Illinois Valley Living Journal

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 3:00 p.m. CDT

It's no secret. Old Man Winter can be a brutal old soul. With his mighty gusts of wind coupled with ice and snow, the old guy is known for the havoc he creates. Yes, between Old Man Winter and Mother Nature — well, let's just say that pair is usually associated with a typical Illinois Valley winter.

As a child, I was one of those kids who begged to go outside and play in the white stuff. Between snow forts and snowmen and snowball fights, crazy games of Fox and Geese, and sledding down the hill by the barnyard, I'd stay for hours until my legs and feet and hands and face were so red and so cold they were almost numb. Still, I'd cry when the adults forced me inside to stand on one of those old registers and shed my wet and icy clothes.

Likewise, I was always a fan of the radio on winter mornings. I'd sit there until the last minute, hoping I could replace getting ready for school with a lazy snow day at home. More times than not, though, I was disappointed, since school was seldom canceled way back then. Begrudgingly, I would don my warmest clothes, slip my bread-bag covered feet easily into red rubber boots and head out into the blustery day to wait for the school bus.

My how times have changed ...

Just the mention of a dusting of snow by the TV weatherman sends me into a state of craziness. I've learned I'm no longer invincible on snow-packed highways, and if everyone behind me on those roads understood that we will all get home safely if they just let me drive 20 mph ... well, life would be a lot less stressful for all of us.

That's just the beginning. I have an ongoing battle with Mr. Toro, the snowblower, who refuses to cooperate on my driveway and sidewalks — instead throwing snow in my face instead of the direction I want. I've broken more shovels in the past few years than I can count, and I've spent more money on salt and de-icer than I can shake an icy stick at.

Did I mention health issues? Inevitably, I'll spend a good share of the season with a cough, a stuffy nose or some other cold-weather-related ailment. The broken bones from slipping on the ice? Well, they have avoided me so far, but it's just a matter of time. Seems like the older I get, the colder I get ... and the pain in my wallet is most likely caused by the bill I get from turning up the thermostat.

OK ... enough! Clearly, I'm not a fan of winter, and I could go on and on about all the abominations of the winter season, when we're forced to park that bicycle of ours and duck indoors, rather than brave the bitterness of Mother Nature's fury. But the colder and older I've become, the more I've also come to realize that Mother Nature's often brutal ways might just be part of her grand plan ...

You see when bad weather rolls around and we're forced to put down that kick-stand on our bicycles, we're also forced to spend quite a bit of time inside our homes. That's right ... instead of going here and running there, the weather often causes us to stay put inside the warmth of our own homes, where we are given the opportunity to become reacquainted with those we hold most dear.

Winter is a great time to embrace our homes, our friends and our families. It's an opportunity to kick back a little, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. It's the perfect chance to engage those you love in conversation, pick up that book you've been meaning to read and send an email or letter to that person you've been planning to get in touch with. It's a perfect time to make a big pot of soup or stew and invite friends or neighbors over to share. It's a place in time that allows you to remember the people, places and things you hold most dear ... as opposed to the rest of the year, when the weather doesn't force you indoors.

While I'm not advocating a full year of winter-like weather, by the time it's all said and done, I will have appreciated the opportunities winter affords me. Even though it's cold outside and that old bicycle sits silent, the warmth in my home generated by family and friends is well worth Old Man Winter's and Mother Nature's fury.

Illinois Valley Living Editor Terri Simon is an Illinois Press Association award-winning columnist/writer. She can be reached at tsimon@bcrnews.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bcrnews.tsimon.

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