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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!

Does that ever happen, really?

I don’t think so. I, for example, would undoubtedly be better about — and perhaps even caught up with — blogging if I were able to blog something every time I think about blogging it. But then again, with today’s technological advances, not to mention the amount of time a day I spend sitting at a computer, I probably actually could blog anything and everything I ever wanted, the very second it crosses my mind.

However, I will never be that organized. Nor that committed. I mean: Gimme a break!

So, here are a few shots I have taken over the last, oh, 3 weeks or so … in no particular order … as usual!

This was taken yesterday on my way back from Akin Grade School. I had to snap it because of the haystacks/bales and the telephone poles and the water tower and the truck. Plus it reminds me of Jane and Ray.

Those shots were from our quick trip to Chicago, during which it was basically too cold to walk anywhere — except for a short jaunt down 2 or 3 blocks of Michigan Avenue on Saturday … and we did manage to mosey over to the big Christmas tree at Daley Plaza.

On Thanksgiving Day, Diane and I stopped at the Goat Tower en route to The Ville. She had read about the tower in American Profile: Apparently, a Shelby County farmer built it for his goats, which are from Saanen, Switzerland — where, apparently, the terrain is rather mountainous. (I have no idea if that’s true or not, but … well, it must be, no?)

Apparently, mountain goats the relocate to the flatlands of Illinois don’t mind relaxing on the decidedly un-mountainous terrain!

Later in the day, we relaxed in the recliners in front of my parents’ new doors, watching a little bit of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I posted this on another site as “Joey and Chandler” (like the Friends characters), but I have now decided maybe we’re more like “Alan and Denny” (as in “Shore” and “Crane” from Boston Legal, which I already miss more than I ever imagined possible).

Except for the scotch. And the cigars.

After dinner came the best part of the day (next to the pumpkin pie, of course!): Christmas crafts, courtesy of mi madre. From left are Aunt Janie, Diane, Delra, Di and Mom. We made Christmas trees, gingerbread men (complete with rolling pins!) and tiny bell angels.

I have the cutest cat in the entire world.

Which is kind of funny because — and I may have mentioned this earlier — the first time I saw her, I thought she was the strangest-looking cat I’d ever seen in my entire life.

I’ll post some pictures of her helping me decorate our Christmas tree and wrap presents … eventually. Maybe. Unless I get busy doing something else.

I think it’s possible that I — and no small percentage of my co-workers — suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

I am attempting to cut everyone some slack because I know the past few months have been filled with loss and chaos, but … boy: Everything would be MUCH nicer if we’d get a few consecutive days of SUNSHINE!

Which reminds me of the episode of Northern Exposure in which Walt suffers from S.A.D. and ends up abusing his prescription sun visor! (Man, how I miss that show!)

The freezing drizzle stopped sometime this a.m., but the temperature never did get above the freezing mark … as far as I know, anyway. Heck, it might’ve gotten above freezing, but I ventured outside only once from work, at mid-afternoon, so who knows, really?

All I know is, it’s 27 degrees right now. And outside, all surfaces have a thick layer of ice on them, which makes walking extremely hazardous (as if it weren’t slightly dangerous, in general, already).

I love snow — when it’s falling, when it stops and the sun shines on it, when it’s not so deep that I can’t drive through it — and then, after a brief period, I’m ready for it to be gone.

I’m no fan of ice whatsoever. I mean, I don’t play hockey, nor do I ice skate, so … what’s the point?

I hate to wish my life away, but I do long for spring.

Today we have had a mix of what I like to call “sneet” (snow + sleet) and a new one I just coined, “f’rain” (freezing + rain … or, perhaps I could call it “f’f’rain,” with a certain unmentionable F-word taking the place of that first “f” … depending, of course, on your perspective).

Snow days are fun if you teach or have a job that can be pre-empted or postponed until tomorrow, not so much fun if you happen to work for a newspaper. Although, generally and oddly enough, the combination of hazardous icy roads and the potential to be “snowed-in” together tends to put people in surprisingly good moods.

Go figure.

A couple of women, Kathy and Other Diana (a.k.a. Dirty D) at work whipped up a salad and some BLT’s for lunch. Afterwards, Sheila suggested that perhaps we should have “rationed” our food … y’know, just in case we really did find ourselves snowed-in together, without any electricity or food.

“We’re not exactly the kind of people who ration food,” I declared, chomping on the third-from-last Do-Si-Do Girl Scout cookie from the pack Alice had given me.

The roads are slick. I hope I do not have to get out again today/tonight.

And why is it that every time I’m snowed-in, I get a craving for spaghetti — and never seem to have all the fixin’s I need?!

I go outside some days thinking there won’t be anything to shoot, but there always is.

And my obsession with dogwoods continues …

Dogwood

And I got a shot of the birdie who (apparently) lost this feather, and believe me, it was not a pretty sight.

Feather & Snow

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the snow followed by sleet followed by freezing rain made for a 40-minute (counting warm-up time) “project” of clearing the ice and snow off my car this morning — after which my car acted as if it wanted to be STUCK, but fortunately, I got it going a little forward, then a little backward, then a little forward and then … well, UNstuck.

No school here today or tomorrow, which is lucky because Diane is coming down with the flu for the second time in a month. And she got a stinkin’ flu shot! (Go figure.)

I hope it’s warm where you are.

… I had already seen AND photographed crocuses.

Haven’t seen any yet this year, but I know it won’t be long. I hope, anyway! (Plus, truthfully, I’ve looked only once or twice.)

Meanwhile, my mind is rather blank at the moment. I feel as if, over the last week and a half, I have been slowly emerging from the depths of the mid-winter blues. I go through this every year, but it seems to get worse the older I get. I find myself wondering if people who live in moderate climates — especially those where there is no true variation in the seasons — get weather-related blahs, ever?

I can’t imagine they would.

On the other hand: When everything is green, all year, do you even bother looking for crocus blooms?

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My Shots on Flickr

Waving

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Shed & Pump