Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Day...the aftermath

I have always been told that I'm paranoid. You may remember that thought #4 flying through my mind as I crept up the hill in the snow was that I was probably just paranoid, but I was imagining the middle school staff watching me through the commons windows and laughing at my misfortune. It turns out, I'm not paranoid. I just really, really know my co-workers. After having the day off yesterday for snow (I bet you thought I was going to say extreme heat) I returned to work today to be met with a roomful of "So, have any trouble getting home Friday?" while biting their lips to stop smiling and trying stifle their hysterical laughter. That's right. My friends, my teammates, the people I spend more time with than anyone but my husband and son, were in fact, standing at the commons windows Friday, pointing and laughing. But that's ok. I know it was all in good rib jabbing fun. Plus, I'm totally ok with being the resident transplanted southern girl who doesn't understand why any of them would be fine with bus duty on a day with wind chills in the negatives. I think I'll continue to greet children right inside the door, in front of the toasty warm heater and I'll get there by hitching a ride with a snow professional.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

You have got to be kidding me!

I am from the south. Growing up, I thought a bad winter was one that dipped below 40 degrees for more than 2 consecutive weeks. By this time in February, we were pretty much just waiting for the jonquils to pop up and the robins to return any minute. It was quite delightful. Summers, on the other hand...well those, not so much. But the winters, overall, were not at all terrible.

I do not live in the south. I know there are many places in the US that are even more not in the south than my small town in northwest Missouri, but for all intents and purposes, this is a tundra compared to where I grew up. This has been, by far, the snowiest winter I've seen, and I've lived here 5 years. Now, due to my southern background, the first snow of the winter, I'm as giddy as a little kid because quite frankly, never enjoying a large amount of snow as a child, I feel a bit cheated. (But then I remember how not cold it was and feel better instantly.) Even the second and third snow, I'm a little excited. But now that we're on like the eighth snow (I've lost count) I'm just a wee bit tired of the stuff. We've missed 6 days of school, which we make up at the end-and don't even get me started on why my southern hometown has actual built in snow days (where it rarely snows) and we have no built in snow days (where it's snowed every year I've lived here). There have also been 2 or 3 days this year that we've had to dismiss early for the weather, which are the most chaotic days ever. Such a thing happened yesterday.

When I was getting ready to leave my house Friday, I had forgotten all the talk of possible snow until I opened my front door. It was just starting to snow. Now, most days my husband and I ride into town together (it's about 7 miles from our house) and if it's looking bad, we take the 4 wheel drive 4 runner. It just so happened that my son was still sleeping angelically at 7 a.m. when I was ready to leave and I just didn't see the point in awaking him, therefore, putting him in a bad mood and causing a bad day for everyone involved. My husband said are you sure you don't want me to just wake him up and drive you in? I said oh no, I'll be fine. I don't think its supposed to be that bad. That is where I went wrong. I just wouldn't know it for a few hours.

I left my house and when I got on the highway, I was surprised at how covered it already was. No problem, I've been driving on this stuff for 5 years now, and I really was fine. Got to town, and was even more surprised because the roads hadn't been touched by a plow or salt truck. Usually, they are very quick to work on the roads the second it starts precipitating. I guess they were sleeping in a bit while the rest of us were heading off to our various places of employment. I arrived at school and made the treacherous walk to the building. (The parking lot is very far from the front door. Sometimes I question the design of that particular feature and Friday morning was one of those times.)

The kids were abuzz with the weather situation. If you've never heard 10 and 11 year olds speculate on the possible outcomes of situations, it's really funny. They sit around like old men in the coffee shop, but the only thing they can add to a conversation is whatever they've heard their parents say. They try to sound like they know what they're talking about, but they usually get it confused and it's just hilarious to listen to. (Case and point, election time. These kids don't know a thing about politics but the stuff they ranted about during the presidential election was positively hysterical. You can not tell me a 10 year old would actually think a thing about taxes and what possibilities each potential president might bring for those taxes. Little ears hear very well and little brains remember a lot-except when they need to remember it for a test.) So, naturally, every 5 minutes we were asked "Are we getting out early?" which I suppose is the school equivalent of "Are we there yet?" We attempted to get on with our day, until 8:50 which the loudspeaker dinged. This was it. The fateful announcement. School would be dismissed at 11:15, which is pretty early. They usually try to have us stay until 1:10. Of course, the entire school erupted into spontaneous cheers and the next 2 hours were completely worthless in terms of learning.

We made it to 11:15 and sent the kids on their way. Some of the buses hadn't arrived yet, and the teachers are asked to stay until all of the buses leave, but my team (we have teams of teachers at the middle school, and I'm on the 5th grade team. Because I teach 5th grade. See how that works?) was kind enough to let me head on since they all live in town and I do not. So I gathered my uneaten lunch and my purse, bundled up, and headed to my car. I hadn't looked out the window in all this time (I was too busy until then) so I didn't really know how much it had snowed. Oh wow, it had snowed like 3 or 4 inches since I had arrived. I got in my car and let it warm up for a few minutes, while I plotted my course. When I felt ready to tackle my trip home, I eased it into first gear and started to leave the parking lot. I got to the end of the drive where I had to stop and look both ways for traffic. I was turning left out of the parking lot. The road in front of the school is a slight hill to the left, and I'm pretty positive when I say slight, I mean slight. I've never had any trouble on it with any other winter weather so I really didn't think it would be a problem. Again, this is where I went wrong.

I waited until there were no vehicles coming, thank goodness, and turned left. My car literally inched out into the street. Inched. Out. Into. The. Street. I finally got fully in my lane and then continued to inch up the hill. Literally, inch by inch. I had the gas on the floor and I was going nowhere. I was rapidly switching my feet back and forth from the clutch to the gas like I was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or something, and I was still inching. My pulse quickened. I started breathing fast. My face turned red. I continued what I was doing, because there was absolutely nothing else I could do. I kept inching. Then my face turned even more red when cars started passing me. You know they thought I was just some scaredy cat that didn't want to go more than 3 mph (at least I think that's what the speedometer said. It's hard to be exact when it's under the 5 mph mark.)

As I continued to inch and hyperventilate simultaneously, several thoughts flashed through my head:
  1. I should have taken my husband up on his offer to drive me into town. Then I wouldn't be shaking like a trailer park in the path of a tornado.
  2. Why, oh why, did my driver's ed instructor see fit to entirely skip over the chapter about driving in winter weather? Didn't he know that just because we were taking the course in Arkansas in the summer time, didn't mean that one day, the chances might be pretty good of at least one of us landing in the great white north somewhere in front of a middle school, inching our way up a very slight hill?
  3. I wonder if this is what it would be like to try and luge UP the hill. (I've been watching too much of the Olympics, apparently.)
  4. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I could swear the entire middle school staff might be looking out the front windows, pointing and laughing at me inching up this hill.
Pretty much the whole ordeal was brutal and it felt like it took me about 8 hours to get up to the top of this hill.

I finally got to the highway, which still wasn't cleared, and safely made it the 7 miles to my house. I have never been so grateful to get out of a vehicle in my life. It took me almost 40 minutes to drive what normally takes me 15. I spent the rest of the day inside resting my frazzled nerves. All I can do is hope that everyone was intent on their own safe driving, that no one realized who was in that silver Volkswagen inching up the hill, because I seriously, seriously thought I was going to die. From embarrassment, that is.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Live in the moment...or some equally cliche title

Note: I wrote this a week ago but I wasn't near a computer when I wanted to write it. So, I've been carrying it around in my purse on a small notepad I grabbed off my desk at work. (I'm taking the notepad back, in case any boss type person happens to read this.) Anyway, I'm obviously a huge procrastinator since all I had to do was type it and here it is a week later and I haven't. I had every intention of doing it this afternoon, but at 3:05, tragedy struck room E151 and I was in such a, for lack of a better term, crappy mood, that I thought it was bad karma to type a tranquil post while radiating fury. (Don't worry, I'm sure I'll share the tragic story sometime) I eventually calmed down, watched my favorite sitcoms, and am in a much better place, so I'm giving it a try. Enjoy.

As I look back on my life growing up, I really had much to be thankful for. (For which to be thankful?? The teacher in me just can't take a break) My parents loved me and spent many hours with me, either playing games, teaching me something, talking with me, and supporting me in everything I did. Sometimes, it was the simplest things that made me so happy. One of my most favorite things to do was to load up with my dad (& oftentimes my pesky brother-I mean that in the most loving way possible) and go look for deer at Fort Chaffee. We would fight for a turn with the binoculars (camo colored, small, had a distinct rubber smell to them that to this day I can swear I smell sometimes) and keep track of how many deer we each saw in a slight competition (slight might be an understatement). I loved looking at the old buildings around the base, and trying to imagine them when the paint was still fresh and with the hustle and bustle of an active base around them. I liked pointed out the chapels, the golf course, the swimming pool, the cemetery (was there a cemetery? Now I'm thinking I made that part up...). I even remember one time we took my grandfather's Cutlass convertible-it was a profitable evening in terms of wildlife spotting. I believe we even made up a song to keep track of our numbers-something like 28 deer, and a buck, and a bird, and snake, and a bobcat (Obviously, song writing was not our strong suit.) Anyway, these excursions stick out in my mind as some of the best family spent. Side note: That Cutlass has since been fully redone by my grandpa and is so stinkin' cherry that I wouldn't dream of taking it to look for deer. One of those crazy animals might jump out in front of it and mess up the paint job!

Last Sunday afternoon, we were feeling a little cabin feverish so my husband and I loaded up our son and took to the gravel roads. For 2 hours, we drove the countryside, watching for wildlife and taking in the sights. Seeing crumbling, abandoned farmhouses and barns and watching animals dart through the trees reminded me of the wonderful times my family used to have doing exactly the same thing. That's when I realized that I can treasure the memory and be grateful for the experience, but I don't necessarily have to long for times gone by, because now I have the chance to pass the experience on to my son. I truly hope he can learn to enjoy the simple things in life the way my dad taught me with all those lazy Sunday drives.