Ah, January! The start of a new year - a new decade even. A chance to start fresh.
For a lot of us, January is a time for New Year's resolutions. Every year, by Jan. 4 or 5, I get around to making my New Year's resolutions. Every year I resolve to stop procrastinating. Do New Year's resolutions count if you don't start them exactly on Jan. 1?
This year I have a short list of things I say I will do to improve my life. Maybe I'll start them soon. My best resolution, though, is to accomplish something every day for the next year. I'm not talking about masterpieces here, folks. Any small accomplishment will do. I don't know about you, but for me, sometimes it's an accomplishment just to get out of bed in the morning. That counts. It's all a matter of interpretation. I just might be able to keep this New Year's resolution.
January also is a time of hope. We Alaskans, beaten down by the long hours of darkness, cling to the sure knowledge that we are on the other side now. We left the winter solstice behind at Christmastime, and now the light is increasing, each day is longer than the last. A tiny bit longer.
It sure doesn't feel like it at 6:45 in the morning when the alarm wakes me to total darkness, though. That's what I call the middle of the night, when all right-thinking people should be sleeping.
My son laments the fact that he has to go to middle school from sunup to sundown - even before sunup at the height of the darkness. But brighter days are coming - you just have to have faith.
And, for those with a sweet tooth, January brings Girl Scout cookies. Not necessarily great timing, is it? Think of all the poor saps who resolved to diet and lose weight in the New Year. You know who you are.
You've resisted the leftover fudge and fruitcake for an entire week, and then comes that fateful knock on the door. A sweet little girl in a brown or green uniform asks if you want to buy some cookies. How could you refuse? Who could pass up a box of Thin Mints, whether or not you're on a diet? And as the French say about wine, an open box is an empty box, and there's one New Year's resolution down the drain. Might as well buy a couple boxes, and enjoy yourself in style.
Then, for all us Scots and wannabes, January brings the high holy day of Robbie Burns Night. That's Robert Burns, the bard of Scotland. I guess there's only been one poet in Scotland, so he gets his very own day. Plus, we need some excuse to throw a party on these dark nights.
What a party it is, complete with whiskey and haggis. Evidently Burns never heard of Girl Scout cookies. Haggis is generally regarded to be a vile concoction of oatmeal, meat and spices cooked inside a sheep's stomach. That explains the whiskey, at any rate.
I have a confession to make. I kind of like haggis. Covered with a bit of brown gravy, it's really quite tasty. I took some home two years ago, covered it with mashed potatoes, and tried to pass it off as shepherd's pie. My entire family rebelled on a scale of the Battle of Culloden. They let me know in no uncertain terms that this was an unacceptable deception. I can get away with putting shredded zucchini in my spaghetti sauce, but haggis is right out.
And, of course, January ushers in the Super Bowl. Settle down on the comfy sofa with a good friend and a big plate of nachos to enjoy an afternoon of football and beer commercials.
So much for the last dregs of those resolutions to diet and exercise. Does it count if you watch someone else exercise on the football field? Too bad your Girl Scout cookies won't arrive until spring.
Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and aspiring children's author who lives in Juneau. She likes to look at the bright side of life.