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Some Things Don’t Wait

Monday, January 3, 2022.  Chores and tasks lay ahead.  Laundry.  Respond to emails.  Make plans for a club meeting.  Submit a column to the newspaper. 

            The column, a letter addressed to 2022, was written and ready for one more read-aloud. Then Husband’s edits:  insert words I omitted or maybe add an s to a word I meant to write plural.

            But Mother Nature gave us snow and Monday tasks and that column, fell to the wayside. I sat where I begin most days to drink coffee, list blessings, read a devotion, write notes, and watch a few birds.  But Monday, I munched on grapes and drank coffee and stared outside for a long time.

            Except for driveways and streets, everything was white – clean, brilliant, beautiful.  Every branch, every twig, were laden with snow and many more birds came to our birdfeeder that is about 18” from my window. 

            Brown house finches ate quickly and flew.  A downy woodpecker pecked into an open feeder hole as he would into a dead tree.  A red Northern cardinal perched, but didn’t eat until a female cardinal sat beside him.  Both held seeds in their beaks and turned their heads side to side before flying away. 

            A Carolina chickadee, smaller than the other birds, perched at the feeder’s top as if claiming ownership before he chose a perch and stayed a while.  A tufted titmouse joined the chickadee, not giving up his perch quickly.

            I didn’t immediately identify several birds about the size of house finches.  Their dark charcoal -colored backs and tailfeathers set off their white bellies and orange beaks.  Looking through my bird field guide, I found the junco, a sparrow that winters in the southeastern states.  And I found a date I’d written when I’d spotted juncos another time: February, 2021.

            Doves strutted slowly on the ground and picked up seeds that had been dropped by other birds.   I admired their patience.

            Then I learned my Grands across town were playing outside. “I’m coming over,” I texted Daughter.  She responded, “Come quickly. After two hours outside, it’s almost time for hot chocolate.”

            “Want to ride down the hill, Gran?” Lucy asked.  While I considered how steep the hill was and the many trees, my Grand jumped onto her sled and flew down the hill.  I didn’t sled or roll like a log down the hill or throw fistfuls of snow down anyone’s coat, but I did make the biggest snow angel and stomp a giant S while my Grand stomped all the letters to spell her name.

            I lost miserably playing a game of UNO that went on and on because nobody, my four Grands nor I, wanted it to end.  What’s better than sitting inside a warm house, wrapped in a blanket, and drinking hot chocolate after playing outside on winter’s first snow day?

            Chores and tasks wait.  Playing with Grands and watching birds do not.   

            And that previously written column?  Maybe it’ll keep until next week.


Bring on More Snow

“You may have two cookies, “I told my 5 1/2 year-old Grand.

“Two? Can’t I have more? Four?” Micah asked. I bit my lip to not say, “Be happy for what you get.” Instead I said, “It bugs me when you ask for more. How about saying, ‘Thanks, Gran?’ Then after we both eat two, we might have another one.”

As I write this on Friday, the tree branches and shrubs are covered with snow. White flakes stick on the grass, but immediately melt on the roads and sidewalks. Like my Grand, I want more.

I want enough snow to completely blanket the ground. Enough for Micah to sled down hills on top of snow instead of sledding on snow mud as he did today.  Enough to build a big five-foot tall snowman in the middle of his family’s snow covered yard, not scrape together all the snow in his yard to build a tiny two foot, skinny Frosty.  The last time we had a really big snow Micah was less than two years old.

It’s time to do all we can to bring on more snow for all kids, big and small, and some my Facebook friends shared ideas.  Clean your car really well, inside and out. Plan an out-of-town trip. Wish for an arctic blast and a moist low pressure system from the south at the same time.

I turned to my teacher friends for more creative ideas that involve pajamas, ice cubes, crayons, and dancing.  One listed them and suggested this order:

Wear your pajamas inside out and backwards.

Get ice cubes out of the freezer and throw them off your front porch over your shoulder while singing “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.” Turn on front porch light so neighbors can see you.

Flush leftover ice cubes.

Put a white crayon in the freezer and a spoon under your pillow.

Most importantly, teachers should not take their plan books home. It will jinx the snow.

Another teacher explained her official snow dance. Sing “Let It Snow” and twirl three times while holding your hands high in the air and wriggling your fingers to mimic snow falling.  This is most effective when teacher and students dance together at the end of a school day.

One teacher keeps a snow bird in her desk. When she is desperate for a snow day, she shakes the snow bird while her fellow teachers gather around to cheer her on. Her snow bird needs a vigorous shaking!

Another teacher said, “My kids ask God to bring us snow to play in and so Momma can stay home. Doesn’t God have a keen ear for children’s prayers?” And I’ve been reminded that Mother Nature needs to shake out her feather bed every winter and that’s what makes snow.

Whatever it takes, it’s time to sing and dance, throw and flush ice cubes, wear inside out pajamas, sleep on a spoon, freeze a white crayon, and pray. A skiff of snow is good, but I want more.

Wishing for a Snow Day

“If there’s no school tomorrow, the first day back we’ll have our spelling test,” I told my 6th grade students. I hoped the prediction of 4-6” of snow would come true and school would be closed on Friday.

“What if it’s Monday?” a student asked.

“We’ll have spelling test. But if the weatherman is right, we’ll get lots of snow and it’ll be really cold and we won’t have school until the middle of next week. Do a snow dance tonight,” I said and held up my crossed fingers.

“I’m wearing my pajamas backwards,” said one girl, suggesting that would be good luck and snow. “Me, too!” sang a chorus of many. As much as my students wished for a no-school snow day, I wished harder. Snow days were happy days for me, as a student and teacher.

When I was young, Dad was the principal of Pickett County High School so when schools closed, my family was home. Chores were put aside, except necessary tasks, such as feeding life stock and milking the cow and keeping a fire going in the coal-burning furnace. Mom, Dad, my older brother, and I were home, sometimes for several days.

Mom made a pot of vegetable soup and we played games. I was about 8 years old when I learned to play Pig, a card game that’s popular in Pickett County, and requires four players and partners. We switched partners after each game, and we’d declare a grand winner, never me, but I wasn’t given much slack.

We also played Hearts, a card game that doesn’t require partners and could be played with only three people so I’d play if two more would. And Mom and I played Scrabble on our cardboard playing board and made words using the small wooden blocks with letters. I was always ready for a game and dealt the cards for Solitaire when alone.

As a teacher, snow days meant sleeping late. I loved unplanned days off. Calm and restful days to make soup and bake cookies. Days to play games and catch up on home projects. Days with my own children to sled and build snowmen and drink hot chocolate and play games and read books. Days accumulated by teaching extra minutes every day to allow no-school days without adding days at the end of the school year.

On snow days, I stayed home. I reasoned if the roads were dangerous for school buses to be driven on, they were dangerous for me. Sometimes the only slick roads were county mountain roads with bridges and people questioned why schools were closed for just a skiff of snow, but I supported, and still support, those who make decisions for the safety of all school children.

Now, as a retired teacher, when I hear, “Putnam County schools are closed,” feelings of calm and relief and happiness wash over me. Maybe I’ll do a snow dance and wear my pajamas backwards. I need a snow day!


Snow Days

IMG_0712The snow came down and the text messages flew. Daughter and two of her friends planned a sledding party. So right after lunch, nine children and their parents hit our backyard. Most suited out in snow pants and boots. Waterproof gloves and coats. Some with snow ski glasses and face warmers. The dads unloaded wooden sleds with metal runners and big round plastic discs. Quite different from the days when I was a kid.

On a snowy days, the Mochow family would call. “Come on down. We’ll meet you at the top of the hill.” And they meant down. Their house was at the end of a curvy road leading to Star Point Dock, which the Mochows owned, near Byrdstown.

I bundled in the warmest, most water-resistant garb Mom could put together. Flannel pajamas and two pairs of pants. A sweatshirt and heavy coat and a knitted hat. Two pairs of gloves or mittens – neither water proof. To keep my feet dry, I stuck each foot in a bread bag. A thin plastic bag that held a store bought loaf of bread the day before. Then two pairs of knee socks and whatever boots or shoes I could stuff my feet into. Maybe Dad’s oldest barn boots.

Mom, Dad, my brother, and I piled into the car and Dad carefully drove to the top of Star Point hill where Ted Mochow met us and two other families. Ted drove a 4-wheel drive jeep and only the three mothers, who carried food for a pitch-in meal, rode in it. We five kids and our daddies rode on a long sled tied to the back of the jeep.

What a fun ride! A long homemade wooden sled made for pulling, not for sledding. Was it safe? Probably not. Somehow the rope was tied with a loop and in case of an emergency the person riding in front of the sled could unhitch the sled.

Dad usually sat in the front and I hunkered right behind him. We sat like bobsledders – our legs straddling the person in front of us. My brother, the oldest boy, got the last seat. Around curves, up and down hills for more than a mile we rode and then we walked up a steep hill to the Mochow’s home.

A perfect hill for sledding. No store bought sleds for us, but instead old metal cookie sheets and pieces of cardboard. The cardboard went faster and we could bend it to form custom made sleds. Snow angels, snowmen, snowballs, snow cream. All part of our snow fun.

Just like the snow fun in my backyard last Friday. The six-year-olds fashioned snow angels. Kids sled double with their mamas and daddies. The four-year-old ate handfuls of snow. One husband stood behind a tree and pelted his wife with snowballs. Several snowmen were begun – none finished. The deep snow finally packed down so that even the youngest, lightest weight child sled down the hill quickly.

And then they all came inside and stripped down. Fifteen sets of gloves and boots. Snow bibs. Hats. And layers of clothes. I loved that the closest-to-skin layer the youngest kids wore was their pajamas.

And when kids took off their boots and wet socks, I thought they should’ve worn bread bags. Their feet would’ve stayed dry. Not warm, but dry.


This Time Last Week

DSC03442“On our way. Friends coming too,” Daughter texted. A morning snow sledding party for nine children, ages 8 months to 10 years, and their parents. Daddies hoisted sleds out of the back of SUVs, and mothers carried food baskets. Husband entertained our youngest Grand, who is too young to sled down our backyard hill, and I donned my boots and coat to watch the outside fun.

Eight children, five adults, and twelve sleds, in all shapes and sizes at the top of the hill. Within minutes a line formed, much like snow skiers waiting to ride a ski lift. “I’m next!” was the mantra of the morning. Children rode doubles on a long wooden sled with their daddy or mother. Older child and younger or two youngers doubled. They raced. Girl against boy. Daddy against son. Mother against daddy. And they lugged their sleds back up the hill. “Walk up the side. Not in the middle of the hill,” the parents shouted, over and over and over again.

One daddy stood at the bottom of the hill beside a big tree, a possible hazard. The children veered away from it or did just what their parents told them. “If you’re about to hit a tree or out of control, roll off your sled.” Two mommas sat with crossed legs on matching disc sleds at the top of the hill. “We’re next,” one said. “We’re going down together. Holding hands.” And they did. All the way to the bottom. Neither let go of the other’s hand and neither rolled off her sled as they headed straight toward the tree. One momma crashed into the side of the tree. She looked up at her husband, who had caught every child who had careened within a few feet of the tree. He threw up his hands and then helped her up. She was okay. I heard one of the older kids ask another, “Why didn’t she just roll off?”

Sleds were abandoned. Children made snow angels, ate handfuls of snow, and walked along the edge of the creek. (I anticipated a snowball fight – that was the next day when only Daughter’s family came to sled.) Time to go inside where Husband had the gas logs burning and had thermoses filled with hot water. The mothers’ baskets overflowed. Hot chocolate and cider mixes, apple juice, bananas, cookies, pretzels, yogurt, string cheese.

Wet snow clothes were thrown into the dryer. Coats hung over open doors. Boots lined up in corners. “So I’ll know where they are,” one mother said. They ate and drank. They sat. They talked. They laughed. Big kids lay in the floor. The young ones cuddled beside parents.

“Who’s ready to go back out?” a mother said. The older kids quickly bundled up. A younger one balked. “I don’t want all that stuff. I just want to play!” Her choice was simple. Wear all that stuff or stay inside. She wore the stuff. Within twenty minutes, only Husband, youngest Grand, and I sat by the fire. Sledding, round two, was short and then they left. They took their sleds and their empty food baskets.

Later that night, on Facebook I looked at pictures and read a post one of the mothers wrote. “Gotta love when childhood friend’s parents still invite us over to play in the backyard. It’s like we are 16 again…but have husbands and children now.” I gotta love it, too.


Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 9.03.03 AMThanks to Winter Storm Octavia my Grands and their friends have sled down our backyard hill for two days, and we’ve partied inside with hot chocolate and cookies. What fun! Now, I’m done with winter. Done! Like I did this time last year, I’ve searched for Funny Days, Weird Holidays, and Celebrations on http://www.daysoftheyear.com for ways to enjoy cold winter days.

Today is Battery Day. Just think how important the simple battery is to our way of life. How many household devices use a battery? Maybe I chose Battery Day because I recently turned the ignition switch on my van and nothing happened, except for a rat-a-tat-tat sound. A simple fix, I was told. (Thank you, Husband, for letting me drive your car while you installed a new battery in mine.) The first battery was invented in 1800 so this is a 215-year birthday celebration. February 18 is also Drink Wine Day. Whoever chose mid-February to celebrate drinking wine must have also been searching for ways to enjoy these dreary cold days.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 8.54.57 AM  February 25th is Inconvenience Yourself Day. A day to put on your happy face and be nice. The website states, “…this day should be an incentive for others to acknowledge their appreciation for acquaintances or strangers and to promote a respectful attitude and an attentive demeanor.” To hold a door or carry something heavy for someone. Help someone cross a street. “A day to reflect on what others need and how we can help.” At first I thought this day should be called Kindness Day, but the emphasis is to inconvenience myself to help another person. It’s also Chocolate Covered Peanuts Day. Chocolate and peanuts – my favorite candy combination. It’s no inconvenience to devour a Goo Goo!

Last year on March 4th, I celebrated Grammar Day and Pound Cake Day. Other choices are Toy Solider Day and International Scrapbooking Industry Day. Neither seems to fit what I do, but my scrapbooking friends can cut and paste from sunrise to sundown. I learned that Toy Solider Day is deceiving. It’s intended to unite fans of various roleplaying activities. From nurses to scouts to cowboys to soldiers to whatever anyone wants to be. So on this day, we can all dress up and pretend.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 8.51.48 AMWorld Plumbing Day is March 11. A day to reflect on the role that plumbing plays in preserving good health and our way of life. My great aunt and uncle didn’t have indoor plumbing when I was nine years old and spent a week with them. I took a hot bath as soon as I got home, and I’ve never forgotten the spiders in Aunt Anne and Uncle Everett’s outhouse. Hallelujah for plumbing!

March 18 is Awkward Moments Day. I celebrate this often. Every time I see someone who says, “Hi, Susan. How you doing?” and I know the face – not the name. I listen for a clue. A former student or his parent? One of my children’s friends? Someone I knew in another life? The website says I should celebrate with humor. Laugh and move on to the next awkward moment. Yes, there will be more.

Check out the website and choose your own days. How about What if Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Days? Or Open an Umbrella Indoors Day? Or International Ask a Question Day? Chocolate Caramel Day? Whatever it takes to get to Friday, March 20. Just 30 more days.


Winter Weather – What’s to Like?

imgresI hate winter weather. I’m not complaining, just stating a fact. I hate bitterly cold temperatures and rainy 40-degree days.

I don’t like wearing a coat, a hat, a scarf, gloves, and boots. Not only do I feel like an overstuffed teddy bear, I look like one, and putting on all that garb takes time. Everybody’s time. Last night our five Grands who live across town and their parents ate supper at our house. Our oldest Grand, who is 9, called on the phone when I was ready to put the food on the table, and he said, “Gran, we’re running a little late because it takes so long to get everybody bundled up.” Spending time bundling up and being bundled up. What’s to like?

I remind myself that middle Tennessee is where I choose to live and I don’t plan to move and life is really good here so I do my best to appreciate this season.

Now is the time to watch birds. As I write this, I’m distracted because outside my window, a Downy Woodpecker evidently found a feast in an oak tree where a limb fell off recently. She pecked at that same place for several minutes, flew away, came back, and immediately a male Downy Woodpecker took her place. Did she get full and then invite him to her table?

And I really like seeing branches and twigs on deciduous trees. Springtime’s green leaves that turn brilliant colors in the fall hide the trees’ amazing structures. From the huge trunks to the toothpick twigs – each tree is unique. Have you seen a sunrise or sunset through the outline of trees? As beautiful as the colors of winter mornings and evenings are, the silhouettes of trees create even more incredible pictures.

Then there are comfort foods, like soup. Vegetable soup, made from all the leftover tidbits that I couldn’t throw away and stored in a freezer container and labeled For Soup. Or white chili. Brunswick stew. Turkey noodle soup.  Soup and cornbread on a cold winter day – divine.

Basketball is my sport – spectator sport, that is. I follow our home and state college teams: Tennessee Tech, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. But I’m happy watching any televised college game – women’s and men’s. I’m entertained through the first week of April, when the NCAA championships are played. Sometimes I scream, “Great pass!” and then realize that players on the opposing team made the pass. I love the play of a good game.

Back to cold weather attire – there are advantages. Long sleeves hide my sagging upper arms. Turtlenecks cover that area that it’s said no matter how many facelifts I have, my neck will tell my age. My spider veins and age spots are hidden. Give me a pair of old jeans and a soft sweatshirt and I’m dressed for the day until I run to the mailbox.

By the time I find and put on my coat and scarf and gloves and hat, it’s almost dark – 4:55 p.m. I grab the mail, run inside my warm house, heat up yesterday’s soup for supper, find a good ball game on TV, and settle in for the evening.

So maybe I’ve convinced myself that I like these winter days. But I still hate feeling like an overstuffed teddy bear.