I call this one, "The Eighties called and they want all their ski jackets back."

The Eighties called. They want their jackets back.

Back in early January I posted some jauntily optimistic thoughts on making it through winter in New England (others might think I was  ass-tastically stupid, which I started to think myself during the third polar vortex). I can only assume, from your total silence, that you are wondering how it went! So here are my thoughts, looking back on our first Winter Skiing Experiment.

Let’s start with an epiphany I had, while skiing Sugarbush mountain in Vermont a few weeks back during my daughter’s spring break. As I snowplowed behind my eight-year-old and my husband, both of whom just started skiing and yet seem to have some natural talent that I do not possess, I suddenly realized this: I have no idea how to ski. Seriously none. I guess this is fine, except I realized it while on an intermediate trail at a sizable mountain.

My only goal for the season had been to not kill myself and, having set the bar so low, I would have to call it a success! But as I looked at all the skiers zooming by me, I tried to figure out how they were looking so graceful and yet fully in control. I even tried to copy one person but I just ended up with both my poles flailing in the air. I decided at that moment to start next season with some lessons. Wait — next season? Did I just say that? Because that would imply that I am agreeing to do this again.

You know what? SIGN ME UP. Because other than that time a few weeks ago  — if you live in New England you will remember it because it was this one day when everyone collectively freaked the hell out because we COULD NOT AND WOULD NOT TAKE THIS PUNK ASS WINTER ANY MORE! Other than that, I was mostly fine this winter. Not thrilled, mind you, not all jazzed and I certainly had some grouchy days — but I was way better than in recent winters, and this one was cray-to-the-zee.

So here’s what I really want to say: we had a blast. Although I’m the lightweight who stayed in with the toddler unless it was over 25 degrees and sunny, I went out often enough to discover that skiing and snowboarding and the whole culture surrounding it is pretty joyful. The fun is infectious, which I guess explains how I found myself rocking out to Tiny Dancer in the lift line: Hold me CLOSEr, tiny daaaancer… What?

People are out there enjoying the day and burning some calories. And, can I just tell you? About seventy-five percent of the time that you’re skiing you are NOT COLD — oftentimes, you’re hot! It’s crazy, but you actually want it to snow when you are in the mountains! Sounds ludicrous but it’s true.

I know it is annoying when people try to tell you what they believe would improve your life; I don’t want to be that self-righteous dolt who claims to have The Answer. Skiing is expensive and tiring and, especially if you have kids and their gear to lug around, can be really challenging. I’m not recruiting you for anything and I swear I did not become a sales rep for Rosignol; I’m just reporting back on my experiment.

Here’s where I make a confession. Come in closer. Closer. Okay, here it is: I don’t actually care about the skiing. I could take or leave that part.  The part I like is hanging out with the family, having some shared activity after a week of doing our own things, being active, and being outside. I’ll never be like the guys I overheard talking about the mountain like it was a person: “She’s pushing back a little today. She’s a little crusty, a little feisty.” But I spent hours and hours outside this winter (again, usually not cold) when I would normally have been inside, complaining and inhaling stale air.

And if I haven’t convinced you yet, I will say in conclusion that the beer you drink after skiing for a day — or even taking a few runs and then hanging out in the lodge — will taste better than any beer you’ve consumed in your entire life. I’ll even buy you one if I see you on the hill (that’s ski talk). And maybe I will see you on the hill next year — I’ll be the one learning how to ski.

When I was almost ten years old, fashion was not a part of my world; much of my clothing was hand-me-downs from my cousin and the rest came from weird, now defunct stores in the mall. There was no Old Navy or Target and no Internet. In related news, kids in rural New Hampshire were generally not a stylish bunch. It’s okay, I don’t think we knew.

For some unfathomable reason I became obsessed with one ensemble and I can still see clearly what I wanted to wear: a knee-length corduroy skirt with a kick pleat (ugly, but fine); calf-high, pleather boots in a burnt orange color (hideous, but it was the seventies); a white, really fuzzy sweater with a droopy, borderline-cowl neck (hmm); and then, nonsensically, a pin-striped button-down shirt, the classic kind with buttons on the collars, over the sweater (what?).

My mother had repeatedly rejected this combination because (I now realize) it was totally stupid, so I had thus far not made it out of the house wearing my dream outfit. I saw my opportunity when she was in the hospital, delivering my brother; when my father brought me in for a visit I had dressed myself in you-can-guess-what — and my mom was so pumped on adrenaline and so exhausted from childbirth that she didn’t even seem to notice! I took this as a sign that she had seen the outfit and realized that it was, as I’d been trying to convey, spectacular. In my mind I looked like someone on a soap opera, the ones my babysitter used to watch — sadly, that was my fashion aspiration.

As I’m writing this it seems more a story of me being stubborn and not obeying my mother (oops) but, as I was thinking about it last night, what stuck with me was my absolute conviction that everyone would understand how sophisticated this outfit was if they could just see it on me. I have no idea why I even thought of this minor episode after so many years, but I do know that I wish I had bottled some of that conviction. I could use it in my adult life.

Among other things, I’ve lately been struggling with writing. I write things, mostly blog posts, and then abandon them when they are three-quarters finished, deciding that they are boring, humorless, meaningless, or the perfect storm of all three. But blogs are not meant to be agonized over; many writers use them to test material, or as a daily writing exercise, or to quickly get down an idea that they want to pursue later. So today I decided I’m just going to post them all over the next few weeks, with the conviction that they are worthy of being published (in blog form, at least).

The funniest thing about the sweater/shirt combo and my conviction is that, ultimately, I was completely wrong: I did not look good. I may be wrong this time, too, but it’s freezing and gray and uninspiring outside (yes, still) and I have to come up with something. This is what I’ve got.

I Am Trying

January 7, 2014


Back in late November, when the autumn leaves here in New England had all turned brown and fallen from the trees, but the clean white snow had not yet arrived and it was just Plain Old Cold outside, I made a decision: I decided, on one not particularly beautiful day, to love seasons. Or, rather, I realized that I do love seasons about 60 percent of the time and it was time — it was necessary, in fact — for me to embrace the other 40 percent. Or, at least, to try.

For many years I complained so consistently from January to May (and found myself in good company!) that it became second nature. My husband would have moved us to California years ago if not for my misgivings about leaving family behind; I think that’s when the seed was planted, that I needed to change something. If it wasn’t going to be my location, it would have to be my attitude. Yep, there was no getting around it: I was in love with late spring, summer, and fall, but if I was going to live in New England, it was time for me to stop being such a dink all winter.

I believe you can learn to love things (notice I said things and not people — jury’s out on that one) and I have tested this theory by deciding to love, for example, beets. I thought beets tasted like a frozen clump of dirt from my driveway, but I so wanted to like them! So I keep at it, roasting those little mofos and making yummy little marinades and eating them over and over until — guess what? I loved them. It’s a true story: I love beets. I had the same success with tomatoes. I am now trying it with skiing. I’ll get back to you.

Now, there are some things that are so hideous that obviously my immersion technique would never work; I will never be able to teach myself to love, say, vomiting, or Ke$ha. And some people would put winter in that category. I totally get it, I do! I’m not going all Pollyanna on you — I mean, I am a little bit. But of course I understand that I will hate the dirty snow in March, and I will be grouchy for much of April, when I think it should be mild but is in fact still freezing outside, and I will curse winter up and down when the inevitable stomach bug arrives. And the irony of writing this today — on a bitter cold, polar vortex, beast of a day — does not escape me. Today sucks. But, I’ve realized, really  no more than a 95 degree summer day sucks.

That photo up top there? I snapped it at Woodsom Farm in Amesbury, MA, where I often walk my dog. I was dreading going out on that particular cold day and grumbled about it while my dog stared at me all morning. When we finally arrived, me all bundled up and Izzy all invigorated and running like she was shot out of a cannon, I had a total a-HA moment where I went from thinking, “Why the ^%$! do I even have a dog?!” to “I’m so glad I have a dog or I’d never be out here!”

I’m not saying I’ll think that every day, but I have to say (and I hope I don’t sound too horribly righteous) it feels good to at least be trying. I’m not saying you should try, though! You can complain all you want and I will not think you’re a dink. Not even a little bit.

For today, then, I will mostly stay inside and try to just ignore this steaming turd of a day. But when more reasonable winter temperatures return, I pledge to: a) accept the beauty of winter when I see it; and b) attempt to have fun while being colder than I like.

 I am trying.