Winter is my mortal enemy. And last year it not only beat me to a pulp, it stood there berating me like the worst childhood bully. This is my way of saying that last winter was so harsh, it broke my spirit.

The crazy thing is that I don’t have to get up early and dig out my car or hike across the arctic tundra to get to the el. I don’t have to leave the house except to get groceries or drive to my job at the Beacon three nights a week. But when I sit in my office trying to write while the wind rattles the windows and the snow falls endlessly, and then I get to the Beacon and it’s so cold that no one wants to come out … well, it’s a major bummer.

But as much as I dream of escaping Chicago’s harsh winters, I’m not going to be able to afford to move anytime soon. So this year I’ve come up with ways to combat the winter blues:

Enjoy indoor activities

Curling up with a blanket and a book from my towering to-be-read pile is a good way to stay warm and forget how ugly it is outside. Netflix is also my best friend during winter. It’s cheap and the mail carrier brings the movies and TV shows I’ve been meaning to see right to my door. But if you don’t have a giant pile of books or the money for Netflix, head out to the library on one of those slightly warmer days with a long list of books and movies to stock up on free, indoor entertainment.

Learn new things

Learning new things helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something in spite of the winter doldrums. My friend’s daughter has started playing guitar. One day when she came over, I broke out the electric guitar that I haven’t touched in years for her to try. I left it out so that I can make an attempt to learn again. I’ve also been reading up on Greek mythology for the novel I’m working on and I’m trying to learn more about gardening techniques. Last year’s garden was a flop so I’m hoping to do better this summer. And this leads to …

Make warm weather plans

Planning my summer garden is one way to get into a warmer state of mind, but the best thing to do is to escape to a warmer climate for a week. My husband and I intentionally saved our honeymoon for January because we knew we’d need it more then. Of course, we ended up going to Florida during the coldest snap they’d had in decades, but it was still warmer there than it was here! In this economy, a warm vacation is not an option for most people, so play pretend! For example, we’ve decided to throw a beach party at the Beacon on Saturday, Feb. 27. It may be snowing outside, but we’re breaking out the beachwear, making summery drinks with lemonade and iced tea, and grilling some food. Oh the power of imagination!

Brave the outside world

Bundle up and get out there. While you were at the library picking up books and movies, hopefully you also grabbed the discount coupons to area museums. If you’ve been learning some new songs or doing some writing, go show off at one of the open mic nights around town. Come out to the Beacon beach party later this month or plan your own party or game night with friends. No matter what, don’t let winter win.

Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site