The Effect of Snow Days on Otherwise Sane(ish) Mothers

grown_up_snow_dayThe madness of yet another major snow and ice storm in Atlanta has rendered my brain just about completely useless. You’ll be relieved to know that my autonomic nervous system is functioning as usual. My heartbeat, breathing and digestive systems are still on autopilot. However, complex functioning required to make plans, follow directions, make decisions or reason through any sort of cause-and-effect analysis is completely out of the question.

According to my own extensive research, the evidence conclusively shows that snow days are terrible for your health. My hypothesis, that proximity to one’s children and spouse/partner for extended periods of time with no option for escape can interfere with brain function has proven scientifically accurate. Moreover, my research has undergone stringent testing through the peer review process which turned up identical results. Subjects across the country were observed and polled. Local subjects participated in numerous round table discussions generally while imbibing copious amounts of wine. Other peers who responded remotely from across the country via Facebook and Twitter also reported similar results.

To be clear, I use the umbrella term “snow day” to mean any day in which weather conditions have caused the closing of schools, daycare centers or offices. As we’ve learned this winter, a “snow day” may include actual snowfall or, merely, excessive cold that makes standing on a bus stop a life-threatening activity. Because of global climate change, in the future, the term “snow day” may be extended to include drought, famine, floods, earthquakes, plagues of locusts and other potentially disastrous acts of nature. The following is a brief summary of my research notes after observing one subject who has chosen to remain anonymous.

The subject is a 44 year old, female in generally good physical health with the exception of a noticeable layer around her midsection that in no way resembles muscle. Subject is a stay-at-home mother of two elementary school aged daughters.  Subject has been married for, what she reports, “feels like two lifetimes…maybe more.” Her spouse is a 43 year old advertising executive with a high-level position in a global advertising company. During the observation period, subject’s husband was often observed being grumpy and lacking patience with the subject and their children.  This behavior tended to become more frequent in direct correlation with the number of snow days that kept him from the safe haven of his office.

During the observation period, there were two extended stretches of time in which the subject was exposed to the effects of snow days. In my report, I refer to these stretches of time as “Snow Week 1” and “Snow Week 2.” As with her spouse, negative impacts on subject’s mental and physical health became measurably more pronounced with each snow day. I will outline the subject’s changes in behavior and mental/emotional status separately for each Snow Week.

Snow Week 1

  • When the subject was presented with meteorological evidence indicating an impending snow day, she began a period of sharply increased activity during which she was observed hoarding food and drink, focusing mainly on gathering various alcoholic beverages.
  • The subject became notably more agitated as snowfall began and her spouse and children remained away from the family home. The subject reported having entertained a number of doomsday predictions during this time period.
  • Upon the return of subject’s offspring and spouse, her panic response reportedly lessened significantly.
  • Subject’s relief was short-lived however.  Realizing that she would be stranded in the house with her spouse and offspring for the foreseeable future, the subject’s panic response quickly returned to dangerous levels.
  • Subject reported becoming increasingly sensitive to various sounds during Snow Week 1. These sounds included, but were not limited to, her offspring’s whining, the theme songs to children’s television shows and cartoons, news reports incessantly repeating details of the snow event, and her husband’s low-level grumbling in response to any and all stimuli.
  • Subject’s activity level sharply decreased during this time period and her intake of sugar and alcohol markedly increased.
  • Subject became more and more sensitive to the taunts of peers living in the West who continued enjoying beautiful weather.

Following Snow Week 1, when the weather regulated and subject’s spouse and children returned to their usual work and school schedules, the subject demonstrated an increased level of optimism, bordering on inappropriate giddiness. Subject did, however, show evidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In one incident, the subject thought she spied a snowflake and was halfway to a panic attack before realizing that the offending item was merely a leaf. It appears this Snow Week will have ongoing emotional repercussions for the subject.

Snow Week 2

  • When the subject became aware of another predicted Snow Week, subject showed evidence of a serious break with reality. When she realized that denial was having no effect on the weather, she again entered a period of increased activity, seeking out and gathering children’s activity books, Nerf guns and an increased supply of alcoholic beverages.
  • As subject’s spouse and children were safely at home at the onset of Snow Week 2, her panic response was muted. Instead, subject’s behavior indicated evidence of sad resignation bordering on depression.
  • The subject’s physical activity slowed to sloth-like levels. She began baking and ingesting sugar and fat-laden comfort foods at an alarming rate.
  • On a handful of occasions, the subject was observed vocalizing in expletive-laden tirades apparently aimed at ice crystals raining down from the sky.
  • The subject was later observed eating Xanax like candy.
  • The subject’s parenting skills deteriorated to dangerously low levels. The subject reported having to repeatedly fight the overwhelming urge to eat her young.
  • The subject is catatonic, curled up in the fetal position. Her last words were, “Who are these people and what are they doing in my house?!”

I fear the subject may not survive another snow day. In fact, snow should be avoided at all costs. My recommendation is that the subject get on an airplane bound for a tropical island immediately…ALONE!

A Snowy Night in Hotlanta

As I sit outside at Starbucks writing and enjoying a sunny, 65 degree day, it’s hard to believe that just yesterday, we still had patches of snow on the ground. I’m sure you heard about the storm that hit Atlanta this week. Let me tell you…no matter what you heard, it was both more surreal and far more devastating in reality.

I started my week with a sick kid so, instead of getting my Monday reprieve from the munchkins and a doing little freelance work, I got a big dose of “Mom, entertain me…my fever is down and I’m ready to party!” Ugh. I can’t be the only parent who has been tempted to withhold Advil so the sick kid stays lethargic on the couch watching Nickelodeon. When I called school to let them know that Smalls wouldn’t be in, the woman in the office said, “It looks like she may just get a snow day tomorrow, too!” at which time I ran to my computer to check the forecast. Yessiree, another winter shitstorm coming our way, only this one was bringing more than just arctic temperatures.

TJ's Pre-Snow

Trader Joe’s, Pre-Storm

Because I’ve lived through one big snowstorm in Atlanta that had us iced in for a week, I headed straight to the grocery store when Ad Man got home that evening. Many of the shelves were already bare, but I managed to get some necessities…beer, wine, frozen pizzas and kale and went home to await the inevitable call that school was cancelled for the next day.

Only that call never came. This was odd. The last time we had a winter storm, the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) cancelled classes upon just the rumor of snow. This week, we had a damn good idea what was coming our way since it was already barreling through parts up north. I assumed we’d be getting a call in the morning saying the kids would have a half day of school, but nope, still no call.  So I put the girls on the bus, ran to Toys R Us to see if they had any sleds (sold out), and then ventured no further than the Caribou Coffee a few blocks from my house where I could write and await the call to go get the kids or head home to meet the bus.

I sat staring out the window of the coffee shop when the flurries started. They were quickly followed by big, fluffy, Chicago-style snowflakes. I went home to avoid having to later drive on slick roads and still there was no message from the schools. Finally, the APS tweeted a notice saying that the middle-schoolers would be released one hour early and the elementary schools and high schools would get out at their usual times. APS specifically requested that parents allow children to return home the way that they had arrived so as not to create chaos in carpool.

I wasn’t thrilled having to wait what I thought would be another three hours for the girls to come home on the bus, but after frantic calls to Ad Man and a number of neighbors, I was assured that the bus was safer than heading out to retrieve them in our relatively light, non-four-wheel-drive car.  So, I sat tight as the snow started sticking and creating a winter wonderland in our backyard that would have been thrilling on any other day.


Our Street as Sledding Hill

Biggie and Smalls generally get home on the bus around 3:15 pm. Instead, I got a call from Biggie’s teacher shortly after that, letting me know that the buses hadn’t even arrived at the school to pick the kids up yet. We and our neighbors quickly decided to divide and conquer, each heading out to a separate campus of the school to pick up stranded kids. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but the short story is, it took Ad Man more than an hour and a half to retrieve Smalls and it took our neighbor almost three hours to bring Biggie home from the other campus.

The girls reported back that there were still lots of kids and teachers stuck at school and the buses still hadn’t arrived when Biggie left at 5:30 pm. The girls were exhausted, but excited by the snow so we played outside a bit before heading in where we lit a fire in the fireplace and I poured a glass of wine to calm my frayed nerves. After dinner, the girls passed out, but Ad Man and I sat glued to the television watching horrific news pour in.

Traffic was at a bumper-to-bumper standstill all over the city. No one could move because of thick ice covering all the roads. Kids and teachers were stuck in schools, people were having to spend the night in their offices. And, those were the lucky ones. People were stranded in their cars everywhere, many whom ended up sleeping in them overnight. Others had abandoned their vehicles and walked for hours trying to get home to their families or find somewhere safe to sleep for the night. Cell lines were jammed. Every hotel in Atlanta was booked solid and a baby was born on the freeway.

Atlanta Traffic Map During Snowstorm

Atlanta Traffic Map During Snowstorm

At about 10:30 pm, I got a text from the neighborhood bus chain saying that our beloved bus driver Mrs. W was still out on the road trying to get the last few children home from school. She was stuck on an icy hill with five kids and couldn’t take her foot off the brake or they’d slide down the hill and crash into the cars abandoned there. The “bus mom”, my friend A, managed to get a hold of a few families on that street who brought out food, drinks and blankets. Ad Man drove as close to the bus as he could before the streets became too icy and had to walk the rest of the way. He and a neighbor on the street with a 4-wheel drive managed to get the last of the children home to their anxious parents.

Mrs. W never once left that bus, even when Ad Man offered to take her place so she could rest a bit. Despite many offers of a warm place to sleep, after waiting forever for a sand truck, Mrs. W ended up getting back to school at 3 am and slept there.

But Mrs. W is just one of thousands of ordinary people who did extraordinary things last Tuesday night to help out others, many of whom they didn’t even know. It was amazing. I’d like to believe that good people anywhere in the country would rise to the occasion in a situation like this. I know it happens here in Atlanta. When I sat down to have a cup of tea last Tuesday morning, I was intending to write a humorous account of what happens on the rare occasions that it snows in the South. I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined the story that I’m sitting here recounting today.

Waiting for Spring

tree_buds_horizIt occurred to me recently that I should just have my psychiatrist read this blog to track how I’m feeling. I’ve realized that writing is what you might call a “canary in the coal mine” for me. When I’m doing well, the writing comes easy and is fun as hell. Unfortunately, there are other times when the chemicals in my brain are not cooperating and I can’t seem to have a funny or original thought to save my life, let alone put it down on paper in any engaging way.

I’ve been working on a post for the last three days that I finally had to set aside today. The writing felt laborious and, no matter how much editing I did, I just couldn’t make it come together.  I’m clearly depressed despite what I told my shrink last week. You’d think by now I wouldn’t have to be hit over the head with glaringly obvious clues to know it’s time to remix the old antidepressant cocktail.

Instead, it took a complete meltdown in Starbucks during a conversation on the phone with Ad Man about the girls’ swim lessons for me to realize what was up. (You can understand why that might be a very emotional conversation. WTF?) I’m officially a wreck and cannot take another day of winter! When we moved to Atlanta, I knew the summers were going to suck, but I didn’t imagine that the winters would suck too. I’m like the poster child for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It also doesn’t help that I’ve had a migraine every day for the last week and a half.

Fortunately, there was a tiny glimmer of hope as I was walking down the street after my Starbucks breakdown today. I passed by a tree with buds on it! The trees are budding despite the unseasonably cold weather and threats of snow. I stopped to take a photo to remind myself that no matter how long and hard the winter is, it eventually comes to an end and is followed by spring. No matter what.

Anyway, this is a very long way of asking you to please be patient with me if my posts seem to be sparse and less than hilarious these days. I’m just holding on by my fingernails, waiting for spring.

The 15 Suckiest Things About 2013

george_and_friendsI’ve been in a bit of a post-Christmas funk lately. This happens to me pretty much every year, so it’s not unexpected. Christmas was my mom’s favorite holiday which makes me miss her even more at this time of year. There’s the typical holiday let-down after spending so much time and energy planning for something that’s over in just a day. Also, the weather is crap, which never helps.

Anyway, I thought rather than fighting my gloominess and attempting to write a hopeful, looking-forward, end-of-the-year post, I’d just go with it and make a list of all the things that really sucked about 2013. So, let’s say goodbye to all the bullshit of the last year.

The 15 Suckiest Things About 2013

  • The Boston Marathon Bombing.
  • Due to Congress’s pissing match over the U.S. budget, government employees and contractors spent two weeks in October doing yard work and growing beards when they could have been, you know, working for the government.
  • Kim Jong Un appeared to be filling his father’s notorious shoes quite nicely. 2013 was a particularly rough year, however, for his uncle and ex-girlfriend.
  • The weather continued its epic rager with tornadoes in Oklahoma and the midwest, flooding in Colorado, northern India and central Europe, a massive typhoon in the Philippines and wildfires in California and Arizona.
  • Rush Limbaugh continued to exist. Lou Reed did not.
  • #Hashtags became ubiquitous. #Annoyingashell #Deargodpleasemakethemstop
  • Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” forced a jury of otherwise reasonable adults to acquit admitted murderer, George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman apparently failed to learn his lesson and continued threatening loved ones at gunpoint.
  • The Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own citizens. Syria’s standoff with the United States and the UN scared the crap out of everyone.
  • Justin Bieber made his bodyguards carry him up the Great Wall of China and speculated that Anne Frank may have been a “Belieber” if she weren’t so busy hiding from the Nazis.
  • The NSA made Orwell’s 1984 seem quaint.
  • Miley Cyrus gained even more notoriety with her infamous AMA “performance” with Robin Thicke and that foam finger.
  • Mustaches became a “thing.” Kids held mustache-themed birthday parties. Huh?
  • Mass shootings continued. Gun control fizzled.
  • Lance Armstrong whined to Oprah like a little girl. No offense to little girls.
  • George W. Bush finally found his true calling as a celebrated painter of dog portraits. (Or maybe that’s one of the most awesome things of the year. It’s a tough call.)

Please join me in bidding good riddance to 2013. Here’s wishing your 2014 is crammed full of love, health, happiness, success, unicorns, rainbows, bushels full of money and adorable newborn babies in flower pots!

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