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Writer & Photographer  /  Joyce Long

A year ago on January 7, 2015, Central Indiana featured a high temperature of 12 degrees with a negative 6 as the low. January 7, 2014, the temperature was 8 degrees Fahrenheit with the low at negative 8. Eleven inches of snow kept life interesting. Think there’s a pattern here? Add the fact an Indiana January averages only six sunny days, and you begin to see how cabin fever may affect even the hardiest of Hoosiers.

How do non-snowbirds deal with cabin fever? Local resident Ken Ritter is pursuing a fresh challenge by taking art classes at Franklin College — totally different from his career as a senior environmental supervisor for Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management.

“Art is something I’ve always wanted to do. When I was a child, I liked to draw. I’ve never had an opportunity to fit in an art class with my college degrees of Wildlife Biology [Purdue] and Public Administration [IUPUI]. Now with being a senior, classes at Franklin College are offered at a reasonable cost to local residents,” said Ritter. Art has also factored into their family life as 35-year-old son Justin majored in art and now is a professional graphic artist.

Shared Interests
Ritter’s wife Jan, a retired IU Health microbiologist, has furthered her love for gardening and become active in the Johnson County Garden Club. The monthly meetings at the Purdue Extension Office at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, along with serving on the program and Garden Celebration publicity committees, keep her busy. Also both Ken and Jan plan to take Master Gardener classes this month.

Others seek ways to socialize their hobbies with friends. Local winery Mallow Run offers a Sip and Stitch session on the first Wednesday evening of the month, 6:30-8:30 p.m. While enjoying a glass of wine and the warm fire, friends visit while working on their crochet and knitting projects. Mallow Run employee Aileen Jackson facilitates a special project encouraging stitchers to make cozy blankets and hats for NICU babies at Franciscan St. Francis Health South.

Book clubs also provide an opportunity for area residents to share ideas and opinions about that month’s selection. Center Grove Community Magazine’s garden columnist Nancy Craig leads one that meets the third Thursday morning of each month. Becky Horton, retired from Duke Energy as their customer service manager, leads a monthly book discussion group.

Local residents Cindy Roberts, Becky Kaiser, Lesta Taylor, Kathy Buckingham, Cindy Bishop, Sue Reinhard, Marsha Osborne and Karen Bradford also discuss bestsellers once a month. This group, self-described as “Desperate Retirees of Johnson County,” plans hikes, road trips and often hangs out together. “One of my favorite winter activities is meeting my girlfriends at Strange Brew,” said Roberts.

Projects and More
Others cocoon by diving into home improvement projects. My husband Al and I clean out closets and drawers. If really motivated, we’ll repaint rooms. A few years ago just after the 6 p.m. weather report, we made a mad rush to Home Depot and bought paint for the kitchen. As we left the store, it had begun sleeting. The resulting ice storm brought a freshly decorated kitchen.

Recently Bill and Cathie Geiger chose to replace all the 25-year-old carpets in their ranch-style home. A two-week undertaking consumed their energy yet gave ample time for their grandsons to have sleepovers on the king-sized bed temporarily shifted to their family room.

Each Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m., a group of men meets at the Four Seasons for breakfast and Bible Study. Larry Johnson, Dave Guthrie, Bob Gerlach, Don Vandoski, John Eckart, Dan Lucas and Al Long study a variety of topics and Scripture.

Keeping the mind active helps many overcome dreary days and indoor confinement. Local resident Mary Hershberger, besides being an active volunteer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), uses games like Peak and Candy Crush to stay mentally alert. Becky Horton enjoys working puzzles with her grandchildren and teaching them to sew. Reading also helps stimulate thought. “I like to cuddle up with an afghan and a good book by the fire. I don’t mind cocooning during winter,” added Becky Kaiser.

When the wind chill smacks hard and snow begins to stack, know you are not alone in looking for ways to avoid cabin fever. Sometimes a quick phone call to a friend or family member who lives in better weather can cheer you up. Or not!

Working out at the gym, going to movies and binge-watching favorite TV shows also made the winter survival list. But if all else fails, you can always mimic the Texan family who became a YouTube sensation last February by dancing to “Uptown Funk.”

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