there, but doing a couple push ups or squats when you start to feel your extremities freezing can save the day.  Just make sure you don't sweat too much in order to avoid the necessity of a never-ending shower. 

| Get a pet and make it cuddle with you all. the. time.  So, no, a fish or lizard or snake probably isn't the best option.  In this case, bigger is better, or you can substitute size with quantity.  (For example ten puppies can probably keep you about as warm as one very large dog.)  Once you have your warm-blooded pet of choice, you're going to have to make it love you or purchase some form of bribery.  I generally opt to grab my dog or cat and hug them until they stop resisting, but if you're lucky, your pet might actually want to keep you company.  

I hope you're feeling warmer already!  With these easy steps, we can defy nature and beat winter coldness together.  That's the goal, anyway, and as I sit here in my knee socks, drinking hot water and wrapped in a blanket, I think things are going pretty well.  If only my hair wasn't wet . . . 

Allie

P.S. Do you live somewhere cold?  If so, what do you do to stay warm? Or do you just -shudder- embrace the way-too-low temperatures? 

Monday, December 8, 2014

When Nightmares Produce Character // My Dad, My Coach

Can we pretend for a minute that you're my mom and you've just asked me what I learned in school today?  Or, if pretending that you're my mom makes you a little uncomfortable, I guess you could just be a concerned friend.  Either way, you're dying to know what I learned in school, and I'm obliging and telling you that I learned about dreaming.  I'm taking psychology for the first time this year, which I absolutely love, and right now the topic of conversation is sleep and dreams.  Lots of people have had ideas about just what dreams are over the years, some of them proving to be horribly wrong and some avoiding that kind of exposure up to this point.  One theory is that bad dreams, the ones we'd call nightmares, are the product of whatever fears we have.  (What does that say about my recurring dream about falling down the stairs with a glass of chocolate milk in my hand?  That's a deeply ingrained fear, apparently.)  Apparently, one of the most common nightmares that Americans have is being naked in public.  While I can't say I've ever had that one (or am particularly worried that I'll ever be without clothes in the middle of the mall or church), embarrassment is kind of terrifying.  I'd say that embarrassment is up there on my list of fears.

In steps my dad.  The good thing about my dad is that he's rarely unintentionally embarrassing; he's more embarrassment-savvy than that.  However, he used to relish the change to intentionally embarrass me, and as a pastor who came to do chapel services for our school, he had ample opportunity.  Thus began reoccurring daytime dreams about what he'd do next.  Scary stuff, you guys.

Another theory about dreams is that they predict the future, and while this one's all but proven to be untrue, I'd be willing to bet that it has some evidence behind it.  I'd bet a lot, actually, because my dream came true.  My sophomore year of high school, my dad became a teacher at my school, with chances to embarrass me as much as he pleased   He's now my teacher, my coach, and my dad.  You look at me and think "That poor girl.  This could never happen to me."  Well, you're wrong.  If your dad isn't already your doctor, dentist, heating and cooling guy, bus driver, teacher, mail man, waiter, and dad, chances are that he's looking for ways to get into at least one of these positions.  It'll happen when you least expect it.  It happened to me. 

For me, the ball got rolling my sophomore year of highschool when my dad landed a job as the 11th & 12th grade religion teacher at my high school.  Just a teacher who, at the time, didn't even teach me. That's it.  I could deal.  By the summer after my junior year, my dad had somehow convinced the varsity volleyball coach to quit his coachship - whether by bribery, threat, brainwash, or a combination of the three I'm still not sure, but it was highly effective.  My dad found himself interviewing for the position along with exactly one other very unavailable person.  The whole time, I made it known in no uncertain terms that I didn't want my dad to coach me.  The funny thing is that he'd coached me all through grade school and it had worked okay; in fact, I loved it.  Once freshman year hit and my dad wasn't my coach anymore, I found that I simply could not practice well if he stepped in to watch.  I'd miss serves, send passes right back over the net, and sometimes even spontaneously trip and fall over (I swear that happened.) I was worried about what he was going to say to me about what I was doing; I became inexplicably sensitive to what he said. It was completely irrational, because he never yells and he expresses himself in the most chill way possible, but I guess hormones happened or something.  Three years of that and I was aggressively un-open to having my dad oversee every second of every practice.  I wouldn't have it.

Well, you guys can guess how it goes.  Probably because I told you up there somewhere.  He got the job, and I started to figure out that I was going to have to reconcile what seemed like a lost situation in my mind.  It was hard, at first.  Along with the whole having-dad-at-practice complex, I was worried about having teammates disagree with the decisions my dad made, both in front of me and when I couldn't hear them.  That happened.  There was one day in particular, after a hard loss, when I walked into the gym and literally all conversation stopped.  I worried about my not being open to my dad's way of doing things.  It happened.  I was resistant to change.  I worried about conflict between our team and the former varsity coach.  That came to a head in practice one day and left several of us in tears.  I worried about losing.  We lost more than we won.  I didn't want my dad to be my coach because I knew it would complicate things, and I was right: it did.  One way or another, all those complications snuck into the gym.



As the season wore on, I learned a lot of things.  Every single "bad" thing about having my dad coach me ended up helping me grow.  Hearing my teammates, their parents, and our former varsity coach disagree with my dad's choices after seeing his painstaking consideration firsthand made me more sensitive toward the people in leadership positions in my life.  It's hard to be the one in charge, you guys!  It's harder than following, and it's infinitely more difficult than being a spectator with an overgrown opinion.  I realized the importance of communication, and I learned how to do it.  After losing match after match after match, I got to experience the feeling of working hard for the eventual win.  (And win we did.)  I was forced to have a position, stick to it, and let disagreement hit me without pushing me over.  All of those little things that I desperately tried to avoid made me better.





As I'm writing this, the whole season wrapped up together and blurred by a distant view, I'm learning that accepting the challenge is so much more than avoiding it.  I've gained this affinity for things that are hard to do, that make me put in extra effort or throw me waaayyyy outside my comfort zone.  I like stretching myself, because I know it helps me get better.  My dad was my coach, and I didn't ask for it, but I reaped so many more benefits from what I didn't want than I would have from what I did - I'm sure of that.  I think that I'll probably always be glad that I didn't get what I asked for.  You might even say that I'm thankful! //


Allie


Friday, December 5, 2014

Oh-oh, Here It Comes // Christmas Tag

I don't know if you've taken the time to realize it yet today, but there are twenty-three days until Christmas!  That's a short enough time to bust out the twinkling lights and sugar cookies, but long enough not to stress about it too much.  Now's the time to enjoy it, to take it all in and ignore the fact that I have finals coming up and zero dollars with which to buy 42305843 presents.  Carolyn over at Carolyn's Simple Life tagged me to answer a few Christmas-y questions, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't start answering right away because I can't resist anything remotely holiday-related. 


What is your favorite Christmas movie?



I LOVE THEM ALL!  If I absolutely had to pick, like, if you were threatening to steal my jar of peanut butter or something, I'd probably go with Home Alone.  And Home Alone 2, which is not cheating because it's basically an extension of the same movie.  I could watch Kevin drop bricks on two guys who seem to have some kind of supernatural immorality (more on that here) over and over again.  Never gets old.


Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?


It's Christmas morning.  When we were younger, the kids of the family were each allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve, and I, as the oldest, wisest child, usually saved my present for the next day and then relished the fact that I had one more present to tear into than my brother and sister did.  Anything to get ahead, man.


Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?


Believe it or not, flying out of town on Christmas day was actually pretty cool.  The airport was so chill, because who wants to fly on Christmas Eve? and our pilot called himself our sleigh driver and I thought that was hilarious.  Also, all of the lights looked so pretty from way up there.  Then there was the Christmas that our neighbors got a Wii and we the entire time we had off of school playing tennis, bowling, and recovering from our various video game-induced injuries.  Never have I been so thankful for someone else's present.


What's your favorite festive food?


Probably anything with sugar.  That's a cop out, sorry.  And I lied, because my favorite is definitely shrimp cocktail on Christmas Eve.  We have a tradition of coming home from church on Christmas Eve and throwing ourselves a little party with chips and dip, Christmas cookies, shrimp cocktail, sparkling white grape juice, and a Christmas movie.  The shrimp cocktail and bubbly, non-alcoholic wine make it classy and delicious.

Ok, and Christmas cookies, especially pretty ones like these, which taste like mint and chocolate.


Favorite Christmas gift?


I can't say I've ever met a present I didn't like, but I think the most excited I've been about one recently is when I got a giant box of 120 crayons for Christmas.  That was when I was 14, and I definitely spent the rest of Christmas break coloring and organizing them by color and making sure their points were always perfectly sharp.  I've always loved crayons.


Favorite Christmas scent?


The smell of our live Christmas tree is so good!  My parents are both allergic to it, but the smell is enough to keep them good naturedly popping allergy pills from Thanksgiving to New Years.  Also, anything that comes in a red cup at Starbucks makes my nose happy.  

My mom and I can be found chugging daintily sipping delicious liquids from said red cups on almost any given day of the Starbucks holiday season. 


Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?


Oops, looks like I accidentally overachieved and already talked about some of those up there ^^^^, but wait, there's more!  We also still put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, along with a note.  The youngest, my sister, is 12, but I guess we're not willing to let it go just yet.  Personally, I'm pretty sure my parents encourage it because it means that they "have" to eat more cookies.  I'm on to you, Mom and Dad.

Besides that, we've started a Christmas Eve tradition of taking Christmas presents to moms and nurses at the Beaumont Hospital, which is in the Detroit area.  About 9 years ago, my brother, Jonah, spent about three weeks at Beaumont with something that's yet to be diagnosed by doctors.  All we know is that it caused him to temporarily lose the ability to talk, eat, and move on his own, and that Beaumont took really good care of us while we were going through that time.  For that reason, my mom has started using her cosmetics business to give something back to the people who were so good to my brother and the moms who are in the place where she once stood.  (If you'd like more information or to donate, shoot me an email at alikat397@gmail.com and I can hook you up!)  We always deliver the presents on Christmas Eve and visit with Jonah's nurses and therapists before heading downstairs for more drinks from red cups.  What else?


We also take pictures with Beaumont's convincing fake trees in their convincing fake garden.


Jonah's favorite part of the garden is the abundance of pillows.  He's doing a lot better now, by the way - he talks like some people breathe and eats with all the enthusiasm of a teenage boy.

 
What tops your tree?


An angel, of the crocheted variety I believe.  We stuff it with a bunch of Christmas lights and it looks really, really cool.


As a kid, what was the one crazy, extravagant gift that you always asked for but never received?


Since I'm intensely afraid of failure and let-downs, I generally try to avoid asking for things that I know I won't get.  I mean, I might wish for them in my head, but I never actually vocalize it - I guess that keeps it from sounding too real.  For instance, there was the time when I asked for gift cards toward getting an iPod for Christmas and secretly hoped that someone would just buy me an iPod, which they didn't.  They chose instead to get me the gift of learning how to save money, which is obviously waaayyyy more fun than the iPod I was able to buy five months later.


What's the best part about Christmas for you?


Oooohh, oh.  That's a toughie.  (Is toughie a weird thing to say?  I'm not even sure if I use it in everyday speech, but it looks even weirder in computer-print.  Let's just go with it.)   I love anything that makes life exciting and less ordinary than usual, so I totally embrace the novelty of the whole season.  That means listening to all the Christmas music, painstakingly wrapping presents, doing as many Christmas - themed activities as humanly possible . . . if it's festive, I'm totally into it.  If there's an option between a regular bag and a red, snowflakey bag at the store, you can guess what I'm choosing. 

Festive Christmas activities include driving through the light display an a major road near us every year - one year, I even ran through it!


The biggest thing about Christmas for me is that it's the time when I celebrate Jesus being born - that's the original intent of Christmas, even thought that's not usually the main focus any more.  I really like Jesus, and he's kind of a big part of my life, so celebrating his birthday is pretty meaningful, too!


What do you love about Christmas?  Any favorite traditions?


Allie

P.S. I'm tagging Itunu, Katelyn, and Katie to answer these questions in their own Christmas post!  The more Christmas in the blog world, the merrier, right?


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