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Cabin fever and signs of spring

Every year as the telltale signs of “cabin fever” begin to show themselves I am relieved to also witness the signs of spring. And, thankfully, those little glimpses of the change of season manage to save me from spiraling downward into winter’s white abyss. This year, even with the additional challenges brought on by social distancing and the necessary closure of just about every fun business establishment known to man, Mother Nature wins again – just in time.

Out of curiosity, I did a Google search of the term “cabin fever.” Historians speculate that the phrase was first used in the early nineteenth century to describe those brave settlers who experienced long winters alone in their log cabins, snowed in until the spring thaw. Suffering from this condition is similar to going “stir crazy,” a term that originates from a mid-nineteenth century slang term, stir, which meant prison. Stir crazy was typically used to describe the behavior exhibited by inmates in prison suffering from the effects of long incarceration. Today the term cabin fever defines a state of restlessness, depression and irritability brought on by an extended stay in a confined space or a remote, isolated area. The lack of environmental stimulation can have real, tangible side effects that have a detrimental impact on anyone suffering from this problem.

Anyone who lives “up north” in a world of forests and a snow pack that is often still visible in May is familiar with cabin fever. It tends to set in around March. Symptoms include the urge to stay in one’s pajamas until two o’clock in the afternoon, a continuing need for mashed potatoes and gravy accompanied by a desire to bake cookies … and an urge to bite off your spouse’s head along with the cookies.

Now, I cannot take full blame for that last symptom. This year my husband took to counting the number of deck boards clear of snow. Yes, you read that correctly. And every year he has the persistent urge to discuss with me the minutest of details related to the upcoming NFL draft – at every opportunity, which is daily. For the past several years he and our two sons, and now our 16-year-old grandson, meet in Wausau to participate in this big event. They set up their “war room” at Buffalo Wild Wings, staking out their table with a gnome dressed in green and gold and holding a bag of popcorn along with a mug of beer. Again, you read that correctly. They all bring their materials and their meticulously researched list of draft picks. The waitress knows them by name. I cannot imagine why.

I love this annual tradition and have thanked our sons profusely for getting their father out of my hair for that weekend. But, this year, that Wausau trip is not possible. So, I know I am at great risk of hearing all of the details. I have already warned him that if he wants to get through that weekend with his life, he needs to watch the draft on the upstairs TV, and “no, I am not interested.” I know I am going to have to remind him of that last point many times.

To be fair, I have caught him biting his tongue to keep from telling me what he really thinks when the “cabin fever crabbiness” gets the best of me. Because of his very patient nature, I really believe that the symptoms of cabin fever are not as severe for him. And, truth be told, every year I have him to thank for getting us both through the “spring is almost here but not quite” doldrums.

I also have Mother Nature to thank. Her life saving measures begin with longer days. I do not mind missing that hour of sleep at all because it ushers in daylight savings time – that glorious time of year when we spring ahead. The sun travels higher in the sky and actually warms your face, no longer the teasing sunshine of January that only promises warmth but still delivers an icy bite on your cheek. And the snow is finally melting! Our south-facing backyard is completely free of snow as is the west lawn. The north and east sides have a ways to go yet. I will happily wade through puddles instead of carefully making my way across ice covered sidewalks and parking lots.

Have you noticed the birds singing in the morning? I have! Each morning as the sun is coming up, I walk out onto my back porch – now completely devoid of snow and ice – and listen to their chorus. It is most definitely music to my ears. I have yet to see my first robin, but I know one of these mornings he will be there to greet me.

This year, because of the corona virus, I have been taking long drives to get out of the house. So, I have had an opportunity to notice more signs of spring. Today, I noticed the emergence of fishing boats and four-wheelers. The trading in of snow mobiles for other modes of transportation through the woods is always a solid sign that winter is on its way out. And as the ice melts off the rivers and lakes, boats replace the shanties. Yay!

I have spent a lot of time at the boat landing in Niagara this year just to get out of the house for a bit. In February, the snow banks were so high that I could barely see the river or distinguish where the shoreline’s snow ended and the river’s ice began. It was simply a world of white. In March, the river opened up, and I watched large ice flows get carried downstream by the current. The shoreline became visible, and gradually benches, firepits and picnic tables poked through the snow. Now, in April, the boulders that line the driveway and delineate the parking lot became visible as the snow continued to melt. The lawn next to the river’s bank has emerged, and the geese and ducks have found their way back home. I watch them comically go through the territorial battles to claim their piece of dry grass – necks outstretched and honking like crazy.

On my most recent visit, the telltale boat trailers and trucks were waiting in the parking lot for the fishermen’s return. And one lone fisherman cast her line from shore. Parents accompany their children while they run and let off steam from being cooped up in the house most of the winter. I could lower my car window and feel the warmth of the sun and an almost-warm breeze on my face. Spring has sprung once again – just in time.

As for the corona virus, only time will tell. But with the advent of spring, social distancing begins to get a little easier as we can all be outside more and commune with Mother Nature. Let’s enjoy all of the gifts she has to offer as we work together to overcome the effects of the virus. And we will … just as surely as spring comes just in time every year.

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The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus will not be published this week in an effort to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of our elderly population, daily life in our senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts. Group games are being substituted with individualized activities residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways. YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers have also been closed to any center-based activity. Until they re-open, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. Meals continue to be delivered. Some centers are also preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers who are either preparing take-out or providing home delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers all listed below.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center – Iron Mountain

(906) 239-0278

Home Delivered and/or take-out meal menu for week:

Monday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn

Tuesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, broccoli, breadstick

Wednesday: Chicken spinach soup, crackers, side salad, hard-boiled egg

Thursday: Chicken alfredo, noodles, Italian blend vegetables

Friday: Good Friday – Baked ham, green bean casserole, dinner roll – note that the delivery of this meal will be made on a prior date

Any questions regarding the home delivered meal program at this center can be directed to Christine McMahon at (906) 774-2256

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Home Delivered and/or take-out meal menu for week:

Monday: Chicken ala king, rice pilaf, peas

Tuesday: Taco mac, corn, tortilla chips

Wednesday: Ravioli, garlic bread, green beans

Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home delivered only – Meal menu for week:

Monday: Harvest spring salad, blueberry muffin, tomato juice

Tuesday: Chef’s salad with white beans, bread sticks, cottage cheese with peaches

Wednesday: Barbeque chicken, black beans and rice, carrots, fruit

Thursday: Easter Dinner: Baked glazed ham, company potatoes, green beans, rolls, apple pie and ice cream

Friday: Closed for Good Friday

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980 – RSVP for meal at 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu – Home delivered only

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

RSVP for meal at 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu – Home delivered only

Tipler Town Hall

715-674-2320 – RSVP for meals.

Same as ADRC menu – Home delivered only

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

715-589-4491 – RSVP for meals

Same as ADRC menu – Home delivered only

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Home Delivered and/or take-out meal menu for week:

Monday: Shepherd’s pie, dried cranberries, roll

Tuesday: Chicken sandwich, spaghetti salad

Wednesday: Philly steak casserole, carrots, roll

Thursday: Ham sweet potatoes, green bean casserole

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed however Take-out meals will be prepared for pick-up – must call ahead. Menu for week:

Monday: Roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, dessert

Tuesday: Taco salad with vegetable toppings, tortilla chips, fruit, juice dessert

Wednesday: Bacon-lettuce-tomato wrap, cole slaw, Brussel sprouts, fruit, juice, dessert

Thursday: Shepherd’s pie, mixed vegetables, fruit, juice, dessert

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

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