Surviving the wintery Texas snow

If you are in the United States this past week, I am sure you heard about the massive winter storm that tore through Texas. I’ve lived in Texas for the past 25 years and in San Antonio, Texas for the past 19. Never have we seen an arctic blast like this one. Typically weather in February is in the 60s or 70s in the day time and it dips down into the 40s at night. We don’t get many evenings where we hit freezing so when we had a series of days of freezing temps and evenings in the single digits, it was an unusual event.

In fact it was the second coldest week ever in Texas, and San Antonio hit a record low of 12 degrees (beating a record set in 1895). In addition to the cold, we saw 4 inches on Sunday night followed by another 4 inches on Thursday. The last time San Antonio had a big snowfall was back in 1985 when more than a foot of snow fell over two days.

Since this is such a rare event – snow and frigid weather – the City and its residents were not prepared. And more importantly, the electrical grid wasn’t ready. To prevent the whole state from losing power, they implemented what should have been rolling blackouts. Now, our power never went off. It turns out my power grid also supplies a nearby hospital. But, for many neighbors, power did go out, but not for a short time. They lost power for 2-4 days – in freezing weather.

The loss of power also took out some of the water pumps around the city. This meant that some people lost water in addition to their power. Our water became a trickle Tuesday evening and by Wednesday morning it stopped. It would be 36 hours before it came back on.

You never know how much you rely on something until it is gone. We couldn’t take showers. We only had what little water we had put in bowls before it stopped for cooking and cleaning dishes. We only had a few bottle of water at this time but went and picked up a few more from my husband’s work (which was without power). To flush the toilet, we used melted snow. If you have ever tried this, you know that it takes a lot of snow to melt into a decent amount of water.

By Friday morning, our water was back to normal though we are still under restrictions even this morning to keep boiling the water before drinking or cooking with it. But man it was nice to take showers Friday and be able to do laundry. Like I said, you don’t know what you have until it is gone.

Because many people lost power – and because people in Texas tend to panic – stores were hit hard before, during and after the storm. Shelves were empty. In fact, I had to rely on a neighbor to provide me with a gallon of milk since I couldn’t find any.

And of course because much of the city was without power and/or water, school was cancelled for the week. I know you people who deal with this snowy mess all the time are shaking your heads that we are freaking out about snow. But the city really isn’t ready for such a rare event. We don’t have snow plows and very few trucks that can salt or gravel the roads. Our buildings are winterized so pipes burst and the lack of power crippled repairs.

Now, we fared way better than many others across the state of Texas. We were at least warm and could cook our meals. And even though we did have a pipe burst from being frozen Monday morning, my husband was able to patch it at least temporarily. Or at least enough until the plumber can fix it which won’t be until this Wednesday.

And then just like typical Texas weather, we went from below freezing temps on Monday to 70 degrees by the weekend.

What a crappy PTA year – we get a “do-over” opportunity

This past year, ever since the pandemic sent our students home last March, has been a horrible time for Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA – sometimes known as PTO – Parent-Teacher Organization). With school campuses either closed as students are virtual learning or closed to volunteers in an effort to keep safe the teachers and staff on campus, PTAs have not been as involved as we have been in the past.

Many PTAs have found ways to still help, but to be honest, the support and level of activity are just down. Memberships are down. Fundraising also down. There are so many activities that we have had to cancel. Well, Texas PTA (which governs all the PTAs in Texas) decided that they would give us what I am calling a “do-over” year.

Usually when you take a PTA board position or are elected as an officer, you can only hold that position for two years. This allows for new leadership and new ideas to come into the association. But because we haven’t been able to fulfill most of our duties this year, Texas PTA is allowing us to come back – even if it means you hold a position for a third year.

Of course, at each PTA, we had to vote on this as a board and then also get it approved by membership, but I am certainly glad they are allowing us this opportunity – even if it only really affected one of my PTA positions.

Council PTA – I joined our local area council PTA just this school year. In case you are wondering, a council PTA oversees all the PTAs in our school district. So you have National PTA -> Texas PTA -> Council PTA -> Local School PTA. Since this is my first year as training chair, I could come back in the same position no matter what Texas PTA decided. As it turned out, we voted to do our do-over year there.

Local PTSA (high school) – Again, this is my first year on this PTSA (Parent-Teacher-Student Association). I currently am the Communications chair in charge of the newsletter and social media. I had already planned to return in the same position. And again, we voted for a do-over year here too.

Local PTA (middle school) – Now my position on this PTA is affected by the new Texas PTA decision. Here I am PTA president – in my second year. Now the key to voting for a do-over year is that a majority of the board must be willing to return in their current position. Do I want to be president again? Well, sort of. It is a big-time commitment, but I really feel like I haven’t been able to do much this year. We have tried to do a few things remotely and have held our fundraisers as virtual events and supported the staff the best we can with appreciation events where we can’t be there. This is for sure not how I expected this year to go. And next year will be my last year at this school so I would rather go out on a high note. This board too decided we would take advantage of the “do-over” year. Our membership votes on it tomorrow. (I’m sure it will pass.)

Now I just have to hope that our “do-over” year is more like a “normal” school year where we are back on campus and involved. I certainly don’t want a “do-over” school year that is exactly like this one!

Using an emotion wheel to improve your writing

Creating strong characters depends on putting feelings and emotions into words on the page. Physical traits and character backstory can help create a vivid character, but it is how they behave to a situation that really makes them come alive.

This emotion wheel can help you determine how a character will act in a given scene.

Is your character embarrassed? Does he feel ridiculed or annoyed? From the outside of the circle toward the center, he is feeling a mixture of sadness, anger, and disgust. How is he going to act? Will he lash out? Will he walk away? Will he swallow his feelings and extend a hand and a smile?

As the writer, you get to choose.

Looking for more help – check out this website for a cheat sheet on body language.