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?

Learning to Like Tea

Once upon a time, I hated tea, and if you’d told me I would write blog posts about my love for it, I would have thought you were ridiculous.

But then I grew up a bit, and wrote this blog post all about how I forced myself to like tea, just so that I could have something hot to drink in winter.

It worked out really well, because now I love tea very much, and I drink it no matter what season it is.

I was passionately committed to my Green Ginger Pear Tea, but one fateful day…..we ran out.

A friend came over to drink tea one evening, and requested peppermint tea. In my head, I thought, “That’s totally gross.” It smelled like candy canes, and I was always the weird kid who thought candy canes were disgusting. I had no desire to drink an entire mug of liquid candy cane.

But since the idea was for all of us to sit around drinking tea together and bonding, I didn’t really have a choice.

By the end of the cup of tea, I had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t too bad. I drank peppermint tea a few more times before we restocked with my beloved Green Ginger Pear Tea, and it had the chance to grow on me.

I returned to my old favorite, and was drinking green tea more than ever, but it was a difficult time of life. I was continually dealing with sleepless nights and was not feeling very good in general, seeing as the body kinda needs sleep in order for anything to work properly.

Bless the person who finally told me that green tea has CAFFEINE in it!!! (And who was it that had told me green tea was naturally decaffeinated??! Good thing I can’t remember!)

Turns out green tea has more caffeine in it than black tea! What??!

Maybe I never actually had legitimate insomnia. Maybe I just had a case of Green Ginger Pear Tea.

Now I am wholly devoted to Peppermint Tea. Green Ginger Pear Tea is a distant, sleepless memory.

What’s your favorite hot drink? Have you ever forced yourself to learn to like something?

(This post of part of my series, “34 Days of Favorites. If you want to read more, go here.)


Today I had a brand new experience. I went shopping at Cornelia Bean. (I think that means I’ve entered into a new level of sophistication.)

For those of you not as sophisticated as I now am, and don’t know what in the world I’m talking about, Cornelia Bean is this super fun store on Academy that sells fair trade loose leaf tea and coffee, and any other tea/coffee-fangled things that your heart could possibly desire.

I went shopping at this store to buy a gift certificate for someone who is a bit of an expert in the world of loose leaf tea, and frequents Cornelia Bean, making him much more sophisticated than I am.

Now, I did not know before today how much money it is possible to spend on tea and coffee. You could get carried away. Since I was not there to get carried away, I looked around only a little bit, and then got in line to buy my gift certificate right away.

But then something happened to me.

I was waiting to pay, and sitting right there on the counter was a bag of tea that was being advertised as “Creamy Lemon Green Tea”.

And I wanted it.

Let’s review a few things here, shall we? I feel that it’s important for you to know that I have spent 31 years of my life HATING the taste of tea. (Since I’m only 32, that’s a fairly large portion of my life.) I drink water. And water. In the past, I used to drink juice and hot chocolate, but now I’m on this restricted diet that we won’t even get into right now, and so no more juice or hot chocolate for me.

But on cold days, I really, really envied people with their mugs of hot luxury. So I decided that I would make myself like tea so that I, too, could have luxury in a mug.

I once heard that if you eat or drink something every day for 3 weeks, you can make yourself like anything. So that’s what I did. Ben helped me. He made a cup of tea every day, and at first, just gave me a sip each time. It was gross to me back then. A sip was all I could manage.

Then I worked my way up to a 1/4 of cup. Then half. And so on, until I made a whole cup of tea just for myself, even when Ben wasn’t around. At first, I chugged that thing down just to do it, but gradually, I began to enjoy it, and now, I am officially a tea drinker.

And let me tell you, my life has changed. Pleasure can come from such simple things.

But still, it was rather shocking to me to realize, as I stood in the store today, how much I wanted that tea!

But Cornelia Bean is expensive, and although I could get to the point where I’m all particular about my tea, and only insist on the best, for now I’m still deliriously happy with my cheap tea bags.

But “Creamy Lemon Green Tea”! My contentment might not last for very long. I think it’s the word “creamy” that does me in. But let’s keep in mind that I’ve had a cold/cough/sore throat for a week, and the thought of hot, creamy tea going down sounds ….quite nice.

So the point of this?? When’s the last time you tried something new?

I think it’s super easy for us to get stuck in our ways, and not even realize that we’re stuck. Or to get really set on a certain way of doing something, or very determined in our thinking that something is right or wrong, and we know best, and other people just aren’t as enlightened.

I love being married to Ben for many reasons, but one of them in particular is that he doesn’t let me get “stuck”. He challenges me on my opinions, which are sometimes hastily and emotionally formed, and then I’m attached to them when it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to be attached long-term.

So tea today got me thinking about getting un-stuck, and about being open to stuff that we might not like, or be comfortable with, because we might be missing out on something. Creamy Lemon Green Tea could be waiting for you, and you have no idea it’s there!

(Good grief, why didn’t I just buy it? I’m so going back to Cornelia Bean to get myself some…)

Favorite Things Right Now Part 3

…And here’s the last batch!

13) Green Ginger Tea

I’ve never like tea, and anyone who knows me knows that I drink water. Water. Nothing else. But this last year, Ben convinced me to try tea. I am in need of new ways to treat myself, since I can no longer eat most of the things I used to love, so it was time to find new loves. So I drank tea every day until I made myself like it. And now, I really, really love sitting down to relax and enjoy my tea! Weird. That still doesn’t sound right to me… Proof that you can get used to anything!


I love it because it combines my love of writing and photography. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but today I read an interview of one of my favorite bloggers, who has written books, and she said that her blog is her greatest book yet. So, maybe these days I am writing a book!

15) Smart Set

Most of my clothes come from Smart Set. I try to buy stuff elsewhere, just to have some variety, but when I just can’t find what I’m looking for, I always end up back at Smart Set.

16) Yoga and Pilates

I’ve been doing yoga for a long time, and love, love, love it. It is so incredibly relaxing, and makes you feel good from head to toe. But recently, I was encouraged to try pilates because of my hips, and it’s been really great, as well. (That’s a picture of my yoga mat, by the way. I don’t have a picture of me doing yoga!)


I am loving my girls. Anika can be wild and crazy, and stretch my parenting abilities, and Kaylia can eat most of the sand on the beach, and keep me running, but I still really love being a mom. And I love this stage of my life – I love being content, and not carrying around that weight any longer of wanting a baby and not being able to have one. I love just feeling happy and content. I love seeing how much our girls love each other.

18) Times Together

I love any time I get to spend with Ben. One of my favorite times is when we have to drive into the city, and we have almost 4 hours of driving time just to talk. I am so very thankful to have such a wonderful husband!