I wasn’t born here. I chose to move here. I’m often asked why and simply reply, “It was a God thing.” Although I’ve lived in the Kansas City area for almost two decades, I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Miami is known as the land of sunshine, suntans, palm trees, and sandy beaches. My first experience with cold weather was not until 2001. It was quite the culture shock from living in the south.
You would think that, by now, I would be acclimated to the cold. I’m not. I’m not sure I ever will be. I’m not sure if it’s nature or nurture, but I’m just cold natured. Living down south, I never had to deal with cold weather, except when my father would crank down the A/C to 68.
I vividly remember the first time I got really cold. During our first year in Kansas City, some new friends invited my wife and I down to the Plaza. They warned us, “dress warmly it’s going to be cold and we’ll be walking around.”
My wife and I really thought we were prepared. We weren’t. We had never experienced truly cold weather and just didn’t understand how to dress for cold weather. That night on the Plaza, I noticed that everyone else was bundled up with appropriate winter clothing—having hats, gloves, and scarves. My wife and I had coats and gloves, but they were more for fashion than for freezers. What we wore were heavy winter clothes suitable for Florida, but not Kansas City!
I still fondly remember my wife saying, “I fill wike my face id fwozen.” Apparently, so were her lips. At one point, in order to warm up, our hosts said, “Let’s stop in Barnes and Noble.” My wife excitedly replied, “Bawns en nobehl, I wuv bawns en nobehl.”
Every year, it’s always the same. After the brutally hot summer, and the one week of fall-like temperatures, I pull out my winter clothing and wait.
The first arctic blast always catches me by surprise. I step out of the front door and get assaulted by brutally cold temperatures driven by 40 mph winds. The cold blast shocks my system and sends a chill down my spine. I instinctively pull my jacket around me tighter and make sure my collar is up over my neck. “Man,” I complain, “It’s cold.” My wife opens her weather app and says “It’s only 42 degrees.” “I know,” I say agreeingly, “It’s freezing!” adding, “It’s gonna be a long winter.”
I think to myself. I’m a winter weather wimp. Even so, I do know how to adequately prepare for the season. I guess you could say I’ve learned a few things—much of it the hard way.
“Wow, you’re dressed up today” a friend says. I just smile and say warmly, “thanks.” Actually, my attire has more to do with the weather than anything else. I’ve found that a simple way to overcome “cool” temps, and not look overly wimpy, is by wearing a sports jacket. A sports jacket over a tee-shirt makes anybody look dressed up.
In addition, the great thing about a sports jacket is that they have lots of pockets. That’s great because I carry lots of stuff. I like to carry my phone, keys, pens, wallet, gum, breath mints, lip balm, headphones, and the 20 bucks my wife gives me each week. The challenge is trying to remember to remove them from my pockets at the end of the day and transfer them to the next day’s wardrobe.
By personal experience, I’ve learned that, for me, there are two major keys to keeping warm. The first key is layers. This is related to the quality/quantity debate. For me, it’s not about the big coat on the outside, but the seven layers on the inside. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but I’m sold on layering. I love my UnderArmor. It feels great and adds a wonderful layer under my clothes without adding 3 inches to my frame.
The other key to keeping warm is my extremities. If I can keep my feet and hands warm, I can generally stay warm. For my hands, I have several different kinds of gloves. When it gets to about 40, I have a light pair of gloves. When it drops below 40, I have a thicker pair. When it drops below zero, I’m not embarrassed to wear both—or even put “Hot Hands” inside them.
I’ve also learned that I need to keep my feet warm. At times, I have been known to double up my socks. I even enjoy sleeping with slippy socks. Over the years, I’ve learned to tuck my pajama pants into them to keep my pjs from riding up. Currently, in my spare time, I’m looking to invent a pajama pant/sock combination that uses Velcro technology. If you see something similar on Shark Tank, they stole it from me.
Being a runner gets really complicated in the winter. The basic rule of thumb for winter running is that your body will warm up 20 degrees—so don’t overdress. It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn. It’s important to remember that what you start with is what you’ll end with. A couple of times I’ve run races and had to remove my beanie and/or gloves and then try to cram them in my pockets while running.
I’ve tried to force my body to get used to the cold. The coldest I’ve ever been was on a New Year’s Day run several years ago. It was called the, “Hangover Half.” As a teetotaler, I felt I had a chance of finishing near the top. Unfortunately, it was so cold that they cancelled the official race out of concern for the runners. But, as a consolation, they decided to offer a “fun run” and give away prizes. I chose to run.
I was properly attired with more layers than a lasagna and honestly, I was not cold during the run. But, since I had a hood and mask (which I referred to as my ninja mask), the warm air from my body would fog up my glasses impairing my vision.
What’s worse is, I could not simply wipe them off because of the large gloves on my hand. In the end, I was happy that I was able to face the brutally cold temperatures and run.
After two decades of the cold, I’m still not acclimated. However, I have learned a few tricks on how to deal with the cold. And, one of the cool things is that, every fall, when I pull out my winter weather gear, I always find lots of cool stuff like lip balm, mints, and even a twenty-dollar bill!
Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer. He can be reached at waynegeiger.com.