Making Time for More Breaks

I recently read an article in the Atlantic about the importance of many short breaks rather than only taking long vacations every so often. Basically correlating brief repeated experiences with having higher value than a few extended breaks. Taking regular time to nurture ourselves and our relationships, rather than only doing so sporadically, makes sense.

While on vacation I took a break from my journaling – my morning pages. Every day I write three pages first thing to pour out all of the persnickety and intrusive thoughts, day dreams, and ideas that percolate in my mind over night. Once the ideas are out of me and on the page I can process them, determine how I want to proceed, and move on. They’re no longer bouncing around in my head like a bucket of pingpong balls dropped on a gym floor. They are now in the shape of a list. Or simply by writing my emotional labor of processing is complete and I am able to release the anger, frustration, or whatever energy was attached to those thoughts. 

My vacation was necessary and important but it was also exhausting. We were outside, on the beach, and in the sun for several days. We walked everywhere, splashed in the surf, and crashed into bed each night by nine. Did I mention we were also sick? It was a beautiful experience but also draining. And even not writing my pages, while it was a break, it gave me the feeling of being stalled out despite having a full tank of gas. My energy was devoted to making dinner plans and chasing children to wipe runny noses. And in the midst of that joyful and somewhat restive chaos I ended up getting sick too. 

My take-away from this experience is that we waited too long to take our vacation. We pressed ourselves so hard and for so long that we were all run down and exhausted by the time our trip came. We needed more short weekend breaks in the middle of our work – what the British call a, “mini-break.” A night or two away in the country, something different to break up the monotony and try something new. We need more joy and sporadic rest throughout our regularly scheduled lives, not just on a special occasion. 

The lesson is hard-won but a necessary and worthy understanding. As I nurse this illness with doctors appointments, teas, and rest I am also grateful that it is reminding me of this very important lesson. To take time for myself to heal, to savor and enjoy life. It is not the vacations that are our only highlights. We need more magic in our every day lives. Sharing and celebrating with the people we love most yields the most wholistic, healthful, and delightful results.

Tonight, I think we’re going for ice cream, we have sore throats and need a little joy. The first day back to work and school after a trip is a hard one. I think we deserve some sweet treats and a little love in our days. I hope you find a way to bring some sweetness into your own day today too! And plan more small vacations not just big ones!

It’s also good to remember we can always vacation at home – taking a break for recovery doesn’t always have to mean travel.


Things that make a home to me. I am reflecting on what makes a home and the first thought that comes to mind is the people in it. Home is family and friends, it is late night conversations held in the dark, it is the tears of joy that come with good news, the laughter of surprise when a child shares their humor in a new way. Home is soft pillows, deep couches – so we all fit – and silly faces. Home is comfortable and simplicity. It is pieces that tell a story and spaces ready for memory making. Home is ease of access, where we are not climbing over obstacles to get what we want and need. Home is organized chaos and at least one junk drawer. Home is the luxurious bath we take alone and family dinners at a table surrounded by friends. It is sunsets and birdwatching, it is feeling comfortable but also feeling proud of the space in which we live.

Home is sharing the stories of ourselves and our relationships. Home is portraits and artifacts, it is ornaments we gather on our travels or art pieces that tell the stories of those we love. Home is a constantly evolving environment that serves the functions of life flawlessly and serves the imagination like a diving board, always ready for inhabitants and visitors to take the plunge. 

Home is where we gather, it is the one place where we share what is most important and valuable to us. Our home welcomes cousins, aunts, uncles, and neighbors. It is a safe haven for our extended family and a space where our children learn to be gracious hosts. It brings me so much joy to share a homemade meal at my table with those I love. It fills me on a deeper primal level to have enough food to share, enough seats at the table, and the joy and laughter to create a truly beautiful memory for myself, my family, and my guests. 

To me home is sacred because it implies security, stability, and whimsy. It suggests, garden walks, and low stone walls, porch sitting, sun tea, and laundry on the line. Home is where traditions are shared and started. It is how we come to be exactly who we are. Home fills us, nurtures, nourishes, and refreshes. It fills and fulfills, refreshes and releases. Home gives us a safe place to house our treasures and our most sacred dreams. It inspires the reading of good books, and the study of information. It gives us tables to plan our adventures and a safe landing place when we return. Home welcomes the stranger and the old friend alike. It tenderly embraces our animals and and our animal hearts. How lucky are we who have a home to return to at the end of the day. A place where we not only reside but live.

Contentment: I’m on a Boat

This past weekend we went on a boat ride with friends and swimming in a small lake near our home. The sun was setting, the light reflecting off of the water, the green trees in full bloom dancing in a gentle breeze as the heat of the day warmed our skin the cool of the water refreshed us. It was such a phenomenal gift to be in the water with my children, surrounded by dear friends, and just so happy. I fully indulged in the effervescent beauty of now. The honor and generosity that is bestowed up on us daily if we only look around to enjoy it. 

I even exercised Brenee Brown’s teachings and instead of stealing my own joy and envisioning some horrible outcome. I imagined and thought to myself, what if this day is perfect. What if we all have the best time of our lives, we laugh, eat well, drink, and have fun and then go home to get a good night’s rest. And that is exactly what happened.

The following morning my little angels slept in and I spent a few quiet moments with my partner before the day began. It was wonderful. The clouds were brilliant and stunning in their whiteness and elegance, floating above us in intricate and alluring patterns like lace in the breeze. I am still savoring the joy of yesterday. The quality time with friends; the peace, laughter, and serenity we shared. The joy of engaging with our friends and our children. The pleasure of laughing to the sky and filling my cup up with love, connection, contentment, and community. 

I am reminded that how we choose to spend our time is important – making the choice to live wholeheartedly, truly engaging with the people and places that surround me is an active decision. I make feeling those feelings, and doing those things my priority. And I work hard not to be weighed down by small or petty disappointments. I am grateful for all that I have choose to focus on that, not on what I don’t have or what has yet to come my way. We all have this option, the power to choose to focus on joy and gratitude and happiness exists for all of us. Rather than keeping score or records of what opportunities we have missed out on, we can choose to seek out new ways to bring ourselves joy. To explore new options for fun or things we might like to try. What a phenomenal gift this power of choice is for each of us. I hope you’re choosing joy too!

How are you choosing to be present in your own life? What gifts are you giving yourself today, this week, this month? How do you make a point not to steal your own joy and celebrate life in the moment?

Moving Forward

Right now we are house hunting – and really, who isn’t? So many of us purchased our homes with a certain lifestyle in mind, basically, “we’ll be here on holidays and weekend mornings.” The rush of our lives precluded us from ever settling or coming to rest in our residences. Now that our society is shifting away from activities outside of our homes and closer to our front doors we are all scuttling around like hermit crabs, quick to switch to the larger shell that gives us room to grow. 

We all want spaces to work, live, and play outdoors. A few weeks ago Saturday Night Live did an entire bit equating Zillow searching to pornography – and they’re not wrong. Looking at other people’s properties, even if they are just dream houses, still inspires us. The idea of a different life in another home, a little more elbow room to share each other’s company is all very exciting. Our homes are becoming not only where we live and rest, but also where we work, where our children study, and our animals monitor the comings and goings of the Prime truck.

The hunt for somewhere to belong is not just practical it is leading to some existential questions as well. Where are our people? Where do we belong? Our extended families are located here – but where does our nuclear family fit? These are big questions and it is such a relief to not be the only ones having these difficult conversations. Talking with friends who are going through the same challenges has left me feeling supported and like we are not the only ones searching, not just for a home but for our community and our place in a new world. With an opportunity now to live and work anywhere it begs the question – who are we and where are our people?

As we all come out from our shells and (vaccinated) go back out into the world, where we call home is meaningful. Our homes connect us to those places we value, those people who have helped us get through this year, and we realize not only the value of close friends, family, support networks, but also of supporting our local businesses and those community resources that have sustained us through this pandemic. 

We know much more about the disease now, and we know who we can and cannot depend upon in our lives. The people who stepped up, who reached out, and who helped sustain us will be our friends for life. And finding a home surrounded by a larger community that feels like home, that supports us, grounds us, and gives us room to dream of who we will be next is our good fortune. 

As we continue looking I wonder what have you found most valuable in your home? What fixes have brought you comfort and joy? What updates are you looking to make? Or if you’re looking, what is most important for your next home to have?

Happy Anniversary?

As we commemorate this first year anniversary of COVID-19, this collective moment of awareness reminds me of where we were a year ago. The language of a brief shutdown, flatten the curve, stay home stay safe, we’re in this together – all of it hopeful and calling for unity. As daily updates from Governors called upon citizens to step up in order to save the lives of loved ones and strangers alike. 

Yet as the curve turned into second and third surges our American cynicism kicked into high gear. We joked about phrases like, “avoid it like the plague,” because as American’s we in fact do not avoid the plague. We are such a social society that the idea of being alone, even if collectively, instigated feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out), loneliness, and fatigue. 

Here we are a year later with more than 500,000 deaths at the hands of Covid-19 so many of us have lost jobs, health, and loved ones. Yet, we have also triumphed. We have multiple vaccines, we have (most of us) gotten the hang of wearing our masks regularly, and we are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring and with it the hopeful eradication of this disease.

Perhaps unintentionally, or in answer to this reckoning, I have taken a stance of radical generosity. I keep a bucket list, a running tally of the things I hope to do someday. Some are personal, my own writing cottage, a lake and a small boat to paddle. Some are big, visit all 50 states, play a grand piano in an empty house… also, learn to play the piano. Not all of them will get done – but playing chopsticks in an empty house still counts and I did that last year so technically, the goal was accomplished but it stays on the list, in case I do ever take lessons I want the satisfaction of really scratching it off. 

One of the items on my list is to pay for a child to go to summer camp, a child who would not be able to attend without support. And this week, I did it. I don’t know what child will benefit from this gift, my only hope is that after this year that has taken its toll on all of us that some little person may enjoy paddling around a lake, horseback riding lessons, or just singing songs and eating s’mores. Whatever it is that this child needs I hope they have it at camp, I hope in some small way to make their lives better, even if only for a week. 

Camp to me has always been the Haley Mills Parent Trap dream, uniformed children in bunk beds, reading, hiking, swimming. Children from all over the world coming together in an idyllic setting to play, grow, and learn. Mountains, horses, and sing alongs. And while I never had that experience myself, our family was more the day camp kind, I want to give that gift to another family. So this year I did it. 

Honestly, I feel proud of myself and that feels like a warm tea pot gently tipped and began filling me up with warmth, safety, joy, and contentedness. I want that for the child who receives this gift. I want that for all of us. After this year, in spite of this year, I want that for all of us. This is how I got it, how about you?

Vacation at Home Joy

Lately, I have been down and heavy. It has been cold and dark and I didn’t write because it just wasn’t time. Well, it is now time. The weather has broken and in Ohio, I know this is only a temporary reprieve. Last year we had snow in April… and I think May but I’m not going to fixate on it. It is 50 degrees outside today. And maybe that’s a sign of global warming but I’m going to enjoy mother nature’s flex. I have the windows open, there is a gentle breeze. An owl is hooting in the trees behind our house and life just feels good.

Let me begin with what I truly want to say, which is that I don’t know who needs to hear this but you can make coconut shrimp at home, whip up a batch of pina coladas, and find a copy-cat recipe for some Red Lobster cheddar bay biscuits and live your best life. I know this because I am doing it, I am living this dream this weekend. There is steel drum music blessing our main floor and I am not tired of hearing “No Woman, No Cry,” on a loop. The sun is shining and it is a glorious day. It is quiet. 

It is Saturday and no one is going anywhere, we cancelled our plans. I am wearing a coral colored shirt that reminds me of my dad, because it’s the same shirt he wears most days I just bought it in a smaller size – also, pro-tip, when buying mens clothing for women, wait a hot minute and the more feminine colors will go on sale and you can get them cheap. I consider this a double pink tax win, as I get the pink and the look I want at a men’s sale price. I’m not telling you how to live but I will say that I feel pretty freaking fabulous right now. 

All I want to wish you is sunshine, light, love, and cheddar bay biscuits wherever you are because I’m pretty sure this is love. I know it’s happiness and fulfillment but I am also pretty sure it’s love.

Studies have shown that vacations lift your mood three times. Beforehand they enhance your mood as you plan and anticipate. While you are on vacation you enjoy the splendors of vacationing and not being tethered to the outside world. Afterwards as you reminisce the vacation memory lifts your mood as you remember the joy they brought you. And maybe that is why our home feels like pure joy and instead of being drenched in anxiety or longing for spring, I am grateful for this moment. Grateful for this bone deep joy that I am feeling and inspired to write to all of you and remind you that even while we stay home, even while we await vaccinations and springtime, there is so much good we can do to take care of ourselves. If your joy is a weiner schnitzel Bierhaus, fondu chalet, or coconut shrimp beach, give yourself the gift of enjoying it at home now. Plan the trip, reap the reward, and bask in easy joy. You deserve it, we all do.

This image does not do this dinner justice. I baked the coconut shrimp and they were light and magnificent… we started eating before I remembered to take a picture. Sorry, not sorry. 🙂