False Promise of Spring

Even though winter here in the northern hemisphere has officially more than a month to go, here in Iowa, we are getting a break from the cold. In fact it was so warm this weekend that people went out without the need of a jacket. And some even wore shorts.

Yesterday I saw flocks of geese in their majestic V-formation flying northward, which means they are coming back home. I saw children playing  at the park. And even the bikers were out cruising down the road. These are definitely not a February scene. Not in Iowa anyway.

February here is usually one of our coldest months, with the average temperature of 20-30’s Fahrenheit, and can even dipped down to the single digits or even below zero degree Fahrenheit.  We should still be subfreezing at this time and we should still be buried in snow. Yet the pile of snow at the side of our driveway from last week’s snow storm, have all melted away. We are experiencing close to summer-like temperature today.

I should not be complaining, right?

But I know that this warm respite is not going to last that long. Sooner or later, the cold wind will be back, and we’ll be facing the freezing reality again. For the record, there’s a forecast of snowstorm with possibility of several inches of snow accumulation, by the end of this week.

I too joined the multitudes of people who took advantage of this beautiful not-like-winter weather. I went out to run this morning. As I looked around, I could already see some buds coming out from the bare branches of the trees.

However I feel for the trees and plants who may be getting a little confused. Due to the out-of-season weather, the hibernating buds and flowers may be awakened too early by this warm temperature, thinking that it is already spring.

I know few years ago the same thing happened. Too early in the season, it became unseasonable warm. The buds and blossoms sprouted. Only to be frozen and coated with ice, as the cold snap came back. It killed them. That year we did not have much flowers, and in fact there were no cherry blossoms when the real spring came.

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branches coated with ice

That’s what I’m afraid would happen again. A false hope of spring. A promise of warmth that it cannot keep.

I know some of us have experienced those untruthful promises before. Some of us have been given false hope. In my native language we even have a term for that, “pinaasa lang.” 

Those empty promises and false hopes killed our buds. It crushed our expectations. But you know what? For the time being, we may have lost our flowers and our trust for humanity. But we learned our lessons. We may have become cynical, but it made us strong. Life continued, and in due time we blossomed once again.

As you might surmised, I am not just talking about the seasons here.

So I am watching this weather with a guarded hope for spring. I wish the plants and the trees are too. I’m definitely not putting away my winter coat yet.

(*photo taken after an ice storm few weeks ago)

Cold Break

After being cooped up indoors for too long due to bitter cold, I finally went out today. And ran!

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most of the ground snow have melted away

Yeah, it was a bit chilly as we only peaked in the high 40’s to low 50’s Fahrenheit (and will dip below freezing tonight), but still, that was about 50 degrees warmer than 2 days ago.

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the pond was still icy

Today, I ran my first 5K (yes, I was slacking for months!) for this year. Albeit a little slower pace. OK, much slower than I use to. But hey, who’s watching?

Even if I was running slow, I was still chasing my breath. Do you suppose my breath was running faster than I was? Yet it was just exhilarating to be outside. To feel the wind in my face, the sunshine in my eyes, and the sweat in my brows. Even though I was panting and my legs were heavy, it is good to be alive!

I saw friendly neighbors outside as well. Some were walking their kids. Some were walking their dog. Some were walking themselves. Huh? And some were just sitting on their porch. All waved as I passed them by. So it was not just me who took advantage of this break from the winter blast.

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“tomorrow may rain (*snow*), so I’ll follow the sun” ….Beatles

I know winter is not officially over. And who knows what old Iowa winter still has in its sleeves? For arctic air can blow back and we can still have snow the next day, or the next week, or even the next month.

But this I know, spring is coming.

 

Shivering Tulips

Arctic blast is back in our area. After a few days of relatively warm days with some melting in our piles of snow, our temperature is again in single digits (Fahrenheit). The next few days does not look encouraging either. Afterall, we are still in the thick of winter.

As I was seeing patients in our clinic today, one of the constant small talk that I have with my patients is the cold weather. With most of my patients having significant pulmonary condition, this subfreezing temperature is such a struggle for them. My parting shot with them as they get out the door is “stay warm!”

The last patient I had this morning was someone who had been followed in our clinic for more than ten years. Ten years is more of a rarity to be followed by us, as most of them are with advanced lung disease and thus they do not last that long.

He is an old sweet man with a sunny disposition, but crippled with severe COPD, and had been oxygen-dependent for several years now. Damn cigarettes!

He is on maximum medications, inhalers and nebulizers we can place him on, but despite of that, he admits that minimal exertion, or even talking, makes him short of breath. Though he said that not talking much is probably good for him, as his wife who always accompanies him on his visits, laughed with his confession.

As we talked about the deep freeze, he stated that it was too cold outside that the “tulips were shivering.” I told him that it was not yet spring, and so it was not time for the tulips to get out anyway.

When I asked him how he was doing, he said that he was “ready to be planted.”

Was he still talking about the tulips? Or did he mean being “planted 6 feet under ground?”

I know he understands that we have not much to offer him, yet he always come to his appointments, even just to chat with me and my nursing staff. Sometimes I feel that a plain doctor visit gives some of our patients a chance to get off their mundane schedule and provide something to take their mind off their existential misery temporarily. And by merely showing up in our clinic, they let us know that they are still alive.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to see them. I know as well, that they are happy to be seen. Or perhaps they are happy just to be here.

Knowing that his condition will only get worse, our discussions wandered to what his advance directives might be. He said that if it comes to a point that he cannot breathe on his own, he does not want to be placed on a ventilator or a machine to keep him alive; and if his heart stops, he said that he does not want to be resuscitated. In other words, he just want to go gently and naturally into the night.

I even offered that I can refer him to Palliative Care Medicine or even Hospice, but he said that he was satisfied with my management and did not feel we need to do anything else at this time.

As I walked out of the exam room, I called out to him, “stay warm!”

He looked at me meaningfully, as if he expects something more.

Quickly realizing my comment, I said that I wanted him to “stay warm” from this arctic temperature. To “stay warm,” that is to keep his sweet and positive disposition. And to “stay warm,” that means staying alive and warm-blooded, and being above ground.

With that I added “I’ll see you in spring.”  I hope the tulips will not be shivering. Nor weeping.

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(*image from pinterest.com)

 

Summer is Gone

I woke up this morning to the sound of howling winds. I may have left one of the windows open. It rained all day yesterday and most through the night. At least the rain had stopped. But it was still overcast. It was a gloomy day.

The temperature also plummeted to 45º F (7º C) this morning and did not rise much above 50º F today. Though I heard it was above 100º F today in Los Angeles. But this is Iowa.

Tomorrow the forecast is that we will be in the 30’sº F in the early morning. This probably would be our first frost of the season. Time to bring in the outside pets and potted plants. Time to bring out the jackets. Maybe we also need to throw a blanket over our tomato plants in our garden tonight, which still is producing a lot of fruits, so it would not freeze.

We had a good summer though, and for the past few weeks we have experienced warm weather, even if it was already September. So we really cannot complain.

In fact last weekend my son went camping with other scouts, and he grumbled that he should have packed shorts instead of thick pants for it was hot. He said it was warm inside their tent that he did not zipped up his sleeping bag when he slept.

But it is October now. Almost overnight, the summer ended. Cold autumn is here to stay and bone-chilling winter is not very far behind.

The cold winds have blown off most of the leaves in our trees, and our yard is a scattered mess. Is it time for a fall clean up as well? Yet, I must confess that my kids like raking leaves and playing in the pile of leaves that they have gathered.

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my son raking leaves (taken 2 autumns ago)

Fall can be a beautiful season though. With the bursting colors of the trees’ foliage, people wearing fashionable jackets and trendy boots, the farmers enjoying their bountiful harvest, and with the much celebrated Thanksgiving holiday and feasting, it is not hard to imagine why this time of year is the favorite of many people. Not to mention, it is also time for many bargain sales.

But not for me. I am kind of summer guy. I like wearing shorts and t-shirts. I may complain about the heat, but I can bear it. I grew up in a tropical country, for crying out loud!

Yes, I know that summer is gone. Yet in one last act of defiance, I refused to wear my jacket when I went out today.

Of course I was cold!

 

 

Frozen

The title is not about the latest Disney movie, but about our current predicament.

We are having an unusually cold February in our area. The mercury has not wandered above freezing point for quite a while now. On cold days like these, I wonder if the contention of global warming phenomenon even exist. But that’s a different topic on its own.

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Above is a photo of the water tower in our area. Apparently there’s a leak in the pipes in the tower somewhere, causing the water to gush down. But it is so cold that the cascading water is frozen like a plume of icicles.

I have to agree, that even a problem like a leaking pipe and a subfreezing temperature can still be viewed as beautiful.

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(*photo taken with iPhone)

Right Decision

Ten years ago, me and my wife made a decision that have changed our lives. We chose to live in Iowa.

Where? Iowa what? Why?

After residing in New Jersey, New York City, California, and Florida, we finally settled in the vicinity of Des Moines, Iowa. It was a decision that was questioned by friends and family, and we may have second guessed if it was the right decision at that time as well. But after 10 years here, we have never looked back.

When we are vacationing or visiting other states, we still get a ‘funny’ look if we tell them where we’re from. Ohio? Idaho? No. Iowa.

I am glad though that some experts are confirming what we and others who have moved here have discovered. Here’s a recent feature of Des Moines, Iowa, in Today show.

But I guess, I don’t need others’ opinion (expert or not) to tell me what I already knew. Moving to Iowa was the right decision all along.

Now excuse me, I got to go. I have to clear the snow in my driveway. And about the cold and the snow? It builds character, you know.

Ninja Runner vs Polar Vortex

It’s dead of winter. But I ran 3 miles outside today!

Before you declare that I am a little crazy, well, I know that already. Yet hear me out.

After last week’s polar vortex which plunged our temperature in the arctic range, we are enjoying a slight break today. During the cold blast, the mercury here in our place plummeted to -15 F (-26 C), with wind chill in the -20 to -30 F. It was so frigid last week that school was forced to close, not from snow, but just from the bitter cold. It was so frosty across the US and Canada that I have seen photos that the mighty Niagara Falls froze and stopped flowing.

But today was different. The thermometer reading have wandered above freezing. It was even a few digits higher than the freezing point that the ice coating the roads have melted and it was not slippery at all. It was a heat wave!

So that’s why I decided to go out for a run. We may never have another “warm” day like this for a while. In fact, it was a balmy 37 F, when I went out this morning.

Besides, over the years I have invested on high-tech cold running gears. They were light-weight yet warm. (See previous escapades of Black Ninja runner). If I layer up and use my nifty apparel, I can run comfortably outside as long as the temperature is not in single digits (F) or lower.

Even though I can run in an indoor running track inside a gym, or in a treadmill, nothing beats running outside in the open. To feel the sunshine on your face, breathe the chilly air, while winter birds cheer you on, is so liberating.

Here is the man-made lake that I usually pass over during my morning run. The water was frozen over. Should I try to run over it?

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Here is what it looks like during summer.

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I have not been running consistently for the past month or so, so I took my time in completing the 3 miles. After about 40 minutes, I came back home exhausted yet feeling fulfilled.

In keeping up with this trend of self-portrait photos, below is my selfie.

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As you can see I traded my Black Ninja look for a more colorful gear. Green Ninja? Oh, Ninja Turtle!

Because it was still cold, even after running for more than 30 minutes, I don’t think I even broke out a sweat, not until I went inside the house. The first 3-mile run of the New Year. No sweat at all!

Now my muscles hurt. Should I ice it? Or maybe I can just go outside to cool them.

Cold Fashion

We are in a deep freeze. In the past couple of days, our temperature here in Iowa had struggled to get up to double digits (Fahrenheit). We have not been above freezing point for more than a week or so now, and I don’t see it happening for the next couple of days. Or weeks? Or months?!

We have accumulated a few of inches of snow on the ground as well, from snowfall from few days ago. I believe the ground snow will linger for a while (White Christmas then?), and will not melt, as our temperature will remain subfreezing for the next several days. My son’s snow fort, which he built a couple of days ago, is still standing sturdy and proudly in our front yard.

I like the sight of snow. But I don’t like driving on it, nor shoveling it. I don’t like the bitter cold either. I grew up in a tropical country (Philippines), where the coolest temperature is in the low 70’s F. And believe it or not, when the temperature in the Philippines drops in the 70’s F, it is already considered sweater time!

Speaking of sweaters, since I live now in a place akin to being inside an icebox, I have learned (or forced) to dress warmly. Over the years I have collected a few sweaters. And for the past two weeks now, I have been wearing my different collection of sweaters and cardigans to work, on top of my usual khakis and shirts. Coat and tie is not my style, at least not in the hospital.

I was rounding in the ICU yesterday when one of the nurses approached me and smilingly said to me, “Doctor, you are the Imelda Marcos of classy sweaters.”

I am not sure if I would be glad with that compliment or not. Or is it even a compliment?

Well, at least she said “classy” sweaters. Here in this part of our world, “ugly” sweater is more notorious. They have ugly sweater parties, ugly sweater contests, and I know there is even an ugly sweater event run.

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Ugly Sweater Run (photo from here)

Though I cannot really take credit for my “classy” style. My wife bought all those sweaters. She must have a fine taste and she is dressing me right. She is a good shopper as well, as she got those quality items at discounted price.

But to be compared to Imelda Marcos? That is different. Well, she got good taste, I’ll give her that. But being “Imeldific” has a different connotation. Besides I don’t have thousands of sweaters as Imelda has thousands of shoes! I only have a few sweaters. OK, more than a few.

This made me think: am I living lavishly and excessively? I hope not. There’s so much need in this world that is more important than fashion.

Maybe I am over thinking the nurse’s comment, which she intends as a compliment, and nothing more. Maybe she just really admire my sweaters. Or maybe she was just impressed with my GQ fashion sense (barf!).

At least I have an excuse for having all those sweaters. It is so darn cold!

Not Cold? My Ears are Frozen!

Last weekend we shared a lazy Sunday brunch with our neighbors (yes, the same one who borrowed Voltes V). They have just moved from Minnesota to Iowa last summer, and as good neighbors we befriended them. They did fit in quickly to our neighborhood, and have settled in pretty much in their lovely new home.

Trying to know people with very different background than us is always interesting. They were curious how we who grew up in another country ended up here in Iowa. We told them of our experiences and what it was like back home. We were happy to inform them that the Philippines have more than 7100 islands (and that some of them disappear during high tide), and that our country’s land area is only twice as big as Iowa, but our population is about 92 M, compared to 3 M here in Iowa.

Then we talked about the Philippines’ climate where the temperature varies between 70’s to 90’s F all year through, unlike the very wide range of -20 (below 0) to 100 F here in Iowa.

As we were sharing stories, they told us that their friends have called them earlier that day and told them that they should be thankful, for there was so much snow and it was so much colder there in St.Paul/Minneapolis (Twin Cities) where they use to lived, than what we were experiencing here in Des Moines.

This couple grew up in Minnesota and spent most of their lives there, and they are very accustomed to cold. They claimed that in Minnesota, they can have up to 6 months of snow in a year. (Half a year of snow?!!) They have learned to embrace the cold weather and enjoy activities in snow. To them, Iowa winter is considered mild. (What do you mean not cold? My ears are already frozen!)

I find it funny that we have such different perspective of what cold is. I guess, to each his own.

Should I be thankful then, for it is warmer here than in Minnesota? I went out and checked the temperature outside: 8 F. Yeah, right.