I'm pretty sure you'd still be reading this newspaper at the usual time even if I had followed the lead of Rochester Mayor Ardelle Brede and announced that all non-essential workers should stay home Monday due to the extreme cold. The story about Brede asking non-essential city workers to stay home left a lot to the imagination as it never stated what defines "essential" or what effect it will have on Rochester city government.

I feel all people in our organization are essential and would think all people in our organization feel they are essential as they all contribute to producing the newspaper you are reading today. The weather, which included wind chill readings below -50 degrees Monday morning, is just one of the many obstacles we face each week.

The brutal cold may or may not define our essential role at work, but it does tend to help define us as people.

Saturday, I was at the appropriately named Polar Bear run, held in toasty 20-degree weather before the temperature plummeted, where I heard a couple women talking about the impending cold snap. Talk about the weather tends to dominate our conversations all year long in Minnesota, but the volume becomes extreme when we are facing weather extremes.

One woman acknowledged to the other that it may be cold, but she is pleased that the days are getting longer. Now that is an optimist, one who sees the bright side even when the worst is about to come.

People with similar outlooks will tell us that it won't be long for things to turn around as the day our average temperature starts going up is about one week away (Jan. 17 when the average low is 3 and the average high 20). Others will tell us that it could be worse, pointing out when the actual temperature here fell to 42 below zero on Jan. 7, 1887, or when the average temperature for the entire month of January was -2.3 degrees in 1912.

The cold defines others as competitors or risk-takers. For some people, the extremes become opportunities to challenge or test individuals.

I know some fellow runners were just itching to get out for a run Monday, just so they could say they did it.

At least the crazy risk-takers prepare themselves for the brutal cold. The extremes in weather lend definition to the ignorant or unprepared - the people who walk out the door in -25 degree weather as if it were just another winter day with no hat or gloves.

Others, jump in a car as if the artificial environment will keep them in comfort, never preparing for the possibility of a breakdown. I suppose the prevalence of cell phones has allowed that foolishness to survive because help is always available without leaving the car.

Still, when flesh can freeze in a matter of minutes, there are circumstances where more protection from the elements than a cell phone is needed.

The brutal weather can also define us all as true Minnesotans. People in other parts of the country can't fathom what it is like here when we have ridiculously low temperatures.

For some residents, the weather may make them question their decision to live in Minnesota. For others, it is a badge of honor to survive our winters and proudly call themselves Minnesotans. And, for others in our state, it makes them appreciate the other things Minnesota has to offer even more.

So how has this Arctic blast defined me?

I've lived in Minnesota long enough that I know better weather is coming, but I also know there is also a chance we could still get some worse weather before winter is over. So, I guess that would make me realistically optimistic.

I will go out for a run even when the temperature dips below zero, but I wouldn't even think of purposely going out on days like Monday when it is just brutal. So, I'm leaning toward the risk-taking extreme, but not all the way.

At times I have foolishly ventured out for errands unprepared for dangerous weather. However, I respect the weather that can create dangerous conditions and try to correct my mistakes. Perhaps that makes me a lifelong student who sometimes forgets the lessons.

And, though the weather does bring up reservations about living here, I would never seriously consider moving just because of a cold snap. I like to boast that I lived through this, even if I don't enjoy it when it is here. More importantly, it makes me appreciate summer days in Minnesota, a working car, a heated house, the great people around me, the land and culture of our state, and so many other things I sometimes take for granted.

I guess if you put that all together, it defines me as a true Minnesotan.