You’ve just returned from spring break. True respite, right?
For some college students, the answer’s a resounding “Yes!” Unlimited sleep where no drum fests are held at 2 a.m. Mom’s cooking. Free laundry.
For one day.
Until Dad gets possessive about car keys. Until Mom wants help cleaning the garage. Until both demand, “Where were you last night?”
However, most students who escape to Daytona remember zero. They return with seasick stomachs and third-degree sunburns to face 23 books they should have read during spring break.
Spring break doesn’t live up to some employees’ expectations, either. If a worker forgets to schedule days off, he’d better be prepared to skip lunch several days. All the other employees remembered.
No mother believes spring break will act like spring break, with sunny days in which kids power-wash the house. Instead, she accurately anticipates weather-induced cabin fever, with nonstop video games and violent sibling behavior that surpasses them all.
If parents head for Florida, they, like college kids, will remember spring break in a blur — but for different reasons. A 16-hour car trip resembles a rolling animal cage, especially if Mom and Dad have condemned teens to family togetherness, a fate worse than death.
Hotel rooms resemble animal cages sans wheels. Children don’t sleep, except with Mom and Dad, their sharp, little knees implanted in parental backs. Spring break trips comprise the most expensive birth control method known to humankind.
Also, if we read resort ads’ tiny print, we discover disclaimers about prices. About “luxury suites” with roaches the size of snapping turtles.
Staying with Aunt Maudie and Uncle Snerd may reduce costs, but added therapy fees may continue for years (for hosts, as well). Do spring breaks not only break the bank, but break us all?
Rumors persist, though, that some spring breaks meet expectations, with endless sunshine, three-person lines at Disney World, and hang gliding without encountering a single power line. Tanned bodies resemble those of the Kardashian clan.
Because we’ve seen it on TV. And on the Internet …
Give me a break.*
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your plan for spring break?
*This blog was written by a grouch who has stuck it out in Indiana all winter. If snow shows up in April, she will ditch cynicism and go on spring break anyway.
“A single crocus blossom ought to be enough to convince our heart that springtime, no matter how predictable, is somehow a gift …” —David Steindl-Rast
Have you, too, been watching your crocus bed like basketball bracketology? As if tiny blossoms guarantee your team achieves NCAA basketball glory?
While not everyone pairs crocuses and basketball, this Hoosier always will.
Blizzards may morph the combination into a reluctant threesome. Benedictine monk Steindl-Rast’s quote above resonates with me. Yet, Indiana inhabitants understand our March is as fickle as a referee’s calls.
Still, when crocuses, tough little optimists, push through snow, I want to turn somersaults. Although I prefer not to spend spring in a body cast.
Perhaps ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Minoans also had to resist somersault temptation, as they loved crocuses. The Romans gave us their name, derived from the Latin adjective “crocatus,” meaning “saffron yellow.” Spice derived from an autumn crocus was used extensively by ancient chefs. Fashionistas used saffron to color fabrics and hairdos. Others swore it cured Grandpa Kitanetos’ rheumatism, Grandma Isis’ headaches and even Uncle Flavius’ habit of hitting the wineskins too often.
Not surprisingly, the plant appeared in early civilizations’ mythology. Somebody was always falling in love with somebody else, rousing a god’s jealousy. In retribution, remorse or pity — or all three — deities, nymphs or humans were turned into crocuses.
In contrast, God, in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, celebrated the flower with an outrageous simile: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus” (Isaiah 35:1 NIV).
The Judean desert? I’ve been there. Even cacti run screaming from that burning wilderness.
At that time, God wasn’t dealing with depressed sports fans whose team blew it. He was speaking to war refugees who thought God had given up on them. Instead, He promised Jesus would come, bringing forgiveness and healing that would make miserable lives blossom like the crocus.
Today, as snow falls, the crocuses and I don’t give up hope. Tiny buds are reaching for the heavens, proclaiming Jesus’ Resurrection never quits.
Because of Him, we can always have hope.
Even if our team loses in the first round.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do crocuses say to you?
Actually, this child liked clumping boots. Despite Mom’s belief I would catch 19 diseases, their podiatric force field protected me when stomping ice-covered gutters.
Unfortunately for my parents, their children’s feet grew hourly. While my sister acceded to wearing my hand-me-downs, I drew the line at my brother’s galoshes. However, recycled boots weren’t always an option because we had honed losing winter wear to a fine art.
The positive side: Lack of sufficient winter garb kept us inside warm classrooms at recess. While friends shivered outdoors, I read favorite books.
Some stories featured boots. In Little Women, Jo March’s boots helped her play swashbuckling heroes and villains in homegrown dramas. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, a traveling cobbler designed Almanzo Wilder’s first manly pair. Puss in Boots never would have brought his master fame, fortune and a princess if he hadn’t strutted about in that all-powerful footwear.
Still, most boots seemed mundane until go-go boots invaded the fifth grade fashion scene. My ignorant mother refused to buy me white boots amid the muddy slop season.
I whined. I pined. I promised I wouldn’t lose them, not even one.
She wouldn’t budge. So, I languished without the go-go boots every girl owned except me — and Becky Andrews, who wore thigh-high black boots like Nancy Sinatra’s when she sang “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”
Ten years later, I wore a similar pair that stretched my height well past six feet.
But snow time with my toddlers required mommy boots. My little ones readily wore garage sale Strawberry Shortcake and Ninja Turtles boots, even with PJs. They, too, waded in yucky gutters, despite my warnings.
Years later, they cornered me in a boot discourse similar to my go-go debate with Mom decades before. My children wanted me to spend a gazillion dollars on short-topped “boots” designed to frostbite toes.
When I refused, they left a row of sensible boots to an undisturbed existence in the closet — until I discovered my son’s worked well when I shoveled sidewalks.
I couldn’t wear the tall, black leather boots (my size!) I’d found on sale for five bucks.
I still wear them. I just leave them home when it rains. Or sleets. Or snows. Or. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Fess up. Do you wear your boots during yucky weather?
Some welcomed 2023 with the same enthusiasm as author Jerry Spinelli: “I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1.”
Contrariwise, author Roald Dahl would “remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead.”
Thankfully, neither works for a calendar company. But their clash illustrates typical debate.
My highly scientific poll, based on Walmart eavesdropping, suggests that in January, most shoppers wilt like post-Christmas poinsettias.
Snow-lovers gripe because The Weather Channel sent only flurries. Snow-haters grouse because blizzards lurk behind every cloud. Kids hate January because they return to school. Babies, imprisoned in snowsuits Grandma gave for Christmas, raise loud protests.
Besides, everyone’s broke.
We’re all on diets.
Many people really hate January.
My mother, a pastor’s wife, loved it. Her Christmas responsibilities ranged from distributing food baskets to ensuring no shepherd in her pageant picked his nose. Plus, we children assumed Mom would make Christmas dreams come true … without money.
Though she loved Jesus supremely, Mom thanked Him when His birthday party was done.
I, too, savor January’s serenity. Time for unhurried worship of the Christ who dared enter our crazy world. A hot-soup-homemade-bread aura helps us settle down and settle in to savor good books. For Hoosier authors, January’s excellent writing weather. (How do unlucky novelists in the Bahamas finish anything?)
Mom and I have passed January preferences to my Michigan grandson. He, however, loves shrieking forays down the highest sledding hills.
My husband and other sports fans welcome January because they wallow in basketball. Mourn losses. Decimate January peace with insane celebrations.
January also gave the world distinguished citizens: Martin Luther King, Benjamin Franklin and Joan of Arc. Betty White, James Earl Jones, Elvis and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Hopefully, their birthday presents weren’t wrapped in leftover Christmas paper.
If this January sends snow, I’ll welcome snowflake kisses. Swish snow angels. Sled with my grandson, shrieking all the way down, “Jesus … he-e-e-elp!”
Then do it again.
Sorry, Roald Dahl. I’ll never vote these days off the calendar.
John Steinbeck reminds us: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”
Though, Charles Spurgeon offers even better advice: “Let January open with joy in the Lord.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Why do you like or dislike January?
Typing those words makes me quiver with fear. Do I dare mention the weather to neighbors, coworkers or friendly convenience store clerks? With a few unguarded words, I may jinx the entire Midwest!
Despite brown winter’s dreariness, some consider it a gift, especially after enduring Snowmageddon. Anyone who mentioned “global warming” then was sentenced to shoveling the town’s driveways with a teaspoon.
No one battling the notorious Midwestern blizzard of ’78 had ever heard that term. If a foolhardy soul had suggested such to brides whose winter weddings were postponed indefinitely, they might have strangled him with tulle bows and buried him in uneaten wedding cake.
Others who survived that months-long whiteout not only stopped driving, they gave up finding their vehicles until spring.
Brown winter, by comparison, seems good.
Midwestern weddings should happen on schedule this weekend.
Cars start. They move!
Even if buckets of rain fall, we don’t have to shovel them.
Lower heating bills and fewer frozen pipes give cause to celebrate.
Mothers rejoice. Their offspring won’t need the 25 pounds of clothing required on snowy days. My son rated snowsuits along with vaccinations and boogeymen. Every outing resulted in a mother/son smackdown, the loudest always occurring at either the library or church.
A thaw dramatically reduces the likelihood of mistaken identity. Government statistics state that due to warmer temperatures, 77 percent fewer parents bring home the wrong kid from school.
To be sure, skiers and resort owners long for the white stuff. Ice skating rink owners anxiously await frigid temperatures.
No town wants its snow and ice festival to morph into a Sleet and Slop Spectacular. Nor do cities that have busted budgets, buying snowplows and stockpiling mountains of salt, look kindly on brown winters.
Worse, snowbirds cannot bear photos of friends back home visiting mailboxes in their shirtsleeves.
Yes, brown winters remain unpopular with some.
Me? I’m a coat-hater from decades back. (My son’s snowsuit antipathy is no surprise.)
Still, I welcome whispery snowflake kisses on my hood as we walk to church. Thousands of priceless diamonds glittering in my sunny backyard. Wind-carved curves of snow defy human artistry. …
I should’ve kept my mouth shut.
The Weather Channel predicts snow’s soon return. Do these scientific drama kings and queens truly know their stuff?
Brown or white winter today?
Stay tuned for our latest paranoia.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which do you prefer, a brown or white winter?
O Lord, sometimes, book signings can be a real bust. But OMG, what joy to share one with special writing friends and many dear hometown readers. Despite the first season’s snow, they dragged out of warm beds on a cold Saturday morning and blessed us with their presence!
Do you also wish a superhero would swoop down and fly you to a beach where sunshine is the only butt-warmer needed?
My Super Swooper hasn’t appeared. Still, throughout my life, small-time heroes have popped up like crocuses through snow.
My family was staying in a church’s back rooms with no bathing facilities. Mom’s friend shared her old-fashioned bathtub, making the world a less stinky place.
Unknown drivers pulled over 1950s Chevys to give my young father rides to work.
As a preschooler, I pilfered a necklace from Etta, the Church Lady. Mom forced my confession before Etta and God. Both pardoned me. Later, Etta gave me a necklace of my very own.
A preacher gave me a Hershey bar and told me I could sing.
Serious hero points go to children’s education leaders who kept straight faces and saved mine. Assured any scripture memorization qualified for a prize, I recited Song of Solomon passages. Unknown to me, they weren’t about palm trees and goats.
As a teen driver, I smashed a pastor’s car, yet he maintained his religion.
At my first job, I dumped salads with French dressing on a lady wearing a white suit. She waved off my tearful apology: “No problem. I have six kids.”
A college student, I worked summer nights in a rough Western town. The cook drank coffee out front, wearing a snarl no cowboy challenged. “If anybody hassles you, I’ll break ’em in two.”
Less menacing, a couple with small children picked up my boyfriend and I for church every week.
Despite my future in-laws’ visions of a marital Titanic, they supported our wedding during medical school.
Other small-time heroes zoomed in:
An unemployed couple slid 10 dollars under our door.
A child brightened my tough workday by saying I was pretty.
A stranger, concerned about my pregnancy, pushed my shopping cart and unloaded groceries.
A snowplow operator cleared our driveway, with homemade bread for payment.
I’d asked a Burger King counterperson to reheat cold fries. Upon hearing I’d been dieting and hoped to enjoy a treat, she handed me smoking-hot replacements.
A young college student carried this old adult student’s backpack up three flights of stairs.
A grouchy, nonfiction editor didn’t throw me out for mistakenly pitching fiction to her at 8:00 a.m. She ultimately published several of my pieces.
A writing friend grabbed me before I entered an important meeting wearing a Chiquita banana sticker on my power-suited butt.
All these and more have rescued me. I can’t count how many times my family has saved me.
Who needs Super Swooper, anyway?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Who are your small-time heroes?