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DENISE CROSBY: Remedy for a brutal winter: Dream green

Scott TratsWisconsstopped an Aurorgas statiMonday fuel his 10-wheeler semi loaded with 5-tons drywall insulatiheaded for stops Lake Bluff Chicago. |

Scott Tratson, of Wisconsin, stopped at an Aurora gas station on Monday to fuel his 10-wheeler semi loaded with 5-tons of drywall and insulation headed for stops in Lake Bluff and Chicago. | photo by Linda Girardi~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 4, 2014 6:11AM

Two weeks ago I was enjoying a much-appreciated break from Old Man Winter, thanks to my lovely step-daughter who was smart enough to fall in love with a gentleman from Florida, and in an equally intelligent move, decided the beaches of Key Largo would be the perfect place to tie the knot.

The wedding was a blast. And I’m not talking about the arctic kind. In fact, I quickly found the guests at this blessed/balmy event could be divided into two camps: Those who knew what a polar vortex was, and those who did not have a clue.

The first set, of course, had flown in from north of the Mason Dixon line. We were all pale and pasty. And our toes, upon closer inspection, looked frighteningly like they’d been diagnosed with frostnip.

There were other telltale signs that gave away our addresses. The Floridians pulled out their fur and leather when the night temps dared to dip into the 50s, while us Yankees gathered around the tiki bars bare-footed and bare shouldered, happy as coastal clams we weren’t chipping ice from our nostrils.

Still, as sunny as this affair was, there was an underlying darkness that hampered our spirits. We Midwesterners kept checking our smartphones. We read what the meteorologists were calling for back in the Frozen Tundra.

We knew we had to get on those return flights.

It’s no wonder so many are beginning to feel the emotional fallout of this relentless winter.

For one thing, according to Nicholas Tzanetakos, a practicing physician at Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, most of us — adults and children alike — are suffering from a lack of vitamin D, thanks to these relentless gray skies. And that deficiency, he added, “definitely can add to depression.”

He and colleague Dr. Mary Nguyen, also at Rush-Copley, see patients coming in complaining of just feeling more tired.

“Winter wears on them,” for a number of reasons, including isolation, noted Nguyen. Elderly people especially are having a hard time getting out in this kind of weather. And that’s why it is so important their support system — kids, grandkids, neighbors, whomever is available — help them safely navigate winter outside their homes.

But even those of us who have plenty of mobility are using the weather as an excuse to sink deeper into our couches and partake in too much screen time, whether it’s a TV, computer or our ever-present smartphones.

We need to exercise, to stay mobile, these local physicians urged, even if it means getting out and walking around the mall.

“If I can’t do anything else,” said Tzanetakos, “I head to Menards and go up and down the aisles.”

The problem is compounded, experts tell us, because there are already stressors in place this time of year, including maxed out credit card debt from the holidays, higher heating bills and too much family time when you are cooped up inside the house with the kids.

Add the never-ending bleak forecast, and it can truly begin to play havoc with your psychological state.

My friend Sally Strosahl, an Oswego-based family therapist, suggests that, instead of looking at these cold dark days as an ordeal to get through, try to turn them into something special. Kids won’t remember the ice and cold and snow, she noted.

But they will remember helping Dad cut up vegetables for that new soup recipe he tried, or Mom making hot chocolate and everyone having a dance party.

“It gives us an opportunity to dig deeper,” she said, “to be creative, to share, to make memories.”

It all comes down to perspective, which hit home when I sent photos I’d taken earlier this week of hazardous road conditions to my out of state siblings. My intend was to whine, to get sympathy … and OK, to show how tough we are here in this part of the country.

My Texas brother’s response: Was going to text you this morning but did not want to rub it in. It has been brutal for you guys & no end in site. People are complaining here when its 39 degrees.

Then there was the one from my sister in California: The pics made me jealous. Would love to hunker down with a big fire as the snow flies and the wind howls outside.

Uh huh.

Want to know what email this week really warmed my heart? It was a press release announcing that on Monday the Fox Valley Park District will begin accepting picnic shelter reservations.

How do we survive the winter 2014 nightmare? By dreaming of spring just three short months away.

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