Another snow day - Martha Randolph Carr

This year, March came in like a lion in New York City, with a foot of snow blowing down on Manhattan. It wasn't the first snow of the season, more like the fourth, and it was preceded by a spate of warm weather that made all the city dwellers think briefly of spring.

It wasn't just snow, either. It was snow surrounded by a howling wind that made it difficult to tell if the fat flakes flying sideways into your face were coming from above or swirling up off of the ground.

Schools in the city were shut down for one day giving the children the first long weekend caused by weather in a decade. When there's a great mass transportation system, it becomes tough to justify closing schools. The snow has to be enough to make it tough to walk to a subway stop.

This late in the season, just ahead of Daylight Savings Time, a dumping of snow played havoc with everyone's mood. This time it didn't seem sparkling and pristine, but more like annoying and slushy. Great pools of icy water were gathered around every corner and had to be maneuvered around just to cross a street. No one had anything nice to say about the snowfall this time.

That is, except for a friend, Cindy, who is a middle school teacher. She was overcome with joy and had made a point of stocking up on cinnamon buns and hot chocolate at the first weather report about what was approaching. She was practically singing about the snowfall as she watched it fall past her window.

Her attitude was completely different. Cindy was taking it all in as a celebration and a moment to stand still and look at the weather. It was the same events, but a different point of view and a good reminder during this economic upheaval.

Both the snow and the economic news are out of our control. They're going to do what they need to do until the whole event is over. We can lament and groan about either condition, but that will only draw us deeper into depression and a feeling of being powerless to create good in our lives.

The snow is short term and the complaining is only going to last until Saturday when temperatures are expected to be in the balmy 50's. But the economic plight is far more serious and could last at least another year. Not having a decent retirement account or health benefits or even a job has some very real life consequences.

It can seem immature to look for the blessings in the midst of a national crisis and yet that's where sanity lies. Focusing on what is deemed as bad news can cause us to feel like a lot of what we've worked to create in our lives was in the end, pointless.

However, if you've finally had enough of feeling overwhelmed, then pay attention, because there are some things that can be done to move back in the direction of feeling good about your life.

First, turn off the national news and take a long break. Don't pile on with more detailed dire information that doesn't directly benefit you. Don't let your friend or relatives saturate you with bad news about events that are bigger than you are, either.

Next, start a gratitude journal. Use an old notebook and start with just three things a day. They can be obvious, like still breathing or a particularly good pizza or more heartfelt like an actual conversation with your teenager. Make yourself end or begin each day with the small list of what's actually going right.

Next, volunteer a few hours each week to a worthy cause that has some interest for you where you'll be around other people. You'll see that your time and talents are still valued and you'll make a few new friends while giving back to your community.

While you're at it, each night grab, the hands of those you love and take a stroll around your community. The fresh air, little bit of exercise and moments spent with loved ones without a TV or computer screen will breathe new life into your lungs and your relationships.

Last on the list is go through every closet and take the time to clean out anything you haven't used in the past year. Chances are you're never going to use it and there are a lot of families in need right now, who would consider it a blessing to receive your overflow. Cleaning out the clutter will also make it easier to see how much you have that is still of use. All of these steps will restore a sense of still being a part of the community at-large with things to celebrate and contribute.

A short thank you to the organizations that have already contacted me from Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee about taking on the 2009 America Challenge to raise funds for community-based charities. If you'd like to get involved, e-mail me at Martha@CagleCartoons.com, for more information. Together we're going to build stronger communities and empower ourselves. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.