What Is Saving Your Life This Winter?

At the end of each podcast episode, Jen Hatmaker asks her guests the same question: “What is saving your life right now?” And even though I know that coffee or good books are not literally saving anybody’s life, and I want to accuse her of being too dramatic with the way that question is worded, I have to acknowledge that something inside us can be saved, a little at a time, with small comforts and pleasures. That is nothing to be taken lightly.

I was thinking about this as I went for a walk the other day. It was late afternoon, the air was crisp and cold, and the sky was pink. As I walked along in that winter sunset, I saw a row of trees, their leafless branches silhouetted against the sky. And I thought to myself, “Winter sunsets are saving my life this winter.”

I felt overly dramatic myself, for a moment, and then I remembered all those winters I struggled with Seasonal Affected Disorder, and how horrible, dark, and heavy those winters felt. I looked at those trees against the pink sky, and felt the thrill of beauty and joy shoot right through me, and I decided to stick with my original thought – it is not too dramatic to say winter sunsets are saving my life this winter.

There are many ways to feel fully alive, and many ways to be saved from darkness, and I learned a long time ago that the secret often lies in learning to pay attention to the little things.

So I started to make a list of all the little things brightening up my winter – saving my life right now, if we want to lean into the drama. Here’s what I came up with:

Getting outside every day that I can. This can feel very hard on the extra cold days, but it is always, always worth it.

Good, warm, comfy boots. I used my birthday money to splurge on these boots, and we are living happily ever after. They are wonderful. I have foot issues, and these boots are incredibly comfortable. They keep my feet so toasty warm, my daily walks are so much more pleasurable with these boots in my life. I wish I had learned years ago that warm feet in winter make everything better.

Tea, in cute mugs. Both are important. I bought myself a mug I love, and it makes hot drinks even better. So we bought our kids their own special mugs too, and now they beg for tea every time they’ve been playing outside. Chocolate chai is their favourite.

Fiction. It’s been years since I’ve let myself read fiction, because I don’t have much self-control in that area. Reading fiction makes me want to avoid housework, cooking, parenting, sleeping at night – all the things I’m supposed to be doing, and it makes me grumpy when people disturb me. But I’ve found this winter that if I choose very carefully when to start a new book, and don’t read fiction very often, I can get away with enjoying one here and there. And it is so enjoyable.

Plants. I used to have a whole houseful of plants, but when we moved to camp, our house was so dark, they all died. It’s always felt like a frivolous expense to buy new plants, but when I thought about how much joy green, living things give me, I decided I needed to get some plants. We visited a greenhouse on Boxing Day, and all the plants were 50% off, so I got two – a China Doll and a Shady Lady, the choice based 90% on their names, and 10% on them being the prettiest plants I could find in my price range. They make me smile.

Twinkle lights around my kitchen window. I wanted lights that stayed up after Christmas, because it’s so empty and dark when all the decorations are put away. Turning these lights on every dark winter morning makes me feel warm inside.

Our new bird feeder. Kaylia is studying birds for science this year, and her science book recommended getting a bird feeder. I have never understood the thrill of birdwatching before, but I’m changing my mind this winter. It’s extremely interesting to see who shows up at our feeder, and how many birds stick around during the winter. I’ve never paid attention before! Now I’m seeing and hearing birds all over the place, and it is lovely.

These are little things, but each little thing makes this winter feel a little bit nicer, and a little bit brighter.

What is saving your life this winter?

Reflecting and Goal Setting

I love fresh starts and new beginnings! This time of year is one of my favourites, because I love tying up the end of the year, and moving into the new year with great anticipation.There are so many amazing articles and podcasts that lead people through year end reflections and goal setting activities for the new year, and I love to make use of them this time of year!

If you’re like me, and this week after Christmas has you feeling ready for some intentional reflection, here are some of the resources I’ve been enjoying:

End Your Year Intentionally With These 10 Questions (No Sidebar)

20 Questions for New Year’s Eve (The Art of Simple)

How to Create a Personal Life Plan Before 2020 (Building a StoryBrand with Donald Miller)

The Science of Setting and Accomplishing Goals with Michael Hyatt (The Model Health Show – it’s from last year, but it’s a great one!)

I’m trying not to go too crazy with goal setting – I tend to get a bit carried away, but I’ve learned that it’s easier to keep it simple, and only do one or two goals at a time!

For this year, I’ve decided to make daily journaling my goal. I started a couple of weeks ago already, and it feels like something I want to make a permanent part of my daily routine. There’s a lot to say about it, so I’ll write more in a future post. There are many benefits to journaling regularly, and I can’t wait to dig further in to this habit!

I’d love to here what goals you’re setting for the New Year! And let me know if there are any other great resources you’ve come across!

Happy New Year!

Share the Love

Every once in a while, I like to round up a bunch of things we’re enjoying around here to share with all of you! (And affiliate links are included for your convenience!) I love it when other people share lists like this, so I’m passing on the favour.:) Here’s my list of things we’re currently enjoying:

Swiffer sheets for dusting.

I learned this tip from one of my very favourite podcasts, “The Lazy Genius” – she’s funny, smart, practical, and her name is Kendra, so you can’t go wrong! Every single episode has some awesome tip for cleaning or grocery shopping or something practical, and she lives up to her slogan: “Helping you be a genius about the things that matter, and lazy about the things that don’t.” She is so smart and intentional!

Anyway, she shared in an episode that Swiffer sheets normally used for mops actually make incredible dusting cloths – better than microfiber cloths or, whatever else you use.

I had bought a box of those sheets from Costco for our little Swiffer vacuum, but we don’t use it that often, so the box was lasting forever. I decided to give her tip a try, and could not believe how well it worked!! Kendra was right. Even if you don’t have any other Swiffer products, get those sheets! They actually make me WANT to dust, and I have never liked dusting. But suddenly I’m dusting EVERYTHING, and it is so satisfying.

*Another tip from Kendra – dust the toilet before you clean it – it’s so much easier to clean if you don’t have to keep wiping around all the soggy dust particles. Why have I not thought of this before??!!

She has podcast episodes on a ton of great topics – right now I’ve downloaded episodes about keeping the car clean, spring cleaning, and dealing with sickness, on my podcast app. I’ve also enjoyed her episode on cleaning out the fridge, making lunch, creating your own marinades…. So many good ones to enjoy! Check her out here!

FREE video series: Grocery Savings Made Simple

So by now, probably everyone who has ever read my blog knows how much I love the online course “Grocery Budget Bootcamp”. Tiffany from the blog “Don’t Waste the Crumbs” will be offering it again this year in a couple of weeks, but she’s also sharing a FREE three-part video series, starting this week, called “Grocery Savings Made Simple”. I always find her budget and grocery tips super helpful and practical, so I’m a fan of any series she puts out!

Head over here to sign up for her free course, or over here for Grocery Budget Bootcamp!

The Final Table

While we’re talking about food, I have to share that Ben and I got hooked on a cooking show on Netflix this winter, much to our surprise!! I would never have thought that possible, but this was such a good one! We’d watch it when our kids were in bed, but they’d always ask about it in the morning, and got so interested, they started watching it on their own!

Amazing chefs from all over the world teamed up against each other, and whoever made the “worst” dish was eliminated (but seriously, even the worst dishes looked amazing!). Each episode featured food from a different country, which was really interesting, and things got very intense as the chefs had to make dishes they’d never tasted before, during a tight time limit. It was fascinating to watch them perform under pressure, and inspiring to see the dedication to their craft. It made us want to learn how to cook really well!

 

 

 

 

 

Essentialism

I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but I’m really enjoying it! It’s about doing less, so that you can do things better. It’s making me examine what I’m saying yes or no to, and given me the courage to cut some things from my life that were taking up energy I really wanted to spend elsewhere.

 

He writes about how most people choose to keep many things going at the same time, but nothing moves along very quickly, because all things have to be kept moving. Instead, we can choose what is most important, and go really, really far with that one thing instead of a little way with many things.

I’m inspired to be much more intentional, fully present, and committed to the few things I choose to spend my time on. It’s very freeing, and I love the picture he paints of intentional living.

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

I heard about blue light blocking glasses years ago, and always thought they sounded like a good idea, but never got around to buying any until this winter.

My naturopath discovered that I’m getting far too much blue light, which surprised me, because I don’t spend a lot of time in front of computer or TV screens. But what he explained was that a lack of sunshine during the winter, along with too much artificial light of any kind, can lead to an imbalance.

He asked me to pick up a pair of blue light blocking glasses, so we ordered a couple of pairs from Amazon, and for $20, it’s a quick fix. Immediately, we noticed a big improvement in our sleep (and I had thought I was sleeping well before already!)

 

 

Because we were so impressed with the difference they make, we ordered enough for the whole family! Kaylia has always taken a very long time to fall asleep, but when she wears her glasses in the evenings, she falls asleep about an hour earlier.

Apparently the health benefits go far beyond good sleep – hormones, circulation, even weight gain can be affected by what kind of light is hitting your eyes, so getting outside more, plus protecting your eyes from artificial light can impact your health in significant ways. Getting healthier from wearing a cheap pair of glasses sounds like an easy win to me! I’m in.

These are the glasses Anika and I ordered, and here are the adorable kids glasses we got for Kaylia and Everett.

To read more about why blue light blocking glasses are good to wear, head over here.

Life Church Series on Habits

I listened to this message series recently, and it was really good. I love anything that has to do with habits, and I especially liked hearing a church address the topic.

Craig Groeschel does such an amazing job of sharing practical ways to build habits in our lives, and addressing how much we as Christians need strong habits to grow in our relationship with God.

I read somewhere recently that teaching our kids spiritual disciplines and strong Christian habits will carry them through the times when they don’t feel very spiritual. Habits can be what ties us to Jesus even during times when he feels far away, and takes the focus off of emotions so our actions can be deeply rooted in our spiritual practices.

I love that idea, so this series seems like an important one to me.

That’s it for today! But I’d love to hear about anything you’re enjoying right now! Any good books or podcasts or recipes or clothes or ANYTHING you’re loving that you’d like to pass on? Share the love!:)

Last Day of Favourites

Today is the last day of the “Birthday Favourites” series, which means you have until tonight to comment and get your name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card! Share your favourite things and give me some ideas on new things to try next!

Today should be especially easy to comment on, because we’re covering the odds and ends – I was able to group most things into nice, tidy themes each day for the last two weeks, but today is all the random stuff that didn’t fit in anywhere else! Here are a few things I’m loving:

Balance Bike

Ben’s parents bought Everett a balance bike (Amazon affiliate link) for Christmas, and he is loving it! It’s been really fun and interesting to watch him develop his skills on it, and every single time I watch him coasting along with his little feet up in the air, I say to Ben, “I wish we’d had a balance bike for the girls!!”

Seriously, all those hours Ben spent running alongside the girls on their bikes, all hunched over and awkward, and all their fear about falling – all avoided! Everett is teaching himself how to ride a bike, and I would love it if there were other parenting hurdles that could be avoided this painlessly and easily.;)

Vitamin B 100

This one’s for the ladies! If anyone out there is having trouble with monthly cycles, get yourself a bottle of Vitamin B 100!

I’m going to get really open and honest here, so if you’re uncomfortable with the details, please feel free to skip ahead!! When my cycle returned after Everett was born, it came back as the Cycle of Death. It was horrible beyond anything I’d ever experienced –Β  I had outrageous cramps, it was very heavy, over a week long, and kept getting longer in between, to the point where I was only getting it every 40 days or more, which is just far too long.

When I asked my naturopath about it, he immediately said, “Vitamin B 100!” He said it’s helped every single woman who’s complained to him about issues with her cycle. I completely trust his advice, but I wasn’t expecting it to help immediately. Well, after only two weeks of taking B 100, my period came exactly on time. Each month, it’s gotten better – shorter, lighter, NO CRAMPS at all (which I can hardly believe is even possible), and very consistent.

I had a little trouble finding B 100 – it’s different than B Complete 100 mg, which someone said was the same thing. My naturopath said it must be B 100, so I finally ordered it online here.

Ebates

Do you guys use this?! I’d heard about Ebates a bunch of times, but didn’t really know what was involved. I’m so glad I finally looked into it, because it could not be easier.

Basically, you sign up for an Ebates account (here), and every time you buy something online, you go to Ebates first, search for the store you want (there are 750 stores), and click through Ebates to start shopping. It takes you to the page you would normally shop at, but when you click through from Ebates, you get a percentage of what you spend added to your Ebates account. It’s not a huge amount, but it adds up over time, and you’re doing next to nothing to get this money. All you have to do is remember to go through Ebates whenever you shop. We do most of our shopping online, mostly from Amazon, American Eagle, Old Navy, Gap, and Indigo, so I love it that we’re getting a bit of money back for purchases we’d be making anyway!

And that’s it! Now you know what I’ve been enjoying this year. Let me know what’s been bringing a little bit of joy to your life recently! I’ll be back on Monday to share the winner of the Amazon gift card.:)

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Morning Routine

A huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this series so far! I’ve been sharing my favourite things of the year in honour of my birthday, and anyone who comments on these posts will be entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. I have loved reading everything you’ve had to contribute! If you have any favourite things to share or thoughts on the topics of these last two weeks, please feel free to comment! You have until Friday, July 21!

This was the year I got serious about my morning routine. It’s so hard – I totally get it. Having young kids who wake up early makes it very hard to wake up even earlier. For the longest time, I just couldn’t do it.

But, as I’ve been talking about a lot this week, I’m an introvert, and waking up at the same time as Everett and having no personal time to get my day started on the right track was not working well, and I knew it was time for a change. I decided to start waking up just 15 minutes earlier than when Everett usually woke up. Even that felt super hard, but I knew in my head that 15 minutes wouldn’t make a huge difference in my energy levels, even if my body felt like it was a bad idea!

I stayed there for a long time – 15 minutes wasn’t much, but it was enough for me to drink some water and read my Bible for a little bit before Everett woke up. I don’t know how long I would have kept things there, if God hadn’t given me a big nudge! For some bizarre reason, I suddenly went through a phase last fall where I woke up at 5:30am, every single morning for a week or two! Oh my word, I was so tired! But I could not fall asleep again, so finally, I just gave up and climbed out of bed. I didn’t want to be out of bed that early, but I tried to make the most of it, since it was happening anyway!

It turned out to be amazing. I had all the time I needed for morning devotions, and I got my exercising done before the kids were up. By the time I went back to sleeping normally, I was hooked. I craved that alone time each morning, so I asked Ben to start setting my alarm 20 minutes earlier, with the intention of working my way earlier very gradually. Finally, I told him one day that I was ready to wake up at 6:30, and he cheerfully told me I’d already been waking up at 6:30 for a few weeks, because he’d kept setting it earlier and earlier without telling me! I guess I stumbled out of bed so bleary-eyed, I never looked at a clock!

Fortunately, my body has adjusted, and I usually wake up before the alarm now, happy to get out of bed at 6:30am. There was a time in my life when I would NEVER have thought that would happen, but here we are, and it’s been one of the biggest turning points of my life this last year. I start my day with intention, I get more alone time, my relationship with God has grown because I’m spending more time with Him each day, and I’m exercising very consistently. It’s been a process, but totally worth it!

So here’s how I start my day:

  • Drink two cups of water first thing, and take any supplements I need to on an empty stomach
  • Read my Bible and write in my Five Year Prayer Journal, which is a new thing I started this year
  • Exercise for 45 minutes, or as long as I can until Everett wakes up, while listening to a message (which I shared in my post on podcasts)
  • To keep my mind coming back to where I want it to be throughout the day, I use an app that has an hourly beep. I got this idea from a Bridgetown podcast on hourly prayer, and it’s been so good! Every time I hear that beep, it’s such a great reminder to pray about whatever is on my mind right at that moment. I’ve found it to be very helpful for keeping my thoughts more on track.

That’s all been working well, but my goal for this next year will be to get more sleep! I listened to a great podcast this week called “Why Sleep is More Important Than Diet and Exercise Combined”, and it was a huge kick in the pants!! Yikes, I have some work to do. It’s pretty amazing how much sleep impacts absolutely everything, so I’m setting out to improve my evening routine, and get to bed earlier. I’m excited to see how this will go!

Do you have a consistent morning and evening routine? What works well for you?

 

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For the Love of Introverts

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Today’s favourites are related to the post I shared yesterday on personality types. As I mentioned, I’m an introvert and I love my alone time!! But as a homeschooling mom of three kids, it can be hard to recharge, so today I’m going to share three things which have been really helpful this year. If you’re an extrovert, take notes, because you’re bound to have an introvert in your life who could benefit from these things, too!! (affiliate links included)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

This book has been showing up everywhere, and for good reason – it is AMAZING!! It’s such a good read for anyone, extrovert or introvert. It’s been crazy for me to read the ways in which our culture is built for extroverts. I’ve actually needed to read this book slowly, because I need to give my mind time to keep up with all the shifts that happen as I read it! I’m constantly recognizing ways in which I give in to pressures around me, or how I’m parenting my own little introvert in ways that aren’t helpful or healthy, but it’s just the way things have always been done.

Susan Cain has done a phenomenal job researching this book, and it is so well written. Her interviews are fascinating, and she questions many things we consider normal, but are really geared for extroverts, and make introverts miserable and uncomfortable. I keep realizing how much I’ve come to accept being uncomfortable! It’s hard for me to be honest and stand up for myself, and say no to things which don’t work well for my personality type. No, I’d rather not shake hands with complete strangers in church. (No offense!) No, I’d rather not answer my phone…like, ever. (I bet an introvert invented texting!) No, I’d rather not work with a group of people on anything I could just do it by myself.

As I shared in yesterday’s post, I truly love people, and I don’t like to be alone all the time. But there are certain interactions (small talk, gossip, strained conversation, etc.) that drain me quickly, while deeper conversations about topics which interest and inspire me are life-giving. It’s interesting to think of ways to recover from energy-sucking interactions, and add in more of the life-giving ones.

This book is great for introverts who want to find out what’s awesome about being an introvert, and for extroverts who need to grow in their appreciation for all that introverts are capable of, and why we need them to keep things balanced.

Headphones

Best purchase of the year. All of my kids looooooove listening to music, but most of the time, I just want it to be quiet and peaceful. I don’t like multi-tasking, so my favourite time to listen to music is when no one else is around, and I don’t have to listen to people talking to me and listen to music.

We’ve struggled with my low noise threshold for years, but finally figured out that headphones would save the day for everybody. It’s been the best thing ever – I have my peace and quiet, and my kids take turns listening to as much music as their little hearts desire. They think it’s far more fun to listen to music with headphones than without, so it’s suddenly become a special treat, and great entertainment.

Podcast Episode: How Personality Types Manage Energy

I used to think being alone was enough to recharge me, but listening to this podcast episode was very eye-opening. There are 16 different personality types (take the test here), and each type recharges in a different way. Each one has it’s greatest area of strength, and when we utilize that strength, we are recharged. For me, that strength is thinking! Specifically, it’s thinking about how my day is going, noticing patterns in my kids’ behaviour, trying to think up solutions to make our home run better and keep everybody in a healthier place. When I have the chance to be alone, I make myself set aside the phone or the book or whatever would distract me, and I just think. At first it felt weird and like I should be doing something more productive, but it’s been amazing for me! I could think for hours. However, there are also times when I need to get out of my head, and so the best way for my type (INFJ) to balance out is to do something that physically connects me to the moment of enjoyment, like yoga, a walk, or a hot shower.

But that’s just my type. There’s a type that recharges by going back to a familiar book or movie, and a type that feels most rested when they’re learning, so listening to a podcast feels very restful. Extroverts feel energized and refreshed by different types of social interactions. There are many different ways to recharge, and it makes a lot of sense to get intentional about it. When we just blindly stumble along and do whatever feels good, we could be wasting valuable down time that’s not leaving us recharged. This episode is definitely worth listening to, for all personality types!!

Alright, let me hear it – what are your favourite ways to recharge? What gives you energy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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