In the Dreab Midwinter…

Every year I experience this low energy feeling after Christmas is past. Sometimes I can dispell the feeling until after the New Year. It's usually around the time that the Christmas tree stops drinking water and starts looking bedraggled. Then I know it's time to take it down. We cut ours early this year, and now it already looks like it's ready to come down. We'll leave it up until after New Year, even if it is just a holder of the lights that lift our spirits in the dreab (the Amish word we used to describe weather when it was gray and bleak) midwinter.

Yesterday the sun was shining, and when the beautiful sunset happened only minutes later than what it would have a week ago, we took heart. In small increments, we now look on the bright side as we notice the light coming back. Thank goodness for that.

When we lived in northern Vermont, the winters were even more cold and dark than they are here in the Pioneer Valley. David and I started a tradition there that we are thinking of starting here, now that we've gotten to know enough people. We used to have "game nights" in January, February, and March to dispell the midwinter blahs. We'd host a potluck dessert and then we'd play games. The favorite for most people was what some call "Fictionary" and it's also called Balderdash and Dictionary. It's the one where one person selects a word from the dictionary that no one knows the meaning of, and everyone makes up a definition for the word. Then they are all read together, and everyone guesses which is the correct definition. It makes for so much fun. Many people think I would be good at the game, but I cannot write a convincing definition to save my life. So I usually come in dead last, but I have fun, all the same.

Back when we were hosting these in Vermont, we got to the point when we had to have four or five every winter, in order to fit everyone in who wanted to come. We usually had about 15-20 people at a time.

So, this year we will start this tradition here in Massachusetts.

Another thing I plan to do to help me get through this winter is to start a book discussion group. I've been wanting to join one here in the valley for the last five years, but it seems all the ones I know about are closed to new members. I found out that people at our church have been talking about starting one. Several people have asked me to lead it, and so I decided I would. Reading a book and getting together for a stimulating discussion about it will also help distract me from thinking about how many more weeks of winter we have left.

How about you? Do you enjoy winter? If not, how do you feed your spirit during the cold and dark days of winter?

I wanted to let everyone know that the eBook for Bonnet Strings is on sale right now for $1.99. If you've been meaning to buy it, now is your chance to do so with a deep discount. You can buy it on sale at MennoMedia (discount at checkout) or at Amazon. The sale lasts until tomorrow, December 29.

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29 thoughts on “In the Dreab Midwinter…”

  1. I like winter and don’t get tired of it until along about March. I want lots of snow when it’s seasonal, not so much when grass should be greening.

    I/we pass the winter mostly making lots of music, pretty much the same as the rest of the year. Read a lot. Play games a lot. Paint (water colors) a lot. In Alaska more of my friends are in town than they are in the summertime so we get together a lot.

    I like walking in snow but I don’t like ice. So when it has warmed up, refrozen and then we get more snow on top of it, I cut my walks short, figuring my dog can do with less.

    By the second week of January our days are noticeably longer, so even if there are more storms and harsher winds then we can see that winter is progressing nicely.

    1. Elva, to live in Alaska, you do need to like winter better than I do! I would think that March would be in the midwinter up there. but those of us who have never lived there probably have lots of misperceptions.

      I must say, you make winter sound like fun, though. Music, reading, playing games, painting, and getting together with friends all sound like a wonderful way to make winter pass along.

      I can imagine that you do notice the light coming back. I bet a week makes a big difference.

      Thanks for reminding me that there are fun things to do, even when the winters are long and cold.

      Happy New Year!

  2. I guess I’m one of those strange people that does enjoy winter! We’ve had a very cloudy December, but even that doesn’t get me down! One thing I enjoy is the nice long evenings when I can read to my hearts content, and have a cup of hot chocolate to go with it. In the summer there is always work outside to get done in the evening, and it seems the days are so busy. I like the slower pace of wintertime.

    1. Twila, I used to enjoy winter as a child. I find the older I get, the less I enjoy it. And I LOVE spring. It is now up there with autumn as my two favorite seasons.

      Sitting on a sofa with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate, now that sounds just about right. I need to do it more often, though it’s usually tea for me.

      Happy New Year to you, Twila!

  3. My winter activities are mostly quilting. I do enjoy knitting and crocheting but don’t do as much of that anymore. Our winters down here (in Arizona) are usually not that cold. The last two mornings have made me eat my words, mid 30’s both

    1. Marge, I’ve not quilted in a long time, but I’ve been thinking about undertaking a wall hanging project I’ve been meaning to quilt for years. Maybe this winter….

      Mid-30s… wow I’d say you DO have harsh winters… lol!

      Thanks for coming by and have a wonderful New Year!

  4. Salome, May i wish you and David, a blessed New Year. I would like to react to your Dreab Winter story. Where I now live we are in the same level as Vancouver, London, Amsterdam, Moscow. We have very short days and long nites and I have never been able to get used to this even tho I have lived here for 48 yrs. I will go to Mi. in the winter for 3 wks to get more light and I think it does help my constitution. I bought a special light that will provide day-light in the mid-winter and I will use that especially when the days are also dark and dreary. I have plenty to do but I can’t help it when the drabs and drearys want to take over. I am also a member of a reading club and it is great. We all read the same book and have had some very good discussions about what we have read. Sometimes the books are very good and other times a book could be extremely boring as is the one we are supposed to be reading at the present. Last spring, I was asked to write an Amish cookbook and it had to be in dutch of course because of living in Holland. Finding Amish receipes was no problem because I had learned all kinds of wonderful things from my mother who had grown up in an amish home. This book has been selling very well and I was asked to make several things from the cookbook and they would send a photographer to take pictures of the food. My dau. is a photographer and so she took pictures of the food. I had made several different kinds of cookies for one thing and this I found does wonders for winter blues. Bake cookies and the house smells so good and the blues go on a back burner for awhile. Gr. Mary Maarsen

    1. Mary, I wish you and your family all good things in the New Year and beyond.

      Seeking more light sounds good to me. (I like your term of the “drabs and drearys) Though I shouldn’t complain… the sun is out today where I am. Every sunny day in midwinter is a blessing!

      I would love to know what your favorite books have been in your book club. I’m trying to think of a good one to kick off the start of our group.

      Do you know that you have undertaken exactly what I am planning to do in 2015? I am planning to write a cookbook with stories about where the recipes came from or my inspiration for them. I’ll be writing more about this as I get going with it. I wish you great success with yours. How nice that your daughter is a photographer!

      Thank you so much for your inspiring comments.

    2. One of the best books we read was called “The Help” I am not sure who wrote it but it is about the black help in the houses of the fancy white people in the south. There is also a movie about “The Help”. We are now having a lot of problems with discrimination (the Dutch don’t think they discriminate)(but they do) and it provided a very interesting discussion.
      In my personal reading habits, I chose a certain subject that I want to pursue and try to read as much as possible about that until I feel like I can go on to something else.
      I think it is the neatest idea about your cookbook. I will be right there to buy one when it is finished. I had an aunt that collected receipes and wrote them down on all kinds of things and last year when I visited her daughter, she got all the receipes around for us to see. They were carefully indexed in several suitcases. It was quite a collection and her daughter said her mom would spend hours doing this and enjoying every minute. She was my mother’s sister and both ladies were excellent cooks.

      1. Hello again, Mary. I’ve read “The Help” but I’ve not seen the movie. I bet that was interesting in the environment you describe. We know, here in the states, that we are guilty of discrimination. All we have to do is look at our own history.

        Funny, I’ve been choosing my books by author lately. I read one author until I’ve had enough, and then I’ll move on.

        What a legacy your aunt will leave behind! That must be quite the treasure trove!

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I would love to get your cookbook, but I’m afraid I don’t read Dutch.

        See you again soon, I hope!

  5. I absolutely love winter! I seem to get something like the opposite of seasonal affective disorder in that I seem to get depressed in the summer. I don’t sleep well in the mornings so I love the dark mornings and start to dread it when it gets lighter.

  6. Saloma, I am a winter person! Since my husband and I retired 3 years ago we have been enjoying it more. We are in good health so we ice fish, go on deer rides and both enjoy reading. I knit and crochet a lot and have a list of things for January and will be donating to a few places. We are lucky we have our two sons, their wives, 6 grandchildren(one is married) and a new great grandson born in October all close to us for game nights, movie and popcorn nights. So, Iowa winters, you never know. We are getting our 1st snow today, not much, but it is beautiful. I hope everyone can enjoy family and have a Happy New Year and the best in 2015. Pat

    1. Pat, I’m so glad someone enjoys the winter season! And you get right in it with all your activities… good for you! How nice that you are surrounded by family.

      Thank you for stopping by. I’m wishing you and your family life’s best in 2015 and beyond!

  7. Suddenly, I want to live in Pioneer Valley… *smile* I LOVE games! Our friends are hard to drag out on a deep winter’s night, though… sadly, they are not as venturesome as we. However, occasionally we lure them out and I surprised myself playing Balderdash! We play Scrabble (surprised myself, again) but my all-time favorite is one called “Encore”… a game about music where you have to come up with at least 8 words of a song/jingle whatever the card asks for and if you can’t sing, it doesn’t matter! We play in teams and my friend Annie (who can not carry a tune) will feed me the words as I sing … it is the FUNNIEST!! For many years it was a New Year’s Eve tradition.

    If the weather is not too cold or windy, I love to strap on my snowshoes or x country skis and head for the back yard. We make trails through our Christmas tree farm and on up into the woods (only on snowshoes) to check on the deer activity. At night, I’m mostly found on the couch with my laptop working on our genealogical history…which is why I have to play “catch up” with all of my blogging friends!

    Hoping to get your way with Mom (91, now) to visit her cousin in her home-town once again. She still talks about our evening at the library in Holyoke and asks about you, as well!

    1. Peggy, I would LOVE to have you join a game night at our house! Please let me know if you and your mom are going to be coming my way, and we’ll get together.

      I’m afraid I would be even worse at “name that tune” or whatever you call it. When I open my mouth to sing, people want to put their hands over their ears!

      Take good care, Peggy. So good to see you again.


    1. Fran, that’s a very nice thought… winter as a time of rest.

      Game nights are fun. If you get the chance… take it. That’s my advice.

      Happy New Year to you and your family!

  8. I am so sorry I am behind reading your blog — I missed the kindle version of Bonnet Strings for $1.99.

    I do not like cold and I like snow from the inside looking out. However, I do miss Vermont. I also love snowflakes and I am proud to be from the state where they were first photographed by Snowflake Bentley. I love to walk in a fresh snow at night under a street light and see all of those twinkling snow crystals that look like a lot of glitter on the ground. I cannot help but be reminded that God made each one different and oh so beautiful for His enjoyment and pleasure since He did not choose to share that beauty with us until Wilson Bentley took the first pictures which was all in God’s providence. Therefore, glitter also reminds me of snowflakes and God’s providence. Just imagine how many snowflakes are in one glass, never mind on the whole ground and each one different and beautiful!

    1. Michele, isn’t that a great story of Snowflake Bentley? It is absolutely a miracle to think that all the snowflakes that have ever fallen to the earth (or ever will) are unique, isn’t it?

      I still love Vermont, but I do not enjoy the winters there. Our winters now are not that much better, but at least by a few degrees.

      I hope you come back soon. Great to see you here again.

  9. I think I remember hearing the word “dreab.” It’s a good one!

    Your post reminds me of my own with almost the same title. We must be thinking alike. Do you know the Christmas Carol in the YouTube video in this post?

    Winter has treated us pretty well in Virginia so far. Nice and sunny often. Not much snow.

    But we are still looking forward to a week in Sarasota soon!

    Happy New Year to you and David.

    1. Shirley, it was your post and singing the song at our Christmas Eve service at church that inspired my post. I don’t usually get so close to others’ blog posts, but it really felt right this time. They say imitation is the truest form of flattery… don’t know if you agree :+)

      So glad the winter weather in Virginia has been sunny and mild.

      Enjoy the warmth and sunshine of Sarasota!

      Happy New Year to you and Stuart as well!

  10. I chuckled as I read through your post ,since I am a polar opposite about winter /summer.As fall turns the corner , there is a spring in my step and I feel so much more alive . I basically hunker down and endure the summer, I struggle more with depression ( largely because everything looks over whelming) with all the outside work and other activities that keeps me going from sunup to sundown.I do have empathy for people who suffer with SAD during the winter months ,I just experience it in a different season .

    1. Linda, that is very interesting that you experience the seasons as you do. I’ve known a few others who experience them as you do. So happy winter, and Happy New Year to you!

  11. Nothing on this earth drags my heart down like the first snowfall, the first skin of ice on the ponds, the first harsh wind out of the north. Something like grief settles in when the first low, scudding clouds blow southward across a sun that is setting too soon. My ears listen in vain for the song of a bird, but I only hear the sad lament of the Canada geese. All these things herald the onset of the long, dark months of winter in the upper midwest.

    It was -7F when I got up this morning, and by midnight it’s forecast to drop to -16F. And oh, yes, let’s not forget to factor in the windchill. We’re in for at least a week of subzero nights and single digit days.

    At this time of the year, it’s a little hard to believe that spring will come again.

    Yet something in me insists on hoping, and so my heart is lifted, a little. If I try hard, I can almost believe there will come a first faint whisper of warmth on a southern borne breeze. There may come a chance to crack open a window, if only a tiny bit. Somewhere in the back of memory is a first quiet hint of dazzling spring green pushing up through the dead brown and gray of last year’s grass, and then, ta-da! the first burst of the robins’ joyful chorus as they sing up the morning sun!

    Buried under all this snow, deep in my heart lives a faint hope of the scent of thawing earth, first with an overtone of last year’s autumn decay, but little by little transforming into the headier fragrance of warmth and growth. And then, finally, somewhere, comes the very first blossom. I marvel at its bravery.

    The more years go by, the more I wish that spring would just slow down and take its time. It races toward summer so fast, as though it can’t wait to get over with, not unlike a young person rushing headlong into adulthood, never thinking to savor the sweetness of youth, not pausing to realize that only a short distance into early summer, the days already begin to shorten.

    Tears came to my eyes several times when I watched “The Amish: Shunned.” But only one thing brought tears while watching “The Amish.” It was (can you believe this?) the thousands of tiny flickering lights of the fireflies in the field at dusk. Is there anything so delightful in the whole world as their first appearance on a warm, early summer evening?

    Anyway, did I mention how much I hate the dark, the dreary, the deathliness that is winter? If possible, perhaps even more than do you?


    P.S. Oh, to answer your question, what do I do to fend off the debilitation that it brings? Wool applique. Mostly flowers.

    1. Karen, reading your comments is reading poetry. So beautifully written! And so heartfelt. You make me imagine spring! Thank you for that.

      So glad you have a good hobby that gets you through the winter… creating flowers sounds like a wonderful way of doing so.

      Happy New Year!

      1. Thank you, Saloma, for your kind words. A compliment like that, coming from you, is so very warming … and your timing is perfect, as the windchill will take the temps down to -40F by morning. Aurgh.

        Just want you to know, I so enjoyed both your books. Well, maybe “enjoyed” isn’t quite the word. I was carried away by them, drawn deeply into your story. When I finished reading “Bonnet Strings,” I closed the book, feeling privileged to have been able to “listen” … and ponder.

        Happy New Year to you, as well!

        1. Karen, thank you for your thoughts about my story. I appreciate that more than you know!

          I am feeling cold just hearing about your weather! It is very windy here. I don’t know the temperatures today, and I don’t want to know. I’ll stay inside where it’s warm, thank you very much!

          I look forward to more conversations with you, Karen.

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