4 minutes in the nude.

11 books that are better in the spring

Last October, I shared a few “things that are saving my life right now” in the MMD newsletter.

The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor (who I consistently confuse with Barbara Taylor Bradford, which is just ridiculous). In her wonderful spiritual memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about the time she was invited to speak, and her host said, “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. Some of us are overwhelmed with hurry and worry; some of us face crushing poverty; some feel paralyzed, unable to move.

But few of us stop to note what’s giving us life. Taylor says it’s too good a question to not revisit every once in a while: what are the things—big or small—that are saving us?

Every season carries its unexpected joys and challenges; such is life. But as a general rule, winter is the hardest month for me. I miss my sunshine; I miss my fresh air. I’m constantly quelling creeping paranoia over flu season.

And so to beat back the dreary days, this winter I’ve been keeping a running list—a literal, physical list—of the things that are saving my life right now.

Some of these are huge. (Babysitters!) Some of them are tiny, so tiny they seem silly. But they are real, and it’s dishonest not to acknowledge them. Not only that—it’s a huge missed opportunity.

And so I’m marking the things—big and small—that are making my life so peculiarly precious during this season. The things that are saving my life, even if it sounds silly to say so.

4 minutes in the nude

High on the list of things saving my life this winter: four minutes in the nude, every day.

Okay, it’s probably not four whole minutes. But every morning when I get out of the shower and put on my lotion, I can’t help but think of a Neutrogena ad from my high school days for some lotion-y product. That was the ad copy: four minutes, in the nude. Lather it on, and if you spend four minutes letting it soak in before you move on with the rest of your day, your skin will thank you.

It sounds ridiculous. And yet.

Dry skin feels wretched. It makes me hate winter (more). When I don’t lotion up in the morning, I feel raw and scratchy all day. I have a hard time sleeping at night. (I can’t even imagine what you poor people with eczema do.)

And so even though I’m perpetually running late because I was trying to crank out one more paragraph at the computer, I take the time to put on lotion every morning when I get out of the shower. I putter around the bedroom, making the bed, putting things away, while I wait for it to soak in just enough to remain on my skin when I pull on my jeans.

It’s just lotion. It’s silly, really. But it’s saving my life right now.

Next Monday is February 2: Groundhog’s Day, the halfway point of winter. The halfway point of this season that is so hard for so many of us. To fight back against winter, this is what we’re going to do.

On February 2, I’m going to share my list (because I’m keeping one—an actual, paper list) of the things that are saving my life right now. And you’re invited to share yours, too.

Winter is hard, but by pausing at its halfway point to share the things that are helping us through it, we’ll lighten the load.

I can’t wait to hear what’s on your list.

UPDATE: view my list, and all of yours, right here.


Leave A Comment
  1. Breanne says:

    I love this idea. I have a post coming out tomorrow with some of what I do but I love the idea of the tiny things and I know there’s stuff I didn’t mention in my post because they seemed too small.

  2. Lori says:

    This is a good reminder to me to take the time to do “little” things like put lotion on. I know the exact feeling you describe when you don’t put lotion on and how much better it feels when you do. I look forward to your list!

    I like to celebrate the fact that Spring is Coming and on Groundhog day we have pie (Pie Day in our house). I gives me something to look forward to each winter.

  3. I don’t have particularly dry skin (winter is one of the few times when oily skin is marvelous to have. Ha.), but my hands and my face do get dry in the winter.

    So at night before bed, I usually rub some body butter (from Third Day Naturals) into my skin so it can just sit there all night and soak into my skin. If I put lotion on my hands during the day, it doesn’t stay there long due to hand washing!

    On another thought, it’s curious to me that Groundhog Day is the halfway point. At this place in the year, I usually start thinking to myself, ok, only one more month of serious winter weather, because things usually start improving a bit in March!

    That thought, plus the fact that the sun sets later and later each day really help to keep me feeling hopeful.

  4. Hannah says:

    This is great. I’ll keep a list, too (why not? I keep so many others, lol). Incidentally, I find February to be the shortest month that lasts forever. Fortunately, my birthday’s in February so at least I have a little something to look forward to. Here’s to remembering the things that are going well and right!

  5. Nancy says:

    I’ve been applying lotion in the AM when I am done showering since I was 16. Suffice it to say that was a long, long time ago. Once I’m lathered up, I put on my new plush robe (something I look forward to each morning). I’m in my robe long enough that the lotion has plenty of time to soak in before I put on any tighter fighting clothing. And, I just purchased new slippers last week off a clearance rack for $2.50. I had a pair similar to them years ago but hadn’t been able to find a similar style to replace them with. Definitely brought a smile to my face – – they’re black flip-flop style slippers by Jessica Simpson. I love them! Other things that are saving me right now: books (imagine?!), wine, Vaseline Rosy Lips and Vaseline Hand & Nails cream (every night at bed time), new lip color – Cover Girl All Day in Natural Blush, colorful sunsets that paint the sky, soft glow from lamps in the evening and a new citrus scented candle.

  6. Katia says:

    Great post! Instead of lotion, I have been using sweet almond oil. The oil is perfect not only for our dry skin, but also for keeping us warm. If you massage your belly with it, in circular clockwise motions first thing in the morning, preferably before showering, it helps to jumpstart the digestive system. Just a small tip I have borrowed from Ayurveda. 🙂

    As for what has been saving me, I would say that the biggest factor in what keeps me going is my attitude. I try to find beauty in each and every season, and to never complain about the weather. Never. No.matter.what. My grandmother taught me this lesson when I was very young, and it saves me. She made me realize how banal, how dull it sounds when someone bases their mood on the weather. Instead, we can focus on sunshine outside, even if it’s the thermostat tells us it’s freezing. If there’s snow, I like to bring out my child-like wonder and throw myself into it, making snow angels and building snowmen with my kids, complete with dressing them up in old hats and scarves.

    We try to make on occasion of every weekend in the winter. My husband and I work all through the week, so on weekends, we come up with fun things to do with the kids. I always love to spend some time in the kitchen, preparing special dinners for Saturdays and Sundays, complete with fun dessert. It’s a treat for all of us, and is definitely something to look forward to. We also like to watch a movie together, and of course, head outside. We try to go outside every day, regardless of the weather, and even if only for 15-30 minutes. The days when we go outside are so much better than the ones when we all stay indoors. We also make some noise about special events, such as my younger son’s birthday in February, Valentine’s Day, and a long weekend in the middle of the month (we live in Ontario). Oh, and of course, there’s Mardi Gras! I make pancakes every Sunday for our breakfast, which is a big event in and of itself (ha!), but the Sunday before Pancake Tuesday is extra special. My husband and I make a point of planning date nights at home on Saturdays and try to come up with fun things to do. We don’t watch movies often, so sometimes we’ll watch a great comedy, or work on a puzzle together, which is what we did this past weekend.

    February is the shortest month of the year, and by planning something for every weekend of the month, we turn it into an exciting winter party month for us. 🙂 Before we know it, March arrives and — at the very least — it starts to *feel* as though winter is on its way out.

    • renee says:

      Oh Katia, you have the most lovely outlook – I adore your Grandmother’s brilliant advice about loving all the seasons and not complaining.
      The world needs your energy & intentions 🙂

    • Ana says:

      I love love love this Katia. What a wonderful shift in attitude, and so so true. I’ve actually been subconsciously trying to stop complaining about the winter weather—its so pointless and boring! And there is definitely real beauty out there if you take the time to get out and more importantly, pay attention. Its tough because I do physically and mentally feel the effects of the short days/lack of sun but if 10% is physiologic, the other 90% is probably attitude, and that is under my control.

  7. Bonnie says:

    I have never been a lotion person, and I need to start. Wearing socks and boots all winter (so easy!) leaves my feet and legs very dry. And that old as copy! How’d you ever find that?

  8. Annette Holbrook says:

    I really need to institute the whole lotion thing, especially in these dry winter months. My skin’s nowhere near as “moist” as it once was. The small things that save me right now: Adding super thin orange slices in my ice water. Taking time to stand by my windows at work whenever possible to just bask in whatever sunlight there is. Connecting with friends, even for a few minutes, to brighten THEIR day always makes me feel good. Keeping a few fresh flowers around when the budget permits. Our pastor’s wife sent some home with us last week and I put some by my daughter’s (5) bedside. She LOVES it! They’re just lovely… And perhaps my favorite: giving myself permission to go to sleep early! My daughter gets tucked into bed around 7. I’m usually in bed around 8:30 or 9.

  9. Randi says:

    This happened to me just yesterday – I’ve recently quit my long term job, moved, and started school at a university, and every day I have this list of what is just killing me. Yesterday’s list was longer than usual and I was in tears by the evening, and I sat down with the intention of praying/venting about this long list of killing-me things, and all that came out was a list of things that were saving me instead. That I had good friends who would listen to me vent to them, and an opportunity for a good education, and good food to pack for breakfast and lunch tomorrow to get me through study sessions, and a good apartment that I found in the nick of time, all to help me get through what’s killing me. It was a nice thought to have, and made my bad list seem less overwhelming.

  10. Jessica says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets Barbara Brown Taylor confused with someone else. I’m always getting her mixed up with Diana Butler Bass. Not one name is even the same.

    • Anne says:

      I’m glad it’s not just me! Hey, the rhythms the same, even if the names aren’t—and at least they’re are in roughly the same genre. 🙂

  11. Dana says:

    Oh, my skin is so dry! I will have to try this. And maybe for my daughter too, who has bad eczema. We use Cetaphyl cream on her and it works great.

  12. Stacey says:

    Don’t you get cold!? I feel like I have been cold unless I am in the shower for the past few weeks! And I love your idea for Groundhog’s Day. My dad died 8 years ago on February 2nd so I love this new way to mark an otherwise sad day for me.

  13. Lindsay says:

    I love the idea of the things that are keeping you alive. February is the hardest month in my opinion. We homeschool and the kids just get CRAZY being inside all the time. I would say the biggest thing keeping me alive right now are our 15 hens. Caring for them forces me outside even on the coldest of days and that short moment outside alone in the cold reminds me there is beauty even in harsh seasons. They make me laugh with all their chicken antics and give us the most beautiful, delicious eggs. Thanks for your post, I definitely need to get better about the lotion thing!

  14. Galentine’s Day! (Thank you Leslie Knope). Jewelry & Accessories Exchange Party! Growing our hospitality muscle by inviting families over for supper on Saturday nights. Reading recommended books. Ladies Supper Club (monthly ethnic food restaurants). A husband who supports my extroverted parties and introverted reading times by watching our child. MOPS play dates, MOPS book club (current book is The Nesting Place-it was a life changer!) and MOPS moms nights out. I sound like an extrovert…

  15. liz n. says:

    Things keeping me happily alive this week: the MOTH ‘s pasta salad, new embroidery thread, my grandson’s jokes that are so awful you can’t help but laugh, the lemon tree has (so far) survived winter, brownies, world’s best hand lotion, hot coffee, and binge-watching MI-5. 🙂

  16. Heather says:

    Anne, the lotion and nude thing has been my routine since I was a teenager, and I am older than you… Whenever I am tempted to skip, I just remember that I am worth the few minutes of care that I am giving my body. Plus I also have dry skin, and the lotion really gets me through the day.
    Thanks for your blog, there’s always something in it I can take away for the day, or add to the bigger picture of my life.

  17. Angela says:

    What a wonderful idea! I’ve been feeling like life is being sucked out of me right now so this post is just timely. I’m out of town with my mom. She has a conference to attend and I’m her driver. The hotel we’re at doesn’t offer free in-room wi-fi for guests (wasn’t my hotel pick). Plus, I opened the refrigerator in the room and there was leftover food and spoiled milk in it from the previous guests. Gross. Their free public wi-fi at the lobby keeps disconnecting me. I was going to use these 3 days to work and I couldn’t. I walked many blocks to find a Starbucks with an open plug and table, and here’s your blog reminding me to find the positive. To list down what’s saving my life, and give me a fresh perspective. So thank you! I’m breathing again 🙂

  18. Jamie says:

    I have slathered on Neutrogena’s Sesame Oil after showering for several years now – 365 days a year. My routine is to make my bed before adding clothes. Love the light scent.

  19. kate says:

    I work in what could be thought of as a very sad job, it’s hard and challenging at times. What keeps me going is seeing someone smile each day even though they no longer know who they are or recognise their family, they are scared and lost. Helping someone feel safe and wanted, maintaining their dignity. I have no reason to be unhappy and remind myself when those winter blues may try to creep in. I have an amazing family, my teenage daughter opens my eyes and makes me laugh everyday. I must moisturize though my skin is awful.

  20. Pingback: What Saves Us
  21. For the past three months been suffering from a full body,desperately itchy form of excema.Slather my body in lotion and taken to standing in front of the fan going full bore.Naked.Exquisite after the excruciatingness..

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