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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: January 16, 2019

Wisconsin Stylin'

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

My move from Oklahoma to Wisconsin represents some weather extremes " from Oklahoma's blistering hot summers to Wisconsin's chilly winters. This had a quick impact on my wardrobe, especially my outerwear.

My tried-and-true favorites for dealing with the hideous hot weather in Oklahoma were loose-fitting shorts, cotton t-shirts that were light colors (with white being best, and black being intolerable) and plenty of flip-flops and sandals. I had one good quality hooded rain coat, made of a breathable fabric " not one of those plastic ones that would simmer you in your own sweat on hot, rainy days. I paid a lot for that coat; still have it and still love it. Nightwear was a vastly oversized cotton t-shirt.

Now my priority is on winter clothing. That means jeans and sweatshirts most days " there is nothing like a cozy, roomy fleece sweatshirt to beat a chill. My pajamas resemble a snowmobile suit made of a soft fabric. And I have practical outerwear suitable to my lifestyle.

I think part of the problem with the long Wisconsin winters is that if you can't find something you like to do outdoors, AND a way to be comfortable doing it, you get stir-crazy from being cooped up inside. Our bodies need some exposure to fresh air and sunlight, and if you huddle indoors all the time it's hard to get that spirit-boosting benefit.

My favorite outerwear for dog walking and horse care is a one-piece, insulated men's coverall. Obviously I'd prefer a women's coverall " but such things, as my sister warned me, are nearly impossible to find. Apparently not enough market for them, or women are passively accepting men's versions. I'm relatively tall, but even a men's small is way too long for me, so I have to cuff the bottoms. There is snowmobile and skiing clothing for women, but those materials don't normally stand up well to barn chores. My one-piece is not attractive but it keeps me warm, and when I take it off after coming inside I don't smell like horse manure the rest of the day.

I had a pair of "sorrel" type boots that were 20 years old, at least. I replaced the liners, but as my wise sister again warned me, my feet got cold in them fast and we haven't even had below zero weather yet. I have a local friend who does a lot of snowmobiling and ice fishing. I admired her boots, and she recommended them with great enthusiasm so I got a pair. WAY warmer, and with excellent tread to help prevent falls. Easy on, easy off. Again, not going to win any style awards but who cares. My sister has a pair of boots that were designed JUST for ice fishing she swears by. She's got small feet but these boots are SO big that when I was house sitting for her last winter I saw tracks in the snow that I was afraid were from some sort of creepy stalker around the house. Turns out they were HER footprints, as I figured out when I followed them back to the barn. I felt a little sheepish. Feet are usually the first thing to get cold, warm boots are a must. The absolute WORST thing to wear in winter is athletic shoes. They are comfortable, yes, but they are deadly on ice. I scold anyone I see wearing athletic shoes outside when there is frozen snow or ice underfoot.

And then all my extras " a neck scarf, of short length, perfect for tucking into the top of my coveralls (thank you Carol M.!) good quality gloves, and a headband. For some reason hats make my head itch, it's got to be REALLY cold before I wear a full hat. I have enough hair to keep me warm with the headband under most circumstances.

In Oklahoma summers, if you dress for the outdoor temperatures you FREEZE when you go into the grocery store or most other businesses. They have the air condition cranked way up, so it's necessary to bring a cover up when it is 100 degrees outside which just feels ridiculous.

Here, if you dress for the outdoor temperature, you must be prepared to shed layers fast when you go indoors, so you have to have a shopping cart at the store even if you are only getting enough items for a small basket. You will fill the cart with your outerwear as you begin to sweat within minutes.

When we go to our little country church, I let comfort be my guide. I am always clean and neat, but you won't see me in thin ice-cold dress slacks or a dress. I have no need for a lot of dress clothes anymore; and the Bible says "If you have two cloaks, give one to the one that has none." So I donated most of my dress clothes. I don't think I am in church to be "stylin." What's important is what is going on in my mind and in my heart, and that has nothing to do with what I am wearing. (But let's admit it's hard to focus on a homily when you are freezing cold.) So I'll have my short insulated boots, my "dress up" jeans, and a nice sweatshirt " maybe the white one I use for special occasions. (Yes, I have a sweatshirt for even formal "Wisconsin" occasions"..a little more fitted, no hood or sports logo, maybe paired with a nice necklace.) I could count on shocked faces when I told members of our Oklahoma church that Packer apparel was common at Wisconsin religious services on Sunday. None of them could even begin to think about such a thing"..probably thought we are all barbarians.

My commentary about Wisconsin clothing reflects the respect I have for those hardy souls who choose to be outside snowmobiling, ice fishing, skiing, playing hockey outdoors or just hiking in the woods for fun in winter weather. And I especially respect and thank those Wisconsinites who must work outdoors in winter; caring for their farm animals, logging, doing winter construction, keeping our roads safe during and after storms, mail carriers, Rescue Squad members, Fire Department volunteers and professionals, tow truck operators and law enforcement personnel. Unlike those of us who may be out recreating, they can't just quit and go inside when they get cold.

Life goes on during the winter, you wear what you need to, based on your exposure to the cold. We mid-westerners are a hardy breed, we need hardy clothing. "Stylin" has to wait for spring.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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