Moonlight of Winter

When the sun sets on the day, it isn’t over. There are hours yet to be lived before the clock tolls twelve. In that time last night I looked up above the horizon of winter silver and saw a sliver of moon. It was clean and bright but there wasn’t much of it.

A pencil thin line outlined the sky where a celestial object reins supreme over the night. Near the bottom was a crescent. I half expected to see a small child throwing out his fishing line but if he was there, he was invisible to my eye. As I looked on, the clouds ambled by in slow waves of murky white.

There were no stars this night. Closing my eyes I heard the gentle whisper of the wind blowing across the snow. Opening them again I spied the glistening sparkle of flakes being tossed in the air. They danced magically and seemed to float into the long infinitum of eternity.

Winter is not always cold. Sometimes it’s warm and youthful. It’s the season of giving and sharing, a season for making new plans for the year and a season for being true to ones self. Winter means snowmen, gingerbread cookies and milk to warm up again before returning to the snowball fight. We needn’t grow too old to remember the joys of winter. Close your eyes and go back to your childhood. Think of the fun and think of how alive you were. When you open your eyes keep those thoughts close to your heart and do your best to live that life of wonder again. You’ll find you are a whole lot happier.

Chicago Blackhawks Vs. Calgary Flames 1-28-14

When you listen to a hockey game on WGN radio there are a few things that are given. Such as a great announcer doing his job to let his listeners know what’s going on. There’s a speed and the sound of skates skidding on ice in a dance of sport.

Each game is different but you never know what to expect. If it’s a hard team you’re against they might play harder and if a weaker team, slower. That means that they might lose and sometimes they do. There are also those crazy games, games that make little or no sense. Last night was that game. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Calgary Flames game had it all.

What am I talking about? Bouncing pucks that both goaltenders didn’t see and wished could be taken back. Then there was the goal by the Hawks that didn’t count though clearly the official called it wrong. Next came the Hawk’ goalie being switched in the middle of the second period. A point was given here and one there, always the points bounced back and forth (with the exception of the 2-0 in the first minutes.) when a power play came around it wasn’t the team with the extra man who scored but the team minus one. Two power plays yielded two short-handed goals, one for each team.

When the third period began the score was 4-4 and the Flames had gone to their relief goalie. Even-Stevens was the pace of the game. At the end of 60 minutes both teams were still tied with the same score they had at the beginning of the 3rd. With the record of Calgary 4-4 in overtime and the Hawks 0-5, it was anyone’s guess. In a short time it all turned around again and Calgary scored one more and won the game at 5-4.

For fans this is a disgusting loss. The game was not pretty but the loss was hard to swallow. If that one goal earlier had counted, there would have been no need of overtime and the Hawks would have won.

Sloppy play and not so good puck management = a game of wow and whoops, oops. Better luck next time, Hawks. We’re watching.

Stinging, Freezing, Winter

That weather is here again. We’ve reached the sub-zeros again and now you know it’s really really cold, North Pole cold. Its so cold that when you get behind the wheel of your car you don’t just see smoke exiting through your exhaust pipe but you see the smoke coming from your own mouth inside the car too. Two types of smoke and both are saying the same thing. Baby it’s cold outside!

Snow, snow, snow, that’s all we get. If we don’t have snow falling, it’s blowing. If it’s not blowing it’s drifting. This year the temperatures have been way below the normal zone. Instead of the usual bite of 5 or 10-degree days, we’ve been having the extreme pleasure of the negative and subzero temperatures that have gone to double digits. Feeling the breeze is to feel like you’ve stepped onto the Polar Ice Cap. Today the high was a whopping –15. It’s Eskimo land out here and we stick close to electric and gas heaters. At night we don’t lower the heat and we turn on electric blankets and mattress pads.

School closings and stores running low on stock remind some of us of other times when the cold of winter knocked on our door. If you are from Chicago you doubtless remember the winter of 1967 and the slightly milder 1979. Some of you walked to school a mile or more because the buses weren’t running. When you got there it was to find that school was closed too. Perhaps you stepped inside the building for a while but then you were out again making the homeward bound trip of a small buried dog. With snow higher than four feet everywhere, the youngsters couldn’t find much above their eyes.

My own parents had the pleasure of that long fruitless walk. Today when I see the paper and read how bad it’s supposed to be I partially chuckle. It’s terrible. I don’t want to go out. I stay in when possible and avoid the whole mess but I know that what we’re experiencing right now is no where near the truly terrible winter snow storms of the past and there fore I see this winter as a partial blessing. It’s bad true but it could be a whole lot worse.

So we’re ok. We’ll live. If we need to go out we will and if someone needs a helping hand we’ll lend it. We’re big brave Chicago men and women. We can do it. Remember, “Do no little things in Chicago.”

This was bad but it was no ’67 or ’79 and today is less then this too!
Family Ties

Life carries on and families change. Children marry and have children. Relatives move away and are not seen again or perhaps only at special occasions. Sadly that is life. Then there are the patriarchs and matriarchs of the family. These Grandparents get older and then time makes them children again. This is the way it is and it shall remain so.

Recently I saw my Grandmother of 90 in her nursing home. It’s sad to see a woman who a year ago was bossing you around and making your food change so completely. Before we played Rummy until midnight and she said the same sayings to signal the end of a day that she’s used since I was a girl.

This week she sat quietly in her wheelchair and said only a few words in barely a whisper as she struggled to get them out after much prodding. The reality is, she doesn’t really talk anymore. Her eyes follow you but only for a while and then they droop as the constant struggle of wakefulness attacks. She ate but only what was smooth and sweet. Solid foods have almost become a thing of the past. I put a tidbit on a spoon tip and reward her with a light pat on the shoulder and a smile as she takes it into her mouth and fights to swallow. I tell her how proud I am of her and then I feel bad because the words I use I also use for a dog that’s done its trick well on command.

Grandparents are a joy and though we don’t always see them often, we much keep them in our thoughts. We don’t know how long we will have them. So what time we do have becomes all the more precious as the years wind down. This is brought home to me when I see my grandmother now and look at the pictures of a scant 13 months ago. Please remember your grandparents today. Give them a call. You’ll be glad you did.

Training With No Manners

It’s a sad day when manners seem to so totally disappear. What even a decade ago would have been frowned on has become common place and acceptable. Sitting on the train on a Saturday I observed a decisive lack of a family presence. While at times it might have bordered on annoying to see children hopping from one area of the car or hearing their voices raised, it is more annoying to witness a seemingly total lack of individuality.

People who once read books on their daily commute or watched the scenery roll by now spend that hour or two on their smartphone. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against this piece of equipment. It had its place. However, when you look around and see a full body of people acting like so many cogs in a machine, it spells out that something’s wrong. Riding the train should be about more than emails, Facebook updates or tweets. It should be about more than a touch screen.

Looking out the window I observed the shadow of an orange and magenta sun setting on iced over fields. Somewhere in the distance I saw a church steeple. I even felt and acknowledged the bump of my train car speeding down the track. Some areas remind me of the great frozen north only with trees added. The car was warm with a light gentle breeze and every now and again there was the sound of a bell going off a few cars behind me.

If a passenger on a train keeps their eyes and ears open many doors open as well. Would I have noticed any of this if my eyes were glued to a smartphone? I highly doubt it. Adventure belongs to the observant person. Solitude and false feelings are the gift of the drifter. Which will you be? It’s your decision. I choose to observe. Shouldn’t you?

A Midwinter Thaw

Today was one of those winter thaw days in the Midwest. The far
Northwest suburbs of Chicago experienced a rise to 40 degrees F and with it the drips started. Snow from everywhere began to melt and I wonder what the outcome will be. I love the feeling that spring is around the corner but I can’t help but think about what happens when the temperature dips in a day or two. Will all that water again be ice?

I love to ice skate (though I rarely get to) but I don’t want to do it on my own driveway. I love to swim (I float better) but I don’t want a swimming pool on my basement floor as I did last year and one other year before, since I moved into my home 18 years ago.

Here it feels like the sub-zero freeze of a week ago couldn’t possibly be found on a calendar month so close together. Imagine six days separating –20 degrees & 40+ degrees. One day you feel every hair in your nose freeze and the other you feel the sun on your face and think about leaving your heavy winter coat behind. It doesn’t sound real but I assure you it is and the difference feels wonderful.

Does anyone else have a story to tell about this wild winter we’re having? I’d love to hear them. I got to cheat for the most part and stay in the house. Where were you on Monday, January 3, 2014? Warm? Freezing? Please share.

A Midwest Christmas

Winter begins on the calender December 21st but in the Mid-West we feel the bite of Old Man Winter much sooner. Riding beside Jack Frost cold bitter weather chills our bones. Snow seeps into our boots and our noses turn bright as a berry. Rudolph as no monopoly on Midwesterners.

The Christmas season officially begins Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) when huge masses of people flock to the stores, the malls and every othe place they can think of. Money seems to rain from the sky as the slap of plastic on counters and the crackle of crisp bills tells the story of the latest Christmas gift craze. Over the years we’ve seen everything from Pet Rocks, to Cabbage Patch dolls to Chia Pets. If there is a fad to be had midwest daughters, mothers and grandmothers are bound to keep it going when Christmas time rolls around.

The reality is that those who live in the middle of the nation, myself included, are in love with the Christmas holiday. Perhaps everyone is. What I know is that we can’t wait for it to begin. I find it amazing that somehow in the final days, ney hours, we find ourselves racing for that perfect gift. We’ve spent over a month shopping and somehow we still haven’t found everything. Zero hour nears and we scramble our brains in desperate ferver hoping and praying that something will catch our eye and literally scream out to us, “I’m for Bob. Buy me!”

At home we deck the house out with lights, garland and huge displays of blow-up creatures. There is more wattage pulsing outside our doors than in and somehow we don’t much care. “Hang the cost,” we say. “It’s Christmas.” Inside we have several trees because one isn’t enough. If we only put up one half our ornaments wouldn’t be used. Never would it occur to us to give some away or not to buy more. “It’s shiny. Aw, isn’t he cute. That would match the music box on the mantle. Wrap it up.”

Christmas morning dawns. The light hasn’t reached our windowsills and the rooster has yet to crow but we bundle ourselves in slippers and robe and make our way down the steps. The trees are still lit from the night before and we smile at their cheer glow. They seem to be saying Merry Christmas and we answer in silent kind. The day has arrived.

Under the main tree are so many packages you would think there was a Santa Claus. Really, the charge card companies are playing Santa for a few weeks until it’s all over but we don’t think about that. We see the smiles of our children and we know that all that running around was more than worth it.

So what exactly is Christmas? Irving Berlin said it all when he wrote the song White Christmas. We here in the Midwest dream of snow glissening from the tree tops, writing and recieving Christmas cards, listening to the magical tinkle of bells ringing and good cheer shared by all. Wheather we live in the vast Metropolis of Chicago neighborhoods or the little village missing on the big maps, our hearts beat with the same message as Clement Moore.

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night.

Hawks Vs. Bruins – Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals

Life can change in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds. That is what happened this night. One moment we were down and the next we were up. Adrenaline raced through veins as shocked and pure unadulterated joy surged.

It was game six of the Stanley Cup finals. The score was three games Chicago Black Hawks to two game Boston Bruins. If the Hawks won a game, they won the cup. If the Bruins won the score would be tied three games each requiring a game seven tie breaker.

In the first section the score was 1-0 Bruins. The Hawks were down by 1 but they couldn’t get the puck out of their zone. The battle to the death was on but neither team knew it. Then five minutes into the second section the Hawks evened the score. They fought hard but no second goal came. It would take the third and final section of regulation Hockey to decide the superior team.

Section three started wild. Both teams were hurting due to injured but they seemed to have acquired a new strength. Checks were prevalent and the puck flew from one end zone to the other. It seemed to live behind the net but it was still found most often behind the Hawk line. Players checked and cross-checked, punches flew here and there and no penalty was called for most.

Then hope was dashed for a Hawk victory as a goal shot by Cory Crawford the Hawks golly and made the score the horror of their dreams at 2-1 Bruins. They dove into the game with renewed strength but the Bruins were adamant about keeping their score. Minutes ticked away until any last hope vanished for a game six victory and tournament ending game for the Hawks.

Then with only 1 minute, 17 seconds on the board the puck flew around Duccar Rask and into the net tying the score. It was a sure thing that like three of the five games played they were headed into over time. A shot here and a miss, another shot and a miss. It wasn’t working. Then within fifteen seconds of the tying score the puck again sailed by Rask and with 58 seconds on the board the score had changed from 2-1 Bruins to 3-2 Hawks. There was a quick shuffle as the puck ricochet across the ice from one zone to the other and then the buzzer sounded.

The Chicago Black Hawks had won their 5th Stanley Cup in their franchise career and the second in three seasons, and they’d won it on the opponents home base on bad ice that was known to slow them down. They’d beat the odds to become Stanley Cup Champions!

Highlights of Game 6 in the 2013 Stanley Cup Championship Game

The game was full of falls and spills. Once the Bruins net was dislodged by two players involved in an argument behind it who almost knocked it forward trapping Rask. Later the same net had to be adjusted when it became dislodged again.

About a dozen times the buck bounced off the ice and went over the protective netting causing play to stop.

The puck even jumped over the wall to barely miss hitting the Bruins manager. Opps…

Twice sticks were broken and the game didn’t stop.

Hawks’ captain’s stick was torn from his hands but no penalty was called.

Sizzling, Sticking Summer

It’s summer here in the mid-west. Mostly the weather has been good, a cool summer. Then for no reason, Mr. Fahrenheit jumped from his cool cave and gave us the ‘Sizzle in Summer.’

This time of year everything sticks. Doors swell and refuse to open or close without hard tugging and firm pushing. Sit down and when you stand up – well from your lower back to your behind, your clothes stick.

This means that for us lowly people who have the misfortune of no air in our cars, we have a different problem. If your car is like mine and has vinyl seats or you’re an upgraded person and have leather, you probably have found your legs glued to the seat when you attempted to get out or just plane moved. OUCH! Right?

Then of course, if you go out to the beach, swim in the local city pool or only sit in your own back yard and get a tan you have one more issue. You burn yourself and get sunburn.

In the end Summer equals sticking and peeling. We peel clothes from our bodies, bodies from car seats and our skin from our body.

SIZZLE, STICK and PEEL – the three words of SUMMER!

What are your summer words? Share them and see what others have to say.

P.S. If your area is all peaches and cream, please don’t torture us. We feel bad enough already.