When snow day dreams turn into nightmares

So last night I told you about our impromptu snow day (more like an ice day) and how I needed to remember to act like a kid sometimes and just enjoy those moments that I couldn’t control. Last night I was quickly reminded that after dark you have to turn into an adult again, otherwise the world can be a very scary place.

I was just settling in to go to sleep at 11:30 when some strange buzzing sounds and light flashes woke me up before all went dark and silent. We lost power. Not only that, but it seemed a transformer blew- Zach saw a bright flash of turquoise light in the backyard that was so bright, at first he thought we had been hit by lightning (personally, I was wondering if the wizarding world of Harry Potter was finally going to reveal itself to us. Or perhaps they did, but then they did a memory charm and convinced us a transformer blew- eh, possible?). The neighborhood was dark, it was late, so we locked the critters in the room with us and cuddled up to stay warm as we listened to the ice falling outside.

At 2:00am we awoke to a crash in the backyard. In my frazzled state of half-wakefulness I thought I heard someone yelling, but was later told that no, it must have been a part of my dream. I lived in the woods growing up, and I know the sound of falling branches and trees- that definitely fit the bill. As we ran to the back door to get a better look, I was convinced that I would find a tree protruding from the neighbor’s house, or, at the very least, a smashed fence. Lucky for me, my fears were unfounded. The neighbors behind us have a few large trees. Between the weight of the ice, the expanding and contracting from the temperature changes and the force of the wind- the top just couldn’t handle it anymore and it snapped- toppling right into our yard and scraping against our patio awning and the back fence on its way down as it showered ice over our roof and cement patio. We got lucky, it didn’t seem to do any damage (except, perhaps, to the bush it landed on).

So back to bed we went, cuddled up to the cat and the dog (luckily at this point, our power was back on and things were starting to warm up a little bit). We were a tad jumpy, eyes opening wide every time we heard more ice fall. But eventually we lulled ourselves back to sleep.

Crash! The next one was at 4:00am, and at this point, I was beginning to feel like a pro, though, admittedly, it sounded closer to our bedroom than the last one. With the ease of a scene previously well choreographed, we locked the animals in and stepped out to investigate. Same thing happened, just a little farther down, just a little closer to our bedroom. The shape loomed ahead in the dark as we shone our flashlights at it. Once again, we were very fortunate- for the second time it hit in the postage stamp part of the yard that was unused. So back to bed we went, once again jumpy to all sounds of falling ice.

It was quieter after that. At 6:30 the dog couldn’t handle it anymore and had to be taken out potty, but by then the steady crashing of ice had abated- though you could see the war it had waged on our house in the form of ice balls and shards scattered across our patio. The dog stepped carefully before running back inside to the warmth that awaited him.

When it sounded like everything had been calm for a few hours, we went out to explore our little winter wonderland. About five minutes after taking pictures of the ice hanging off of one particular tree, we watched a big piece of it snap off and tumble into the yard. Needless to say, we have retreated back to the safety of the house and have put all critters on lock down until I feel comfortable that they will not get impaled by dropping debris. We still hear the occasional snap and crash as another branch falls into the icy hands of its own fate. One more hit the house, but it was spindly and didn’t do much from what I could tell looking out the window.

Our road is still frozen, but the temperatures are slowly creeping to the upper thirties, so I have hope that we will escape the ice castle today. It will probably take a while because there is still such a thick sheet coating everything. In the meantime, I will live off of coffee, which I keep a bountiful supply of. Though I must admit, I am getting quite sick of the soup that I stocked up on when I had the flu. I will do the laundry I have been ignoring all week. When we can finally cruise off our hill, I think I will enjoy a nice big burger or eat a whole pizza to myself. Just because it’s something different.

Whatever your weather, be safe out there my friends. 

Snow Days and Ice Castles

On the west coast, we aren’t very good at the whole ‘snow’ thing. We like it, but if you’ve ever been through a Pacific Northwest winter, you will quickly realize that we are ill-iquipped for the rogue snow storm. A little flurry will send us into a tizzy (which is ironic, because we have them every single year). And a spot of ice? Forget about it, we are boarding up the doors and windows to protect ourselves against The Abominable Snowman and setting our kitchens on fire for warmth. We love winter, but we are not good at winter. We never believe the forecast and we are not prepared. Snow days are the days you eat the last pack of top ramen with stale fruit loops and wonder if this is how it will really end for you.

This week we had our first winter storm. I had been home sick with the flu on Wednesday (because this year I am attracting illnesses like a moth to flame). But Thursday morning I was ready to face ‘the big snow day’ as the news was calling it. Schools had made a preemptive strike this year and closed up their shutters before the first flake fell. Which meant that my commute in was glorious and dry. Partway through the morning, tiny flakes began to fall, and I was shocked to see an announcement that the office would be closing at noon. What? Come again? To be clear- we don’t close. Ever. I think in the past ten years we’ve maybe closed one time, and that was for the type of ice storm that left cars looking like pin balls bouncing around the streets of the city. I was planning on staying late to help my boss. But when 12:30 hit, the snow was coming down in sheets and even the most dedicated were ready to hit the road and crawl their way home. I live up on a big hill in the eastern part of town, a place that notoriously catches the brunt of the storms, and so when my coworkers attempted to coax me out the door, I pulled on my long socks, tucked in my scarf and marched out to my car alongside them. In solidarity, you know.

On the drive home there were a few cars in the ditch, a few spots where my traction light blinked a warning at me, and one occasion when an oncoming truck wobbled his way into my lane- but eventually, I crawled my way home and parked gratefully in my usual spot. The remainder of the afternoon was spent watching movies in a fuzzy robe while trying to get over the last embers of my flu.

Fast forward to this morning: we knew that the world was supposed to freeze overnight, but the news dismissed much of this, saying the roads would start melting at 7, and be freely passable by 10. My first mistake was believing them. You see, while this estimate may have been true in the heart of the city- I lived much farther away- on a side street up a steep hill. The general estimates do not apply to me. I heard my nephews yipping for joy when they got the news that school was cancelled right before I stepped out my front door at 6:30 and clung to the railing- solid ice everywhere. I slid down my driveway to my car and saw the ice castle we were encased in, not to be outdone by the beautiful glisten of the roads. To be more precise- the beautiful glisten of the several inches of ice that blanketed the roads. I pried open my car door and slid inside, and then I sat. How was I going to get out of this without smacking my precious car (a car I still owe a small fortune on) into something much harder and less forgiving than her? No, I could not do that to Ellie (yes, I named my car. I also named all of the potted plants in my office after Wild West characters: Bonnie, Clyde, Calamity Jane, Dinky Dalton and Fifel- I have a thing with naming inanimate objects; and no, that is not strange, that is quirky and charming). So I trudged back inside. And then outside again. And then inside one more time.

Huffing, I set my stuff down and reached out to some co-workers who graciously offered to help cover my work assignment that morning until I was able to skate down my hill. Just 30 minutes, I told myself; I would be in my desk before the docket even started. But thirty minutes later nothing had changed. There were still several inches of ice covering the ground, freezing rain pelting me as the wind whipped my hood off my head and the neighborhood children stared at me wide eyes as they tobogganed down their driveways and slid into the cul-de-sac wondering what on earth I could possibly be doing sliding down to my car and scrambling back up the slippery slope, tote bag filled with my lunch and daily supplies slung precariously over my shoulder. No, perhaps a few more hours and then I could make my great escape to the civilized world.

Well, it is now almost 4:00 and the ice is still holding firm to its love (the road). That is right, I have been the captive princess of my own little ice castle, restlessly roaming from room to room, stepping outside to check the conditions before dejectedly scurrying back up the driveway (a literal uphill battle all on its own) and texting my co-workers my regular update.

We have played real life bumper cars: ice rink edition- when one car slid into my fiance’s, luckily stopping short before hitting my own- and don’t worry, it was a slow slide and the ice encrusting his car blocked any possible damage. We still have not been able to push the offending car away because, alas- no traction.

Now, I am a firm believer that you should not stress yourself over things you cannot change. And today I repeatedly stressed myself over the weather and the fact that I was stuck away from my job. But I was also surrounded by family who got sick of my constant worrying and started trying to get my mind off of it. Eventually, I even got sick of myself and I listened. 

I gleefully got to watch my two nephews and my German Shepard playing in the backyard, all scuttling around trying not to knock each other over on the ice- the dog so frantic to avoid toppling the four year old that he scurried and slid right into the retaining wall. And I also had the satisfying moment when the 7 year old did exactly what I told him not to do: running on ice is not a good idea, and if you don’t listen to your aunt you will slip, you will fall, and then you will continue to slide while staring up at the sky in shock. And then said aunt will try not to laugh too obviously as she walks you back up to the front dooor amidst your most profound wailing (for the record, he was fine- when he realized he wasn’t getting a reaction, the wailing quickly stopped and he was begging to come back outside). I may be an evil aunt at times, but I’m not completely heartless.

I got to help the kids hide in my overflowing laundry hamper when the wind and ice were too much to play outside and a game of hide-and-seek was the only way to alleviate the excess energy a snowday provides to small children (and for the record, kids these days are way too easy to find- they will not only hide in the exact same place every time, but they will even ask you for assistance in getting into said location. So hmm- I wonder if you are exactly where I put you ten seconds ago- look, I found you. Oh I’m good). I got to watch a tv show on Netflix. And once I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be making it in to the office, I was finally able to enjoy my surprise snow day: something I haven’t had since I was a kid. I will be thankful for my awesome employees who don’t question my work ethic and eventually told me to get over it and be okay with the fact that they had it under control- and stop texting already, you’re making us tense. Getting to work wasn’t worth crashing my car or getting hurt. 

Next time, I will buy chains and take the forcast seriously. Or I will camp out at my co-worker’s house because she lives where it is flat and typically de-iced. And I know where her house is, so even if she says no, I can sit in my car until she feels guilty and let’s me inside. It’s a win-win, really.

But for today, I will try to enjoy a small surprise. I will reign over my ice castle (that does not appear to be melting before nightfall), I will settle in, make a few bags of popcorn and force the nephews to watch Frozen with me- because Olaf is cute and I am an adult so they have to listen to me. And then we can follow that up with some Ant-Man or Hulk, like we did last night. We can turn on our Christmas lights and play a fun little game (but please, no more hide-and-seek, the 7 year old cheats). Tonight I will remember the simple joys you only find when you are trapped in your house for a day. Tonight I will stop acting like such a boring adult bemoaning a missed work day. Instead I will remember the simple childlike excitement that always came with a surprise snow day. I will revel in the magic of the freezing rain and slide down my driveway on my bottom (intentionally this time) just to get a belly laugh out of the baby. Tonight I will be a kid again, if only for a fleeting moment.

So cheers, my friends- anyone want to build a snowman? 

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Right now I am sitting bundled up in blankets in my little office (I use this term loosely, as this little room doubles as my impromptu living room and occasional dining area- I live small). We put up our own strand of white christmas lights around the single window, and we are both working by their comforting soft glow tonight. There is a chill in the air and talk of snow next week. Yesterday at my dentist’s office we listened to all of those old holiday favorites everyone can sing along to. And tomorrow morning I have a date with my mom and sister to bake (hopefully) delicious holiday treats. It seems this year ran away with me before I could take a second to enjoy the scenery. 

It is the time of year for thankfulness and small acts of kindness. A time to remember all that we have and make sure those in our lives know their importance. I can occasionally appear to be a cynic (I prefer the term realist) on the outside, but inside I have always been a hopeless romantic who falls head over heels in love with this time of year. As cliche as it sounds, it isn’t about the bows and shiny wrapping paper. It’s not even about the twinkling lights and eggnog. What I love about this season can only be found in the smallest of moments.

It’s in the way my sister’s eyes light up when she finds the perfect Christmas tree. Even at 25, the magic is never lost on her. We will tramp through the lines and lines of trees, scrutinizing every detail until our noses are as red as cherries and we can’t feel our toes. And then she spots it. She grins like she did when we were kids and she stole my first dollhouse. We make our way back with our prize slung carefully over our shoulders and warm up over hot apple cider and rice crispy treats. And then onward home to trim the little beauty in all its glory. That’s why I love this holiday- because it puts a smile on the face of a girl who doesn’t catch many breaks the rest of the year.

It’s in the way I can dance in my car on the way to work and not even feel silly (I strongly suggest Jim Carey’s The Grinch soundtrack for this activity). It’s in the pay it forward coffees as Starbucks. It’s in the excited way my nephews tell me all about their letters to Santa or proudly hold out their freshly cut paper snowflakes. It’s in the midnight snowball fights on the front yard (in which Zach will, at some point, drop some down the back of my shirt). It’s in the small little thoughts of coworkers who try to make the office a little bit brighter. It’s in the way we all speak to one another a little more kindly, smile a little broader, listen a little bit longer when we ask how the other is. It’s in the calming twinkling of those beautiful lights that dance across our faces on late night walks with the dog, all bundled up with gloves and scarves.

There is a magic to this season that is unparalleled. When you stop to enjoy the life that it breathes into a soul during these dreary winter days. There is a warmth to it that you won’t find come January or February. It’s unique, it’s comforting, it’s a hopeful conclusion to a long and busy year, holding delicately a promise for the year to come.

Welcome back, my dear, sweet holiday season. This year, may we remember what is truly important and learn to find some common ground. May we bring one another smiles and friendship without ill intentions. It is the time of year for openness and hopeful endeavors. My friends, may you find all of the love and promise that you had hoped for this season, may you rediscover the childhood joy that still sleeps within, and may you embrace the simplistic beauty that surrounds us. This year, may we find comfort building bridges to one another instead of constructing walls to hide behind. May we remember who we once were and who we still hope to become. Cheers, my dearest friends. May we all embrace this magic and hold true to the true meaning that breathes life back into our weary souls.