And you think you get cold in winter. Try going from paradise to a pair of long undies.
That’s what Jeanette Cave did when she swapped the warm breezes of her native Hawaii for the bitter windchill of Brookside. The 58-year-old moved to Kansas City in January with her husband, Jack, after he took a job as the president and CEO of SkillPath Seminars in Mission.
For Jack, a 68-year-old Iowa native, it was a great opportunity.
For his wife: “It was a big shock because no matter how much you prepare …” she said, her voice trailing off.
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Same for the couple’s dog, a West Highland terrier named Yogi Bear. While walking in Loose Park recently, the pooch jumped in the partially frozen pond to take after a duck.
“Yogi!” the couple both screamed. “No!”
The shivering dog swam quickly back to the side, where Jeanette pulled him from the icy water and wrapped him in her parka. Apparently Yogi, who was born in Honolulu, is still getting used to this winter thing, too.
It’s not often that people so used to balmy weather agree to move to frigid climes, employment experts say. Rarer still that they stick around for a while.
It wasn’t easy for Jack to broach the subject of moving with his wife.
“It was like … hawwww-ney?” he said. “Can we talk about something? I had to pitch this to her a little bit.”
While Jeanette now loves Kansas City, her transition from sandy beaches to snowy streets was not ideal. Shortly after she settled into the new house, her husband flew to Utah for a weeklong reunion with his old college rock band.
“And I’m left here, alone, dealing with 10 inches of snow with my little Westie dog thinking, ‘Huh. What do I do now?’” she said, throwing up her hands. “I had never lived in a place where 10 inches of snow falls and you have to shovel it out of your driveway.
“The biggest shock is having to take 20 minutes to get dressed just to get out of the house. Think about that. In Hawaii it’s shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops and you’re out the door. Here you have to pull on your winter socks, your long underwear, your sweat pants, and then on top of that you have to do the same thing all over again. Sweater. Jacket. Scarf. Hat. Oh, and then you have to put your boots on. And then your gloves. Very complicated. If we get in the high 60s in Hawaii we think we’re dying.”
Then there was all the white stuff. Looking around the neighborhood, she saw people scurrying to remove it from their driveways.
Before she attempted the back-breaking chore, her neighbors came to the rescue.
One shoveled her sidewalk. Another used his snowblower on her driveway.
“I didn’t know who did it, or when they did it, or how they did it,” she said. “And then Kathy Emory, my guardian angel (and neighbor) helped me chisel the rest of the ice off my driveway. And later, we warmed up at her house in front of her fireplace with a bottle of wine. I have the best neighbors in the world.”
OK, true confession time. Before she moved, what did she think about people who lived in states with severe winters?
“I thought they were crazy!” she said. “Because … why would you live there?”
Now she knows.
“We bought this beautiful house in this adorable neighborhood,” she said. “I was going into storybook land.”
The falling snow only made it more magical.
“It’s gorgeous,” she said. “Absolutely gorgeous.”
So far she has made a snow angel and is looking forward to making her first snowman.
Of course, not every first-timer takes so rapidly to the KC cold.
Nick and Sabrina Foster moved to Leawood three years ago from Santa Barbara, Calif., to be closer to family. The management consultant and home health nurse stayed for a year. And then moved back.
“I guess I’m just a West-Coast weenie,” Sabrina said by phone. It got so cold she actually cried several times. “My car battery died, I got stuck in the snow, and Nick had an accident,” she said. “It was like a sign from God that we were not supposed to be here. I really like the change of seasons — until it snows and gets really cold. Then, you know, you can have it.”
The couple lost money in the move back. But it was worth it to get away from the “permafrost.”
“I thought I could handle it,” Sabrina said. “I was wrong. I can still feel the way the temperature bit right through my skin. There were really nice people there, but do I regret moving (to Leawood)? I’d have to say yes. I’m just a California girl.”
It’s “relatively rare” for people to move to cold-weather states after living exclusively in winterless havens, said Scott Sander, senior recruiter for Management Recruiters of Kansas City.
“Winter certainly is a barrier,” he said. “Even if a career-oriented candidate is willing to move from a warm-weather state, their spouse may not be.” Employers, on the other hand, worry that candidates from warm-weather states may not stick around after facing a real winter.
Speaking of which, Jeanette Cave still hasn’t driven in snow — at least nothing deep. Because she has retired from her career as an insurance underwriter, she doesn’t have to get up and hustle to work in a frozen wonderland. She has never scraped a sheet of thick ice off of her windshield, never dealt with a frozen lock or had her car walled in by a snowplow.
“Be careful what you wish for,” she said. “I had always said it would be kind of cool to live in some place where there were all four seasons — at least for a time. Because it’s such a cool experience. And when you’ve never done it before it’s exciting.”
Their dog has had to make the same adjustments. The couple tried to help by giving him doggie booties to wear in the snow.
“We’ve got 6 or 8 inches of snow and he’s going out on the path that (Jeanette) scooped for him when he sees a squirrel (which they don’t have in Hawaii),” Jack said. “He took off like a rocket for the squirrel. Booties are flying everywhere. And the next thing you know he comes back in and his whole face is covered with snow and he’s just looking up at us like … ‘what?’”
For Jeanette, just like her dog, the challenge is in adjusting long-term to Kansas City’s climate.
“It’s all very novel the first winter,” her husband said. “The question is, how do you feel about that same amount of snow on the second and the third winter?”
So far so good.
“I love Kansas City,” Jeanette said. “But I know I will experience Hawaii again, so maybe that’s why I don’t worry about it.”
The couple are keeping their home in Honolulu.
“Talk to us in another couple of years and see how we’re doing,” Jack said.
To reach James A. Fussell, call 816-234-4460, or email email@example.com.