January 19, 2021
My New Year’s resolution this year is to drink more water. Usually, I am a champion at staying hydrated, but this year has proven to be filled with so many unexpected distractions that I have fallen short on my water intake. Pretty ironic since I’m now home more than ever–brought on by pandemic living. So water it is. At the moment I’m slicing up lemons, limes, grapefruits, and mandarin oranges and dropping them into my water bottle. Sometimes together and sometimes in various combos. I have also found that out of sight, out of mind could not be truer. As a result, I’m leaving the bottle on the counter as a visual reminder. In asking others how they are staying hydrated these days, one friend suggested I try fresh mint, I’ll be adding that next! If you have other tips, I’d love to hear them.
Just breathe. Even typing that out makes me want to take a deeper breath. It’s so interesting how a single breath can cause my shoulders to drop and relax a little. I’m one of those people who carries the weight of my stress in my shoulders, anyone else relate? Letting even a tiny bit of tension go feels so good. Growing up a singer, it was reinforced time and again how important it is to take deep, diaphragm breaths. If your shoulders creep up to your ears, you aren’t breathing low enough. This kind of breathing is the only way to fuel a long stanza, whether you’re singing a pop power ballad or Italian opera, you need air to sustain the line. I think it’s the same in life. We can try to get by with shallow breaths or we can slow down for a minute and go all in. My goal is 5 times a day, to do 5, 5-count breaths. Ok, that’s a lot of 5’s. A 5 count breath looks like slow counting to 5 upon inhalation and repeating the slow 5 count on exhalation. Then do that 5 times in a row, 5 times a day. I’m finding it gives me a minute to pause and be more mindful (or regain a bit of patience!) even if I am locked in the bathroom hiding from my kids. Sometimes that’s what sanity looks like.
I have always loved mornings. I’m one of those people that finds great joy in sneaking up on a dark sky to catch a sunrise as it stretches over the horizon. Being a mom of three kiddos now, I appreciate quiet mornings in a whole new way. With a hot cup of tea in hand, it is my favorite time to type away at my computer. The stillness allows my thoughts to be more cohesive before the demands of the day take over. My other favorite thing is to find an incredibly soft blanket and dive into a life-giving book. Like wrapping up my soul in a bear hug, those early morning hours fuel me for the rest of the day. Take a peek here for a list of my favorite books. Especially now with my girls learning from our living room, Zoom school has not only taken over our days but it has also consumed my computer. Getting up in the dark can feel tough on cold mornings, but the reward of feeling like I did something kind for myself certainly outweighs it (and thankfully our heater kicks in pretty quickly!)
I have also found that a morning routine is very helpful. The first thing I do is light a delicious smelling candle in my kitchen (where my desk is). Next up, I add water and an energy fizz stick to my big 32 oz water bottle, then turn on the stove for my teapot and grab my favorite tea. Pulling out my gratitude planner (more on this in a second!) and praying are the next two items on my list and then I’m off to write. Do I do all of these to the letter every day? The short answer is nope. Sometimes the gratitude list is feverishly scribbled in as my littlest is working on her preschool notebook because I forgot earlier or I make up for writing later in the evening because I stayed up way too late the night before watching This Is Us, but I will say most days I do get up and stick to my routine. Why? Because it brings joy to my entire day knowing that I did something that I loved. A sense of accomplishment and self-love that does impact my outlook for the day. I do my best to mindfully ask God to guide my hands, heart, feet, words, and actions for each day. For Him to wrap up my kiddos in His love and peace as we navigate the next 24 hours. To protect my husband as he ventures out into the world. 38 years on this planet has taught me that I simply don’t have the strength to go it alone. I think that is a good thing because there is a comfort that comes in knowing the God of the universe loves us enough to want to be in every detail of our lives, all day and every day.
The dry air this time of year turns my skin white and flakey with cracks running especially deep on my hands. Even prior to COVID-19 I was an avid hand-washer and come flu season I would say hyper-vigilant would mildly describe my obsession. Not to mention I cannot stand to be sick. As a result, the winter months would bring unbelievable dryness to my hands. I had tried every lotion and potion under the sun, stocking up on items strategically labeled extra-moisturizing. What I found was that I hated the greasiness of most hand creams and the weird filmy-residue. When I joined Arbonne, a vegan health and wellness company a couple of years ago, one of the things I learned was how chemicals and other by-products (like animal fat) are put into many of our everyday products. I finally had my answer as to why most lotions wouldn’t sink in: it was because they contained animal fat that could not penetrate my skin. Eww! If you’d like to dig a bit deeper, I recommend reading about animal rendering. Google it with one eye open, it is pretty shocking.
With my newfound knowledge, I tried Arbonne’s lotions and hand creams and was immediately impressed. The texture was light and I was amazed at how easily it absorbed. My favorite part: no greasy residue. I can honestly say I had never used hand creams like these before. I also found that because it didn’t leave a film on my hands, I could get back to life faster because I wasn’t waiting for it to disappear. All in all, I noticed that the last two years my hands haven’t cracked or bled like they used to. I also like that the smell is light and isn’t overpowering. Take a peek here at my favorite hand cream. I will also say I love their body butter for the same absorption reason. I used to never put lotion on my legs until it became ridiculously necessary because the feeling of greasiness underneath clothes made my skin crawl. Their lightly scented coconut body butter is now my go-to. If you do give either of them a try, I’d love to know how you like them. You’re also welcome to shoot me an email and I’m happy to help you get one.
A year or so ago I started writing down five things for the day that I was grateful for. Several books suggested it as a way to take note of the good things in our lives. The more we track, the more we see. It’s easy to get lost in the monotony of the daily grind. This felt especially true when my girls were babies. My goals for the day included keeping tiny people alive, attempting to get said people fed–dressed was optional, and don’t burn down the house. In the 24 hour Ferris wheel of a day, I felt like I had cleaned up the same mess of spilled cheerios several times and circled back to an ever-growing pile of laundry that resembled a chia pet on steroids. As the years have tumbled on and I added more to my plate, I was also running my own business, room momming, volunteering, shuttling kids to practices, and all the other things. Maybe your life prior to sheltering at home looked similar? I barely had time to take a shower. I was exhausted, frustrated, and felt like I was constantly falling short. The impossible standard I was attempting to maintain (effortlessly, I might add), was shredding my sanity.
When I started my gratitude list over a year ago, it was broad and sweeping. My kids, my home, my hubby. Then I hit a wall. Living in a new reality started taking over and I felt like life was completely out of control. Pandemic fatigue was rocking my world and I was sinking into a quicksand of depression. I wrote a post more about this called Falling Apart. Turning the page on 2020 was the mental shift I needed to pick up the pieces and carry on. January 1st I decided I would recommit to my gratitude journal and be more detailed in the blessings I’m recording, especially as pandemic living continues. The intention behind the specificity is to seek out, even the tiniest bit of goodness throughout the day.
Here’s what I have found to be true: when I am searching for blessings, I see more of them.
When I’m expecting good things, more good things pop up. The more aware I am, the more I want to create them. Do my kids still pitch fits when I remind them to practice piano or put their socks in the hamper? Who am I kidding, of course! I still get the eye rolls. BUT, I am also celebrating when they take initiative on their homework without me asking them. Or helping me clear the table after dinner. Or holding my hand. Or leaving an artfully, love-infused crayon picture on my nightstand. I don’t think I appreciated the small things as much before because I was in too much of a hurry. My feet barely touched the ground as I raced to complete the next task, take the next call or wash the next dish. Knowing I will write those sweet moments down the following morning has caused me to enjoy them in real-time, as they happen, and file them away in my memory entitled “good things.”
For 2021 I bought a super cute journal. Its sole purpose is to record five to ten things a day that I’m grateful for. Already looking back over the last couple of weeks it brings a smile to my face reading over the big and little joy-filled moments. A few standouts this week were the two little girls hysterically laughing in the backyard as they created an invention involving bike helmets and stuffed animals which led to an elaborate game I still don’t quite understand, my oldest bravely going to virtual office hours with her new teacher to ask questions about homework, my sweet hubby being home for a rare weeknight dinner on Tuesday, the giggles erupting from my three kiddos as my brother hilariously entertained them on a Zoom playdate for an hour, the beautiful and completely unexpected summer-in-winter sunshine and the outpouring of love I have experienced as a result of writing this blog. My heart is exploding with gratitude and joy. I am truly blessed by your feedback, encouragement, and love. Nothing brings me more happiness than knowing that we are together, especially as we shelter in our own homes.
By writing these moments down, it feels like tiny imprints are being made on my heart. A collection of memories bound together in a spiral notebook. I love the idea of looking back in a few months (or years!) and seeing the blessings that dotted our lives every single day. If you start your own gratitude journal, I’d love to hear the joys that have been sprinkled in throughout your days.
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