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ANN BAILEY: Just getting through January

In the frigid, deep, dark days of January, it is easy to see how the settlers got cabin fever. With few or no trees to break the wind howling around their sods huts, only a team of horses or oxen to rely on for travel and little contact with other human beings, it’s no wonder that emotional breakdowns were common.

Even with a four-wheel-drive pickup truck that can plow through the drifted roads most of the time and Internet access to keep me in touch with the outside world when it doesn’t, it’s still easy to feel isolated and claustrophobic on cold, windy, snowy January days.

Looking out the window doesn’t even help because the view is of barren trees, a yard knee-deep in snow and several snow-flocked evergreens. While that might seem picturesque in December when winter is new or in February when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, in January it is depressing.

As my 10-year-old daughter Ellen, observed the other day, “It’s pretty colorless in the winter, only white, brown, gray and dark green.”

Beating the blues

Combating the gray look and feel of January takes commitment on my part. One of the ways to make the days brighter is to get and take care of our animals and chickens and to shovel snow. Exercise is proven to increase the serotonin levels in our brains and trudging through the snow while carrying feed and water jugs or clearing the sidewalk of snow is my version of going to the gym.

Another thing that helps me beat the winter blues is to write every day. Sitting down at the computer and writing my column or working on my book about Ellen’s cancer journey takes my mind off of the weather and outdoors. Meanwhile, I feel a sense of accomplishment as I finish each chapter. I know that I’ll have to do a lot more writing and rewriting to do before the book is done, but for me the hardest part of writing a story is to get it started.

Planning a vacation somewhere warm and sunny also brightens my spirits. I don’t know if we actually will go anywhere during the spring break of Ellen and her brothers, Brendan and Thomas, in March, but it’s nonetheless fun to dream about it and surf the Internet for ideas. If we don’t go, by the time spring break rolls around it will be spring, at least by the calendar, and winter will be almost history.

Productive days

Organizing and cleaning out closets and drawers is another way to pass the time in January. The beginning of a new year seems like a good time to get rid of old, unused items and by the time the month is over, our house will be the tidiest and most organized it has been since we moved here 20 years ago.

Attending Brendan’s and Thomas’ wrestling meets and tournaments also gets me out of the house on January days when I otherwise wouldn’t go anywhere. Watching them wrestle gets my adrenalin flowing and visiting with the other parents is a good for the January-weary soul.

Probably most importantly, I remind myself that it’s OK to relax in January and enjoy the slower pace. I know that come June when I am in the midst of mowing, hoeing and weeding, that I will be longing for these days. Better to enjoy them now than to dream about them then.

Reach Bailey at or (218) 779-8093.