39 Years

It was October in Paris, and he asked me if I wanted to take a walk.  It is a question that he has asked me many times in the past, and it is one that I never tire of answering.  With an enthusiastic yes, I grabbed all necessities – including camera – and stepped out onto the street with him.  It was cold and raining, but right away, I knew that I was on another lifetime adventure.  We had no map and no agenda.  We were just out . . . in the city . . . walking . . . to anywhere.

From early morning to late evening, we walked throughout the city – browsing, touring, chatting, pondering, eating, and drinking.  We saw both the glorious and the ordinary – with both sides of that spectrum equally as interesting.  Our feet led us through the inside of famous and not-so-famous museums, through elaborate and not-so elaborate churches, down prominent and nondescript boulevards, and towards both landmarks and unknown hidden gems.

Heading for home at the end of the day, we took a right turn and found ourselves in what can only be described as a park of plenty.  I saw remarkable gardens and teenagers – dressed in preppy school uniforms – playing pick-up games of basketball.  At the edge of a large fountain, which state side we would call a pond, I saw a line of children using sticks to push small sailboats across the water while their parents relaxed nearby reading books.

In the middle of the park I witnessed two men, both dressed in “Jimmy Fallon – I love my tight” pants, playing tennis as if their lives depended on the outcome.  Fifty yards away, I saw an additional ten men, pairing off for friendly yet seemingly fierce chess matches.  And fifty yards from that point, I saw an endless stream of mothers with strollers, infants, and toddlers playing on some of the most extraordinary playground equipment I have ever seen.

But what caught our attention  – as if gardens, tennis, chess, basketball, sailing, reading, and the merry-go-round wasn’t enough – was actually tucked away near the edge of the park. Initially, we were drawn to a bench – more importantly a vacant bench.  We had journeyed for several hours, several miles – all by foot, and as we closed in on the bench, the idea of sitting became more and more appealing.

Had we not sat down, we would not have noticed the rest of the story.

For directly in front of us were two of the most interesting teams of people, playing one of the most interesting games, for what looked like was an interesting mix of both pride as well as a few, no doubt lucrative, side bets.  All of the members on both teams were seemingly old enough to be my parents, with only one of the approximately twenty team members being female.

In the middle of Luxembourg Gardens, these two teams were sparing and jarring over a very competitive game of Boules.  They would toss balls, run to the side of the court, measure the proximity of balls thrown to the stationary ring, and shout out words in their language that needed no translation to be understood in mine.

There were players with their own polishing rags and players wearing specialized shoes and players using pocket play-books to strategize with each other.  The most interesting feature, however, was something that I just had never seen in a park – or anywhere outdoors for that matter. It made me chuckle; it still makes me chuckle.   For sitting just outside the rectangular, rocky playing field was a sturdy, silver, shiny coatrack.

A coatrack. A coatrack.

The day was chilly and wet, but no one was wearing a coat. They were all carefully hanging from the court-side coatrack.   Crazy-funny at its best.

Moments – or an eternity later – we continued our walk.

Like many moments over the past 39 years, neither one of us said a word about what we had just witnessed.  In a relationship, there are many times when words are really pointless.  A look, a smile, a frown, a glance, a wink can convey an entire conversation. Words just lack the power, the ability, the nuances.

I am not sure when we learned the art of not speaking. I am quite sure it wasn’t in our first decade. I do know that as our early years passed, our security in our ability to speak without words has grown.

And in that moment in the park, as we watched twenty people shout and skirmish over a game played by grown-ups tossing balls on a pebble-laden court, with a random coatrack in the background, i knew that I was experiencing a day for the ages.  It is a memory that needs no words, that is memorable, in fact, because of the lack of language – which to me – is nothing shy of awesome.

Soon thereafter, we walked in silence for quite awhile – beyond the Boules courts, the tennis courts, and the chess courts.  I snapped a few more photos, we laughed at the young boy who accidentally fell into the pond chasing his boat, and noticed that the boys in the school uniforms had left for greener pastures.

We, too, did the same, with the silent hope that we will experience more such moments.

The coat rack :-)

The coat rack 🙂

Though I don't know the rules, the game was beautiful.

Though I don’t know the rules, the game was beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Wore My Shorts Inside Out

I wore my shorts inside out. . . For at least ten minutes. . . While shopping. . . With my daughter. . . On vacation. . . In Florida. . . They were lined Nike running shorts. . . Black. . . With black lining. . . Trimmed in neon yellow.

I had just tried on some clothes in a local beach shop. When I put my shorts back on, I put them on inside out. And I didn’t notice. . . At all.

I walked fifty feet to the cashier, bought a couple items, and exited the store.

I turned to my daughter and said, “My shorts feel a little sideways,” . . . never looking down at them. But she did. Within seconds, we were laughing so hard, our eyes were blurry and our stomach muscles hurt.

I actually wore my shorts inside out for at least ten minutes while shopping with my daughter on vacation in Florida, and didn’t notice.

There is no doubt in my mind that wearing my shorts inside out was one of the goofiest things I have ever done. Somewhere I am sure there is a long list of other crazy funny actions on my part. But this one happened a couple days ago, so it has risen exponentially as my number one memorable moment.

I asked my daughter if she thought anyone else noticed. Her response was: “How could others not?” She suggested checking social media quickly for ‘crazy funny woman with shorts on, lined shorts on, inside out’.

As we were still laughing upon returning to our vacation compound, I willingly shared my faux-pas with the remaining assembled relatives. Wearing lined shorts inside out while shopping. There was no need to embellish the story in any way. It was crazy funny in its short form.

I didn’t have to share the embarrassing moment with my vacation family. It was a choice. My daughter, following a politeness protocol, would have graciously kept the story to herself. But I threw caution to the wind and shared it.

I truly believe that the world is crazy funny more often than not. At any given time, someone somewhere is doing something that is just flat out funny. Most embarrassing moments are hysterical if the owners can overcome the embarrassment.

But it isn’t that simple.

Too often crazy funny moments are transformed into anger, frustration, or fright.

I could have blamed my inside out action on the lack of adequate light in the changing room. Or on the minuscule time I had available to shop. Or on my daughter for not alerting me sooner. The whole event could have been framed in anger with me passing blame towards anyone or anything beyond me.

During the same vacation week, I watched a young boy, a new bike rider, at a speed of less than 1/1000 mile per hour ever so slowly run into my cousin. I saw my college age nephew toss a bocce ball that broke into two as it hit the ground. And my thin and trim brother-in-law sat in three beach chairs, breaking each one, within a three hour period.

Each scenario could have been framed differently.

My cousin could have scolded the bike rider. With acres and acres of beach, it was rather quizzical for him to – at a snail’s pace – hit her. The opposing bocce team could have cried foul as a very competitive game came to a screeching halt when my nephew’s bocce ball split. The tournament was effectively ended. And with a three for three broken beach chair track record, my brother-in-law should have been a little frightened to sit in anything. Bodily injury was a possibility and his cost of sitting on the beach was escalating.

Instead we turned to the crazy funny side.

The little boy hopped off the bike, backed away (slowly) and we chuckled. The bocce players looked at the two half moon pieces, laughed, and went for a swim. My brother-in-law trudged three times to the trash can to dispose of the next broken chair while we howled.

And the inside out shorts?

The next morning as I arrived on the beach, five of the sweetest nieces and cousins suited up in their now favorite inside out shorts, inside out lined shorts, for that one extra belly-busting roller coaster laugh.

All I can say is . . . well framed!

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Positivity – – -ness

“It’s all in his positivity – ness.”

That is the sentence my son uttered and the word that he used.  And when he did, I did the eye-squint double take.  I certainly know what the word positive means.  And I am fairly skilled with the meanings of the common english suffixes. But when he put them all together, I paused.

Since that moment, I have thought long and hard about it.  Positivity – ness. What does it mean?  What does it mean to me?  What should it mean?

Many days, I find that all types of challenges, problems, dilemmas, tests, trials, and conundrums that are just waiting to be explored, solved, eliminated, completed, deciphered, and overcome.  All too often there seems to be far too few hours in the day to properly address everything that is on my short-term list, never mind everything that is on my long-term list!

In fact though I am embarrassed to admit it – but not too proud to face it – two days ago, though it is not something I do often, I did take a small pile of moments out of my day to stop and complain – about the workload in front of me, the mound of seemingly insolvable problems around me, and the lack of my ability to succeed with any of it.  Keep in mind, that I know that I should not be complaining. I know my world is kind, great, and wonderful. I have family, friends, health, security, and more; but, for some reason I took five and whined.

Today, I remembered my son’s word . . . positivity – ness.  It swirled around my mind for a piece of time, and became a little, silent mantra that I heard most of the afternoon.  Positivity – ness. Positivity – ness.  Positivity – ness.  As crazy-funny as it might sound, that most unusual word – a word that seems to have one too many endings – is one very powerful noun.  And for now, it is becoming one stunning part of my vocabulary.

Most vocabulary words have rather concise definitions.  Though not a genius, I can generally rattle off the meaning of everyday, ordinary words lickety-split, and for words that are more complicated, I can usually find sufficient dictionary definitions that are ten words or less.   However, positivity – ness is neither an ordinary word nor one that can be found in the dictionary.  It was one that was created and developed by my third son, the artist.

What I think he meant by it is only a guess.  However, I have had some practice with such word interpretation.  For this particular word isn’t the first that he has invented.  In fact, he has a fleet of great terms plus a few phrases that he has brought to fruition.  Some of his words have brought howls of laughter, some nods of agreement, others quizzical head shakes, all of them joy in the moment. I have truly grown accustomed to new language additions from this most unlikely source.

Positivity – ness is a term, however, that has done more for me than just increased my language.  Its meaning isn’t simple nor short.  I think when that third son invented it, he knew it was a word to be comprehended and understood after a long period of thought. In fact, I think he expected folks around him to consider its meaning and use it appropriately, kindly, and confidently.

Positivity – ness is what it takes to make it through a day when there is nothing else to consider.  Positivity – ness is knowing that we are all challenged each day, but we are also blessed, and it is the blessings that should be the focal point.  Positivity – ness is learning to enjoy and respect the differences within each other.  Positivity – ness is expecting that we will work to change the world in many ways, every day, all of our days.  Positivity – ness is relying on each other for the strength we need when we can’t muster the strength we need ourselves.

Today, I found positivity – ness in the smile on the face of the guy who nodded his head as I jogged past him on a sidewalk near my home town university.  I heard positivity-ness in the voice of my oldest son as he told me about the birth of a friend’s child, seven pounds, two ounces, healthy.  I felt positivity – ness when my golf partner told me about the joy of helping her daughter move into her first new house.  I learned positivity – ness through all of these events and so many more, too many to list, that occurred in one brief twenty-four hour period.

I think the beauty of the definition of positivity – ness is that it can not exactly be defined.  More importantly, as I use the word – positivity – ness – I need to make sure that I use it well and use it right, while undergoing and valuing that quirky unknown meaning sensation.

The world is a great place, filled with opportunity and possibilities.  I hope that I can use my positivity – ness to reach out to others, to find ways to make the ails of the universe fade away.

What a great word.  What a great day.

Positivity - ness from the artist. 2014

Positivity – ness from the artist. 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring On The Goofy

I am quite sure that under the term ‘nice guy’ in the dictionary, you would likely find a photo of my cousin, Michael.

It is easy to describe Michael – because it is all good.  As a young man, he went to a great college, joined a great fraternity, graduated with a solid degree, and secured a great job right out of the chute.  He is typical tall, dark, and handsome – with a penchant for smiling.  Today, he is a wonderful family man with equally wonderful family members.  He is calm and responsible with that caring demeanor the rest of the world envies.  He has a stellar career, is involved heavily in his community, and happens to be a rather good athlete.

He lives a thousand miles away from me.  And over the past 40+ years, I have been fortunate to have spent a week-long summer vacation each year with Michael.  Sometimes the vacation is longer; occasionally it is shorter.  With all that time together, I thought I knew him as well as anyone might.

But I was wrong.

Turns out . . . he is willingly . . . goofy.  Yes . . . goofy.

As an adult, it’s tough to be openly and enthusiastically . . . goofy.  Children can be goofy and all is well. Goofy dancing in the grocery store at age three – great! Goofy attire in junior high – great! Singing goofy songs loudly at high school football games – great! For youngsters, it is all great to be goofy.  In fact, we often encourage the goofiness in our youth as a way of increasing those crazy-funny moments in our lives that lead us to laughter, hilarity, and merriment. I readily admit that my day is brighter when I run across the goofy-side of the world. Goofy is fun.  But goofy isn’t all that common once we exit our childhood and enter that mysterious adulthood.

I am not quite sure what my definition of goofy has been, but rarely if ever, would I have associated that term with my cousin, Michael . . .  until recently.

Michael is a charitable guy.  He works hard at service to others.  And he isn’t one to want the recognition that comes along with his actions.  In fact, he usually likes to be in the background – doing his thing to help in any way possible. It turns out that Michael is the chair of a fund-raising event in his home town.   It is a great cause and a good, solid charity.  It is in need of funds.  It always is in need of funds as there are more folks who need assistance than current funds available.  So, from my vantage point, it looks like Michael has been asked to lead the efforts in his community to reach a fundraising goal.

And, lo and behold, captured via camera, the world was introduced to his goofy side.  With photos forever etching the moment, Michael is seen standing dressed up in a full-fledged, head to toe Superman costume -including cape – standing in that well-known  Superman-pose that had me do a double take when I saw it.

I laughed . . . and chuckled . . . and smiled.   Michael – in a Superman costume – goofy as can be – putting himself out there for a cause.

Working on causes . . . charitable ones . . . philanthropy . . . isn’t easy for many reasons.

First, the opportunities are endless.  There are hundreds to thousands of great causes – and each one of them deserves assistance. Narrowing the scope and finding a good fit is nearly impossible.  There are local charities, state-wide causes, national organizations, and activities that may have personal ties.  There are opportunities to volunteer time, opportunities that require specific skills and those that just seek donations.  All of them require some type of effort in achieving their goals, and all of them are worthy, but how do we, as humans, make selections?

To add to the dilemma, the older I become, the more I see a world in great need.  From children to adults, the number of people facing daily challenges seems to be growing and growing and growing.  In fact, that number seems to far outweigh the number of folks who can assist.  As a teenager, I was just sure that by the time I entered my later years, I would see a reduction or elimination of the suffering, hunger, or poverty in the world.  How could that not happen?

I recall thinking – and probably chanting at some rally during the 70s – that if I was not part of the solution, then I was part of the problem.  Thus, reaching out and helping was and is the only direction to take.  And as I have aged, I continue to pursue more opportunities to make differences.  But, it doesn’t seem to be making even the slightest dent in the world.  For all of us, it can be disheartening to try so hard to make the world a better place, knowing that the fruits of our labors may come to fruition years, decades, centuries down the road.

And that is where my thoughts of Michael enter the picture.

Sometimes to make that difference in the world – to be a part of the solution – to help those in need – we have to step outside our normal and average selves and go for it!  If that means slipping over to our goofy side and dressing like Superman, then so be it!  If utilizing that sometimes inert goofiness inside all of us positively changes the world just one iota, then we all should strive to engage in the goofy more often.   I can think of no better use of crazy-funny actions than to save the world.

The willingness of others, like Michael, to be goofy to serve the greater good is, well, motivating.  If one person helps for one moment or gives one dollar more because of one action on the part of one person doing something relatively out of character, I am grateful and forever indebted.

So, today, I say . . . bring on the goofy.

mIKE

A photo of my cousin – in his everyday attire!

The Charleston Women’s Drama Study Club

For those who have known me for a long time, and for those who most likely have drawn logical conclusions about me by reading this blog, feel free to laugh now.  As I readily admit, normally my walk in life is not the personality that when entering a room fills it with howling laughter.  I can be crazy-funny in the moment, but on a regular basis, I am not generally described as the comic relief personality. 

I am not sure why I think this part of my life is funny – perhaps because it is so out of character for me – perhaps because I am – as I see it – in this part, a weak link in a very strong chain –  perhaps it is because it is something I never dreamt that I would be doing.

 But, I am.

So keep in mind that what I am about to tell you is true – and I am not changing the names to protect the innocent (see Dragnet 1951-1959)! 

I am proud to say that I am friends with 34 very talented women.  That number doesn’t include the five talented women who have reached emeritus status. (They are still my friends and they are still talented; however, they are just more or less retired).   Considering the entire group, the composition is amazing.  These women come from all walks of life, represent numerous generations, have very diverse interests, lifestyles, and opinions, and again, are all my friends. 

By default, I have been to most of their homes, always on the second Thursday of the month, always on time.  Actually, the rules state that if I can’t be there, I must contact the host prior to 7:45pm.  Failure to do so twice in a row means that I will be asked to exit the group. 

And in some configuration or another, these women have been together for the past 93 years.  Yes, 93 years!

Me?   I am merely a youngster as I have only been with them for the past six years.  I know several ladies who have marked their 50th year.  Let me say that again, 50th year.   It is amazing to me that sometime in 1909, 35 women joined together and came up with a brilliant idea that has managed to make it through numerous wars, natural disasters, depressions, recessions, and just the every day, usual, routine stuff that can set up all kinds of challenges and barriers no matter how strong the women are.

We have an ironclad constitution that guides us, and we follow it – every last word of it.  Every five years (no exceptions), we invite spouses and significant others.  The dues is $6.00.  Cash is preferred, checks are accepted.  But it must be paid, and the sooner, the better.  In fact, at the start of this season, it was announced that all dues had been collected during the first month.  And we applauded.    

All members must participate once each year during one of the eight months of the season.  Every five years, each member must agree to be a host.  No exceptions.  Every time we meet, we take roll, read the minutes, present the treasurer’s report, consider old business, and discuss new business.

And then the fun starts.

For the group I am describing is the Charleston Women’s Drama Study Club, currently in its 93rd season.

From October to May . . . for the past 93 years . . . a portion of our group becomes the cast – reading and acting out a play –  and the remainder of the group comprises the audience.   This season’s docket includes: The Best Man, Mrs. Mannerly, The Last Romance, Ghost Writer, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, The Other Place, The Naked Eye, and Theatrical Haiku.  In all, I have seen 48 different plays during my membership and have looked forward to the previously mentioned eight.

In early evening, on the second Thursday of the month, we fill a house, create a set, find a place for the audience to sit, listen to the director provide a brief description of the play, the playwright, the time period, and any unusual stage directions that might be happening, and . . . off we go into the world of drama. 

I have seen the ladies of the Charleston Women’s Drama Study Club transform themselves into all kinds of characters; we have no boundaries on who we might be and what we might do to convey what we believe the writer and director intended. 

I have witnessed a woman – who is in her mid to late seventies (and who has been a member of the club for decades) play a character whose profanity would make pigs squeal.  It was so out-of-character for the actor – and truly unexpected while in the moment.  So, every time she spoke, we roared.  Every time we roared, she laughed.  And every time she laughed, we laughed more. It was crazy-funny at its best. 

Again, we laugh, laugh, laugh at the comedies and cry, cry, cry at the tragedies.  At times the audience is noisy-loud, and at other times, the drama is so dramatic we can hear a pin drop.  We always end the evening by gathering around the cast and seriously discussing exactly what we might have learned from the production, followed by a cast photo taken by our resident historian.  And this has been happening for 93 years. 

Most amazing to me is what I have learned – being a member of the Charleston Women’s Drama Study Club.  In all honesty, I haven’t learned to be a better actor – my talent is still on the lean side in that area.  I am still not one who dazzles much, if at all.   

But, the moral of this story is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 

Even with my minuscule acting ability, if I am a cast member, my theater buddies lavish words of praise and accolades upon me.  And there is nothing better than trying something new and different, persevering and clunking through it, and having the ladies of the Charleston Women’s Drama Study Club tell me that I was superb!  For me, that is how this star was born!

Acting in the annual Christmas Play . . . Even the best actors can’t always hide their feelings!

On My Honor

On my honor, I will try:  to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Girl Scout Law. – The Girl Scout Promise

I was a Girl Scout.

That’s right.  An all American, rock and roll, crazy-funny, dippy nerdy Girl Scout.  My troop number: 972.  Our motto: live, laugh, love.  My active scouting years:  1961 to 1974.  And not only do I still know the Girl Scout Promise by heart, but I am also quite familiar with the Trefoil Pin . . .  and the difference between a brownie, a junior, a cadet, and a senior . . . and the ten Girl Scout Laws, with the fourth (a Girl Scout is a friend to all and a sister to every other Girl Scout) being my personal favorite.

And I was an all-in Girl Scout.

I made, owned and used a sit-upon.  I proudly wore my uniforms from the brown Brownie dress and brown Brownie beanie to the green Junior jumper, keenly accessorized with a green badge-covered sash.  I read my handbooks cover to cover, making appropriate notations in the margins to ensure that I completely understood each and every Girl Scout rule.  I took pictures at my Fly-up Ceremony, was proud of the day I became a Senior Scout, and to me, the best thing to do on March 12th is celebrate World Girl Scout Day.

In my mind, the world of Troop 972 could only be described as the best type of crazy funny living that ever happened to me.  There was nothing better than me and nineteen of my closest Girl Scout friends sleeping in a lodge with no electricity and no running water in the middle of a cold Missouri January.  I can recall watching the snow shower down around us – hoping and praying for more.

As an eleven year old, the same group of twenty young ladies spent a week building primitive teepees, and a week living in them, again, no electricity or running water within a five-mile radius. Showers were built out of water-filled recycled Clorox bleach bottles tethered high enough to splash our faces.  At night, tin mess kits and battered canteens were kept in ditty bags and hung from trees, along with all food, far from the camp as we had no desire to encourage visits from nearby raccoons.

From eighth grade and throughout high school, Troop 972 bailed on lodges and teepees and took up hammock camping somewhere in the hills of Troy, Missouri.   And just before exiting high school, the gang decided that there was really no need for hammocks, as sleeping bags on the ground worked just fine.  Of course, transistor radios, flashlights, pocket knives, and rain tarps were must-have items.  Everything else was just something that had to be carried.

Throughout my Girl Scout years, I learned to tell the difference between a clove hitch and a bowline, cook anything in tinfoil packets, build fires quickly and efficiently, clean clothes in nearby streams, fend off spiders, and sleep in the great outdoors.  Though all insignia that we wore indicated that we were Girl Scouts, our hearts told us that we were more like modern American pioneers – discovering, inventing, creating, and surviving.

Today, as I look back on my scouting years, I am very aware that what I did as a young Girl Scout in the late 60s /70s would be impossible to replicate today.  For good or for bad, it just wouldn’t be allowed. It just wouldn’t.

Today, no one would allow a group of eleven year olds to winter camp, each of us carrying and using a hatchet to chop wood for the fire which warmed us and fed us for a week.  No one would allow twelve-year olds to live in teepees for two weeks without any access to any type of modern amenities including plumbing, electricity, and/or outhouses.

No one would ever allow thirteen year olds to hang handmade hammocks between two trees – the ultimate test of knot knowledge and skills – and sleep in them.  Truly the score was danger ten, safety zero.  And certainly no one would allow fourteen to eighteen year olds to march out for miles into the forest, throw down sleeping bags and set up camp in the middle of nowhere – with no functional means of communication to any parent – for seven to ten days.

Looking back, we were at best living on the edge and at worse, putting ourselves in the middle of many, many dangerous, age-inappropriate situations.  But we were Girl Scouts.  We were a group – a gang – of renegade young ladies, bonded together through scouting, learning to become the women we are today.  We didn’t really think about what could have happened to us.  We only thought about the next moment, the next challenge, and the next great adventure.

The good news is that we all survived.  We lost no one and encountered nothing that toppled Troop 972.  I am quite sure that I have long forgotten all of the awkward, anxious, and most likely, idiotic times that put me and my GS friends in some type of peril and only recall those that paint the rosier, heartier, and more captivating version of our history.  Today, I can see that had the troop been active during this century, its history . . . its story . . . its life would have been completely different.

And I can only think that it would be even better.

I still am a Girl Scout.

A Remnant From My Early Brownie Days

Gotta Love Winter Break

I love winter break.

And, I am happy to report that I have had a winter break every year of my life since I was in kindergarten.  Really – what’s not to love about it –  ten days off each winter from sometime before December 25th to sometime after January 1st.  A brilliant idea in any world.  It can be called winter break or winter holiday or semester break or just plain vacation; regardless of the name, it is still grand.

Winter break is one of the joys of the United States educational system.  Everyone and everything stops – halts – pauses for a holiday.  No one misses anything because there is absolutely nothing happening to miss . . . for ten days . . . at the end of one year and the beginning of the next.  There are no classes scheduled, no meetings to attend, no educational dilemmas to solve.  The phones may ring and email may be received, but all of it waits until the holiday ends and the next semester begins.

Winter break is one heck of an educational tradition.  Sports-metaphorically, it’s halftime for folks on both sides of the classroom.  Officially, we claim that its purpose is to re-invigorate ourselves, recharge our brains, and prepare ourselves for what follows in January.  Of course, those reasons are all true; however, behind the scenes, winter break is also a time to simply goof around during what can be the gloomiest time of year – in particular for those living in the colder and snowier climates.  Some say why, while those in education say . . . why not take a break.

Not only is winter break an educational tradition, but so, too, is spring break, and fall break, and of course, summer break – with the last being the longest and strongest both in tradition and duration.  Obviously, education isn’t shy about its official pauses.  It’s a glorious schedule . . . work a little, rest a little, work a little, rest a little, work a little, rest a lot.

There are serious challenges to working in education, (and I will leave those issues for discussion by someone else at some other time); but, taking and enjoying break time isn’t one of them.  How to holiday is an art form that has been heartily practiced and universally adored by students, faculty, staff, and administration throughout all education.

This winter break, I have noticed two distinct reactions by folks outside of education.  The first I take as a compliment – although it generally comes in the form of questions with twists of sarcasm:  When do you work?   Are you still off?  When do you go back?  Is anyone manning the ship while the students are away? Who is paying for all of this?

And, truly, from the outside, it must look like education is break-happy beyond belief.  In fact, I am careful not to contact my dad too much during winter break, as he is old-school.  Prior to his retirement, he worked from dawn until dusk without even as much as a fifteen minute break.  Lunch was on the fly and a vacation was earned and given during the summer months only.   So, regardless of sarcasm, this reaction to winter break is well understood and well deserved.

The second reaction I also take as a compliment, but it is much more quizzical to me:  I wonder why I am not off?  Why isn’t everything closed for a winter holiday?  Shouldn’t it be a part of world tradition to take scheduled breaks? 

Here I can only empathize and whole-heartedly agree.  These questions seem to be directed more internally towards those who are not partaking in break time rather than externally towards those who are.  Yes, everyone should pause.  Yes, everyone should re-invigorate, recharge, and prepare.  And yes, everyone should have a length of time in the middle of the winter to goof around.  The only challenge is convincing the entire non-educational world to institute the winter break system immediately each and every year.  A possibility?  Yes.  A probability?  Hmmm . . .

My itinerary this winter break was typical for me, I think.  I spent time with family and friends near and far; I completed household projects put on hold throughout the fall; I caught up on day-to-day tasks, wrote thank you cards, worked out at the gym, cleaned closets and cars, read my backed-up reading list, wrote a new bucket list, watched basketball games, went to the movies, ate too much, and slept too little.   In reality, the list of my winter break accomplishments is a lot of nothing plus a little of everything that could have been postponed if it weren’t for the great winter pause.

Yet, I love winter break.

Regardless of how mundane and inane my accomplishments have been during break, it is crazy fun.  It is crazy fun to rejuvenate and recalibrate in any way, even in ways small and silly –  especially when facing the dark days of winter.

Interestingly, one part of my winter break activities included being in a car during the early morning hours on December 25th. From my bird’s-eye view, most – if not all – folks appeared to be on break at least for the day. All businesses were closed and a true winter break seemed to be in full swing. The roads were quiet and calm with no traffic in sight and no sounds to be heard.  Everyone was on pause.  For me, it was a surreal moment thinking that more than just the education population was taking a winter break . . . together.

My take-away? As a nation, we should seriously strive for the winter break concept.  Take what happens in the halls of academia and generalize it, so that those whose fortune hasn’t led them to work in education are able to experience the true meaning of holiday.  I have no clue as to whether I am a more productive and/or effective educational employee because of winter break.  It is hard to measure as there is no control group inside education to use for comparison!

However, it is easy for me to know that winter break is just a plain good idea.  So, here’s hoping that we all pause for ten days next December/January . . . together.

It doesn’t hurt to hope!

This photo was taken moments before the official start to winter break!