A Zen Little Unplanned Existential Experiment

This morning, I did not expect NOT to go to work.  I mean, it was a figuratively balmy 8 degrees at 6:00 when I awoke, and the temperature was only going to climb as the day progressed.  In no way would calling school be justified again.  The Polar Vortex was done ravaging us with wind chills in the -40s; it was time to get back to normality.

However, at 6:13, a friend texted me, “No school again ?!?”

I thought he was joking.  I had not received the call, and this friend of mine, he can be somewhat of a jokester.  However, I walked out of the bathroom, and wouldn’t you know it, the phone rang one-minute later.  Today, school was cancelled because the majority of the busses wouldn’t start, and they could not, of course, allow the little dumplings stand in the frigid air while the few busses that did work tried to manage all of the routes.

Day Three.

The first thing that went through my mind was a song I used to love in the 90’s.   My mind could hear the riff of the guitar as the words played in my mind:

For three strange days
I had no obligations
My mind was a blur
I did not know what to do.
And then I lost myself

I, for the life of me could not remember anymore of the song.  I could not even remember who sang it.  Thank God for Google and the world-wide web.  I vaguely remembered the band School of Fish and when I looked up the lyrics, I found that they were actually really depressing.

For me, these have been three strange days, but unlike the lead singer, I have not lost my motivation.  On the contrary, I have relished in the gift of freedom that snow days bestow.

A gift, you scoff!  What about all the other days off?

Don’t you think, dear reader, I know you are dubious of the complexities of my job.  You see it as a cake walk: three days at Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas, Spring Break, and then nine weeks in the summer!  But, what you do not understand is the paradox of teaching: we work our asses off for 187 days a year because we need for the students to excel and be better at whatever subjects we teach, and in order to do that, we need days off to regroup, reevaluate lessons, and recharge our batteries.

Everyone feels burnout, you say.  Well, I do not disagree, but please, try to be a teacher for even a year, and you might think a little less critically of our chosen calling.

Now, I do not mean to put you on the defensive or make you angry.  I love my job and I am grateful for the time off that school districts give students and teachers to restore their enthusiasm and yearning to learn.  Likewise, I was grateful for our winter break.  I crossed many items off of my list.  I shopped, cooked, entertained, visited, cleaned, worked out, graded some papers (not as many as I should have, I will admit), and relaxed with my family.  It was the perfect break.

Oh, but then the Polar Vortex hit, and three magical free days were conjured in the universe.  Free Days.  I did not plan on these days.  I did not have a schedule of chores that needed to be accomplished.  I did not have any set list of items that needed attention because these days were not planned, and thus, they were a gift.

For three strange days I had no obligations….

With no obligation comes the ability to just exist.  I kind of zenned out in my own little existential experiment.  I realized that nothing had to be done, so I decided what should be done was anything that I wanted to get done.  Do you understand the enormity of this gift for a 44 year-old, full-time working mother of three?

So what did I do?

  • I read The Fault in Our Stars cover-to-cover.  I would recommend it because it is incredibly well written, but blubbering for forty or more pages makes it a hard book to recommend.  Okay, screw it.   I cried but I also laughed. You should read it!  It’s that good!
  • I worked out twice!  I never find time to workout during the week, or is it that I find a million other things to do besides working out during the week?  Well, whichever way, the endorphins made me feel strong.
  • I played countless games of Life with the girls.  I won more than once.  I always pick the college track, and I think they are starting to realize that long-term earnings increase exponentially with a college education.
  • I slept.  One can NEVER sleep enough, in my opinion.
  • I cooked delicious meals.
  • I blogged.

It was a glorious, unencumbered three days, and it was almost better than any planned vacation.

If only I could give the gift to each of you readers so you can understand how having three strange days can seem like the perfect motivation to get done some of the things you never seem to find time to do.



Dear Santa,

Hi Santa,

It’s me!  You probably have me in the naughty book because you haven’t gotten a letter from me since somewhere around 1980.  I know I have been a “non-believer” for sometime, but sitting and watching my eight-year-old painstakingly compose her letter to you got me to thinking.  She is writing you with the pure faith that you are a magical, loving, grandfatherly soul who wants nothing more than to make her happy.  As I watched her sign her name and place her letter in the envelope addressed to

Santa Claus

North Pole

I thought that maybe she was onto something.  Maybe I haven’t believed in a little over thirty years, but there is more to you than a one-night-a-year sleigh ride.  The spirit of you, Santa Claus, is alive all over the world, and if I composed a letter, too, maybe my hopes and dreams would come true, as well.

Now, I’d like to say as a 43-year-old woman, I understand that my wants are much greater than an eight-year-old’s.  She asked for an iPad-mini, and rumor has it, she has been on the good list this year and that she is probably going to get it!  Don’t worry, Santa, we explained to her that it is really hard for the elves to put all of those apps inside that tiny machine, so she probably would only get one or two more items under the tree.  God bless her heart, do you know what she said?  She said, “Well, Jesus only got three presents, so I guess that will be enough for me.”

Santa, I am not going to ask for a new garage door or glass-block windows for the basement.  Indubitably, it would be too much work to get the elves to install either of these items while you are here.  I understand; I will save for those items myself.  Also, I am not as materialistic as Sally or Lucy who thought the only happiness they could find would be in the banking or real estate markets.  I have found in recent years that unbeknownst to my younger self, happiness is not found in what I possess.  It is found in what I do, who I am, and with whom I share my time.

So I guess that leads me to what I really want more than anything in the world.  Santa, what I really want is for you to visit me in my dreams and give me inspiration and courage.  Since seventh grade, I have said that someday I would be a writer.  However, I am not, well, at least not a published writer, and I fear that if I try to write anything of substance, it will be rejected.  I need you to give me some good old fashion tenacity, mix in a little creativity, throw in a dash of vision, and maybe just maybe, I can get what I want for Christmas.  Yes Santa, what I want for Christmas is to see my name in print.  No, not just in the blogosphere world.  I want to be in real print, with ink and color and pages that when you lift them to your nose they smell slightly acidic but fresh and clean and people of all walks of life can come across my words and…

Well, you get the point.  If you are real, I know my dream will come true.  If not, well then you’re just the nice whiskered man who dons my wrapping paper and my door wreath.

I just want you to know that I want to believe as much as Lizzie does, and I will do everything in my power to be a good girl this year.  Please consider taking me off the naughty list.  I know a friend of yours, Buddy, and he once said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

Well, Santa, if that’s what it takes!  I’m on it!

Merry Christmas, and thank you in advance for the consideration.

Love, Cheryl

Excuse Me, I Think You Are Literally Driving Me Crazy!

Yesterday, I felt like I might literally lose it.  I was at my daughters’ mall dance performance, and I really felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.  This grandma sitting next to me (we were in the front row) kept standing to take videos of her granddaughter.  “Down in front,” people shouted from behind, but she either chose not to hear them or literally could not.

Then the women sitting on the floor in front of me refused to take her screaming three-year old from her grandmother.  “She don’t want you,” the grandma said over and over.  “She dressed you up sumfin’ perty, and you go and get too shy to dance.  She aks you to just try, and you couldn’t even do that.”

Now, I am an English teacher, so the butchering of the English language in itself made my blood boil, but the incessant crying, literally I started to grind my teeth.   Just when I was about to go through my purse and look for a sharp object to poke out my eardrums, the mother finally turned around, rolled her eyes, and reached for her child.  She said nothing to the little girl who quieted down immediately to snuggle into her mother’s arms.

37 minutes.

37 minutes of pure hell ended with a child on a lap.

Who the hell were these people?  Were they in a vacuum completely unaware of the other viewers, the other parents, the performers themselves?

Then came the parents who wanted photos who kicked my chair, my purse, and my soda, all to get to the front to capture their little Mary Sue or Connie Mae on their crappy pixalation smart phones.

We left the mall, and I am not sure I really enjoyed watching my children dance, something that they really enjoy doing.

I got home, and I felt a pang in my stomach.  An uneasy angst swept over me.  What was wrong with me?  Why could I not just sit back and enjoy the show?

Could it be the holidays?  My menstrual cycle?  The plethora of grading I need to get done?

Out of nowhere, it hit me!  I haven’t taken any time for me, for my outlet, for my personal solace.  I haven’t been writing!

About 420 blogs into this adventure, I got a little winded, felt a little frazzled, and lost my mojo.  I got busy with life and I pretty much abandoned the blog.  I thought about it, but the buck stopped there. I avoided it completely.  I had other pressing matters that needed to get done.  I stopped checking my stats and I stopped paying attention to new followers.  Seemingly, people were still paying attention even though I was not giving them anything new to read.  Instead of seeing even minor stats as a miracle on all of those hundreds of days I did not write, I ignored the whole medium and focused on other aspects of life.

And what did that get me?

A quasi-insane day at the mall!  The sounds of society are a clamorous cacophony of nothingness.  I had abandoned my source of solitude and finally felt the proverbial last nerve snap– if I didn’t do something about it, and quick, I might have lost my last morsel of sanity, and no one wants to visit their mother in the loony bin on Christmas morning.

Thus, I have returned to the world of writing, a world where birdies fly near my head, and daffodils tickle my ankles and toes.  A place where the tides lap onto the rocks ever so gently, and I dance and float and sing.

Please do not send the men with the white coats.  I like it here.  I’ll be okay.