Snow Day

It seems like winter is almost over and spring is just around the corner, but this week has been the worst in what has been, admittedly, a mild winter in Fort Worth, Texas. While we haven’t experienced anything close to the near record-breaking ice storm that plagued the 2013 National Cutting Horse Association and National Reining Horse Association futurities, we did get enough inclement weather to warrant a snow day.

As I plugged in my trusty laptop and settled in on the couch with a blanket and Greyhound to keep me company, my mind drifted to snow days past. Growing up in Michigan, snow was not near the novelty it is in North Texas. We were used to it – lots of it and for long amounts of time. Bad winters started early (I’ve trick-or-treated in the snow) and stayed late (I’ve attended church on Easter Sunday with snow on the ground), though hopefully not both in the same year.

People who live in the northern states are well-equipped to deal with snow and ice. City-operated snow plows and salt trucks keep roadways relatively clear and safely passable. Everyone owns either a snowblower or a shovel, and usually both. You could find an ice scraper and a set of jumper cables in almost every car, and we know what snow tires are. Suffice to say, most Michiganders wouldn’t have batted an eye at the inch-or-so of ice that hit Fort Worth on Monday. But every once in a while, Mother Nature would throw a curve ball, and we’d get a snow day.

Long before the days of Facebook and email, we’d sit around the television at night, hoping to see our school listed on the scrolling band across the bottom of the screen that  announced school closures. If the bad weather arrived overnight and we woke to a blanket of white outside, we’d anxiously hope for the phone call that signaled an unplanned day off. I’m sure our parents weren’t nearly as thrilled as we were when news of a snow day came in, but they handled it well and the best way they knew how – by bundling us up and sending us outside to play.

We’d build snowmen, drag saucer sleds and toboggans to the nearest hill to go sledding and have snowball fights. The best was in the winter of 1976, when a blizzard ripped through Western Michigan and left snow drifts so deep and high we were able to walk onto the roof of the garage and sled back down. What kid wouldn’t love that? We’d stay outside until the snow had soaked through our clothes and we were cold and wet, then we’d head inside to warm up with a steaming cup of hot chocolate before doing it all over again. Those were the days!

Just thinking of snow days makes me smile. But now that I’m all grown up, snow days seem to have taken on a different meaning. As news of office closures came rolling in on Monday morning, my Facebook feed became cluttered with people complaining about the weather and lamenting the work they would be unable to do that day. While Mother Nature was able to stop travel and close businesses, she wasn’t able to reduce the workload or corporate expectations that came with it. For many people, a snow day had become a source of frustration, with one colleague of mine lamenting, “Sleet equals stress!”

No doubt, deadlines don’t stop for anyone or anything. I am lucky to have the ability to work from home when need be to keep the presses on time and the magazine on schedule. Few of us can afford the luxury of giving in to the reckless abandon of a snow day we knew as a child.

But what if we could? What if, by simply changing our viewpoint and our attitude, we could be sledding and building snowmen, rather than struggling and stressing?

The good news is, we can. There are any number of books written about how to maintain a positive attitude while overcoming adversity. You can maintain control of your thoughts and your actions, making the prudent decision not to try to drive to the store when the roads are unsafe. You can learn from the bad situation to be prepared the next time, taking important files with you, just in case you’re snowed in again. You can focus your time and energy into managing what you can do, rather than dwelling on what you can’t. And you can accept the things that are truly out of your control and prepare to pick up the pieces when you can.

Snow days aren’t the only reason to hone these important skills, though. Adversity can come at us from many different angles and at any given time. Every day, we navigate through hundreds of situations that are completely out of our control. Most of the time they go smoothly; sometimes they do not, and how well you can “go sledding” down that bumpy hill can make all the difference.

In the competitive world of horse shows, these skills are even more important. Cow ran you over with 10 seconds left on the clock? Regroup and see what you need to work on to lessen the possibility of it happening the next time. Miss the finals by a half-point? Enjoy the opportunity to support your friends who did make it by offering to help them get ready and cheering for them with all you’ve got. Forget the pattern and underspin when everyone was watching? Take a lesson from NRHA Futurity Champion Casey Deary, who did just that in the rein work during the World’s Greatest Horseman competition. Like a true sportsman, Casey went on camera and laughed it off, quipping that perhaps he should switch to cutting, since his score in the herd work was 201 points higher than in the reining. Casey appreciated the caliber of horsemen he was up against, learned a valuable lesson and kept a positive attitude. He metaphorically chose to build a snowman complete with a broad-faced smile, rather than succumb to what was surely a stressful situation.

Whatever form your next snow day takes, embrace it with the enthusiasm of a child and go sledding. I guarantee you’ll enjoy the ride.