Tag Archives: winter

My day as “Mud Girl”

7 Jan


While I usually have a lot to say on the joys of childhood, I don’t have much to add to the topic of the joys of middle school. For there wasn’t any. At all.



I don’t have a lot of luck venturing out in the winter weather. Either I have to spend eight hours of my day in soggy shoes and socks or I have to look at the tatters of my once new-looking tights – a victim of falling on the slick sidewalks. I’ve had many bruises, scabs, and even a stitched-up chin from the icy ground. Yet with all my sob stories on the subject, none come close to the sordid tale that my 13-year-old self had to endure.

It was seventh grade. And while I wasn’t unpopular, I also wasn’t a standout. And in my ability to become invisible, I had found one outlet that I excelled at. Maybe being first-chair clarinet in band isn’t the most coveted of positions, but for me, it was. I could play scales like it was my business and was lucky enough to be chosen for quite a few honor bands during that time period. Something I incessantly bragged about to my other classmates who could care less.

On a slushy winter day, my friend Katie and I headed to Simpson College for one of those events. I had prepared night and day for this competition. And after nerve-wracking tryouts for chair competition, I was able to secure the top spot of all clarinet sections.

Wasn’t this a highlight. Waltzing into the college cafeteria, I felt pretty important among my counterparts. For there was third-chair girl in the second section, and lookie-here its fourth chair in third-section boy – how disappointing for them.

As depressing as it might sound, it was my time to shine – for about an hour and a half. Katie and I both sat at the “popular” table that day, as we both had made good impressions with our fellow band nerds.

It was after lunch that things suddenly soured. There was a large hill outside of the building, covered in snow. Some of the boys in their dress clothes dared others to slide down the hill. At that moment, I was not lacking in confidence and wanted to savor my cool factor for as long as I could. I boldly declared that, I, Carrie Olson, would roll down the hill. And I did. Into a gigantic mud pile at the bottom.

My hair was coated in mud, as was the rest of my body. In seconds, I had become a mud monster clawing up the hill to get back to my comrades. But they had all scattered, back to the rehearsal hall for practice. Into a bathroom I went, were paper towels sopping in water and soap could not wipe the humiliation or compacted dirt away.

So I went wandering around the deserted campus. After failing to find my band director, “mud girl” desperately ran to the car we had traveled to Des Moines in. A pair of extra clothes was sitting in a bag behind the locked windows. For a moment, I pondered the implications of slamming a rock through the window – but quickly found my bearings.

After defeat, I wandered back into the music building’s public bathroom, locking myself in a handicapped stall with my soapy paper towels. It had been a good 45 minutes, as hot tears flowed and my embarrassment got the best of me. I wouldn’t be remembered by my musicianship but my mud.

A couple college-aged girls entered the room and while fixing their make-up, talked of how campus police were searching for a middle school student lost at the college. In my foolishness, I hadn’t realized that not showing up for practice would worry the adults at the event. Bursting out of the stall, I yelled, “It’s me!”

Surprised, the girls ushered me, all blurry-eyed, to an instructor who had been in charge of finding me. It was then that I was able to get a hot shower and borrow some sweats before my parents finally arrived with new dress clothes for me to wear for the concert.

After a pep talk by my mom and dad, I went out and performed decently. I tried to get the trauma out of my mind. It was quickly relived as a boy came up to me after the competition in line at a local Wendy’s, saying to me, “You’re the girl who sat in the mud …” “Shh,” an adult woman said to him quietly. “She’s probably embarrassed enough.”

Reality set in. I would be ‘mud girl ‘to these people. Not ‘good at the clarinet’ girl. Popularity over. Sigh.

Most people will look at this moment with a smile and talk about how hilarious it now seems. And it is, to some extent. But what I most remember about that moment was the complete humiliation that I had to endure. This wasn’t the first (and definitely not the last) time that my self confidence had soared, only for me to get knocked down peg or two soon after.

Did I get any insight from this situation? Did I learn anything? Not really, just don’t be an idiot. Be a bit smarter. And damn you, snow.

Seize the day – the snow day, that is

19 Dec

In honor of the snow blizzard expected in Iowa on Thursday, here is a reprint of an original column that I wrote for Dec. 9, 2009. Enjoy!


“Carpe diem.” – Horace

Wake up. Giddy excitement. Underneath the piles upon piles of blankets. And you wait. Eventually, someone would lumber up the steps to be the bearer of news (hopefully good). And every once and awhile it came — a snow day.

The possibilities were endless. Sleep in? No, too wound up. Would there be an Indiana Jones marathon? Or perhaps outdoors I would venture, for a neighborhood snowball fight. Maybe I’d help Mom make some cookies or perhaps I would read another of my Sweet Valley Twins books.

Sure, I might have to shovel some sidewalks and there might be chores, and, sigh, there might be a make-up day at the end of the year. But it was worth it. For the pure delirious sensation that resulted from a normal, everyday kind of day, which was in fact not.

It was instead an awesome day.

My neighborhood would bustle with kids waiting to experience the day with one another. To spread our fervor with a frenzied commotion. Usually an igloo was started and soon forgotten. The boys would start a snowball fight. We’d end up with wet hair, bodies sweaty throughout our snow suits as we grappled with the white stuff through our enormous gloves. It usually ended with either me or my cousin Elizabeth getting smacked in the face with a snowball. The hot tears would smatter across our faces while we ran back into the house.

Although the hours passed by quickly, as hot chocolate-stained sweatshirts and the bleeps of a Super Nintendo game ensued, the day seemed to last forever. No thoughts were given to the following school day. Life was good and we knew it.

So why does the idea of a bit of snow, or a lot, or maybe epic proportions of snow freak us adults out? Fine, there are accidents. And yes, most jobs don’t accept the snow day excuse. And the shoveling. The snow blowing. The streets. And the kids … and the …

It’s hard to remember that gleam of hope one would get at the thought of a few inches of snow. Instead snow brings painful thoughts of sore backs and numbing weather.

So as we fight the crowds at the grocery store, or while we wait for our cars to start and get warm, perhaps we should try to carry that little piece of snow-day-childhood with us. To remember what the snow used to be about. Not an excuse to complain. Nor another topic to vent our frustrations through.

But instead as a piece of wonderment. The day we kids could declare our Independence Day. Nay to pencils and papers and calculators. Hello to muddy snow pants, boots and a day of complete enchantment.

For Peter Pan said, “Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all. Come with me where you’ll never, never have to worry about grown up things again.”

And Wendy replied, “Never is an awfully long time.”

Let us, at least for a moment, live as Peter Pan does and forget that we have real lives and responsibilities. Take a whiff of the cold air, taste a snowflake and live like you once did before.


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