Keeping Warm in a “Polar Vortex”

I am writing you from what the weather people are referring to as the “polar vortex”. It sounds like   something straight out a science fiction novel, but it’s more of a horror story if you ask me. The temperature outside is currently -14 degrees and the high today is supposed to be 0. That isn’t even factoring in the wind chill. You don’t want to know about the wind chill. We also have about 18 inches of snow.

I do not like cold weather. My Daddy lived in Florida for years before I was born, and had he met my mother there, I might have been a beach bunny; instead, he came home to Michigan and I was born in a state where phrases like polar vortex are coined. My Cerebral Palsy does not make the cold any easier; as soon as the temperature drops below freezing, my muscles tense up so much that I can barely move and my joints begin to give me grief. So you can imagine that my number one priority during this record breaking weather event has been to stay warm.

The first few days were easy. I was off work and spent my days in my sewing room where it is nice and toasty. Tuesday, however, I had to return to work, which meant I had to grit my teeth and face the cold weather head on. I was only going to be outside for a few minutes, but in subzero temperatures, that’s all it takes for your skin to freeze. So I made sure I was well prepared.

Two of the most essential items you need in order to keep warm in weather like this are a scarf and a hat. A scarf is important because it helps keep your airways warm, which makes it easier to breathe; and it helps to warm the air around your nose and mouth so that your lungs don’t get shocked by that super cold air. I would recommend a knitted scarf made of wool or other warm material. Your head is where you lose the majority of your body heat, according to my mother and many others, so a hat will keep your body heat where it belongs, in your body.

The next item in my cold weather armory is my Omni-Heat jacket by Columbia. It is lined with a shiny material that helps trap your body heat and consists of two layers, making it both warm and waterproof. It also has these neat little hand protectors attached to the sleeves that fit over your thumbs to help keep the air from blowing up your sleeves. This is a huge problem when I am using my power chair because my arms are usually in a position where the air can blow right in. It also keeps the snow out of my sleeves when I fall.

One thing I really have to keep warm is my legs. My sister and I both have scrawny legs, but mine are extra scrawny do to my CP. In these temperatures, I would love to be able to wear my fleece lined jeans, but they are not exactly appropriate for work. Instead I wear fleece leggings under my work pants along with calf length socks and high boots.

Despite all these layers I am still cold and cannot wait to get home and bury myself under a pile of warm blankets and cats; but until then, I at least know I won’t freeze to death. If you ever find yourself in the middle of a polar vortex, stay inside. But if you can’t, these essentials should help keep you safe and at least a little warmer.

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Categories: clothing, Cold, Melissa McPherson

Author:Melissa Mcpherson

Melissa is a 31-year-old creative writer, quilter and photographer with Cerebral Palsy. She received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Grand Valley State University in 2005. When she is not pursuing her creative endeavors, Melissa works as a part time Administrative Assistant at the University of Michigan. Melissa spent eight years working at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, where she developed and taught inclusive creative arts and writing classes for people with and without disabilities. She continues to mentor and advocate for people with disabilities through her blog: Disability and I do. She lives with her husband in Michigan.

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