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… I’ve ever known — even though I dreaded facing it almost as much as anything in recent memory.

Fittingly, Kiddle woke me up at 4:11 a.m. wanting to play fetch.

I thought I’d snooze until at least 5 a.m., get up, shower, get dressed and go de-ice my car, which was still parked next door at my insurance agent’s office. I spent about 15 minutes on the car before I realized it was probably going to take at least an hour to get the windows cleared — and even if I accomplished that task, I still didn’t like the looks of Ruth Street. My next thoughts: What if I get stuck in that ice-snow muck? Who’s going to push me out at 6:15 a.m.?

I looked around and sort of savored the moment: The snow was coming down steadily, but unlike the last couple of days and nights, during which we received sleet or freezing rain, practically non-stop, this precipitation was virtually silent. The whole town was quiet, in fact, and the streetlights illuminated the snow as it fell.

The sign at McCollum’s said 15 degrees, but honestly, I felt warm. I did, after all, have on my Timberlands, longjohns, jeans and sweatpants, two T-shirts, my RLC Tennis hoodie, stocking cap, scarf, gloves and coat.

“I’m walkin’!” I said (to no one there).

I turned off the car, went inside, stuffed my camera and some extra clothes and shoes into my backpack, and headed out.

I started in darkness, but by the time I reached the news office about 30 minutes later (OK, it’s only 10 blocks, but I was slowed by the snow and I did stop to take a picture of a man walking his doggies), it was daylight. The snow had stopped falling and the sun was coming out.

Unfortunately, within a span of about 10 minutes, I realized that I just might be the only person who was able to make it in to work. No biggie — except I had no idea how to do the composition part of sending the newspaper pages to the press plant! Luckily, a few minutes later, in walked my lone reporter, Mona, who also had hoofed it (she had a longer walk than I did, even!), followed shortly by Kim, Junior and Billy from the mailroom, and Sheila, our circulation manager.

Thanks to Michelle’s assistance via telephone, I was able to get the pages PDF’d and sent. In the meantime, my buddy Lea came by in her Trail Blazer, went to pick up lunch and then stuck around until we were finished with the paper to give Mona and me a ride home — she even made a detour so I could drop off some Cokes for The Currently Snowbound Diane!

Once I returned home, I immediately took some pictures of snow-covered stuff in my yard. After that, I resumed the process of  de-icing my car — made somewhat easier by the bright sun.

While I was scraping the windshield, a man pulled up in a car and parked in the space next to mine. I gave him a quick smile, but he basically ignored me as he carried a piece of paper inside. What a grump! I thought as I merrily went about removing huge chunks of ice.

The man came out a few minutes later and, once again, pretty much ignored me. Then he opened his car door and said, flatly, “I can see you’ve never lived in the northern part of Illinois.” As he spoke, he reached in and grabbed an ice scraper that basically made my scraper look like a tiny toy!

I couldn’t help thinking: Ooh, thanks for pointing out that I am woefully unequipped for this daunting task! (Or something like that; I’m pretty sure I didn’t think of those exact words until I started typing away on this post!)

Next thing I knew, though, he was scraping away at the windshield, scraping away at the back window, all the while telling me about a dandy way to use a soda bottle filled with tap water (“Nothing too warm,” he said, “or you’ll crack the glass in your windows!”) to help melt the ice.

A few minutes later, the windows were almost completely clear … or at least as clear as I cared about getting them, considering I wasn’t actually going to be going anywhere for another 15 hours!

I walked home, went inside, removed my wet clothes and put on some dry ones, and then sat down. Finally.

Kiddle immediately brought me one of her toy mice. Obviously, it was time for more fetch!

Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE winter?

Hmm. Didn’t think so.

Today, weather-wise, wasn’t quite as bad as I expected — but then again, I tend to overestimate when it comes to prognosticating such events as winter storms. Going by what the National Weather Service was saying yesterday, we could expect freezing rain, sleet and snow.

We got a little of all of that starting last night and continuing through this morning.

I, naturally, being someone who tries to celebrate the “little things” in life, took great joy in being able to open my car door — which, quite honestly, I expected to be frozen shut, thanks to the overnight rain, sleet and sub-freezing temperatures.

I wasn’t pleased with the amount of snow on Ruth Street as I drove toward North Main, but my Grand Am slogged through the slippery stuff. Once I was on the main road, I basically coasted down to Church Street, on which I usually park. Today, though, I decided to pull the car onto the parking lot across the street from the office — an attempt to keep the street as clear as possible for the snowplows I knew would be going up and down our town’s roads throughout the day.

That’s when I suffered my first setback, as my car’s tires struggled to get traction in the snow. I’d shift to “R,” give the car some gas, shift down to “1,” give it some more gas, etc., until I was able to inch my way into a parking spot.

I knew I simply couldn’t get stuck; it was 6:15 a.m., and no one else would be there anytime soon to help get me unstuck. On the other hand, my car was off the street and I was, after all, just across the street from the news office; let’s face it, the situation could have been much worse!

I spent most of the next eight hours at my desk at work — except for the half hour or so when Dirty D. took her Tahoe to the hardware store, the bank and the post office, and I rode along with her to snap a weather-related photo for the front page.

When it was time to leave work, I looked forward to going home, but I dreaded getting back into the car because the weather had gotten worse as the day went on. (OK, let me just state, for the record, that our weather rarely ever gets as bad as Chicago’s weather, or probably any of the winter weather the northeastern part of the United States suffers through, but still: It IS treacherous around here at the moment … and it was when I left work, also.)

After spinning my wheels for a couple of anxious moments in the same spot that had troubled me earlier in the day, I drove off the parking lot and headed toward home. I opted not to attempt a turn from Main onto Ruth, which still wasn’t cleared sufficiently — or perhaps it had been, earlier, but by now had become covered by snow and ice again — and includes too steep of an incline for my car to make it up. Instead, I drove on to Bond (West Bond), made the turn and headed toward home.

To get to my driveway, I have to drive through an alley that goes from Bond to Ruth. I attempted to enter the alley my usual way, from Ruth Street — and promptly ended up stuck, and stuck GOOD, in the alley and then in the driveway of my catty-corner neighbor.

A few minutes later, I managed to work my way out of that mess and ended up back on Ruth. I decided to drive over to Maple (the street that runs parallel to Main) and attempt to make it down the alley that runs from Maple to Main. (In other words, the block I live in contains two alleys: One going north and south, the other going east and west.) I made it about three feet into that alley and ended up stuck. REALLY stuck.

I tried all my reverse downshifting, to no avail. My car was at just enough of an angle not to be able to go forward nor backward — with its back end jutting right out into the street. (I would have left the car sitting there if not for the “jutting” part!)

I called the office. Dirty said she’d be there in a few minutes.

In the meantime, I tried some more downshifting. In a couple of minutes, a guy I’d never seen before came over and asked if I needed help. A minute later, a woman who was unfamiliar to me walked over to offer her assistance. They tried to push the car while I tried to back it up; the woman even went to get a snow shovel to clear some of the snow from around the front wheels of my front-wheel-drive vehicle.

Then the work crew arrived. Dirty, Sandy V. and Billy hopped out, and collectively, all five of my helpers were able to give my car just enough of a push to free it from the snow.

I attempted no more alleys today, deciding instead to leave my car parked next door … which just so happens to be my insurance agent’s office!

I think I may have, inadvertently and actually quite nonchalantly, invented a new word whilst writing a comment to go with a photo I was posting on my Facebook site: blah-ful.

I used it to describe today, weather-wise, and I think it fits. I suppose it would be more accurate if a person also happened to be congested and/or coughing and/or asymptomatic (is that the word I’m wanting) of any other cold- and flu-related illness; then he or she would feel absolutely blah-ful. (Do I need the hyphen? Let’s decide: blah-ful or blahful? I have to say, I believe the grammatically correct part of me wants to go with the latter version!)

(That part of me also realizes I should definitely cut down on my use of -ly adverbs, but … I can’t do it. Nor do I want to, really.)

I’m rooting for Rafa in the Australian Open, though I won’t be upset if Federer wins the title to tie Pete Sampras’ Grand Slam record (14).

After our trip to New York last summer, Diane and I could complete a Grand Slam of our own if we headed Down Under to see the Aussie Open, but I don’t see that happening. Who wants to spend 16 hours on plane? We spent eight hours, one way,  in 1999 (London) and 2001 (Amsterdam) — including me with a severely sprained ankle and nowhere to prop it up in 1999, and that could’ve been the most uncomfortable time I have ever spent traveling.

Still, I can see where being in Australia in the dead of winter could be fun — and, more importantly, warm. Perhaps when I’m rich and famous, I shall “winter” there!

Here are a couple more shots of the blue jay feather I found today:

I wish I could bottle up the feeling I’ve had over the past 3 hours, save it for a rainy day, pull it out whenever I needed it, have it there, at the ready, always.

It’s a feeling of confidence. A true belief in myself and my abilities, borne of a mixture of frustration, annoyance, disappointment and anger blended with calmness, apathy, optimism and love — and, of course, my ever-present sense of humor … and even a bit of arrogance.

At this moment, even in these uncertain times, I feel as “at peace” as I ever have. It’s unnerving and reassuring, all at once.

Wicked!

Here are some photos from this morning’s drive to work:

Too sleepy to blog properly this evening, but I did want to note for posterity that today was a gorgeous day, weather-wise. Not sure what the “high” was, but I believe the mercury rose to somewhere in the 50s!

(I knew NOT wearing longjohns to work was a good idea!)

I even found myself looking for crocuses (croci? Jim Croce?), even though I know it’s far too early in the year. Or is it? I might have to backtrack to determine when they usually bloom.

Anyhoo, thoughts of spring give me optimism. I know it’s a long way off — the technician at Super Lube told me it’s supposed to get cold again this weekend — but it’s much easier to be hopeful at this time of year than, say, November.

(Also for posterity: Kiddle is currently curled up on my lap with her nose pressed against my right thumb as I type. Not the easiest way to write a post, but … whatcha gonna do? I mean, she’s purring as if she’s the happiest cat in the world!)

Yeah, yeah, I’m pretty sure I vowed to make a new bloggie post several weeks ago, and obviously those weeks have gone by with nary a word.

I can honestly say that I have meant to sit down and write a few lines, and it’s no secret that I’ve been online often enough to have done so, but the truth of the matter is, every time I’ve thought about posting, I’ve come up with something else to do, such as finding people on Facebook (it’s fun!) or surfing relentlessly or playing yet another mind-numbing (and usually unsuccessful) game of Minesweeper. (See! That’s EXACTLY why I refuse to invest in a videogame system, no matter how much I want to be able to hop online and challenge Patti and/or her her kiddos to a game of whatever Mario Bros. contest happens to be in the machine at the moment — I quite literally would never get anything else done!)

So I’m borrowing Jane’s nickname as my title for today’s post because that’s exactly what I am: a slacker. The “if not the original, certainly a reasonable facsimile” slacker.

Put it this way: I can slack with the best of them … and I have, what, a more than one-month lag between posts to prove it!

Today I feel energetic yet annoyed. And upbeat, in general, because President Barack Obama is now in the White House, and despite the relatively miserable state of our nation, I have confidence that he is going to try to get some stuff accomplished. As I’ve gone on record before, I’m not naive enough to think he will actually be able to DO all the things he wants to do, nor am I a person who has ever had all that much faith in the president (first presidential memory: Richard Nixon resigning; enough said). However, I do think our nation’s leader is responsible for setting the tone for our country’s overall mood by stepping up and being just that: a leader.

And I think President Obama is quite capable of doing that.

My annoyance comes not from the president’s detractors but from the overall negativity that certain individuals always seem to want to inflict on others. Over the years, I have found myself basically banishing certain people from my life (even if I still saw them on a regular basis) because I realized they were doing absolutely nothing (say it again!) to make my life better.

And, lest we forget: It IS all about me … except when it isn’t.

I mean, I would completely ignore the negativists (cool word, even if it does refer to people who annoy me!) for as long as necessary — and wouldn’t you know: IT WORKED!

Quite frankly, I strongly suspect none of them ever realized (or cared) that they were being ignored, and I don’t recall any of them ever actually changing into shiny, happy people. Which, now that I think about it, probably wasn’t my intent, anyway.

I can’t really change people; I can only change how I react to them.

Meanwhile, I have balanced the realization that you cannot reason with nor understand the rationale of an unreasonable, irrational person with the excitement over reconnecting with a few people who meant quite much to me when I was a much younger person. (In other words: I have been aggravated beyond belief by someone I know who, quite possibly, is crazy — or, if not, exhibits power freak issues and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding and empathy. On the other hand, I have been thrilled to have renewed some very important relationships over the past several days/weeks.)

Out with the bad, in with the good, I say!

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