• It's been a while since we had one of these ice storms, so I guess we're due. The weather map is all over pink with it right now I can hear it falling on the metal chimney top. Not like hail at all, which always sounds like a great fist is hurling it. Sleet is skittery and indifferent.

    School is already closed for tomorrow because that's how we do things. The closing was announced long before the first drop fell and while the temperature was certainly above freezing. It was a good call this time. No one needs to be driving around in the Armageddon we'll have tomorrow morning, especially since no one around here knows how to drive in winter weather. We're generally experts at driving muddy dirt roads, though. We also think we're experts at driving on ice, but it's never true.

    In college, we used to put on golf shoes and walk to the corner of Donaghey and Bruce, lugging green-and-white folding lawn chairs. We found that if we positioned ourselves carefully, we could see two, maybe three fender-benders an hour as we nipped judiciously at a shared bottle of peppermint schnapps. Occasionally we'd hold up signs to "score" each driver's attempt or failure. If I remember correctly, it took a good 360-degree spin to earn anything higher than an "8".

    No one was ever hurt, by the way. Cars had real metal fenders back then and didn't crush like cheap Coke cans.

    But that's not my favorite winter-weather story. The best one I heard second-hand at a year-end teacher party some years ago when I was still teaching high school English. Many of the schoolmarms I taught with had been my teachers back in the 70s, and they told a Snow-Day Cautionary Tale to end all tales.

    No one remembered exactly what year it happened, but seems the weathermen were all convinced the entire state would be buried under 12-18 inches of snow by the next morning. it had been an especially tense and arduous school year, so a good number of teachers plotted to ride the snow storm out at one house - the plan was a dusk to dawn Snow Day celebration.

    At the final bell, everyone scurried to gather food and liquor. These were the lean years, mind you, when a good teacher might have made $9,000 a year or so. Add that to the insult of living in a dry county, and it was no wonder these otherwise staid educators needed a throw-down.

    And throw-down they did. As the marms told it, the liquor and food held out until dawn when one young teacher stumbled out to retrieve the morning paper and found it hadn't snowed at all.

    No snow, no Snow Day. No one had slept a minute all night, most were still under the influence, and they were now due in their classrooms in a little over an hour.

    They all made it in, by the way, mainlining coffee and propping each other up for the duration. I can tell this story only because all the suspects have since retired, but I do wonder if I might have been a student sitting in one of their classrooms that hangover day. If I was, I never suspected a thing and none of my friends did either. None of us would ever have dreamed such a thing could happen, really. Teachers partying all night? Naw.

    So even though I hear the sleet beating hearty rumba on the neighbor lady's wind chimes right now, I'm setting an alarm. You never know.
  • ...is going to be fine. He should be coming home tomorrow. It's been a harrowing week for everyone, but he is a strong, brave boy surrounded by love and good medicine. Maybe it was asthma or an ear infection run amok - we don't know. He's breathing beautifully tonight and the best team of nurses in the land hover over him.

    His Mama is holding up well and I'm proud of her. Nothing prepares young mothers for this kind of fear. I guess nothing could. Emily has become the rock she always thought I was. She knows how to cry behind a door now and that's how it works. Parenting in critical times is mostly smoke and mirrors and shaky bravado. She's learned to compartmentalize in the moment and that's not something they teach in college.

    The Perfect Grandson braved all manner of poking and procedures without a tear. He's the light and joy of everyone at the hospital and they worked tirelessly to make him well. He is better, and tomorrow he'll be home. Four days is a long time for a little guy to keep still and be good, but he's done it.

    Tonight he'll sleep and breathe without assistance. Em will curl herself around him in that skinny hospital bed, and her gentleman friend will sleep in the lounge chair beside them - just as he's done every night this week. He's a keeper and she knows this.

    This is what a happy ending looks like.
  • I'm having a difficult time turning my attention to anything light or funny right now. I've begun three different posts in the last few days and deleted them all. I want to tell you local stories and interesting observations that might otherwise be funny, but knowing there are children in Haiti trapped and dying and waiting for help too slow in coming - I can't shake it.

    The stories and images on CNN and elsewhere have burned through my skin and marked me. I hug The Perfect Grandson too tightly at times and kiss his fat little cheeks until he has to push me away. I don't care. I have the luxury of knowing where he is and that he's not hungry or alone in the dark. Or worse.

    The thing is, I'm taking this tragedy personally. Many people just as removed from the earthquake as I am are feeling the same. Empathy isn't a tap that turns cleanly off and I guess it shouldn't be. Loving and aching for people we don't know in places we've never visited should not be difficult. Something in our DNA must connect us all, like twins who feel each other's pain, simply because we are human.

    It's the sense of helplessness that's haunting me right now. There are things to be done and very few time-sensitive ways to make them happen in Haiti. I've given money. Past that, I'm just some grandmother sitting in a chair watching the news. I'd rather be clawing at concrete, bare-handed and bleeding.

    CNN has a list of emergency relief groups who need your donations. You can also donate $10 via text to the American Red Cross. Simply text "Haiti" to 90999. Giving in this time of anguish is the most and the least we can do.
  • I'd send it to the suffering people in Haiti along with enough food, supplies, strong men, heavy equipment, and medical personnel to save everyone. Right now.

    If there is anything small thing you can think to do, please do it. If you're like me, the devastation seems too large to imagine. Our pockets are small but there are many of us.

    Go hug those you love and give anything you can. And pray.

  • The holiday break is officially over in the morning and I've misplaced my work ethic. Maybe I left it in my other purse.

    Coming off of the end-of-semester madness, I rode an adrenaline-tide clear into Christmas Day. There are crossed-off lists to prove this, although I was so thorough I threw them away afterward. Something happened Christmas day that made my metabolism, my forward motion, my internal combustion, go dead still. It wasn't gradual. I'm telling you, at 10:30 a.m. on Christmas Day, I exhaled and tuned into a slug.

    That was fine for a day, so I let it continue. The next morning I woke up at 8:20 or so, completely horrified. I never set an alarm (not that I normally need one) and slept without waking for nine hours. Those who know me best understand the seriousness of such a thing. I'm a five-hour sleeper, the one who drives everyone crazy by staying up at all hours and rising in time to make coffee at five. I've spent my whole life tiptoeing around while others sleep.

    It scared me, sleeping all those hours. Whatever had switched off the day before took over my body, and now I've spent the past two weeks moseying through my days, slug-like, instead of strangling every single minute for a few more seconds. It's been lovely, really, but it's over tomorrow.

    I just can't wrap my head around it. On Thursday there will be rooms full of students, and I've a sneaking suspicion they'll all be much more sluggy than I am. My job is to bounce into those rooms and get their internal clocks moving again, start the cogs and wheels and such humming. They've been staring blankly at television or computer screens for four weeks now, the academic legions of WE will need to wind our own rusty clocks first and in a hurry.

    When I taught high school and enjoyed Christmas breaks that lasted, oh, an hour and a half, this never happened. The thing is, I'm not sure if I want to complain about it too much since the slug that I've become is fairly comfortable and reclining.

    Too much leisure is worse than too little. Time to make a cup of coffee and dropkick myself back into living. Don't worry, I'll be quiet.


    P.S. - In my quest for threaded commenting - something Wordpress does that Blogger doesn't - I installed a commenting system called Intense Debate. Nice, but not as easy to use or pretty as I'd hoped. I guess I'll hold out until Blogger adds threaded commenting, which I'm sure they will. I've asked nicely and all.

    The downside is that in uninstalling my experiment, I lost a few comments. Please forgive me.

  • Finally, a cause I can get behind. Somebody hand me a Sharpie and some poster board because I feel like wearing a peasant blouse and having a sit-in. Where did I pack those Gloria Steinem aviators?

    Wayne State University has it's academic fist in the air to save our language. No, no, no, this isn't about non-native speakers or official languages or anything whatever to do with immigration, so don't turn away. This is about saving the wispy, many-layered, pungent, specific bibelots of our language that are disappearing faster than we can tweet.

    Their site is called Word Warriors, and they're saving the language one word at a time:

    "In early 2009 Wayne State University launched this Web site to retrieve some of the English language's most expressive words from the dank closet of neglect, in hopes of boosting their chances of a return to conversation and narrative. Some of these words once were part of the common speech (it was hard to be a writer in the late 19th century, for instance, without "indefatigable"); others have capered in and out of the language like harlequins, dazzling and then just as suddenly departing; others -- the wonderful "numinous," for one -- may never have been heard every day or even every year. Some, like "galoshes," just went into hiding for no apparent reason.

    But no matter why especially marvelous words have disappeared from everyday use, we believe the following selection that we and visitors to this site have made still deserves to be exercised freely in prose, poetry, song and story. Otherwise, we simply aren't painting our speech with a full palette."

    The the Word Warriors' 2010 List of "sadly underused or overlooked but eminently useful words that should be brought back to enrich our language" includes delights as bamboozle, mendacity, festoon, and scuttle. My brothers and sisters, there's not a Southern writer living who could write a check without using at least two of these. These words falling into disuse is a sad first step leading inevitably to everyone grunting and pointing in 140 characters or less.

    Here are a few more on the endangered list: conniption, dastardly, fetching, peccadillo, skedaddle, and zaftig. Can you imagine losing these words?

    Luckily, you can participate by suggesting words that need rescue. Nominate a word on the Word Warriors site, then go out into the world and give these beauties a workout. Wave them like Old Glory before all the Southern lawyers die and take these with them to the hereafter.

    We shall overcome.

    (Image via Artworld Salon)

  • I've just run around the house making all my faucets drippy to save the pipes. Forget global warming, folks, there's a serious rend in the fabric of the earth's karma going on here. Single digits and temperatures that start with a minus sign in Arkansas? This is the land of bubbling-tar streets and heatstroke. It's meteorological terrorism.

    Worse yet, I can't find my coat. Honestly, I only wear one a week or so out of every year, and it's always an all-weather, trenchy-thing at that. I've located the liner - those are always zipped out and discarded anyway - right where I left it in the hall coat-closet. In my house, that's a little room where we hang graduation regalia and old prom dresses. I may have to go out in the world tomorrow morning wearing all my sweaters at once and looking like the homeless fellow who hangs out in front of the shoe repair store on VanRonkle Street.*

    All this weather ridiculousness would be forgiven if it would simply snow. At least I'd have good reason to stay indoors and have no need of a missing trench coat. The smattering of surprise snow we had the other day lasted about half an hour. Now it's colder than Anchorage, Alaska around here and there's nary a residual flake.

    I'll make another trip around the house checking drips and closets and such before calling it a night. Wish me luck, and pray for snow.

    * Don't worry about our friend on VanRonkle. I have it on good authority that he's enjoying the warm comforts of several Christian homes during this weather. We take care of our own down here.

  • I'm waiting on the snow. If it means staying up half the night, fine. I know those of you who live in the Snowy North may be shaking your heads, but down here snow's a brief luxury. Just the merest Weather Channel mention of it makes me feel like a little girl again. I may need to start right now digging in the hall closet to find a coat.

    In fact, it might be time to do a little snow-dance just for good measure. I don't know. Last time I did that we were locked in a solid block of ice for a week and giant tree limbs fell, breaking like chandeliers all over Davis Street. I might have danced too emphatically.

    Cross your frosty fingers for me, and don't you dare do the math on the date under the photo.
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