A selection of winter whines


Winter in Chicago is no picnic. Even the milder winters – with less snow than usual or fewer sub-zero days — are rough. We had that nicer type of winter last year, not this year.

Winter starts early in Chicago and lasts longer than anyone wants. There are agonizing days stretching into weeks of super cold weather; we get lots of snow dumped on us which quickly turns into black sludge that lines the streets after plowing, marring the city’s beauty; temperatures that tease us with warmer weather subsequently plummet again, causing all that snow to melt and turn into treacherous ice…Chicagoans get toughened by this year after year — until they can’t stand it anymore and retire someplace hot.

Slowly melting snow

Hopefully the worst is behind us. By March, we’ve had a few teaser days – some almost up to 60 degrees – even though it doesn’t last. Like all of nature, we long for spring. But winter is not done with us yet: Temperatures will dip below freezing, as is normal at this time of year, and no one would be surprised by more snow. So by now we’ve had a foretaste of spring and there’s a feeling of hope, mingled with impatience.

To help ease the torment of anticipation, here is an assortment of winter whines to remind you it’s not so bad anymore:

“Why does the weather always have to be really bad on New Year’s Eve?!”
“I can’t feel my face.” “I can’t feel my fingers.” “I can’t feel my feet.”
“My face hurts.” Ouch!” “The air is so cold, it stings.”
“I can’t wear my big, beautiful rings under these tight gloves.” (we should all have such problems!)
“My scarf is strangling me.”
“When I button the top button on my coat, it chokes me, but if I don’t, the wind chills my neck.”
“It’s slippery out there today.” “I hate having to walk like a little old lady.” “Baby steps.”
“I’m snowed in.” “My car is snowed under.” “I am snowed in by my neighbor’s car.”
“The mayor said everyone needs to shovel their sidewalks; why don’t some of these businesses have enough respect for people do to that!”
“I can’t walk. Hold me up. And you’d better not slip either!”
“It’s too cold to breathe.” “This weather is dangerous.” “This intense cold gives me asthma.”
“I can’t see anything with this hood on.” (Author’s note: make sure this isn’t you; stay safe in winter.)
“I’m tired of wearing a hat; it ruins my hairstyle.”
“I should have worn a ski mask today.”
“My hand is freezing but I have to take this picture.”
“I can’t text anymore; I have to put my glove back on.”
“It takes me 10 minutes to get my coat and stuff on to go outside.”
“I’ll be glad when I don’t have to wear long johns anymore.” “Wearing long underwear adds unwanted bulk to my look and makes my clothes fit too tight.”
“I hate wearing the same big boring coat every day.”
“I stood out there freezing and thought I’d die trying to catch a cab.”
“Oh wow, it’s a whole 8 degrees out there; hooray, it’s above zero!”
“I barely have the strength and I sure don’t have the motivation to clunk around in these big heavy boots anymore.”
“I am so tired of wearing big ugly sweaters; I want to wear my nice clothes again.”
“Will it ever warm up and stay warm?”
“This weather is so not me!”
“My birthday is in the winter, so the weather always sucks on my birthday.”
“Winter is expensive: I take a cab to work every day in this weather.” “I don’t get enough [walking] exercise in this weather; it’s too cold out.”
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I sure am sick of this weather.”

Gripes and grumblings over the weather were everyday talk and could be heard everywhere, as usual, throughout Chicago’s winter. Perhaps you poured some out yourself. Although we humans are helpless against relentless cold and snow, there’s a certain “we’re all in this together” camaraderie that springs from life in the north. Commuting was like a chorus of grunts and huffing and puffing while shuffling with heads down. Office workers looking out at the blizzards and white-outs and dreading the commute home formed a choir of groans with the occasional soloist piping out an obscenity.

Lion & Lamb
Credit: garlandcannon

Realizing Chicago wasn’t the only place hit with terrible weather and other regions suffered terribly this year, the above whine list will help you realize you were not alone. And if you live in an area of the world that doesn’t get winter, the list will help you appreciate how nice life is when you’re not freaking freezing for months on end.

Finally it is March, the month that is said to “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.” So everyone: Why not get your spring cleaning done early, and also start now to get in shape for your warm weather wardrobe, for soon you will be out and about again. In any case, make your March a marvelous March.


Crime Stoppers Month – avoid winter crime


January is Crime Stoppers Month. This is not just a national movement; it’s worldwide. And that’s a good thing, because being a victim of crime really sucks! In fact, Crime Stoppers International is on the lookout for many types of crime, including crimes against animals and the environment.

But back to you, winding your way through every day life, commuting through winter. Fortunately, you can stop most crime from ever befalling you by keeping one thing in mind at all times, especially if you’re alone on the streets, especially if you’re female: YOUR SAFETY! No matter how many times you may have strolled the same old streets day or night, no matter how familiar it all seems to you, stay aware and follow the simple guidelines that follow, especially pertinent to city dwellers, but also applicable to everyone.

Skating-3Fortunately, really bad winter weather is a deterrent to almost anybody – unless you’re doing something fun like ice skating at Millennium Park or Maggie Daley Park. But generally, no one, including criminals, wants to dwell outdoors in nasty weather. Don’t consider yourself foolproof, however. Here are a few things to consider on the city streets in winter:

We’re still in the season of short days and long nights, so darkness is falling as the workday ends. Obviously crime happens more often in the dark than in daylight, so stay vigilant from your office to wherever you’re heading.

You may have a hood on your head and be lunging head-down into the wind or snow, which tends to block your peripheral vision. Look up and around often to see who’s nearby you. Don’t ignore a sudden nearby sound that you didn’t expect or a presence glimpsed out of the corner of your eye. Of course this is also important for traffic safety reasons, especially with bicyclers on the streets now even in winter in Chicago.

Ear muffs and snug hats can muffle noise, including someone walking too close to you. Again, stay aware of your immediate surroundings; glance around often.

Even in the city, unless the streets are extra crowded, it’s an invasion of your personal space if someone is walking right on your heels. Don’t be too timid to turn around and shoot a dirty look, use eye contact; your glare should be clearly perceived and the offender should back off. He or she could be completely innocent, or might be a would-be thief moving in for the take. Better to look like a meanie yourself than be taken advantage of by one.

Taking well-populated pedways, which have cameras, and cutting through busy buildings where there’s a prominent security guard should keep wanna-be muggers off your tail. If you feel you’re being stalked, never be embarrassed or too proud to dive into a nearby building and mention this to a security guard. It’s better to ask for assistance than expose yourself to danger; the security guard will glad to help.

Wedge Building (2)One thing important about safety is to always give yourself plenty of room to maneuver if need be. It’s wise to cross the street if there’s a questionable individual looming ahead or if you think you’re being followed — and hopefully it won’t ever be necessary to have to actually run away from somebody, but if so, stay sharp and plan your route.

In the winter, there are slippery spots on the streets and sidewalks. Not every business removes the snow or ice on adjacent sidewalks as they ideally should. And sometimes after a big snowfall, snow can be piled high on the sides of the streets until it eventually melts. Keep all this in mind when planning your path, in case you wish to change course to avoid a suspicious character. Remember to wear slip-free and preferably waterproof foot-gear.

snowy Chicago2Better yet, this is a good time of year to hail or even call ahead for a taxi (or your favorite car service) instead of walking in a potentially dangerous situation. Break down and use a professional driver: Door-to-door service isn’t just a luxurious escape from the cold; it keeps you worlds safer!

See my whole series on personal safety and crime prevention suggestions. I was inspired by my father, Ralph Clarke, who wrote the definitive book on safety, “Be Safe, Girl,” for young women (though it’s useful to anyone); and much of advice in my articles was inspired by his great ideas on personal security. Better yet, subscribe to my blog and my life-enhancing articles will come to you effortlessly.

Wishing you a new year ahead that’s safe and happy!

Life in the dead of winter


Although we’ve had worse winters in Chicago, this one has been pretty harsh so far with long stretches of temperatures in the single digits, wind chills below zero, strong winds  plus snowy, icy conditions. Here we are at the beginning of a new year with all sorts of goals, resolutions, plans – but the weather is prohibitive!

How to cope when here you were all ready to dive into a brand new year with gusto — and suddenly it came to a dead halt? What to do with yourself when cabin fever, which usually hits later in winter, strikes early? How to enjoy living in Chicago or any place that’s crazy-cold?

Following are some ideas that should make life in the winter hemisphere better:

If you are not cut out for this type of weather or have a medical condition that makes this weather unsafe for you, please stay in! You can still fill your time around the house with activities that will keep you from climbing the walls.

  • Plan your year ahead: There’s a lot of new year ahead of us, ready to be molded into a year that you personally will like. Make a bucket list and add items to your calendar. Set goals with deadlines. What do you want to do this year? If you haven’t planned it, be aware it probably won’t happen. This is the time to map it out.
  • Get your “beauty sleep.” Most people don’t get enough sleep. This impacts day-to-day quality of life and health. This is the time to also eat well and exercise. Start healthy habits now while you have the time so you can keep the momentum going when life picks up speed again.
  • Order the movies you’ve never seen but want to or catch up on TV shows you’ve missed. Please, however, balance any couch-potato’ing with frequent intervals of exercise.
  • Learn something new. There is so much to learn in this world and so little time. The internet, can teach you almost anything you want to learn. Check out YouTube. Look into getting a degree online. If you want to learn something outside the home, sign up now for classes later when the weather will be better.
  • Revive your talents: writing again, making music or creating art could bring much pleasure.
  • Curl up under a soft blanket and catch up on some reading.
  • Clear out your emails to start fresh this year. This is a time-consuming project but worthwhile. Filter your incoming mail as junk or into folders to cut down on the amount that crams your inbox. Consolidate email accounts. Devise a system to simplify your passwords.
  • Shop online. Take the time to bless yourself with something you always wanted – you can find almost anything online these days, especially on Amazon.com and eBay.
  • Clean house. Start now, while you’re stuck indoors, to tackle some nitty-gritty cleaning. Get into those back closets and deep into drawers and cabinets. Toss some stuff and set aside other items to give away as soon as the weather breaks. Get organized. This might include putting together photo albums and other creative projects.
  • Once your home is clean and well-organized, go a step further and engage in some home improvements. Refurbish, paint, wallpaper – or plan ahead to do so as soon as you can get out to the hardware or home store.
  • Change it up: have an indoor picnic, do a romantic candlelight dinner — even if you live alone. Make your life feel as magical as you can to offset the winter blues.
  • Throw a party; invite folks over. You may not want nor be able to get out in the extreme cold, but others might enjoy getting out for a visit. This way, no one has to be lonely.
  • If you don’t want to invite others over, give them a holler by phone or email. Suddenly you can have that lengthy phone call with a long-winded loved one for whom you can never seem to find the proper time.

Most people still have to commute to and from work or school in this weather. Appointments, like job interviews or doctor visits, must be kept; important errands run; groceries procured. The outdoors may be a frozen prohibitive mess, but life goes on. Make the best of it!

  • Postpone non-crucial appointments till after this weather breaks. Don’t make that harrowing journey if you don’t have to.
  • Dress for the weather. This is of course mega-important. It’s so cold out there, it comes down to survival at this point or at the very least, avoiding frostbite. This is not a time to be flippant. See my article on winter commuting.
  • If your town has an indoor pedway system, get to know it and use it. If feasible, take cabs instead of walking long distances or standing in the cold waiting for buses. You can compensate for the extra expense in other ways, like bringing your lunch to work. If you drive, make sure your car is equipped with everything you would need in an emergency; better safe than sorry.
  • There is safety in numbers, and in extreme weather, there are likely fewer people around. Any criminal that is out in this weather is probably desperate. Stay alert and don’t become a victim of winter crime.
  • If you have shopping to do, check out your local indoor malls. Much can be accomplished in a mall with a good variety of shops. And at some malls, like Block 37 on State Street in Chicago, you can even drink, dine and catch a movie all under one roof.
  • If you love to go out to restaurants and bars, this is a great time to explore places in your own backyard or on your regular commute that you may have overlooked previously. This way, you won’t have to go out of your way or into unfamiliar territory where commuting (like finding a cab) could be a problem in this weather.
  • There is still a lot going on in Chicago and other places. If you want to get out and do something, check local listings or Facebook for events. You probably won’t have to fight the crowds.

While Mother Nature continues to toy with Chicago and other parts of the north during winter, you can still enjoy a full, fun, productive life! Use cold snaps to your advantage. Happy New Year!

Commute through winter comfortably

2018 The Thaw-2Winter has moved into the country seriously this year. The North and even some of the South are experiencing freaky cold and huge snowfalls. Of course, those in even colder parts, like Mount Washington, with wind chills at almost minus 100°, may chuckle that here in Chicago find this “cold” – but it is cold!

As usual, Chicago’s winter has been freaky so far in 2018. Native Chicagoans shouldn’t be too surprised that on one day, it’s 60°, and the next, wind chills drop back into the single digits. This has been going on for weeks at a time, and the cold snaps are predicted to continue.

Standing in line at City Target, the gal next to me uttered these temperature swings are treacherous and can lead to people getting sick. Though no one wants to really mull this over, of course I knew it was true then saw it born out in those around me – I’ve already had the two-week long virus that’s rampant this winter, and hopefully I’m immune now. Plus I had my flu shot – perhaps you should too.

Scientifically, there are a couple of reasons these temperature swings are something to be wary of. But first, the good news: Real cold weather can slow down bacteria and even kill germs. The less fortunate fact: Sudden warm temps trick the body which is then inadequately prepared to regulate itself for subsequent temperature dives to extreme cold.

Don’t stress over it, dress for it! Pull out your full arsenal of winter wear – what you don’t have already, buy it as soon as you can, because brutal cold is nothing to take lightly. Ready yourself for comfort in the cold and, importantly, strive to stay well.

Clothing & Accessories:

  • Don your heavy-duty wind-resistant winter coat.
  • Realizing jackets as opposed to coats are very in now, consider wearing a longer coat to protect more of your body from the cold.
  • Hoods, especially detachable hoods, are oh-so practical for every coat and jacket you own if you live in Chicago, but if yours don’t include hoods, wearing a hoodie under your coat would be wise. Then pull out that hood and use it.
  • Don’t leave even a tiny part of your neck exposed; scarves, wrapped securely around the neck, are important. Sometimes you will want your face covered. January 12 was one of those days with the type of cold wind that stings the face.
  • Cover your head, especially your ears. Hats are important, but at the very least, wear ear muffs and headbands – perhaps some with built-in headphones to cheer you on as you battle against the wind.
  • Don’t bare your hands, risking frostbite. Get a pair of gloves you can keep on while using your device’s touch screen and for texting. Another tip: mittens are generally better than gloves for keeping fingers warm. Or consider glittens, which some experts say are the most ideal hand protection during winter.
  • You’ll find you stay warmer in boots than shoes, but make sure they can withstand water and snow. If they’re not naturally waterproof, spray them with a water-proofer you can buy in the shoe department or at a shoe store.
  • Choose the fabrics that will be closest to your skin with great care. Be aware that cotton is known in the outdoor world as “the fabric of death” and keep in mind the slogan “cotton kills.” Philip Werner on his site explains this aptly and recommends the best modern fabrics for outdoor cold.
  • Layer up with sweaters that you can remove indoors. 


  • Slacks are warmer than skirts or dresses.
  • Slacks or skirts can be supplemented with warm tights, long underwear, fleece leggings, leg warmers.
  • Get yourself some nice wool tights.
  • Thermal “long underwear” tops and bottoms make a distinct difference in warmth.
  • Warm leggings, like the fleece leggings one can buy at Walgreens, will keep your legs so warm that you’ll probably want to remove them once you’re indoors.
  • Leg warmers, popular in the 70’s and 80’s, are very warming to legs, whether or not they’re back in style and cute or not.
  • Some gals go without a hat because they don’t want to ruin their hairstyle with a hat flattens their locks. If your hair is big and/or curly, wear a hat into which you can tuck your hair to protect the style while keeping your head and ears covered. 



  • Weather this cold calls for thermal shirts or maybe even union suit long johns if you have a long distance to walk or will be in the cold for an extended period of time.
  • Pull out your extra heavy flannel shirts, the type you wear for your cold-weather outdoor adventures.


  • After you bathe or shower, coat yourself with body lotion, no matter your gender. Doing this can help protect your skin against winter chapping and insulates you for warmth.
  • Give yourself more time in the schedule than usual to put on extra clothes and winter accessories.
  • Remember that walking warms you up, so as ironic as it sounds, don’t overdress. You don’t want to be sweating under all those layers while you’re outdoors.
  • It’s also important to wear materials that whisk sweat away from the body so you will stay dry under all those layers.
  • Don’t put your outerwear on too soon before going out, or you may overheat and end up leaving the house in a sweat.
  • Warm your clothes up, especially outerwear like gloves, on a radiator or in a dryer (but not too long, lest they shrink), putting them on just before going out.
  • Take off your warm stuff once you’re indoors again, even if you have to go into a washroom to remove your leggings or long johns.
  • If your lungs react poorly to super cold air, use your asthma inhaler just before going outdoors and breathe through your nose, not your mouth, while covering your nose and mouth with a scarf.
  • If you’ll be driving, make sure your car is in good condition; if at all possible, warm it up first; make sure all windows and mirrors have a clear view. And tote along these items plus plenty of drinking water. Healthful snacks would also be a good idea. 

    Be tactical:

  • Stay calm, knowing that you dressed smartly for the cold and you will survive.
  • If you need to hail a cab, depart for your destination earlier, as cabs are harder to get in the cold.
  • Try to walk swiftly enough to stay warm, but not so much that you cause your body undue stress.
  • Use pedways and cut through buildings. But when you do, loosen your outerwear, possibly even taking off your hat, scarf, and gloves — so you won’t overheat and sweat before returning to the outdoors.
  • Walk on the sunny side of the street, and when you do, turn your face to the sun; the sun shining on your face makes you feel almost instantly warmer all over, plus you’ll get some Vitamin D. Try it; it’s an amazing little warming trick! Have your sunglasses handy.
  • Keep what you’ll need — like bus pass, keys, etc. — handy so you won’t have to stand in the cold digging around for them in your purse or briefcase, especially if it’s already dark out, like on your way home from work. Also, you won’t want to have to remove your gloves.
  • Long term, get fit: Build more muscle — because even though body fat hold can hold in warmth, muscle is what generates that warmth for the body in the first place.

Baby, it’s cold outside; brutal in fact. But with a good attitude and preparation, we will get through this. Best wishes to my readers everywhere for good health and stamina this winter!

2018 Icy Chicago River

How to navigate the post-holiday doldrums

After all the gifts have all been opened and the mess cleaned up, it’s possible to get a feeling of let-down, whether or not you had a great time and got good gifts.

There is such an almost continuous adrenaline rush from Thanksgiving leading up to the religious holidays much of the world celebrates at year’s end. There was much shopping to be done, gifts to buy, meals to prepare, greeting cards to send, work-related holiday parties, family stuff, holiday cheer and gift exchanges with friends, trying to get all the work done at the office before the office is closed for the holidays…Whether you floated through all this with a joyful “Christmas spirit” or felt mega-stressed-out, there is suddenly a huge lull in activity post-Christmas. It’s as if life comes to a screeching halt, and it’s possible to even feel a bit blue.


Here are some activities you may wish to pursue to lose the blues:

  • Play with your toys — whether that be setting up new electronics, having a spa day at home with all the bath and beauty products you may have received or wearing new clothes and accessories. Whether or not Santa brought you what you wanted, putting what you did receive into play will bless you with a sense of appreciation.
  • As for those gifts you don’t want, now is the time to go out and exchange them. The stores start hosting sales immediately after Christmas, so this is a great time to get out there and exchange those gifts. Don’t hesitate; you’ll feel much better after you do this; a feeling of relief will come over you, because now you will have something new that suits you.
  • This is a great time, in any case, while prices are slashed, to go shopping. Take advantage of post-holiday sales. If you got gift cards, they’ll stretch further now. Even if you didn’t, you’ll score at the stores.
  • Go into the office and work on the days that most people don’t. You’ll get more done when the phones aren’t ringing and emails flooding in. You can catch up and accomplish stuff before the new year business thrust starts and get set up for the new year.
  • Most towns leave up their decorations into the new year. If you were too busy to enjoy all the seasonal sights before, now you can do so at your leisure. Chicago, for example, is aglow in lights and decor. Check out Macy’s famous windows, stroll past the magnificent Art Institute lion statues donned with gigantic wreaths. Check out the pretty decorations in malls like Water Tower Place, The Shops at Northbridge, Block 37. There is so much to see in your free time, plus this is a good way to get some exercise – but bundle up properly and commute safely in this extreme cold we’re experiencing!
  • Chicago and can feel like a ghost town at this time – except in Millennium Park which I hear is absolutely bustling today. Most cities probably feel like ghost towns at this time with many out of town. It’s an ideal good time to try a new restaurant. You won’t have to fight the crowds and feel squeezed into a noisy establishment; instead you can relax comfortably and get personalized service. Proprietors will appreciate the business during this slower season.
  • To really spice up this time of year, why not try one thing you haven’t done before. How about ice skating. Or visiting the top of the top of two of the tallest buildings in the world: the John Hancock and Willis Tower.
  • Make plans for New Year’s Eve if you haven’t already and devote a couple of days to prep for it. Find out what your friends are planning; maybe you can join them. Check out local Facebook Tap into Metromix or local sites like Chicago Loop Alliance to find out what’s going on in your area.
  • Buy yourself a great outfit and treat yourself to some professional grooming at your local salon to get dolled up for your New Year’s Eve event of choice. Do this even if you decide to stay in for New Year’s Eve so that you can enter the new year looking good.
  • We’re all acquainted with the concept of spring cleaning. Do some winter cleaning while it’s cold out to get a jump on it. Clear out and organize that back closet or those drawers or cabinets, throwing out and giving stuff away. You’ll feel lighter. What could be better than starting your new year with a sparkling clean home.
  • Use this quieter week of the year to get back in touch with those with whom you may have fallen out of contact. Find and friend them on Facebook. Send new year greetings, maybe even hand-written notes by mail. Someone may be thinking of you – here’s a quaint idea: Call them!
  • Take the time to reflect on the year: Get out your journal if you kept one, analyze lessons learned, dive into your psyche, go ahead and cry one last time, chuckle at the funny parts, let yourself get spiritual with it and decide how you might want to live next year differently/better.
  • Make your list of new year’s resolutions – but instead of waiting till the new year, start your resolutions NOW. You will have a head start on the new year that will give you a sense of empowerment.
  • Aside from the usual resolutions, consider how you’d like to make next year better. Make a list of goals and wishes and then break each down into smaller components, step-by-step to-do lists. Do this now so you can plan a fabulous new year of dreams come true and maybe even your best year yet.

Maybe you don’t want to do much of anything during this week other than lounge around the house, eat holiday goodies and catch up on movies — fine; it’s a good time to unwind! Do bear in mind, though, that there will be plenty of opportunity for kicking back on the couch during this cold winter, so get out when you can.

This week is for you, so whatever you do, be happy!