Vickroy: What grown-ups did during their snow days
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @dvickroy January 8, 2014 7:20PM
Snow and cold were causes for many Southlanders to catch up on chores, play games with kids and enjoy some valuable face time with family. | Donna Vickroy/Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 10, 2014 11:56AM
When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.
John F. Kennedy
There was an upside to Mother Nature’s blast of bitter cold and heavy snow this week: snow days.
As schools and businesses closed across the Southland on Monday and Tuesday, giving employees and students an extended weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder if snow days are as fun for adults as they tend to be for kids.
How did grown-ups deal with a complete lack of structure? Did they sleep in, raid the fridge and plant themselves in front of the television? Pass the hours posting selfies and texting friends?
Or did they seize the chance to turn those 48 hours into something fun, meaningful and productive?
While I have no doubt many simply grabbed a blanket and hunkered down, some calls Wednesday revealed that quite a few actually made the most of the bonus days at home. They cleaned closets, conducted science experiments and spent valuable face time with family.
Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
That is not news to Sheri Starks. The Richards High School science teacher spent several hours both days working on her Spanish via the Rosetta Stone language program.
“I’m doing levels 1 to 5 to better communicate with Spanish-speaking students and parents and to show cultural awareness,” Starks said. “After I can hold a conversation in Spanish, I’m going to try the Arabic Rosetta Stone.”
Jane Healy, a member of the Cook County School District 130 Board in Blue Island, said she and her daughters went the craft route, learning how to needle-felt little animals. They made a dog, a penguin and a few accessories, including a dog food bowl and a little apple. In addition, the family, including son Will, a junior at Eisenhower High School, helped dig out several elderly neighbors from the snow.
Kathy Quilty, of Orland Park, is the human resources specialist for Smith Senior Living in Chicago’s Beverly community. She went into work Saturday evening to collect items so she could work at home Monday.
“I started my (Monday) with a phone call at about 8:30 a.m. … first email was sent at 8:43 a.m. … and my last email was sent at 10:58 p.m. … even had a conference call thrown in there, too,” Quilty said. “I think I did more work at home than I would have if I came into work.”
In addition to shoveling and cleaning closets and drawers, Kathy Lachowicz made a fleece blanket for the upcoming jazz band dinner-dance at Shepard High School in Palos Heights. She also updated her computer, her jewelry web page and worked on her taxes.
“Is that enough?” she said. “I guess I could have used a couple more days, then I would have had the house ready for sale ... LOL.”
For many, the extreme conditions cried out for science experiments. All across the Chicago area, people donned parkas and mustered the courage to step outside just long enough to toss a cup of boiling water into the air and watch it turn to vapor before hitting the ground. The evidence of this experiment’s popularity can be viewed all over Facebook.
Others revised that old saying about life giving you lemons.
Kimberly DeVries teaches seventh-grade social studies at Century Junior High School in Orland Park. She and her children made snow ice cream. The recipe: fresh snow, 1 cup of milk, a half-cup of sugar and a half-teaspoon of vanilla.
“My girls thought it was so cool, and it actually tasted good,” DeVries said. “We also put together all of our toys from Christmas, did crafts and I made them a scavenger hunt through the house, which they loved. ... Because the holidays are always such a busy time, it was so nice to just spend quality, non-rushed time, with my girls.”
Bob Birgel, public relations coordinator for the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District, also made snow ice cream with his kids.
“We’ve been keeping busy with crafts, card games and our electronics,” as well, he said.
Lisa Miner, on the staff at the Museum of Science and Industry, also made snow ice cream for her young son, helping him through the painful experience of getting his tonsils and adenoids removed.
Many people used the extra time to put away holiday decorations, including Anne Lave, who works for Indian Springs School District 109 in Justice. She also restored some order on the home front.
“I organized my kitchen and bathroom counters and cabinets, something I neglect when I’m at work. Also, and I think this is productive, I spent time reading the books I rarely have time for,” Lave said.
In addition, she had time to give extra love and care to her 26 houseplants.
“I even repotted one,” she said, adding that overall “it’s been great, despite the worries about the cold and snow.”
Many parents engaged the kids in games and other activities. Kimberly Vollan, who teaches first grade at Park School in Orland Park, spent the time playing games with her children.
“We had a two-day marathon of Uno, Go Fish, Apples to Apples and Trivial Pursuit. I only won one time,” she said.
Kelli Mason, literacy coach for Community High School District 218, said, “Sara, Rachel and I went through old photos so we could get some digitalized. It was fun to look at the baby photos of them, even if Sara was horrified about the bathtub photos. Got all of the photos labeled, dated and getting scanned right now.”
Frankfort mom Lisa Ladonski surprised herself by doing more than she thought she would with the extra time.
“I finally organized my recipes and got them all onto my computer, and we organized all of our crazy paperwork that had somehow accumulated,” she said. “I also finally finished the great Christmas cleanup.”
She also used the time to make photo collages for her father-in-law’s wake; he died just after New Year’s Day.
And Victoria Iwinski’s luck went beyond having a few days off work.
The New Lenox resident, a data analyst for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said she and her husband “went through 10 years of clothes that we do not wear anymore and have filled eight large bags of donations for Goodwill. On top of that, we have been buying Instant Lottery scratch-offs to fill the time, and I won $500, which I will be donating part of to the South Suburban Humane Society. The other part is going to buy some new clothes.”
Kevin Brown, who teaches Spanish at Orland Junior High in Orland Park, brought up an important point: Productivity doesn’t necessarily have to be measured in work. In the busy world of working parents and technology-driven children, sometimes the most rewarding thing is what many of us struggle to find time for, just being together as a family.
“I wish that we had done something cool to contribute to the story,” Brown said. “Instead we kept the kids home, watched movies in our pajamas and had some family time. Not very productive, but fun, safe and warm.”