The Rockwood Files: Ice, ice, baby

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

If I could type this column while wearing fur-lined gloves, I’d do it. I’m guessing the result would be so riddled with typos that my editors would think I’d suffered a stroke. Instead, I type with what feels like chunks of ice attached to my wrists.

Winter is a tough time of year for those of us who have perpetually cold hands. My hands – and feet – have been cold for as long as I remember. I’m guessing I have maybe one or two blood vessels running into my hands and feet, and even those seem to be on vacation at least half the time. I asked Dr. Google about this problem, and he tossed out a long list of possible diseases and disorders, most of which I can’t pronounce much less spell.

I’m lucky, though, because having cold hands and feet isn’t painful, even though it’s uncomfortable and often annoying. Sometimes it’s a bit embarrassing to shake hands with someone new and notice their mild look of shock when our hands touch. I’m always tempted to say, “Don’t worry. I’m not a ghost. It’s just poor circulation.”

Most of us who have cold hands and feet learn different tricks to help take the edge off our sub-zero situation. Sliding your hands under your legs helps a little. Sitting cross-legged on the sofa makes a bit of difference. And sneaking your feet over to your husband’s side of the bed and putting them on his toasty warm legs is quite effective, but there’s a good chance he’ll flinch, wake up and then accuse you of being an iceberg or a corpse. (Or so I’ve heard.)

Before you scoff and say, “Just wear thick socks,” trust me, I’ve tried that. It’s entirely possible to still have icy cold feet inside thick socks. I need an outside heat source to cut through the cold. That’s why I’ve stashed a heating pad at the foot of my bed. It’s nearly impossible to doze off when your feet are too cold, and wearing thick socks in bed has always felt wrong. So I wait until the heating pad warms my feet, and then it shuts itself off while my brain shuts down and sends me to sleep.

A few weeks ago, I decided that having cold feet during the day is counter-productive for creative work, so I ordered a second heating pad to put under the desk in my home office. The new heating pad looks like a big pouch – a hot pocket just for frigid feet. It got great reviews from hundreds of other cold-feet fellows.

It works so well that our Beagle, Charlie, has decided he’d like to use it, too. Instead of staying in his dog bed, he trots over to my heating pad and curls up there. I want to shoo him away and keep the heat for myself, but what if his feet are cold, too? Maybe he can’t take a nap until he defrosts his paws. I can relate to that, so we’ve agreed to share.

Now that I’ve got warming devices for my feet at night and during the workday, I should figure out how to warm up my hands. Perhaps I could rig up a heat lamp over my computer keyboard – like the ones they use at gas stations to keep hot dogs warm. Would that work? Perhaps I should consult a computer expert before I try it. With my luck, I’d probably melt my hard drive and fry my files.

After all is said and done, at least I can fall back on this cliché but reassuring sentiment: “Cold hands, warm heart.” If this is true, my heart is a blazing bonfire. Too bad that heat doesn’t reach all the way to my hands and feet.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.