Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Snowy Shade of Winter

When I started this blog, it was partly on the inspiration of reading my sister’s blogs, but I was also planning on using it as my outlet to comment upon the current events that get me irritated or put a smile on my face. However, it seems that more often than not, it became a way to reflect on the past and to talk about things remembered. This time however, I can talk about that bit of fun from last weekend – the Great Blizzard of 2016 aka Jonas, or something or other.

I look forward to times like that during the winter like I look forward to vacation during the summer. Snowstorms make the winter more interesting and breaks up the mundane of the daily grind. There’s something quiet and calming about snowfall that seems to turn down the noise of the rest of the outside world. Even shoveling isn’t that big of a deal – when it can be done at one’s own pace without having to worry about doing anything else that day. It is quite annoying to have to shovel out with the purpose of going to work instead of the purpose of making a nice sliding hill in the driveway.

This season has been quite unusual as we had the record-breaking warmth for Christmas. Now we are in the icy grip of winter, or at least we were before the blizzard. As fun as the big snows are when they come, it seems a habit of the climate here in Pennsy that as soon as it’s over, the warmer weather flows right in and melts all the fun away. Within the first couple of days after it was all over, we must have lost at least seven or eight inches to melting. Easy come, easy go I guess. There was that one year, though, a few years back where we had a few storms almost back to back, so that made things really interesting for a couple of weeks.

While it’s nice and all to have that break from the grind, it often makes me wonder how other people who live in areas where snowfall like this isn’t out of the ordinary look at us in the Tri-state area. Two to three feet of snow in one fell swoop is one thing, but it seems that our region gets paralyzed if there is anything more than a couple of inches. Sometimes it borders on the ridiculous. However, one of the things that really irks me is that constant nagging by state and local officials and the news stations about staying inside and off the roadways if it is not absolutely necessary to be traveling. To me, if it’s that damn important, then they need to be shutting things down and making sure a state of emergency is just that – only emergency personnel are allowed out on the roads. For God’s sake, year of year of these storms and none of them have realized that certain businesses are simply not going to close, and as such force their employees out into the mess unless they are forced to close. If everyone is so concerned about safety and such (even as those very businesses claim to be), then just shut them down, otherwise it’s just so much asinine lip service. There is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, that is so important that it can’t wait a day or two to go pick up at the store – especially when we have far enough advance notice of these storms nowadays.

One of things I did find amusing however, in the headshaking way, are those questions inevitable asked by reporters when the unusual weather is a topic of newsworthy discussion. It usually goes along the lines of “what do you think about this (insert unusual weather event).” I’m not sure the reason for it, but it seems they want some type of “hype” reaction from the people of whom the question is asked. Once in a while, they’ll get that person like me who has no problem with the weather as it is unfolding, yet the reporter acts incredulous that the interviewee is not affronted by the non-conformity.

Wild weather has always been fun for me. Sometimes I think I missed my calling as a meteorologist. Like those winter blizzards, those summer thunderstorms bring one of those tiny thrills every time they roll around. I can recall a few that were preceded by some really neat cloud formations. A really cool sight to see are those rolling thundercells out West. It’s pretty cool to be standing out one some plain somewhere watching a huge thunderstorm some 20 miles away glide by in all its anvil shaped glory. So it was nice for Jonas to grace us with his presence for a day so we could watch the ebb and flow of the snowfall and continue to be amused by the local news stations and government officials. Time to look forward to the next one, hopefully sooner rather than later – and again on my weekend off.

Friday, January 8, 2016

It Begins All Over Again

And so another Christmas has come and gone in virtually a blink of an eye. It really hits home when the time comes to click the last date on the annual Jackie Lawson digital advent calendars that Mom sends us every year. It’s sad that the daily surprise is over until next December. Day after day, a new scene or activity to do while counting down those days to the big moment. Every once in a while, catching the odd Christmas show on TV, and the month full of all those tunes and songs that we are more than familiar with, yet still seem refreshing this time of year. Even though this year has been a bit warmer than most, and thus another year (among many) that we did not have a white Christmas, it’s all those other things that really make the season for me.

It’s really not all that surprising how fast Christmas sneaks up on us when days are filled to the brim with activity, be it work or taking care of things around the house. Heck, I’ve been in the process of writing this since before my last entry, and only just now can finally find a few moments of piece to get something written down before heading off to bed before another day of the usual grind begins again. It's hard to fathom that it has now been just over a year that I started this blog. Today, though, the finality of the end of the holiday crunch is more poignant as the last song of the final Christmas collection came to the end. For me, I think it’s the music above all else that brings the most joy for the season. Most likely it stems back to those days of youth of listening to those classics on those big vinyl records while laying about the living room during that final week of school, anticipating a week of freedom and playing with all the new toys that Santa stashed under the tree.

It’s a tradition that I’ve had to carry over now that I have a family of my own. Except this time, its music on an USB stick in place of cassette tapes in the car, and watching a slideshow of family pictures play their way across the TV screen thanks to the old desktop computer hiding behind the screen as the tunes provide the inspirational backdrop from its hard drive. At least that’s something that I can still seem to have time to enjoy, even those days of having an actual holiday vacation are long since gone. The one good thing about the current traditions that I never really got to experience as a kid, though, is having “multiple Christmases” throughout the week. It makes it nice for the kids that now they can experience the gift giving and opening on more than one occasion as the extended families make their rounds during the week. It helps to make the holiday last a little bit longer.

But today the end is nigh. Most of the decorations and lights have been tucked away for the next eleven months or so – except for those that seem to magically appear a week later after we think we’ve finally gotten them all. It’s just the music that has been left playing during those trips to and from work, and running the errands. But now, it’s time to put that to rest until November 24th, when the cycle begins all over again. There was the one year a few years back where I was determined to play Christmas music at least once a month. That only lasted until March, though, when I just couldn’t bring myself to keep it going – perhaps something deep inside me wanted to make sure the special feeling of hearing it wasn’t diminished when the proper time for listening came again. But there was that one time, about 15 years ago or so when I left up the tabletop mini-tree up and decorated all year. It made for a great nightlight the 13 months it was up, but also became a very difficult to clean dust magnet, so that was a feat that was not repeated.

One thing that seems to have not been repeated over recent holidays was the so-called War on Christmas. A decade ago, that seemed to be the only thing you heard about every year. Now though, it appears that the need to be offended by the 25th of December has become a thing of the past. The irony of that whole situation never ceased to amuse, and annoy, me. It was inevitable that at some point following Thanksgiving, someone would become offended and cry about the intolerance of wishing society to have a Merry Christmas. I wonder if anyone else ever saw that irony of those shouting about the intolerance of Christmas were they, themselves being just as intolerant. I never felt the need to be offended by Christmas or any other holiday that is celebrated in the world even if I don’t celebrate them myself. I never felt the need to be offended by someone wanting to me to have a Happy Chanukah, a Merry Kwanza, a Great Boxing Day, or whatever holiday it happens to be. If you celebrate it, and want to wish me to have a happy whatever-the-heck-it-is, then go for it and a happy one right back at you. Why that should offend anyone is beyond my comprehension.

I am not an overly religious person, heck, I have barely been religious at all in my memory, but even I can accept the reality of the situation and understand the “reason for the season.” I may not necessarily subscribe to all the events that are believed to have occurred a couple millennia ago, but to me that does not lessen the fact that whatever happened, it was powerful enough to last all those centuries and bring us our traditions of today. I can say that I do believe in God, but perhaps not in the way that others do. In all reality, if you think of “God” (or whatever deity or deities that mankind has believed in at one time or another) in its base form – as the creator of life on Earth, then most absolutely God must exist, because here we are. Whether that life was created out of the clay of the Earth, or via the simple and complex mechanics of evolution, the Creator of Life is there and continues to be there every day, as life continues to exist and evolve. Whether God is some all powerful mysterious force or the Laws of Physics as we currently understand them, I don’t think there’s anything worthy of offense regardless of which end of the spectrum you find yourself. All in all, I think that’s the one thing I have been eternally thankful for over the last couple of years – all that asinine silliness about having to be offended by traditions that bring joy to millions across the world seems to have been realized for just that.

So I’ll end this by saying that regardless of what you celebrate, and what you believe, I hope 2016 is a great year for everyone and I hope that, despite those that would destroy society, this year brings us all a little closer together and we can celebrate our differences instead of being offended by them.