We've turned the calendar page to the bright and shiny month of February — a month that promises new beginnings and challenges as well. Tiny green shoots are beginning to make their presence known in gardens and flower beds all over MI Town, which means we can look forward to tulips, crocuses and hyacinths. Those pesky weeds somehow always manage to survive winter's chill, so these occasional rain-free days give us all an opportunity to get the garden spaces ready for planting. — Have you signed up for the Family Reading Club at the Monmouth Public Library? Stop by to pick up a reading log and decide how much time you and your family members can read every day. Just keep track of the time spent reading and turn the reading log in on Feb. 28. Learn more about this fun and interactive activity at the library. — Mark your calendars for Feb. 12 and plan to attend the State of the Cities Address at the Independence Cinema, 450 S. Second St. Monmouth Mayor John Oberst and Independence Mayor John McArdle will speak from noon until 1:30 p.m. Box lunches are available for $10, and must be ordered by close of business Wednesday (today) from the Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce. Reservations and more information are available at email@example.com. — April 15 may sound far away, but those tax forms will be due before we know it. If you need help trying to wade through the state and federal forms, contact Sue Teal at the Monmouth Senior Center, 503-838-5678. AARP-certified volunteers will work free with seniors as well as mid- to low-income folks, and everything is confidential. This service is on a by-appointment-only basis, so call soon. — The Youth Learning and Construction Program is gearing up for another year of helping Monmouth and Independence residents with sidewalk and home repairs. Qualified low income home owners can participate in the program that trains local youths in construction and repair. For more information: Michelle Lehr, 503-364-6642, ext. 114; online at www.ci.independence.or.com. — Now that the Super Bowl is history for another year, why not begin your football withdrawal activity with a family dinner out at one of MI Town's restaurants. There's something for every taste and pocketbook, and mom gets an evening out of the kitchen. — Even though we've escaped some scary winter weather, Mother Nature brings challenges to us almost daily. Let's be super vigilant while driving and to remember to use headlights on these dark and rainy days.