Snowmageddon 2021: I’ve got this.

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Here in Cheyenne, Wyoming we’ve had thirty plus inches of snow. Our doctors and nurses have been catching rides to work on snow mobiles and we’re going on our 3rd school snow day, which never happens here. In this part of Wyoming, as long as the roads are clear, the kids are in school. Here, we even go out for recess, as long as it is above zero degrees and the wind isn’t too terrible. On those days, I like to put snow ambiance on the smart board in our elementary library. My favorites are the forest ones from Chronicles of Narnia, but today there is no need for ambiance. The kids can look out their windows and see over two feet of snow.

It’s beautiful outside, to be sure. Snow always feels like an absolute miracle to me. It looks like a Christmas card in my backyard with trees dripping sparkling snow that looks good enough to eat. I can’t help but think Snowflake Bentley would be camped outside with his camera if he had this kind of snow. After reading the book about the man who first photographed snowflakes in Vermont to my 4th grade classes, I can’t look at snow without thinking of him out in a blizzard paying no mind to the cold. When I was a kid, I barely knew about Vermont, let alone snowflakes.

When I was growing up in Northeastern Oklahoma, My siblings and I would beg God for snow. When we looked outside and saw the flakes swirling through the air, we prayed for a snowday. And when snow managed to stick to the red earth and schools really shut down, we’d spend the few hours it stayed around trying to build a snowman, making snow angels, and creating trails in the woods with a dirt shovel because we didn’t own one for snow. Nobody did, as it was a useless tool where we lived. Later, when I lived in California for a time, I witnessed the snow of the Sierra Nevadas and was so dazzled by it I learned how to ski. A day skiing at Donner Pass when I was a college student was something I thought I’d want to do forever. Later, when I moved to Wyoming, I found all the snow I ever wanted and spent a few years skiing in it. Finally, snow! But that is all in the past.

It may come as a surprise after telling you how much I used to long for snow, but now that I know the difference between a garden shovel and a snow shovel, I’m good. Snow in all its glittering beauty has finally lost its magical effect on me. The little girl that used to grab a garden shovel to make snow tracks is now happy to let her husband grab his real snow shovel and head out to the driveway. It’s true. No matter how many friends I see posting pics of themselves shoveling beside their husbands on social media, I don’t feel at all guilty when my hubby tells me, “I’ve got this,” as he bundles up and pulls on his snow boots. It’s not like he thinks I’m incapable of pushing a snow shovel, but he already knows why it’s not my favorite chore. Trust me, I’ve shoveled my share of snow.

When I was a single mom and later when my husband traveled, I shoveled my way out more than once. When a friend stopped by to help or a neighbor lumbered over with a second shovel, I was always grateful. But I shoveled by myself or with my daughter many times in the past, so now when my husband says he’s got it, I let him. Maybe it’s the empty nester in me, but I feel comfortable in the fact that I know how to shovel my way out of the house just fine, as I’ve done before, but I don’t have to do that anymore.

During this Snowmageddon, I like the fact that my hubby is teleworking in the office nearby and that I’m surrounded by mountains of books and research. I like seeing pics of my daughter playing in the snow with college friends over in Laramie, while I sit here watching the ambiance of slowly melting snow outside my window, hearing the rumble of the snow plows finally making their way through town, and the occasional crunch of a snow shovel when my hubby decides he needs a quick break outside.

“I’ve got it,” he says. And I’m happy that everything I love about him can, for a moment, be summed up in that one little phrase.

Tina Ann Forkner is a school librarian, writing instructor, and published author from Wyoming. Learn more about her books here.


How I Found Joy On This Day

Wedding, Anniversary, 10 years, love story, 9-11, 9/11


by Tina Ann Forkner

Each year on 9-11, I think about the World Trade Center, the interviews with widows, pictures of children who lost a parent, and I remember how on that day I was being checked out of the hospital after a scary ordeal with meningitis. The doctor had just stopped by my hospital room to see how I was doing.  I remember that I already felt numb even before the towers fell. I sat on the edge of my bed, he stood with his arms crossed, and we were both silent as we watched the first tower fall on the television screen. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I doubt he had any idea the emotions his next words evoked in me.

“Are you okay?”

I wasn’t okay. I was exhausted from my body’s battle to fight off a disease that I was guessing I’d caught in an airport, the only public place I’d been in around the time frame I’d contracted the illness, my heart was broken because my marriage was falling apart, the hospital had not let me see my two-year-old daughter in 3 days, and I couldn’t wait to get home and hold her tight, but somehow the weight of all my problems, as huge as it was on my shoulders, lessened some as I watched the horrific images on the television.

Later, at home, with my little girl tucked safely in bed, I watched the footage on the news over and over, but I was too sad to cry. I’d been crying for days before 9-11 about how difficult my life was, and when 9-11 came, my tears dried up. I would be okay. I was alive. And just in case you think this is the happy part, where my high school sweetheart and I patched everything up after looking back on our lives in the shadow of what had happened on 9-11 and seeing how lucky we were, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Every time I saw a story about a divorced couple who got back together after 9-11 or two best friends who forgave each other after what happened in New York I turned the channel. My life wasn’t a fairy tale. We broke up, promised to be friends, and went on with our lives.

When 9-11 came around the next year, I didn’t see how it had been a turning point in my life. There were too many other sad milestones I’d had to reach over that year to stop and think about anything on 9-11 except the Twin Towers. So when I eventually fell in love and got engaged to a wonderful man who looked into my heart and understood everything and saw a similar reflection of his own journey, timelines and all, all I wanted to do was set a date. He traveled a lot for his job and nearly every date we chose was taken up by traveling or something pertaining to the three children we now shared. The only date we could land on that worked for both of us, unless we wanted to wait six more months, was September 11th. You know how it is. How in the world could we wait? We wanted to be a family as soon as possible.

We talked a lot about September 11th. Was it unpatriotic to get married on that day? Was it disrespectful? We talked it over with our pastor and his wife, with our parents and friends, and examined it from all angles, except not one time did I ever think about the day I was checking out of the hospital and all that had gone through my head and heart that day. Somehow the shared date didn’t click. 9-11 was simply 9-11 and now I had to decide if it was okay to get married on that date.

We chose September 11th, and instead of our guests being somber, or uncomfortable with the date, like we thought they might, they seemed happy to have an occasion to smile and be together with friends. Even our friends originally from New York or who had connections to that state, seemed happy. For two hours, all any of us did was celebrate a wedding. Later, my husband and I mentioned 9-11 as we drove to the airport and all that was lost by thousands of other people on that day a few years earlier. We reflected on how blessed we were, and then we went on our honeymoon. This was now our wedding day.

Over the next few years, I always felt guilty about mentioning my anniversary in public when it came around. It seemed like bragging, but how could I not celebrate my wedding date? It wasn’t until we had been married for a few years and one of the kids had asked me, after a lesson in school, “What were you doing on 9-11?” That I thought about watching the TV with the doctor and made the connection between that date and the day I got re-married. I’d never forgotten 9-11, but I had tried to forget the part about my marriage falling apart. Now, with clearer vision, I looked back and realized that the day I had left the hospital had been a turning point for me after all. It wasn’t a story for the news, but it was real to me. After all that time, the fact that my husband and I chose September 11th to get married no longer felt like a poor choice that we were forced into. It felt more like we were supposed to pick that day, the day I decided to start over.

Every year I still wish my husband Happy Anniversary on the same day as 9-11 and wonder if it’s okay to put it on Facebook, to tweet it, or to talk about it at work. This year, my ten year anniversary, I choose not to feel guilty. I choose joy, and I hope that’s okay. And I think, I hope, that in doing so, in some small way honors those who were lost, and who lost so much on 9-11.

I will always think of them on my anniversary, all of those people I will never know who would have never crossed my mind if not for that day, and I wish them joy.

And I wish you joy, Albert. I love you. Happy Anniversary.