Most years, I would say that talking about winter weather before Thanksgiving was in poor taste. It reminds me of a college classmate in the 1970s who wore a T-shirt bearing a bull’s-eye and the legend “Hey, SkyLab.” I am assuming that most of our readers are old enough to remember the spacecraft’s spectacular descent into Earth’s atmosphere in 1979 or so.

But what the heck. We have already had our first trivial snowfall accompanied by January-like temperatures. What could possibly go wrong?

I mean, discount retailers were putting out their Christmas merchandise in late August, so a mere winter mention in a newspaper column shouldn’t upset the cosmos to any degree.

My fellow weather nerds and I have been on tenterhooks while waiting for the official long-range winter forecast. It was released in the past day or two, and there’s not much out of the ordinary on the horizon.

The temperatures are supposed to be mild. We call that a “win.” On the other hand, look what happened during the mild winters of 1993 and 1994.

We might enjoy more snow than we usually get. I can write those words with a smile on my face because I’m semi-retired and don’t have to be out on the roads all the time. Smiling is not the same as gloating, and I always say a prayer for those out in the elements when I first get up on a snowy morning.

I think I’m going to lay in a few extra propane canisters later this week and do some experimentation with those tealight-candle heaters found all over the Internet. They actually work to some extent, but you can’t expect to heat your home to 70 degrees and walk around wearing a T-shirt.

During my days of living aboard a sailboat 10 years ago, I had read about placing a plain clay flower pot upside down over a propane-stove burner. I tried it and it kept the cabin reasonably warm during the day. It is worth trying it in your homes, using tealights, two pots and a loaf pan.

That is as close to playing Rugged Girl as I want to get anymore. I seldom suffer much from the aches and pains of these charming golden years, and I want to keep it that way.

I sometimes chuckle about the drama that accompanies the first real storm of the season. It snows every year, and everybody has milk, bread, eggs and toilet tissue in the house for the most part. Why the fuss?

A couple of weeks ago, I read some of the stories told by California friends during the latest round of wildfires. Folks, give thanks for where we live. We have our floods, occasional tornadoes and ice storms, but those are pretty limited in scale and duration.

My Left Coast friends marveled at their neighbors’ reactions to having the power go out for even a few hours, let alone several days. Supermarkets ran out of food and closed their doors, sometimes allowing a few people inside to recharge their cell phones using the stores’ emergency generators. ATMs weren’t working, and people weren’t carrying physical cash on them.

I won’t point a finger here. I don’t carry cash on me as often as I used to. Besides, I prefer leaving the finger-pointing to others.

Still, it isn’t a bad idea to top off your vehicle’s gas tank, fill up some jugs with drinking water and check on your supply of ready-to-eat meals. Now might be a good time to buy a battery-power radio or to ask Santa to bring you one for Christmas. You could even play Santa and give one to somebody else.

Or you could give somebody one of those LuminAid inflatable solar lights I always bang on about. A lady of my acquaintance needed one during a power outage this summer, but I didn’t have any spares at the time. Fortunately, somebody else in town gave her one, and she was able to recharge her cell phone and have a bit of light because of it.

Folks sometimes snarl at and bite each other around here, but you know what makes me smile? I get to mix and mingle with people from other counties, and they are likely to say, “New Bethlehem. Now, there’s a town that takes care of its own and rises from the ashes every time.”

Wow. That is the way I want to be remembered.

That’s why I pass on these little tips and tricks and gadgets here. Somebody somewhere is going to remember one of them and use it during a hard time. Mission accomplished.

We are all in this together.

[Susan Kerr is a semi-retired freelance writer living in her hometown of New Bethlehem. Previously, she was the managing editor of a regional-interest magazine and a business journal in State College.]

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