Is Winter Over Yet?

It’s been a long and brutal winter here in CNY. The snowdrops near my door were the first signal that spring would come, and that was back in late February. Those tiny white flowers got covered in snow several times since then, as if old man winter was thumbing his nose at my hope of spring. Then the crocus came, and a week ago, the daffodil sprouts, so the season of less cold and grey  is coming! The flowers tell all!

To celebrate the probability that winter is ALMOST gone, I’m making a list of things I realized this season. Like the animals who begin to prepare for the cold season as soon as summer ends, good preparation is key for making it through the months of cold, snow and ice.  (Yes, I know that I should’ve posted this six months ago…)

How to Get Through the Winter in CNY

1. Cultivate friendships with snowbirds* throughout the year. Maybe they will ask you to visit them in Florida for a week. If they hedge on their invitation, remind them that they asked you to come! And then GO! If you can arrange this with several snowbirds on one trip down, you can extend your winter respite for several weeks. This extended stay means you will get some of  your Vitamin D through the sun for a change!  Don’t use sunscreen because it will block the sun that you need to produce your own Vitamin D. That is probably obvious, but worth saying anyhow. (I’m also not saying that you should roast and burn, just in case you take that to the extreme.)

2. Get a library card and use it to stock up on books and movies. You can order everything online and have it sent to your local library, and if you need to renew items, you can do it online too.
Can you believe that at the library my son uses (which happens to be in Florida), they will deliver your books through the mail!  Just realized that this is probably a relic of an idea considering Kindle, Netflix and all the other technology…..but the basic idea is the same.  Media that incites laughter is good for you!

3. Invite people over. Everyone has to get out sometime and maybe that someone is waiting for an invitation to YOUR house.  It seems like we are forgetting that long-honored tradition of jabbering around a table with a cup of tea or coffee and some dessert. Now it seems like people feel compelled to have the perfect setting or elaborate meals or theme parties to get together.  The reason to socialize is because it’s fun; and scientific research has found that it’s good for us too! (Imagine how much money is spent researching things that old-timers have known for ages.) We do need each other, so those of you who like to hibernate and then suffer from seasonal depression, take note.

4. Make something! The field is wide open for this topic. People with MS have issues, I know. But finding something to DO with your hands is good for you! (I’m sure there is research for this too.) Can you bang a hammer? Then make a birdhouse. (Call 4H or your Cooperative Extension for kits.)  Hammering is so good for pent up anger issues. Painting is fun and is therapeutic too. You can draw, doodle, use markers, chalks or inks, or color in a coloring book (with those beautiful smelling crayons!). I see kits for all kind of crafts in Michaels and Joanns—the easiness of a kit project means that you can finish it without a lot of stress. I’m all for that, because I have a lot of unfinished projects that are stressing me out. Where’s the fun in that?

5. Cook something new! Don’t make the recipe too complicated–if it feels too much like work it won’t be fun. (Speaking from experience.) Have a cooking party with other cabin-fevered friends. I know two women who meet and shop for groceries together; the drudgery of the task is less when done with a friend.  They also cook together and prep meals for the whole week ahead. Watch a foodie flick (Julie and Julia, for example) and serve unusual snacks. (I challenge anyone to watch that movie and not get ravenous.)

6. Write a note to a friend or long-lost relative, or a thank you note to someone who has helped you recently. There is something special about the handwritten note! If your writing is shaky, a card with a nice sentiment already printed in it will just need your signature. Don’t forget that when we don’t use our hand muscles to write week after month after year, we start to lose that function. Rehabilitate yourself and practice every day. It will be like research to see if you can write better after awhile—except no one will pay you for it, unfortunately.

7. Make a phone call to someone who finds it hard to get out.  This is a hard one for me because I hate talking on the phone. Either the majority of phone connections I get are poor or else I have a definite hearing deficit, so I’m always asking, “What?”  Work on your conversational skills while you are not also on the computer.

8. Play games. Card or board games with the above-mentioned friends, maybe. Don’t rely on computer games to get you out of the winter funk… research shows that the “rays” of the screen do not decrease the blues.  Again, interaction with real, live people is best.  Puzzles are a good winter pastime too. (Pastime is such an old-fashioned word, isn’t it?)

9. Plan a special outing that you can look forward to.  Get dressed up a bit (no sweats)  or pretend you’re involved in an espionage caper…..oh, wait, that was a movie I just watched (with Steve Carrell). Whatever it takes to make the week less humdrum—do it!  There’s something about anticipation that lifts the spirit a bit.

10. We are each the interaction between body, mind and soul, so cultivate your spiritual side!  I am a huge believer in having a daily quiet time and talking to God in prayer. The winter is a good time to learn about stillness and having times of reflection.  I can’t really give any other recommendations in this area, because I believe that having a relationship with God is the basis for building up your spirit.

That’s only ten hints. I hope you have lots of thoughts about these and are kind enough to post some ideas of your own. I’d love to hear what has worked for you this year. And please, if you’ve been praying or signaling the universe for more snow, please stop.

*Snowbirds are those local people who aren’t hardy enough to withstand upstate NY winters. They escape to the South before the bitter weather hits and they don’t return until the threat of snow/ice/cold is over.  Some snowbirds only go away for a month or two instead of the whole season; these are really juvenile snowbirds who are testing their wings.

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