I've only been in New Mexico for six months, and this will be the first full winter I have ever experienced.
Arriving in the city in May as an almost-26-year-old, I had spent my entire life in the tropics until then, moving between Florida and Hawaii. To say that I was unprepared for winter would be an understatement—I had no idea what was coming and, to be honest, was perfectly content pretending the glorious Santa Fe summer would last forever.
The first snow in November popped my summer and autumn bubble. It was cold. It was wet. It made me want to pee my pants out of fear of driving (Brakes don't work well on ice?!). And I couldn't figure out how to get into my car without getting the seats covered in snow.
Luckily, there's someone who I call for almost everything when I need advice—my mom. Also born and raised in Florida, she moved to Colorado and then to the Pacific Northwest, where she lives now. As a Florida girl, she learned how to survive snowy and icy winters. I figured if she could, I definitely could, too.
She came to visit me for Thanksgiving, which turned out to be perfect timing because it was a week of snow and ice. I set her up with a straw and a bottomless margarita from Harry's Roadhouse and asked for advice on how to survive winter.
To say my mom is tired of my calling and complaining about how cold I am all the time would be an understatement. I wish I had a dollar for every time she told me to "shut up and layer." When she visits, she makes me put on so many pairs of tights underneath my jeans I look like I've been bulking for weight lifting.
"Tights. You can never own enough tights to put under your pants," my mom says, one margarita in. "It's called layering! I would wear tights, jeans, long sleeve shirt, sweater along with scarf, hat, gloves and coat. Don't forget to buy a scarf, hat and gloves. I forgot that one until the first freeze. I had a really cool leather coat—but that doesn't fix anything when it's 16 below zero."
Soup up your car with winter things
I own a 2018 Honda Civic, born and raised in Orlando. Both of us had a hard time adjusting to snow and ice. My mom has little sympathy for either one of us and insists that more driving practice in bad weather is the answer.
"Practice driving in an empty driving lot. Brakes and starts are completely different in the snow than they are on the hot Florida streets. Get chains for your tires. I bought them—never could put them on, but hey! I own them just in case," mom says via email. "Have a supply box in your car in the event you get stuck on a road with a blizzard and same at your house. The supply box should be good for two days and have peppermint schnapps … that alcohol tends to warm the blood! LOL."
Your house needs winter love too
I was excited about building a fire in the fireplace in my apartment. Like, really excited.
In Florida during the winter, when we're out on the boat or tanning at the beach, we complain about the heat and halfheartedly say we wish we had seasons, while knowing full-well it's not true but it's something to talk about.
Needing a fire in the fireplace seemed like an adventure to me. So there I was, putting logs into the fireplace, with zero kindling or a starter log, super eager. And it took me an hour and a half and 10 tons of discarded newspapers (thank goodness I work at SFR) to actually get the logs to start burning.
I settled onto the couch to read and 30 seconds later a piece of log rolled out of the fireplace and burned my carpet in multiple places. I don't own any type of poker, so I used a spatula from my kitchen, and that was a fun $75 to spend getting my carpet fixed and a new spatula.
Again, my mom was not sympathetic.
"[Get a] fireplace set for your fireplace," she says. "The long spatula in your kitchen drawer doesn't do it when trying to turn wood. [Get] flannel sheets for your bed. A real luxury is a plug-in blanket warmer. I found a mattress cover that you plug in and you could set each side to its own level of heat. Cool."
Keep your pets warm
My mom loves my dog, Sancha, more than she loves me. I know because she gives me money to send Sancha to doggy daycare twice a week but not for utilities or food. It's fine.
Over Thanksgiving, I got a long lecture about taking care of Sancha in the winter. She's a good-tempered, short-haired American bulldog (Sancha, not my mom).
"You do need a snow shovel or you can't get out of your house or even get your car dug out of the snow," my mom tells me. "I even used the shovel to make poop paths for the dogs when the snow was 12 inches and higher."
Such a good dog mom.
Sancha also has a lovely new coat, courtesy of my mom.
If you've lived many wonderful, warm years in the tropics but now you live in New Mexico, may the gods bless you and godspeed as January approaches. Don't forget a fireplace set and a coat for your dog.
I'll be in Miami for Christmas, though, so don't worry about me too much.