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Attitudes are more important than facts

Out my office window I see raindrops settled on the branches and a completely colorless sky. Ashland is gray and bleak and dreary. We turn the heat down to 50 at night and it's so cold in the morning there are goose bumps on my skin.

I don't do very well in winter. These days leading up to my brother's birthday &

when it gets dark early and we wake in pitch black and every day is shorter than the next &

often leave me cranky and short-tempered.

It doesn't help that my girls are grumpy too.

"You're a meanie mommy," 6-year-old Athena tells me, throwing the covers back over her head, refusing to budge. "Meanie Mommy! Meanie Mommy! Meanie Mommy!" She hurls the covers off for just a second to make sure I can hear her. "AND I'M NOT GOING TO SCHOOL BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO WAKE UP!"

Eight-year-old Hesperus mumbles to herself as she climbs down from her bunk, scolds her sister, and starts getting dressed.

"I thought it's supposed to be light?" she grumbles when she comes into the kitchen a minute later and finds me at the stove stirring oatmeal. "Remember how we changed the clocks?"

Four-year-old Etani, who doesn't have to rush in the morning, is the only one who isn't grouchy. Instead he follows his sisters around the house, using a stick to knock over their toys, taunting them by singing cacophonous songs at top volume. He's a fly that keeps landing on their skin: no matter how many times they bat it away they can't squash it. The more annoyed Hesperus and Athena become the more satisfied Etani feels.

Even though the kids have been shouting loudly enough to knock the house down and I've gone into the bedroom three times turning on and off the lights, James sleeps through this morning mayhem. He doesn't even stir.

When I was out of town for work he would wake at the last possible second, thrust some dried mango or a piece of whole wheat toast in their hands, bundle them into the car, and drive them to school ("you're not counted tardy if you get there before 8:25," he mumbled to me the other day). He didn't wake up early enough to pack their lunches so they ate hot lunch. He wears his sunglasses in the morning because the lights in the house are too bright. A morning person James is not.

It's hard not to want to be somewhere else. Somewhere with white sandy beaches and twelve hours of sunlight and no alarm clocks, no school, and no deadlines. I've been reading a book about positive thinking and wrote down a quote: "Attitudes are more important than facts," wisdom attributed to Dr. Karl A. Menninger, an American psychiatrist. Fact: Ashland is cold and dreary. Fact: there's hardly any light this time of year. Fact: some cat is using my raised beds as a litter box, leaving big hairy turds in the brussel sprouts. Fact: the gate was left open and the deer have helped themselves to all our parsley.

But these ridiculously middle class complaints don't really matter. I can think of it all differently: it's so nice that it's dreary because we can snuggle on the couch drinking Rooibos tea and reading "Norman the Doorman"; since the roads are slippery and the wind chilling, I have an excuse to work out indoors; the awful weather will make Spring that much more special; my children are healthy; it's almost the weekend; the brussel sprouts will survive the cat poop and even if they don't, who wants to eat brussel sprouts anyway?

The funny thing is it works. The sky outside my office is no longer ugly and nondescript, it's expansive and open. The kids' bickering becomes socializing and the early darkness a reason for a nighttime picnic with a thermos of hot chocolate. When my kids are grown, I'll even miss these dismal winter mornings. In the meantime, maybe we'll go on vacation somewhere sunny.