Okay, reader. This post may have been more aptly titled, "How to Survive the Winter Without a Breakdown", or perhaps "Mid-Winter Crisis: How to Cling to the End of Your Rope Until Spring". You see my dilemma. Although these titles are perfectly fitting for our winter-addled psyches, they are a bit wordy. So we'll stick with "Mid-winter Delights!" even if the perky exclamation point begs to be smacked into April.
Truth be told, I've blown weeks schlepping around in the same moss-green sweatpants, months seeking a dopamine hit wolfing down handfuls of chocolate chips. I've whittled away Januaries and Februaries curled up next to the fireplace like some cold-blooded skink. And while hibernating can be pleasant for a time, we were not created for three solid months of inertia.
There are, in fact, ways to harvest beauty and growth out of this cold gray season and as a sufferer of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I am a self-declared expert in the art. Here are some things that help me not just survive the winter, but appreciate its unique offerings.
1. OGX Extra Rich Coconut Miracle Oil
Oh my stars. I loathe taking the time to put on lotion after a bath or shower, but this stuff sprays on with a couple of pumps and soaks in fast. Applying it every time I bathe has alleviated my itchy winter skin and the oil has a delightfully tropical smell. If you close your eyes for a moment and inhale, you get a mini-vacation to Jamaica. Here's another beautiful thing: It is less than $6 and you can find it at Target and Walmart.
2. Shai Soft Touch Razors
I've been known to squeeze every last shred of hair-planing power from a jenky dollar store razor, but with Shai I don't have to. Dorco often has a razor and refills package like the one seen above for about $10 with free shipping. These soft touch razors rival the best store-bought out there. Follow Brads Deals to catch the sale.
3. Aldi Chocolate
Chocolate is a staple in our house year round, but becomes an absolute necessity in winter. Aldi has a wide variety of reasonably priced, high-quality chocolate. I've started replacing my kids' lunch box cookies with a couple of individually-wrapped dark or milk chocolates. The chocolate snobs at Food & Wine magazine give a full review of Aldi chocolate in this article.
1. Book Clubbing
I have a pile of tomes on my nightstand. Diving into them at bedtime is my reward at the end of a daily marathon that includes teaching, acting as chauffeur for my kids' orthodontist appointments and intramural sports, and successfully landing a healthy dinner on the table.
This month, my friend, Ann, and I are book clubbing Jen Hatmaker's Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life. I'm also in the middle of Maggie O'Farrell's This Must be the Place which was recommended by a respected blogger but far from my favorite book. My best pick of 2017 is The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood. Wood's talent for pithy prose is such that I didn't skip a single word.
Photo by Juja Han on Unsplash
Have you discovered the joy of podcasts yet? I've been listening to them for the last few years as I take my walks and the variety of material available continues to grow. As I listen to each conversation, my brain gets a boost and I get practical life tools to add to my box. Here are a few of my favorites with descriptions from each show's website.
Sorta Awesome is a weekly podcast geared toward women who want to stay current on all things awesome, including culture, media, trending conversations and general girlfriend chat.
The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey is a podcast that women love. It’s hosted by Jamie Ivey and each week she invites a girlfriend to join her and they chat about the big things in life, the little things in life, and everything in between. Topics include marriage, faith, children, parenting, sorrow, grief, joy, justice, books, what they are loving, plus so much more.
The Focus on the Family Broadcast provides daily encouragement that helps families thrive each day.
Photo by Crew on Unsplash
I'm not talking about organizing here; I'm talking about actually getting rid of stuff...by the garbage bag full. Sure, cleaning out is something we do every year, but I've been inspired recently by a handful of posts and podcasts that discuss purging stuff as a path to mental clarity and simplified living. This type of decluttering involves parting with any thing that does not add joy or have a practical use. Sure, I'll likely never achieve the ascetic of a monk, but I can participate in the process of paring back the chaos and inviting clarity and joy. Need a simple task to get started? Try ridding your closet of 10 clothing items right now. You can haul them to Goodwill right away or keep them in your garage for a month as insurance for purger's regret. My bet is you'll never miss them.
Here is a podcast on minimalist living to inspire you: Becoming a Clutter-Free Family
1. Green Stuff
If you're lucky enough to live in a part of the world that shows off green all year round, then you're lucky enough. The rest of us are stranded in a desert of white and gray which emboldens merry songs in December and desperate curses in February. Friends, we need green. According to this article in Psychology Today, among other benefits, green plants lower our blood pressure and improve our sense of well-being.
But if you possess an indoor-plant-black-thumb like me, you might be wondering, How the heck am I supposed to support a living green organism inside my house for four months? How much should I water it? Does it need direct sunlight? What are the care instructions for this $%%## thing?
Calm down, grasshopper; there is another way. Artificial greenery. There, I said it.
Normally, I eschew all things that smack of fakery (ahem, Real Life, Real Faith), but here's where I make an exception. Your brain does not know the difference between a succulent with living roots and one rooted in Flora Bond high strength adhesive. It simply needs to see GREEN, the color that promotes equilibrium between the head and the heart and shouts "Spring is just around the corner!" This time of year, you can find artificial plants in nearly every variety and you won't even have to pay an arm and a leg for them. Even Goodwill has a section of abandoned ficus trees and banana plants. So go ahead and beautify your home with shades of olive and aquamarine, moss and malachite. If you're the adventurous sort, feel free to try your hand at nurturing living plants, which add a whole 'nother set of benefits. Whether fake or for real, you're sure to enjoy this undeniable sign of life.
I snagged this nifty device for $30 at Christmastime and wrapped it up for my husband with ulterior motives. The five members of our family have been bossing Alexa around ever since. "Alexa, what time is it?", "Alexa, play Judas Priest Breaking the Law", "Alexa, tell me who's going to win the Super Bowl." I personally enjoy Alexa for her ability to play music and answer questions without requiring me to lay a finger on a screen. She (Yes, she is a lovely, soft-spoken gal) allows me to honor my commitment to being screen free for chunks of the day while still enjoying the conveniences afforded by the internet. My current favorite station on Amazon Prime Music is Coffee Shop Classical.
Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash
I am full of excuses in the winter for why I need to stay home on Sundays. It's too cold. It's too wet. It's cloudy, snowing, etc. There is never a time we need worship more than when we simply don't feel like worshiping. One of the most useful things I learned in Dr. Phil's appearances on Oprah many moons ago is this: You don't have to feel like it, you just have to do it. Yes, I know you can worship at home in your bed, in the middle of the cereal aisle, or taking a walk in the woods. But there is something special -- holy -- that happens when we gather together for the purpose of praising God and honing in on his immense plan for the world.
Worship takes us above our hurts, pulls us out of our ego-centrism, and compels us to contemplate the bigger picture. Even if you feel no need to be there, someone needs you there. Your joy. Your struggles. Your God story. So the next time your bed is exercising its magnetic pull, roll yourself out and get your body to church. In the middle of a dreary winter, the church continues to shout the age old truth we all long to hear: Hope is real, spring is coming, for Christ makes all things new.