Unfrozen

The snow is finally melting off. What’s left borders roadsides and sidewalks. It’s the consistency of sparkly, crunchy, stale marshmallows minus the stickiness. It contorts itself into shapes like rising fists or the Loch Ness Monster.

Loch Ness Monster

(source)

It’s eerie. But it fascinates me how things change consistency over time. Snow falls and it creates this cold, white blanket. Then it freezes and melts and freezes again. The berms of plowed snow in the parking lot of Ruby’s school are so large, they may last until June. The kids carved a slide on one.

The other news is schooling. I am 8 weeks into my first class for the master’s degree. Part of the requirements for this class is meeting with a writing coach. She gave input on my paper in week 3, which I finally got. Then she will give it again for week 7.  Her feedback to me was harsh. “You may have been able to write like this in high school…” one of the comments began. I had to stop reading. It stung. I consider myself a decent writer. I didn’t realize how much it was a part of my identity until that moment. I’ve been criticized before, but this felt different. In contrast, the class instructor has praised my submissions. This came out of left field, like a shrike out of the sky. I didn’t want to meet with her. I didn’t need any more input, thankyouverymuch. I’ll take my ball and go home. So there! Needless to say, I had forgiveness homework and I did it.

But the virtual meeting is part of the requirements. She only works 12-6 p.m., Monday through Friday. None of those times really work for me due to the time difference. I made an appointment for February 18, a holiday. I got into the virtual meeting room early, fiddling with the uncooperative web cam. Is it just me, or do web cams always feel a bit sleazy? Anyway, I never got it to work. Didn’t matter, cause she didn’t show up. I waited a half hour. Then at 45 minutes, I messaged her. Never heard back. After I emailed her in the courseroom, she responded. “You were an hour early. I am in Arizona.” My bad. I just assumed she was in Minnesota like the rest of Capella and subtracted 2 hours from my time. I sighed.

Fast forward to yesterday, the rescheduled meeting time. I drove to an open conference room and got set up. I braced myself for the worst. Then, a phone call came in. I answered it.

“Hi, this is Dr. Jones, the writing coach. Can we push our meeting a little later?”

I told her I couldn’t. I had rescheduled my lunch to make time.

“Oh, okay, ” she replied. “This won’t take long.”

Gulp.

“Well, I don’t have much to say. You have a really great style. Your writing is logical and it flows well. Your APA references look good. Just a couple of things to work on…”

I breathed out. She liked me. She really, really liked me! I took notes. Don’t use contractions. Use less personal pronouns, even when given permission. Check.

“You should also check out Capella’s writing resources. You have 163 minutes to use, and you paid for them. Especially since you’re a doctoral candidate.”

What?

“Uh, I’m not a doctoral student.”

“Oh.” She paused. Then went on. I couldn’t decide whether to be flattered at the inclusion or sad that she didn’t know what degree path I landed on.

I started out talking about snow. It started out as one thing, flaky, white and cold. It covered the earth in silence. Now, it’s hardened and melting daily as the season inches into spring. Our relationships change shape constantly, with the option to melt or freeze. We can forgive and move into a greater understanding of others, if we are open to it.

The Breakup

Note: This is not me breaking up with Jonathon. It’s Valentine’s Day. He’s a keeper.

 

Remember how I wrote about the magical properties of snow, just a few days ago? Remember that? How it was like your high school crush showing up at your door? Yeah. I think I’m over it. The snow continues to melt…slowly. The same insulating quality that makes snow great building material for igloos is the same quality that keeps it from melting, especially when it’s piled high.

Our neighbor called yesterday.

“Susan, did you know when the city plowed the main road, they threw up large berms of snow? They blocked both entrances to our access road.”

No, I didn’t know. Because I couldn’t get out of the driveway.

“Could you call them?” she asked. “I’ve called twice.”

I didn’t want to. I know the guys work around the clock to keep the main arterials safe, then the other roads in order of most used. But I did. I left a message for my old boss. He called right back.

“We’ll get you out of there before you go crazy,” he said.

“Too late,” I said.

He laughed.

And they came out a couple hours later and mowed down one of the egresses.

Now, we needed to do our part. Jonathon carved out a path for us to drive on. I helped a little. The top snow felt light and fluffy. Underneath, it had compacted and become like wet cement. Shoveling snow is not for wimps. Dakota shadowed us, diving into each shovelful as if searching for buried treasure.

Pepper car path.jpg

This morning, I tried throwing a ball to Dakota, staying on the cleared path. She lost it right away. I sighed. Another day without fetching tennis balls. I felt bad for her. We walked the half-plowed access road. The sidelined snow formed bizarre shapes, hardened in the freezing air, impromptu snow sculptures. The asphalt underneath my feet alternated between puddles, crunchy snow and ice. The air glowed, an early dawn reflected off the snow. Dakota trotted ahead of me, mostly sniffing for places to mark. I wondered what animals had braved the cold during the night.

When I came back inside, a voicemail greeted me. Must have been left yesterday.

“Susan, you rock! Look, they came down and did the lane! You are the hero for the day.” The neighbor said in her message.

She made me laugh. But we all know who the real heroes are. And they don’t need capes.

 

 

Snowmageddon Update

So. Today is the third day we’ve been home. All of us. This includes Dakota.

USPS has not delivered mail, and our full recycling bin sits lonely and abandoned at the top of the street. Shelton schools have cancelled every day so far. Thurston County closed Monday and Tuesday but opened on time today. Snow is up to Pepper-car’s bumper, a good 8-10″ of crunchy white powder.  This morning, Jonathon cleared off my car and tried to drive out of the piled-up snow. I saw the car’s lights turn on, a good sign. He pulled forward a little. He backed up a little. Again on both, and done. He came back inside, stamping his boots. I wasn’t going anywhere and neither was he.

snowy fence.jpg

Ruby and I have been watching the birds. We’ve seen some of the fattest birds ever. They have pinheads and chubby torsos. It’s like they knew they’d need to stock up, forewarned about the white stuff somehow. They hop around on snowy branches and look for food. We saw one of these on Monday: a golden crowned sparrow. He stood out amid all the white.

golden crowned sparrow.jpg

(source)

Was this now Noah felt, trapped on the ark with his immediate and extended family, plus a menagerie of animals? Rocking up and down, battling seasickness, no relief in sight as the rain poured down and the animals yelped, roared, barked and whined, he probably felt a little crazy. Oh, the whining! Then, a sudden calm as the skies cleared. Noah peered out of the ark’s narrow windows to see…nothing. Only water, water everywhere. I wonder if he and his family held a quiet ceremony for all the people and places that were destroyed as their new reality dawned. After more than 8 months (!), Noah let a dove out, but it returned to him. It had no place to land. It took 2 more weeks for the earth to regrow foliage and dry out enough for the bird to be safe to fend for itself (Genesis 6-8).

We’ve had a few losses on the property. Some bushes and trees keeled over due to the snowfall’s weight. Snow bowed the holly tree. The camellia bush was about to bloom before the snow started. The arborvitaes by the front gate look like a peeled banana, according to Zac. Meantime, I’m going to get the most out of it, completing schoolwork and playing with the family. But soon, the snow will melt off, allowing space for spring to step in. This too shall pass.

walmart primroses

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Snow Business

It started snowing in earnest yesterday afternoon. The project team was out to lunch. We watched it fall outside the window. It blew in, white like the sky. It didn’t stick. The temperature hovered around 34 degrees. We drove back to work, a little excited, like gradeschool kids hoping for a reprieve from school, watching and waiting.

I dug back into editing a Board briefing. I’ve been working with the newest interim director for our department. The old one lasted about 6 weeks. He wanted to retire for real.

“Hey, you need to look outside,” my co-worker said, poking her head in the door. “The flakes have changed.”

We know rain up in here. We know the difference between showers, drizzle,  downpours, sprinkles, mist and my personal favorite “mizzle”. Snow is a whole different animal. We get a little giddy. Snow is like the cute boy we crushed on in high school, but never dated. He was out of our league. So when he shows up on our doorstep, all white and dazzling, we swoon a little. It’s magical.

I stepped to the back door. Peering out the window, the flakes were monstrous. And piling up.  The state, also located in Olympia, closed its campus at noon to let workers get home before the roads got too dangerous. I wondered what to do. Our department director cancelled our monthly cross-divisional meeting and said we could go home if we liked. But we’d have to use our leave time to cover it. The County would remain open.

back door snowy at work.jpg

(“Doot, doot, doot, lookin’ out my back door…” Methinks the garbage cans only add to the back-door ambiance.)

“You should go home, Susan,” one of the project managers urged. “You have a long commute.” His face mirrored his concern.

I sort of love these people. I only live about 23 miles away from Olympia. It’s not that bad. Others drive all the way from Tacoma, near the storm’s epicenter. I didn’t really have enough leave time to justify going. I said as much.

“I will talk to our director. I will donate some of my time,” the project manager volunteered. He strode out the door.

I was touched. He wasn’t able to do it, as I didn’t qualify for shared leave, as a snowstorm isn’t considered an illness or injury. I loved the sentiment, however.

I peered outside again. At least an inch covered the parking lot. Olympia was getting slammed. The toughest part would be getting out of the residential areas and onto the highway. I figured 101 would still be okay due to steady traffic.

I decided to leave. I would take the vacation hour hit and get out of Dodge. Hiking out to the 2 inches of snow already down, I found this.

Pepper car snowy.jpg

The parking lot only held about 1/3 of the usual amount of cars. I brushed the snow off the windows and doors and climbed in. I gingerly made my way to the parking lot exit, sliding a little. I eased out onto the road. Up ahead, cars blocked the intersection. Bumper to bumper, they lined the entire street. I inched along, trying to be patient. It took 45 minutes to get to the first light, about 7/10 of a mile away. Cars moved aside for those entering or exiting the main drag. It heartened me, the grace and kindness showed by my fellow commuters. We all had the same hive goal: get home in one piece.

Once I reached the highway, it was smooth sailing. I breathed a prayer of thanks as I motored home. Just before Mason County, a bright spot in the sky appeared to my left. The sun was trying to burn through the cloud-cloth covering. As I continued to drive northwest, the snow turned to light rain. Just after entering Mason County, it turned into blowing snow again. Shelton had less snow than Olympia. Seems it had started up again when I hit town.

Today, it continues. We’re up to 2-3 inches, with more on the way until late this afternoon.

I threw balls to Dakota this morning in the darkness. City grit trucks powered up and down the road. The snow cast an eerie glow. Flakes danced and glittered under the streetlights as they floated to earth. Drifts sparkled under porchlights. We lost balls, then found them again. Snow caked on the tennis balls. Dakota couldn’t grip them well. She ate the snow, licking it off, then mouthed them again.

It’s been an emotional week, a rollercoaster. Right now, though, it’s very quiet. It’s time to switch gears. Time to spend time with family, doing things around the house. Ruby returns from a youth conference later today. Praying for the safety of all those people, and a continued infilling of the Holy Spirit. I know the Lord will use this time for the best. Even as plans get cancelled and our immediate options dwindle, He is still good. He still makes beautiful things. Let this enforced rest restore us for what comes next.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

 

 

Late Snow

Yesterday, it snowed. All day long. I kept looking out the back door at work, wondering if the County would close early. Nope. The new County Manager is a former Public Works roads guy. And miraculously, the snow stuck neither to the roads or sidewalks. It made pretty postcard pictures with snow coating the trees, grass and bushes. county lot snow.jpg

It was lovely. Lisa and I walked out in it for our breaks. We felt like we were living inside a snowglobe. Snow always feels magical to me. We don’t get it very often, and when we do, it vanishes quickly like frozen manna.

When I got up this morning, the temperature was 19 degrees. All that lovely white stuff had frozen into a crunchy, sparkly-sugar coating. We covered the yard as I threw her tennis balls, the inky sky holding a single shiny star. A few cars roamed up and down the street. I lasted about 10 minutes. When I stepped back inside, the temp had dropped to 17 degrees. Brr! Rex lasted about 10 minutes, too.

I wondered if this morning’s work at the County would grind to a halt. With freezing and thawing comes ice. Very little snow fell after I got home last night. But I knew the parking lots and side streets would be treacherous. I kept checking the website. Nothing. Ruby’s school pleaded 2 hours late yesterday afternoon. I hoped for the same.

I drove in under sunny skies. The Douglas firs stood silent in their white coats. The roadsides sat pristine, untouched by human feet or abandoned cars. It seemed like a movie set.

I got to work, fishtailing a little on the arteries’ turn lanes in Olympia. The County parking lot was nearly empty. What? I pulled up my phone. Then I saw the notice: All County Offices Delayed by One Hour. All in title case. What?! *Now* I see it. Sigh. I felt rooked, frustrated and annoyed. No wonder traffic was so light. And I got a great parking spot.

Sometimes, we just have to be flexible. Life throws curveballs. Instead of catching them, they hit us in the back of the head. We miss things. We make mistakes. What other good can come out of this? Cause I’m looking for it.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

 

Sudden Snow

I haven’t posted in a while. The combination of illness, lack of Wi-Fi when blogging opportunities arose, and then the whirl of Christmas festivities made it difficult to find the time.

Something unusual happened on Christmas Eve. In the early morning when the light appeared, Mt. Rainier’s top was cut off by a cloud-blind. It looked like an enormous Bob Ross had blotted it out. My phone blew up with winter weather advisories. As the day progressed, the white sky cover rolled all the way down. The mountain disappeared from view.

Ruby and I were outside, playing fetch with Dakota when the flakes started. At first it looked like ashes drifting down, remnants of a bonfire.

“It’s snowing!” I cried. Ruby lit up with delight.

We tried catching them on our tongues, despite Lucy of Peanuts’ fame’s admonition that December snowflakes aren’t ripe yet.

The snow fell gently at first. It stopped and started. The temperature hovered at just above freezing. Nothing stuck. Then, the sun slipped below the horizon. The snow started coming down harder. The ground accumulated white. Traffic slowed outside, muffled by the drifts.

Ruby and Dakota clowned around outside, guided by the Christmas lights . Ruby made snowballs and threw them to Dakota, who caught them in her mouth. They broke around her muzzle in an icy white wave. The friends ran up and down the yard. They jumped and slid.

I watched the white curtain from the warm indoors.

We don’t get white Christmases here very often. When they do occur, it feels like a celebration.

The snowfall felt like hope. This seemed like God reaching down and saying, “I remember you. I know you wonder which end is up sometimes, but I know. I’ll guide you if you let me.”

The snowfall felt like peace, causing a moment of slow motion as Christmas arrived and we all sang “Silent Night”.

The snowfall felt like joy. A baby boy born in the most unlikely place to the most unlikely people, God transported into history. Joy to the World!

God can work in a “suddenly” way. And when He does, it’s wonderful.

Snowish

snowy-morning

It snowed yesterday. So far, this has been our Snowmageddon of 2016. We were supposed to get somewhere around 6-8 inches. The City shop prepared by filling up dump trucks with sand and gassing up the snow plows. They tuned up the road grader. They recruited crews to plow through the night. Others were scheduled to report in at 4:30 a.m. All i can say is somebody better be on coffee duty.

We got 2 inches in town, at my house, which is near sea level. And that’s just barely. Folks who live near Hood Canal got more. People fled from work early, worried about getting stuck roadside in the snow. The school district placed a special robocall announcing that they reserved the right to close early, and for parents to be ready. The snow started around 4:30 here in town. It moved up the I-5 corridor from Oregon. I love it when the weather pattern follows the paved path. Why reinvent the wheel? Makes so much sense.

I’m sitting here drinking coffee. The furnace pumps out warm air. The only ones up are me and the cats. I have no idea where they are. It’s quiet. As the snow melts, it drips. I hear rivulets coursing down the driveway and off the roof.

I’m breathing in peace. Things are turning right side up again. The snow, blanketing everything, feels like a new beginning. I’ll take it.