One month down, two to go . . .

39914349272_422949d3da_k

I really don’t like winter. While I appreciate its restful qualities after it’s reality has passed until the next year, I detest winter in the present tense. Why is it that everything seems harder when the weather is awful? It’s not as if I’m living outdoors. Actually, I am outside no more than is necessary.

Since I wrote last, I have endured the H3N2 flu that has made its unwelcome visit to so many homes this year. I did get the flu shot, so the illness was not nearly as awful as the last time I had the flu years ago when I become so delirious that I hallucinated I looked like a supermodel version of my myself when I looked in the mirror. While that symptom was not an unpleasant one, the chills and muscle aches of that flu are something I’d rather forget. I also had the benefit of Tamiflu this time around. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly that medicine worked on my fever and congestion.

I am still waiting for my epidural shot that should help alleviate the bulging L3/L4 disc that is impinging a root nerve that runs along my left hip, thigh, and knee. Now that insurance has preapproved this treatment, my shot has been scheduled for the middle of February.

If you ever find yourself in need of treatment for spine issues, be prepared to wait in line behind an unbelievable amount of people. These issues are so commonplace I’m surprised that they are not standard fare for conversation, like predictions of winter storms and roll calls of who’s on statin drugs for high cholesterol. If this were so, I would not have been disappointed so many times in how long I’ve had to wait for spinal treatments.

In other news, I have faced a common struggle that plagues parents of teenagers, the age-old battle over school attendance. I have endured a few too many mornings convincing my daughter that every school day is important. I have gone so far as to tell her that attendance is the most important thing one learns in school. In college, I once heard the rumor that St. Thomas Aquinas had a vision shortly before his death in which he saw that all of his erudition was but straw compared to the reality of seeing the Almighty. Likewise, my adult experiences have made the values of my youth seem so trivial. Your grades and class rank have little¬†value if you can’t be depended to show up at work.

In contrast, she made a bold yet shrewd choice in plotting the rest of her high school days. She has applied to join an automated manufacturing program at a local vocational high school. She was the only young woman who visited the open house for this program. Here is a sample of some of the work she enjoyed during her visit:

0128180951a

I am so proud of this unexpected choice. She’ll graduate with all the classes she’ll need for college, but she’ll also have job skills that pay living wages. I sure wish that I had acquired actual job skills in my high school days. The only vocational skill I had was typing.

When she mentioned that she’ll be wearing a uniform for the work portion of the program, she said, “Maybe I’ll look like Grandpa.”

I replied, “Looking like Grandpa is not a bad thing.”

When I consider her choice, I can’t help but reflect on two truths. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we are deeply influenced by our ancestors. In my family tree, that giant is my great grandma Nellie, who in the photo below was the only woman making school buses at Lima’s Superior Coach factory:

1106161410e

Frozen Again

31754639225_f9059d52a5_z

I reject winter and its empty promises. Lately I’ve seen a chart online that highlights regional differences in reactions to winter storms, a chart which lionizes Midwestern stoicism. I believe this Midwestern toughness in the face of ridiculous weather is due to two factors: an army of snow plow trucks stocked with road salt and a denial of reality. I lived outside the Midwest just long enough to lose this hysterical blindness to snow and ice. It’s like the opposite of that suspension of disbelief that allows us to enjoy fictions of all sorts. Once we in the Midwest outgrow the hope of school delays and cancellations and are crestfallen to realize that winter weather excuses us from almost no adult responsibilities, we prefer to talk lots about snow in the past and future tenses but ignore it in the present moment.

Spending four winters outside the Midwest restored my perception of snow. Each year I am dismayed to see that the winter driving season starts with a single car traffic fatality in my county. It’s like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” happens every year here courtesy of the first snow or ice, and the news report of such an event¬†is a necessary reminder to change one’s driving style for the season. It’s as if the reality of that first snow on the road is not enough in itself to caution most drivers around here.