Jackets of the Upper Midwest

At recess today, something was wrong – really wrong.  I know for sure that it goes against all fashion rules to wear mittens and flip flops at the same time, but that is what I saw.  On myself.  Yep, me, the fashion diva.  (But don’t laugh, my fellow para, and buddy, Jen, wore capris with her winter boots this week – and her winter hat at the same time.)  As autumn fights to gain control over summer, my flip-flops hang on for dear life.  My toes will spend month after month covered in layer after layer of protective covering, so while I can, I let them breathe.

While I stood there dressed for the harsh Oregon winters, I got to thinking about the levels of jacketing us hearty Upper Midwesterners must be prepared for.

Stage 1: Simple Windbreaker.  Worn at the end of August some evenings, maybe a smattering in September, and then again in June, but honestly, I had to dig this baby out of the back of my second closet because generally, if it is jacket worthy weather, chances are pretty good this puppy will do no good!  Sweatshirts would do the job during this weather, but maybe it is misting a little or there could be a slight breeze, like the high wind warning we were under yesterday.  Typical.   You are probably still wearing capris and flip flops, so make sure your toes have fresh polish on them!  No accessories needed, unless you find a cute baseball hat or something sassy that matches.  Maybe awesome earrings?


Stage 2:  Lined Windbreaker.  Worn in September for recess – that’s pretty much it.  So, no picture, it is in my locker.  Must have good pockets to hold stretchy gloves and chap stick.  Accessories:  Stretchy gloves and ear warming band.  It is a sign of the nasty that is to come in the fall and the promise that summer is on it’s way in May.  Dragging it out is a sure sign of things to come.

Stage 3:  The really warm windbreaker.  Or the corduroy dress coat.  (Yes, I was wearing pink capris.)  Worn on days like today when the temp may be 50 but the windchill is –30. Seriously.  Don’t bother doing your hair.  No hood necessary, it isn’t that cold yet!  Be sure to pack gloves in the pockets and have hat handy, not that you will wear the hat because after all, you are a tough northerner.  (If the jacket reads “Cabala’s” and is brown and pink, it is a good mixture of feminine and “I-Could-Shoot-Something-Wearing-This”.)  Wearing this level of a jacket is still comfortable, not yet restrictive.



Stage 4:  Puffy Coat.  This is worn when you know it is cold.  Think Christmas.  Think big fluffy snowflakes and warm fires.  Think hot chocolate and warm cookies.  Life is a cozy cabin tucked away in snowy woods.  Snowshoes, cross country skis.  Happy Happy Winter.  Be sure to own cute matching hat, scarf, and thick mittens to complete the look of “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening” – Robert Frost.  Preferably, the hat has cute little dangly ties with puff balls on the end.  Snowmen smile.  Yummy candles burn!  Fresh bread fills homes with aromas from heaven.  Skating on ponds is a simple peaceful pleasure.  Sledding, what joy!  Winter is just so fun!!  (Be warned, jackets from stages 4 & 5 can bring on a little touch of claustrophobia, they get really puffy and make you feel like a marshmallow.)


Stage 5:  Columbia Jacket that covers your butt so no wind can get up your shirt.  Why?  Because you have reached ridiculous.  Ridiculous to be outside, ridiculous to try to breathe, ridiculous to know you have a couple months left of this, ridiculous because your skin is like a dry desert without the heat, ridiculous because you can’t get your car to start.  Accessories needed (go with function over beauty):  Long John (and that is when you are inside), two hats, one with fur, hand warmers inside gloves under leather “chops” mittens, snow pants over pants over those long johns, three pair of socks, sorrels, face masks, scarves, and a straw that sticks through all the stuff covering your face to breath through.  This is the stuff that makes us tough.  This is the stuff that wins us “Suckiest weather in the whole entire world and beyond”, this is the stuff that keeps crime down.  Make sure you have an engine block heater and seat warmers, this weather cuts to the bone.   Pumping gas is painful at this time of year.  Touching metal with your tongue is awesome.  Throwing hot water in the air and watching it freeze before it hits the ground makes for hours of entertainment for young kids.  This is the time of year to book a cruise and get the heck out of dodge.  (PS.  For the most part, we still go out for recess.  Helpful tidbit: a good Stage 5 jacket doesn’t have snaps in the pockets, you would never want to take gloves off to get something out of them!)


And people, I have a Columbia that is my Stage 6 jacket.  It is a size large so I can fit three layer of sweatshirts plus Stages 1 – 5 jackets under it if I need to.  You know, in case I have to pump gas or grab milk when it is –30.   We eat carbs – lots of them.  Blood is so thick, it can’t make it through colanders.  Eye balls freeze, so you walk with them shut or don safety goggles.  This weather usually lasts for a week, our own version of Hell Week, similar to Hell Week for the Navy Seals, but worse.  We call relatives to brag that we are still alive.  We let our leg hair grow out for extra warmth.  Bill even breaks out his long-sleeved shirts.  It is that cold.

Let the slippery slope into hibernation begin.  I am armed and ready.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Pam
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 06:50:38

    Too funny Deb….. that must be why I had like a bazillion jackets when we had our rummage sale….they came out of the woodwork!!!


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