I was born in Ann Arbor.

I was born in Ann Arbor.  My Texan momma assures me the winters there were bitterly cold, but my only memory of Michigan is of a lake in the summer.  Sitting on a blanket on the beach, I was startled by a daddy-long-legs.  My father gently picked it up and held it out to me, telling me not to be afraid.  I could see how tame the spider was, crawling up and down his arm, and so I asked to hold it too.  My husband told me years ago that daddy-long-legs are the most poisonous of spiders, but their jaws are simply too weak or too small to pierce human flesh.  I’ve never verified that fact, but I like to think of it whenever I see one.

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Spider Village & Ladybug Land

When I was little I was deathly afraid of spiders.  So much so, that when I found a big ugly one on me in the night (circa 1983), I moved into my sister’s bedroom and slept on her floor for a whole month.  And no, it wasn’t the least bit comfortable.

As I’ve aged I’ve gotten past the terror a spider can induce.  I’ve matured.  I’ve come to realize that spiders are small creatures who for the most part mean us no harm.  We are the scary big monsters THEY cower in fear from and try to avoid.  Part of this is hogwash, I know, part is rationalization.  But for the most part it works.  I can calmly shoo a spider away when need be – or even catch it gently in a cup, paper pressed against the opening, to escort it outside.  I never kill spiders – they have their purpose after all, and I much prefer them to the biting insects they call food.

Anyway, the reason I am sharing this is b/c I spend a goodly portion of each day tending to a fire which consumes vast quantities of wood.  I wrote about this whole wood situation before (feel free to refresh your memories here).  We keep most of our wood stacked outside, but weekly my husband & I must bring in a new stash for burning.  This wood is home to many, many spiders.  For safety (and peace of mind) I wear protective leather work gloves while shifting wood, lest I get bitten by a startled arachnid.  But I can’t get past the paranoid fear that one day I will encounter a brown recluse and wind up losing an arm.

I know this is paranoia at its best.  These little spiders are terrified of me, stomping around in my heavy snow boots, cursing audibly with each heaving wheelbarrow of wood.  But it remains so firmly planted in my psyche that any time I get a tiny unexplained cut on my hand, I watch it the same way an underpaid office worker watches the clock.  I check it 60 times an hour, just waiting for it to change. IS IT GETTING BIGGER??  IT’S LOOKING BIGGER!! IS IT BUBBLING??!!

All of this is nonsense, of course.  I scratched my hand sweeping up debris from the floor, or caught it on [insert whatever it was] but the fear remains.  It doesn’t help that all this firewood we haul inside is stored in the hearth in our kitchen.  The room in which I spend most of my time.  And now that this firewood is stacked inside the warm & pleasant walls of our heated home, the formerly hibernating army of spiders living inside said wood is now WAKING UP.  And converting my kitchen into their Spider Village.

In the changing light you see them.  The vast network of spiderwebs dangling above our heads, crisscrossing the room from the windows to the doors.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been standing at the island, chopping or kneading or simply going about my business, only to look up and find a spider dangling inches from my face.  Looking at me as if to say, “What’s for Dinner?”

For the most part I don’t mind living amongst so many many-leggeds.  Sure a few of them are HUGE (we’re talking inches) but for the most part they’re very small.  And they do in fact seem to be helping us with the bugs.  Not that you’d expect a home in the dead winter of Maine to have an insect issue, but for some odd reason we do have them.  Not gross ones, no cockroaches or big scary beetles or anything.  No, we have ladybugs.

We noticed them right after we moved in.  It was hard not to, seeing as they’d taken over our attic.  At some point in the course of The Dole House’s long and illustrious history, these ladybugs took up residence and now, 600 generations later, we’re still sheltering their kin.  It was odd at first, finding we had so much company.  But over the past (almost) 18 months, we’ve gotten used to each other.  We no longer think it strange, the small piles of expired ladybugs trapped between the window frames and storms.  The ladybug corpses littering the window sills (which must be dusted periodically) or the occasional ladybug you find clutching onto a curtain.  For some reason, our younger daughter’s bedroom seems to be the ladybugs favorite room in the house.  Ladybug Land.  Our little girl spends her nights counting the tiny red dots on her ceiling, watching them weave their way from point to point.  They’re sweet really.  Perhaps if you look carefully you’ll find another world living inside your home, too.

My quest for the perfect winter coat. SUCCESS!!

After days spent searching, my quest has finally come to an end.  And though it might sound like an endorsement of polygamy – which it is NOT.  I am here to announce my perfect coat is not actually ONE coat, But Two.

Meet Coat No. 1.  The Spyder Glacier Jacket by Spyder Active Sports.

spyder glacier jacket

Facts:

1) This jacket is the MOST BAD ASS COAT EVER.  It makes me feel like a million bucks.  Which – given its MSRP of $600 FREAKING DOLLARS, I guess isn’t too far from the truth.  Fortunately I got mine at the super ski-tastic sale going on right now @ T.J. Maxx in South Portland.  And since you get the max for the minimum at T.J. Maxx, you know I did not pay full price.

2) As you can see from the photo below, my arms are indeed long.  Yet this jacket does not leave inches of flesh exposed to the elements.

tah-Dahhhh

LISTEN UP, L.L.BEAN!  Tall women w/ long arms are people too.  In this case, people w/ cash.  And though I did pay a good deal more for this Spyder jacket than I would have at your most beloved of Maine institutions, it was worth every penny.  My advice?  Next season, branch out.

3) Speaking of sleeve length.  When I found this coat – in T.J.MAXX of South Portland w/ its super ski-tastic sale going on right now – I nearly swooned.  It was IT.  Hood – check.  Front zipper – check.  Roomy pockets – check & check.  ADEQUATE SLEEVE LENGTH? With room to SPARE.  But there’s more.  The cuffs have adjustable velcro closures to keep out all the cold.

closures

AND – the Best part ever?  There are spandex half gloves – BUILT RIGHT IN!!!!!  So no breeze will ever billow up my sleeve, my sleeve will never come loose from my glove, and every day will be better than the day before.

spidey half glove

4) While I am discussing the superb features of this coat.  I would like to compliment the genius designer who came up w/ this lil beauty.  B/c it ROCKS.  We have something here along the southern coast of Maine.  Both a blessing & a curse, it is called coastal air.  In the summer, the ocean breezes are a DREAM.  But as the weather gets colder, and then colder still, this body numbing blustery wind has a unique effect on the bones.  I liken it to death.  So when I saw that this coat not only had a hood, but a hood w/ all sorts of hidden toggles, to cinch in my heat from that fearful icy wind, I thought to myself.  BLOODY GENIUS.

hood is good

PS: When I discovered two days ago that said hood also features a built-in VISOR.  I nearly cried.

5) We have a running joke in our family about how much spiders love me.  Wherever I go, Poof! there they are.  As a child, I used to find them crawling on me in the night.  Two months ago, a spider literally FELL FROM THE SKY right on top of my head.  So imagine the jokes when I found this perfect coat, made by Spyder.  With a spider logo right there on the chest.  Calling all my minions to rally round and/or jump right onto me.  It was fate.

me & the spyder

But – I hear you asking – if this coat is so darn perfect (which everyone knows it is) then why Coat No. 2??

Like most stories about mothers and daughters and winter coats, this one isn’t simple.  B.c it gets cold here in Portland.  Really cold.  Like, right now – even though it’s only mid-October, it’s 41 degrees.  Sure, that’s warm in Alaska.  But compared to HOTLANTA? nothing doing.  My mommy is checking those weather forecasts every morning in the AJC.  She already knows there’s a 40% chance of snow tomorrow in Portland.  And being too far away to wind a scarf round my head, she wants to make 250% sure that I am warm.  Like all good Mommies, nothing is ever good enough for her baby.  Even when it’s a $600 FREAKING DOLLAR TOP OF THE LINE SKI JACKET MADE FOR PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES CASCADING DOWN MOUNTAINTOPS AT HYPER VELOCITY IN THE DEAD OF WINTER.  It’s just a coat.  A coat which doesn’t cover her baby’s tushy.  THAT’S RIGHT!  Even when baby is 3 decades out of diapers, momma still wants to dress you.  SO/to recap.  Not even the BEST is good enough for me.  My beloved Spyder Glacier Jacket only comes to my waist.  Leaving my derriere and nether regions exposed & vulnerable.  I’ve got a brand new unbelievably pricy Spyder jacket now hanging (next to my forlorn former coat) in the closet, and I was STILL getting suggestions from my mom about long puffy parkas from The North Face.  I felt like a newlywed, whose mother continues forwarding links to eligible bachelors on Match.com.  Knowing this would not end until we were both satisfied, I soldiered on.  It was essential to find yet another perfect coat.  One which would cover my sensitive butt-ular regions, my chicken thighs, and perhaps – if I was lucky – even my two underinsulated kneecaps.  And so I went.  Back to that blessed Maine institution with the two first initials & the heavenly last name spelling out the very best of good fortune.  NO, NOT L.L.BEAN!!  I am talking about T.J. Maxx of South Portland.  And as fate would have it.  I scored once again.  High five.

Meet Coat No. 2.  Black Rivet brand 3/4 length parka.

black rivet

Facts:

1) I love the fit of this coat.  After trying on countless iterations of the same theme and being horrified by the marshmallow staring back at me from the mirror, I was genuinely pleased w/ this style.  It is lengthy and provides the warmth I need, without the look of an overstuffed sausage.  It manages to be both lightweight, yet well insulated.  Wearing it, I look more like a sleek female seal than a male walrus, and for this I am grateful.

2) This coat has good features.  For instance, the zipper.  It works.  Don’t laugh.  If you had tried on as many coats w/ crap zippers as I have, you would know it’s no joke.  Easy on & off, zero hassle.  Check.  A built-in hood, both roomy & warm – NO FUR TRIM – and without so much hang it renders me blind.  Check.  Only downside: I truly wish it had cinching toggles each side, but not every hood is perfect.  I will wear this one w/ a hat.

roomy hood

Fortunately, this coat makes up for it in a very high neck.  I like these types of collars.  They are practical, providing excellent wind protection, plus they are attractive.  The two zippered pockets are lined and roomy enough for my (very large) hands.  Check & check.

3) The sleeves are long enough. HINT HINT L.L.BEAN.

sleeve length - check

sleeve length - check twice

4) Despite all the pluses. I am not big on the shiny factor of this coat. Although some may think it pretty and satin sheen seems quite the rage this season, this would not have been my first choice.  Nor my second, nor frankly my 15th.  The last time I owned a satin coat I was in late elementary school.  Something about the shininess makes me feel like a little kid wearing brand new patent leather shoes, terrified of getting them scuffed.  It also reminds me of Morticia Adams and/or the inside liner of a coffin.  But I liked everything else so much, I am pretending i like the satin sheen too.  Yes i am one of the satin ladies.  Bling-bling.  That’s no supernova – it’s just me in my new coat.  Yay.

5) This coat, unlike my beloved Spyder, cost less than a casino outing.  And at $49.99 a little sheen never hurt.