Day 2 of Loving MN Winter 2018

By : Carolyn · February 2, 2018

I LoveMnWinter! Today I love winter glitter, fat bikes & self care

By Casey Wollschlaeger

I love MN winter even when it doesn’t love me back.

I love the slowly lengthening days of February even though my Vitamin D and mood levels have been sapped (Vitamin D enriched chocolate seems like the answer here). I love the second day of February because it is the birthday of two bright, beaming, compassionate, creative, and far-away friends who whirl through my thoughts more often this time of year.

I met these friends when I lived in Tucson, AZ where winter biking meant installing thorn proof tubes and tire liners to keep the desert’s spiky armor at bay, where folks decorate their agaves with lights during the holidays, where you can bike around in a t-shirt or sweatshirt on a sunny day, and where I discovered how much I love MN (and ND and MT) winter. The other kind of winter. The type of winter where we install studded tires as our own spiky armor against icy roads and trails, where my favorite string lights are those softly glowing beneath a layer of fresh snow, and where self care comes in the form of tea, soup, books, and staying in pajamas on snow day.

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Agave lights in AZ winter

It took over a month of perfect, gorgeous, sunny, blue sky days in Arizona before I realized that I relied on winter to slow down, sleep, read, craft, cook, play music, write letters, cuddle with cats, curl up with friends, and take time to be alone. Being raised in the Midwest, where we have a limited amount of perfect sunny blue sky days before the brisk crunchy leaves days turn into cold icy dark days before thawing into soggy emerging green things days, we make those sunny days count.

After an ecstatic yet exhausting month of making every day count in Tucson, I asked a friend if it was always this nice (yes) and if so, when do people cozy up inside with hot tea and read (in the summer when it’s too hot or you just have to make time for it). Turns out, drastic seasons had left me somewhat extrinsically motivated when it came down to certain activities, including relaxing and self care.

“How are you doing this winter? I know you can get sad this time of year. Winter has always been hard on you.” I had been slowly pedaling around a frozen Powderhorn Lake when my dad called so I sat down on a bench to chat while branches clicked in the wind & gusts of glitter swirled around in the air. Let me repeat that. In Minnesota winters, glitter literally swirls around in the air. Winter makes glitter. Winter is magical. This, in a small way, makes up for winter destroying my disposition and drive trains, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Even though people and the news and parents talk about winter blues and seasonal affective disorder, it still comes as a surprise to me that feeling sad and sluggish can be cyclical. I also forget that there are other folks in the same boat who need their own version of glitter to get them through the (exhilarating, magical, depressing, cumbersome) winter.

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See how fun this looks? See how we sparkle? See how to laugh at our cute and funny shapes?

One of those other winter boat passengers recently sent out an email with advice for how to self care when you really don’t want to and solicited tips in kind. Because I often skip the self care sessions during the Grease Rag Winter Skill Share in lieu mechanical and technical ones, it’s not unusual that it took until February to realize that although it felt productive, responsible and fun to clean and lube my bike, put on new fenders, and bike home in a blizzard, it felt impractical and imposing to do the things that help me function best in winter even when I know what they are. How do I know what they are? Because someone suggested I write them down and now I have a list! The thing I love about lists is that you can share them with a lot of other people.

Fixing my bike is often easier than fixing my mood, so I’ll start with the self care list first. Here is my list of personal winter mood maintenance, or the troubleshooting section of my mental health owners manual, or your free guide to extrinsic motivation in Minneapolis…. Feel free to make your own and share.

Winter Self Care

  • make my bed

  • make tea (chai with maple syrup or calming tea) & breakfast

  • take Bachman's flower essences, or witchy tinctures

  • take an epsom salt bath with lavender and bergamot oils with candles and the crossword puzzle or a book that can get wet. This usually involves cleaning the tub first with baking soda (this is a bit of a workout which also helps) then rinsing myself and the tub off convinced that the baking soda absorbed some of my toxic feelings as well as soap scum. Win win.

  • Go for a bike ride during or after a light snow

  • Go to a Grease Rag open shop (sometimes just to hang out)

  • Go on a full moon ride Go to the Orchestra (Mn Orchestra has 50% off deals for cyclists! #bike2orchestrahall)

  • Host or attend a craft party

  • Go see a film in a tiny theatre

  • Pack a lunch and go to the Como Conservatory to breathe humid plant breath

  • Cook — aka stress cooking. Last week was vegetable dumpling soup. I actually made this for a neighbor who'd just had surgery (because tending to others distracts me from tending to myself & results in leftovers). If you've ever wondered if leftover rice & walnuts can substitute 1/2c of flour in dumplings, the answer is yes and it is delicious.

  • Read fiction and children's books (Phillip Pullman, Byrd Baylor & Peter Parnall), comics about depression, cookbooks (see above), self help books (if I'm feeling self indulgent) and seed catalogs (in this state, I tend to order seeds like bunny tails & snail flowers & nipple fruit & green zebra tomatoes...)

  • Make plans to meet someone to do something that is good for me (see above & below plus yoga, ceramics, square dancing, biking, walk around a lake, craft, brunch) so I actually make myself go instead of not getting dressed or doing chores and feeling sorry for myself

  • Listen to music

  • Water my plants and pet my cats or pet other people's cats and dogs (ask first!)

  • Wear my softest clothes and fuzzy socks

  • Write someone a letter & walk to the post office to mail it

  • Slow down: Give myself extra time in bundle up and bike, walk, bus, drive in the winter.

  • Get Shiatsu or trade massages with a friend or roll around on a tennis ball

  • Get acupuncture and have them put tiny seeds on your earlobes

  • I'd love to say I sleep more because I know that helps but I'd be lying. If you can sleep, I hear it's highly recommended (my mom won't even listen to me if I call her bawling anymore, she just asks when the last time I slept was and tells me to take a nap).

  • Jump up and down and shake all of the feelings out of your body. leave them there.

  • One of my yoga instructors taught us to hold ourselves in plank then just let go and drop ourselves on the floor to clear trauma with impact - I love this. I do it all the time now.

  • Flopping around in general

  • not care that I starting using caps halfway through my list - don't bother changing it - go back to lower case

  • take Vitamin D

  • eat more salad

  • remember that this feeling is not necessarily a permanent state of being, but a cycle that dips then dissipates when all of the green things unfurl in spring.

  • pay my bills on time (I may not feel better but at least I feel like an adult) I'm about to pay mine after I get done writing this. If money is the reason you're upset, it's still a good idea to pay the bills.

  • play piano (the downtown library has a grand piano room you can check out in ½ hour increments for free)

  • turns out I mostly just distract myself.... so I hope this helps on those days you only want to feel some of the feels for a little bit and then go ride your bike or play in the snow.

  • once we’re done distracting ourselves, remember that we are deserving of love, kindness, comfort, hugs, compassion, & dumplings

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Remember: Just like bike maintenance, shoveling snow, and doing the dishes, the earlier and more consistently you tend to yourself, the less work it will be to dig yourself out of something that looks like this!

If possible, bike care should happen after self care. Since there are plenty of GR resources for winter biking, I won’t go into it much here other other than a few tips. Check out previous Winter Skill Share re-caps and the GR blog for a wealth of knowledge about all things winter biking.

Winter Bike Care Tips:

  • Road salt will eat your bike. Take time to wipe it down with a soapy rag and lube anything you’d like to move in the future (drive train, pivot points, spoke nipples, bolts, etc)

  • Studded tires or running a lower tire pressure helps gain traction on ice

  • If you get a bunch of road sludge on your disc brake rotors, you can clean them off with isopropyl alcohol and a lint free rag (you may need to check your pads and re-surface or replace if they’re contaminated)

  • If your cables freeze up, bring it in somewhere warm to thaw or release the cable tension and slide the housing back and forth, wiping down & relubing if possible.

MN Blizzard Bike Love

  • Fat bikes. I thought fat bikes were silly until I got a very good deal on a used one & to my glee, discovered it’s like riding on a balloon cloud. It makes me laugh and feel almost invincible and is a great option for transitional weather since it has good traction in the snow and is also fine on pavement (vs. wearing down my studs when the snow melts). I had way more fun than traction after our last snow day until I let out a drastic amount of tire pressure (closer to 3 psi when I’d been riding with 4 & 5 in the front and 5 & 5.5 in the rear). Bring a frame pump in case you accidentally let out too much.

  • Post blizzard biking camaraderie: the really fun part of what is usually a 10 minute commute home was the hour long ride/walk through a block party-like atmosphere of people in the streets talking, shoveling, staring at the scene with elbows on shovels, waving, or in 2 separate instances, cheering when I biked past.

  • Snow emergency biking = free workout. Bonus - you’ll warm up even faster if you help push cars out of the snow.

  • Winter biking body connection: when I got home I was told I smelled like “outside cold sweat” which I did and it reminded me of being a kid and playing outside all dang day then coming home pink cheeked to eat all of the food and drink all of the hot cocoa. I made some tea, ate all of the food and slept like a baby.

  • Grease Rag: This inspiring community of healers, protectors, teachers, friends, cyclists, cooks, artists, cat herders, & organizers cheers me on inside my head when the streets are empty and cold and dark (and even during blizzard bock parties). I have learned so much from the wisdom and passion of this group of humans and don’t know what MN winters would look like without it. At a time when it’s easy to feel disconnected, this network is buzzing with road conditions, support, high fives, hot tips, & hugs.

Love, Casey



Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and sign up to share a post in 2018 here. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.

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