Seven ways to smile through winter

Forcing lily of the valley is a great way to smile through winter.

It’s only mid-January, and I’ve reached winter’s crying time.

After the recent ice storm, I feel almost as frozen as this holly. We'll both thaw out in time.
After the recent ice storm, I feel almost as frozen as this holly. We’ll both thaw out in time.

You think I’m being overly dramatic? I’m not. Usually, I reach this stage mid-February right after Valentine’s Day, but crying time came early this year.

Ice storms are beautiful, but hard on plants and people.
Ice storms are beautiful, but hard on plants and people. I don’t mind snow as much.

In one week, Oklahoma had a snowstorm, an ice storm and copious rain.

Don’t panic. I’m not really crying. I am a bit lethargic and misty-eyed in winter’s aftermath. So, this morning, I took myself in hand, sat down with a cup of tea and a breakfast bar, and considered ways to smile through winter.

More of Mother Nature's icy grip.
More of Mother Nature’s icy grip.

After 54 years of circling the sun, I know myself pretty well. First, I thought about why I’m in such a funk. Oh yeah, my entire family was sick for weeks during and after the holidays. Between the cold virus, bronchitis and the norovirus, my poor family was down for the count. It reminded me of the years when I spent all my time doing laundry and pouring cold medicines down everyone’s throats. I am grateful I did not catch the norovirus. You just don’t know how grateful.

In the meantime, my exercise routine fell off, and I haven’t been outside nearly enough. I also went to see the movie, Jackie, yesterday in the rain no less. No wonder I’m feeling crotchety.

Time to make some changes. Here’s my seven-point plan

  1. Keep eating healthy as much as possible. With May and Megan’s wedding looming ever closer, I need to look my best for those important photos. Plus, it’s good to be healthy, and I’m not getting any younger. Blah, blah, blah.
  2. Exercise three to four times a week. Grant permission not to kill myself either. My exercise has been pretty bad for the last couple of weeks, and it shows in how my clothes fit. However, I have a tendency to punish myself when I relapse from the treadmill. That just makes me sore, and then I don’t exercise in a vicious circle. Remember that I’m also trying to stay strong for spring and garden season along with a daylily tour here in June.
  3. Read more books and stay off the internet as much as possible. I have a new reading challenge on Goodreads. There are now studies showing our brains work differently because of our social media addiction. I know I get a dopamine rush when my phone bings. So, more books and less online time unless I’m working on an article or post.
  4. Have more indoor plants. I’m thrilled my bulbs are starting to grow and bloom. It makes winter seem less formidable. Also, I’m going to spend more time in my greenhouse. I’ve neglected it this year because we had a disaster early on. I need to get out there and cut back the dead limbs on some of my citrus burned by cold weather. The door blew open, and I haven’t had the heart to repair the damage indoors.
  5. Use my NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy Lamp when I’m reading for thirty minutes a day. I need to remember to use this because I have one, and it works.
  6. Keep doing videos. I like live video and my channel on YouTube. I don’t do many gardening videos this time of year because there’s not much gardening to do, but I enjoy making unboxing videos and such.
  7. Garden when and where I can. As I wrote above, so far this month, we’ve had a snowstorm, an ice storm and copious amounts of rain, but in between, we’ve also had wonderful weather. I need to get out there and cut back the perennial grasses. Since we finally got some cold weather making the roses dormant, I’ll also prune them.

These are my seven ways to smile through winter. What are yours?

Read any good books lately?

I have, and if you follow me on GoodReads.com, you might have already read my mini-reviews of these two books, but, in case you missed them . . . .

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of Sharon Lovejoy’s work.  For the past twenty years, I’ve read everything she’s written, smiled at her drawings, and implemented much of what she teaches.  I’ve built sunflower houses, played with my children during Hollyhock Days, and we’ve shared many other adventures in the garden.

Cute cover, eh?

I’m also proud to be working with her and seven other wonderful writers on the Lowe’s Garden Grow Along blog this spring.

When she asked me to review her new book, Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars: Grandma’s Bag of Tricks, I nearly clapped my hands in delight.  Its arrival in the mail made me stop what I was doing to plop down in a chair and give it a once over.  This time, Sharon directed her efforts toward grandparents, especially grandmothers.  She encourages them to pass on their love for gardening, nature, cooking and all things home to their grandchildren.  There are suggestions for making a cozy room with a quilt on the bed and a basket full of books for visiting little ones.  (I had a grandmother like this, and I can tell you, next to my mother, I love her more than anyone.)

One grandmother met her darlings with a cup of hot cocoa on the first morning of their stay and then took them for a walk to the beach to see the sunrise.  Pure inspiration.

However, before you think this book is only for grandparents, think again. These same games can be played with our nieces and nephews and our own children if we only take the time.  Toad Cottages is similar in format to her earlier work Sunflower Houses.  You really can build a sunflower house with a morning glory roof.  It isn’t difficult, and I assure you the children in your life will always remember it.

As a writer, I receive too many books describing how we should involve our children in the garden, but which base their advice only on practical matters.  I think, instead, we should read and implement a book like Toad Cottages which encourages us to instill the love of gardening lore and whimsy.

We only get this one life, and childhood is very short.  I would encourage you to take your child’s hand and go on an explore today.

While you’re outside, bring along a sketchbook or notebook with you.  Then, if you seen a fantastic bird, or interesting flower or plant, you can quickly capture its essence on paper. Better yet, encourage your child to bring along one too.  A love of a gardening starts with a love for nature in all of its beauty, violence and just plain ickiness (think of parasitic wasps eating a caterpillar inside out for example).  Kids adore the ick factor as much as beauty, by the way.

Susan Leigh Tomlinson, paleontologist, artist and professor in the Natural History and Humanities program at Texas Tech University, also writes and draws at The Bike Garden.  Further, as someone who can build almost anything and often does, she is a woman I truly admire.  A few weeks ago, she asked if I’d like to review her new book, How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook.  While reading it, I was reminded of those amazing, nineteenth-century, women naturalists who carried their field kits with them everywhere and kept detailed records of what they heard and saw on their walks.

Susan drew these images on the cover.

You might ask, in this age of Nikon D90 DX cameras, voice recorders and Flip camcorders, why anyone would want to make their own notebook?  A notebook of one’s own contains so much more.  Samples of flowers or ferns can be pressed, and one’s own artwork can grace the pages.  If you feel intimidated by the idea of creating your own notebook, this book is for you.  By the time you finish, you will know the essential information and skills to record and comment upon your own environment.  Tomlinson gives both basic and detailed art instruction.  Anyone can draw with a bit of help.  Even me.

Each chapter addresses a different topic from required equipment for your field kit to tips for wildflower and bird identification.  After reading it, I felt inspired to get out my colored pencils and draw, something which I haven’t done since I was pregnant with Bear.  I’ll let you know if I draw anything worth scanning.

Meanwhile, you can’t go wrong with these two artists and authors.  I’m glad to call them my friends.