Forcing Spring…

“Forcing” is a gardening term that refers to the process of causing a plant to flower before its natural season. This is done by mimicking the conditions of winter and spring in quick succession in order to make a bulb bloom. While I’ve never done this (I take a very Darwinian approach to my gardening—no coddling or special effort), I determined that this year—this miserable 2014 that has been the 8th coldest on record since 1864 in Minnesota—I needed to  “bloom” before my natural season. Last year, spring was late in coming and that’s simply not going to be acceptable this year. We need it. WE NEED IT…NOW!!!

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” 
― Mark Twain

So, to take matters into my own hands, I decided I would “force” spring. First off, I chose a date. March 1st, seemed like a great time for spring to begin, and in fact, it’s considered the first day of “meteorological spring.” I’m not sure what that means, but it seemed like a good omen.

Westin_KierlandNext, I had a work trip planned that would provide the metaphorical greenhouse needed to “mimick the conditions of spring.” The same conference that presented a mid-winter break filled with Russian gangsters and strippers in 2013 was going to be held at a beautiful resort in Scottsdale the first week in March. The conference ran from Sunday until Wednesday at noon, but a planned spring break vacation became victim to my work schedule and a $10k IRS bill, so I decided to tack two additional nights on to my work stay (one at the group rate, the other paid for with points) in order to spend a day and a half by myself, relaxing in the sunshine.

The next order of business was packing. I am absolutely sick to death of my wool skirts (lined, of course, can’t have that wool anywhere near my delicate epidermis), boots, tights and cashmere sweaters. I would be foolhardy to think I could make it through the next couple of months without resorting to wearing some of these items. Still, I decided that the heaviest ones were, as of March 1, out of rotation until next November. And I would do my best to limit the others. Meanwhile, I dug out my spring/summer clothes and pulled out a few new pieces bought just for the trip. (Even the most un-style-conscious Minnesotans have—by necessity—large wardrobes since the extreme swings in temperature require clothing for every possible situation. So, for those of us with a bit of a shopping addiction, the ever-changing local climate provides a great excuse to hit the malls.)

I spent the better part of Saturday trying on pieces I had all but forgotten, lamenting my pasty white legs, breaking out the bronzer, and packing tank tops, shorts, sunblock and a bikini. I hate trying to choose what to wear in advance—I like to factor in the weather and my mood—so I compensated by bringing enough clothing for a two-week stay.

I’ve been typing this from the plane, eager to see what my “forced spring” has in store for me.


I arrived on site to mild temps (upper 60s) and palm trees. It seemed like my forced spring was off to a good start. The conference went well, but was typically exhausting. Too many late nights with multi-course dinners and drinks. Too many days filled with long workshops and booth time in uncomfortable shoes. I reached the end of my workweek feeling a bit crabby and tired. Hanging around in Arizona suddenly seemed expensive and wasteful instead of relaxing, but since I was already committed, I changed into swimwear and headed for the pool.

Later, I walked around the local shopping area. I had thought about buying some spring clothes, but wasn’t inspired by anything. I had forced a spring environment, but forcing a spring mood was harder to achieve. I had a glass of wine in the lobby bar while reading my Kindle, already bored of my own company.

desert_flowerAfter a much-needed full night’s sleep, I felt the ice in my heart beginning to thaw—just a bit. I went for a run along the property, amazed at the fragrance of the desert flowers in bloom. (Those of you who live in warm climates will find this odd, but there really isn’t a smell to the cold—other than car exhaust, perhaps.) I had noticed my allergies were acting up, but under the circumstances, it seemed like an acceptable trade-off. KitKat is right about the restorative powers of fresh flowers. 

A mango daiquiri and spring fashion mag make for great companion
A mango daiquiri and spring fashion mag make for great companions.

Before heading back to my room, I popped into the spa to inquire about a massage and scheduled one for later in the day. I changed clothes and tested the limits of my ability to be completely unproductive while lazing by a pool. It turns out, I can do that for about three hours. Afterwards, more window shopping. Wine and an appetizer. A really nice massage. Sauna. Jacuzzi. Another short workout in the gym. A walk to Jimmy Johns and quiet dinner in my room, followed by a hot bath and another early bedtime. Perfect.

The next morning, I took another short run and my last turn by the pool. My short vacation was over, but it had served its purpose. As I head home, the temperature in Minneapolis is a “balmy” 30 (compared to the 53 days we’ve had so far with below zero temps) and my weekend is stretching out before me with little obligation. My husband and I have tickets for the Minnesota Orchestra on Saturday, and I need to run some errands and catch up with KitKat. I’ll do laundry and swap out my heavy winter clothes for my early spring clothes. I’ll start thinking about my garden and planning a party to welcome spring properly. Although it was easier to maintain a spring attitude in sunny Arizona, whether the weather in Minnesota continues to cooperate is no longer of concern to me. I know I can make the most of what I’ve got until the real thing comes along.

A quick fix for the winter blahs

As Stormy and I have referenced numerous times, it has been a tough winter. I have been working hard to keep up a positive attitude but my strength is frozen out of me. It is hard to be positive about anything in subzero temperatures. So in addition to being sick of the cold, I am getting sick of my own attitude.

This is not a joke!
This is not a joke!

Today, I got a text at work that my nanny couldn’t meet the kids after school. And like everything else lately, it threw me into a mood. With too much to do on my desk and now even less time to do it, I decided to just pack it up right away and try to work from home. In my haste, I forgot my gloves. This meant an even colder drive home while providing my mind more ammunition about how nothing is going right as my fingertips turned white.

I thought I might lose it. I wanted to park and cry. Or head to the airport to get on on a plane. I felt my eyes well up … and at that same moment, I saw Bachman’s, a local flower and garden store. I took a sharp left into the lot.

Walking in the door I was surrounded by intense colors and scents.  I am not a gardener nor into flowers normally. I could name only the most common. But it was an incredible sensation leaving the white, frigid outside for this warm floral haven. It was like a drug. An instant mood lifter. I am sure some of the other shoppers thought I was a bit “off.” Wandering circles in one small area, wearing a smile and inhaling deeply. The warmth and reminders of spring refueled me. It was lifting me out of the helpless despair I had been feeling myself sinking into.

With time running short but not ready to give up this new fix. I bought myself flowers. I even said yes when they asked if I needed them wrapped as a gift.  Why shouldn’t I present myself with flowers as they should be given.

Getting flowers from myself felt as good as, if not better than, receiving them from anyone else. I certainly owed myself something nice after all the abuse I have been giving myself lately. (In addition to affecting your mood, winter isn’t great on the looks either.) With still some time before chaos arrived home, I poured a glass of wine and opened up a spring fashion magazine and sat in front of my flowers.


Finding a little spring, seeing some beauty, feeling some hope and doing something for myself was all it took. A quick fix to a long winter. Maybe next week I should send myself flowers to work.

Turn, turn, turn … that clock forward!

Winter wonderland
Winter wonderland

KitKat and I are native Minnesotans. Growing up in this state, I’ve made some interesting observations about how a dark, cold winter affects the local psyche. During the months of December/January/February, you encounter a spectrum of viewpoints about our longest season. For many of us, our attitude evolves as the season progresses:

  • December: We love the snow! Everything was so dreary in November, but now it looks so Christmas-y! A winter wonderland!
  • January: Brrrrr. It’s cold and snowy, but that’s Minnesota. Twenty below zero might be unpleasant, but just think of our forefathers having to endure it without down parkas and heated seats! Basically, we’re resigned to it. We hunker down and watch a little too much TV.
  • February: We’re over the worst of it. The days are getting longer. There’s still a lot of winter before us, but we’re hardy Minnesotans, after all. We’ll survive. (This is typically when I go to my annual conference in a warm destination, so that well-timed respite from the snow and cold usually keeps me off the ledge, so to speak.)

There are even a number Minnesotans who manage to maintain their December enthusiasm right through February. These are generally the outdoorsy types—people who take full advantage of the season for skiing, snowmobiling, ice-fishing and hockey.

However, regardless of one’s view of winter, I’ve noticed that there’s a point where everyone eventually reaches their limit. And, interestingly enough, this happens to everyone at approximately the same time. Suddenly, we’ve collectively had ENOUGH.

“Enough” arrived last week in the guise of a March snowstorm, whereupon Mother Nature (that bitch!) dropped 10 inches of the slushy white stuff on us over a period of two days. Although this was a beautiful snowfall–coating trees and houses in a tranquil blanket of white–the general consensus of coworkers and friends was, “Auuuuugggggggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!”

Having had a glimpse of summer during my recent trip to Florida, this sunk me into a particularly foul mood. Spring seemed distant, I’m sick to death of wearing wool skirts, cashmere sweaters and boots everyday, and I long to sit on my patio and feel the sun on my face. What’s worse, my gloomy outlook is matched by an inner malaise. Everything seems hard and I don’t have a clear sense of purpose.

Ah, spring!
Ah, spring!

The other morning, fortunately, a harbinger of spring arrived: Daylight Savings Time. The annual mandate to “Spring Ahead” always cheers me up, even if I lose an hour of my precious weekend. It provides a much-needed kick in the pants to rouse me out of my winter funk and get me thinking about the possibilities that lie dormant—much like my garden. After all, I never know which flowers are going to appear from year-to-year, but the arrangement always delights me (at least, until August when the weeds take over).

So even though I’m not feeling very sunny these days, I’m going to do my best to have faith in the spring. As we’re reminded in Ecclesiastes (or by the Byrds, if you prefer), there is a time for every purpose under Heaven. Even those that haven’t been discovered yet.