It’s more than fitting that as I write these words, the forecast low for tonight is in the single digits, and the wind will make it feel like northern Minnesota.

That combination of pain and darkness makes now the perfect time to call on readers to share pet peeves and other complaints in a regular feature called “Gripes and Grins.”

There is no more perfect time than the dreaded winter month of February to ask you, gentle reader, to share with me the things that really get your goat, raise your hackles or otherwise just tick you off. Don’t like the way people around here drive? Noticed bad manners of a certain type cropping up more and more? Tired of what pop culture has to offer?

Hey, have we got a column for you.

And because the world is not all half-empty cups, I strive to provide balance. That’s why I include the “Grins” part.

So while you might start compiling your list with things that earn your ire, I  would be glad if you could point out a thing or two that makes you smile, something that makes life worth living.

What sorts of things?

Tell me about someone who is selfless and caring—like someone picking up the tab for for a stranger in a restaurant or coffee shop. Or it could be something as simple as a new product or service that improves the quality of your life.

One of my favorite “Grins” from the past was a reader who wrote in to say she was so glad to see a new sort of bag offered during the Christmas season. It was made specifically to fit Christmas wrapping paper, keeping rolls of it from falling out. The reader who shared it said it made her day simpler and put a smile on her face.

Over the decades decades, people have cited neighbors who shovel their driveways in the snow, deliver food treats for no reason and otherwise go the extra mile in selfless ways.

The point in both the “Gripes” and "Grins” portions of the column isn’t to fuss at or give credit to specific individuals—I typically don’t’ include peoples’ names who do boorish or kind things—but to share the ways people can make others angry, or make others' lives better.

The best thing about "Gripes and Grins" is convenience. Anyone can do it, and it’s easy to do.

Simply think a bit and then jot down—on paper or on your computer—a brief list of your gripes and your grins, explaining each so others can understand what gets your knickers in a twist. Or what lights up your life.

There are a few requirements in order to have your gripes and grins included in the column.

You have to include your full name. You have to share where you live—not your address, but the name of the locality you live in, like Stafford County or Colonial Beach.

And because I’ve guessed wrong over the years going by first names, you need to say whether you’re a man or a woman. That’s so I don’t say the wrong thing while sharing your gripes and grins.

When you’ve put together your listings of gripes and grins, emails are best, but I know everybody doesn’t go that way, so I’ll take submissions through the mail. Check the info box accompanying this article.

One rule is unbreakable: I won’t take them by phone, so don’t even try to go that route. It works best to have them written down so I can keep track of the submissions.

To help inspire you to share your own, I’ll share a few of my own gripes and grins.

In the gripes category, I have to say nothing makes me crazier than the calls that come to my cell phone every time I fill a prescription at a certain pharmacy chain. All told, I got 7 different messages after filling one simple prescription last week.

On the grin side of the equation, I got a hilarious video of a sweet black lab that belongs to members of my family. The amped-up dog was running in circles and doing doughnuts in the snow. I smiled till it hurt.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

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