January in Illinois is not what one would call fun. In a good weather year, we have bitter, biting, frigid polar-vortex-ish cold but plenty of sunshine because there is no cloud cover to keep us warm-ish. In a bad weather year, we have warmer weather – say in the low ’30’s- but that comes with charcoal, spirit-sapping gray skies. As I write this, I realize that I guess it depends on what your definition is of good or bad winter weather is. Where I come down on it is that I would rather have cold and sunshine than gloom and warmth.
Some retired people, I guess, escape this environment and go somewhere warm, beachy and sunny. My husband is not what one would call a beach lover, so January and February are not usually months when we travel, although I myself have been known to take off periodically for a week in Florida or the Caribbean with a friend or two. Last February was an exception when my husband and I went with a bunch of friends to Australia and New Zealand for most of the month and experienced their summer down under.
Generally, I hibernate with the rest of Illinois. My grandkids are in school so they can’t come out and play during the week. The great news is that if the snow is coming down in buckets, or the frigidity is just too much to bear, in retirement, I don’t really need to go anywhere except for Italian classes and Pilates. Or friends and I get together for coffee or lunch on days when the weather is more forgiving. I’m happy for a short while just staying in and putting together good soups and stews or I have my reading, my writing and my Italian homework.
On the one hand, I think January gets a bad rap in some ways. I’ve heard it called a month of Mondays but I guess that analogy works only if you’re employed when the weekend goes by with lightening speed and “Oh, God, it’s Monday already.” As a friend has said, “What do you call a person who is happy on a Monday? Retired!”
I’ve heard January called boring with nothing to do. Is that so bad? After all the festivities of the previous month, how about “Finally, there’s nothing I have to do.” I’ve gone on record with my love for the Christmas holidays. I love everything that goes on from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. But I think at some point (that point being January) even the most inveterate reveler says, “How about a cup of tea and a wonderful chair with a good book. That’s all the fun and frivolity I need for right now.” And even with all my complaining about the weather, there is something calm and serene about watching the snow fly this first month of the year.
I’m not really a resolution maker but privately in my mind I usually take stock as a new year begins and set out to look for new adventures, new skills to learn, tweak certain things about my life – whether large, like going into retirement, or smaller, such as eating fewer carbs. Let’s face it, January 1 is just a turn of a page, no different from any other day. But it always feels to me like a new beginning – no matter how many new years I’ve had!
AND IF THINGS REALLY GET TOO QUIET, THERE’S ALWAYS A HOUSE PROJECT…..
Here’s the ambivalence part! I can get cabin fever fairly quickly during January and February. Since I’m inside most of these months, I find myself looking around, room by room, and conjuring ways to perk up the house. Starting at about seven years before I retired, we touched every room in the house that I believed needed to be renovated, refreshed or, in some way, upgraded before I left my job for good. Over those seven years, we took on fairly sizable projects, almost rebuilt our home. We took our master bathroom, our guest bathroom and kitchen back to the studs and completely overhauled them. We re-did our landscaping. We created a large screened porch from the deck that had been there previously – ah, summer, how much longer do we have to wait?
There is never a shortage of ideas. Between what I can think up on my own and what I see on HGTV and Pinterest, my mind is whirring all the time with plans for upgrades and re-decorating. The current renovations are not mandatory but highly desirable and are actually pretty mundane: painting the four bedrooms, two bathrooms upstairs and one den downstairs; painting the brown bookcase in our front parlor a lacquered white; completing the upgrading of all the baseboards in the house from the builder grade 3-inch baseboards that were installed when we built the house 28 years ago to a more substantial 4 and 1/2-inch seen in newer homes. Finally, we are having some additional floor to ceiling cabinetry built in our finished basement to handle some of the overflow from what I am now storing in the kitchen.
PICKING PAINT COLORS…..
How many different colors of paint are there? How many shades of white? Picking paint is one of the hardest tasks. My husband who is color blind tends to stay out of any aspect of choosing color. His only request is that the color be a change from what is currently on the wall. If we’re spending to have rooms painted, he wants to see something different. That’s a pretty reasonable request so it’s not hard to comply. Sometimes if I change the color so dramatically that nothing else in the room coordinates in any way, my project turns into a complete re-do extending to replacing things like bedspreads, sheets, towels, and other enhancements. So right now I’m slathering paint samples onto my walls and see where this goes!
At any rate, I’m trying to make the most of January and February. I hope you’re staying warm during these months and truly enjoying them in whatever way you find fun. Before long, the robins will start to chirp, and we can play outside again.
I’ll be back in touch again soon!