9 things saving my life right now

It’s February 2, Groundhog Day, the halfway point of winter.

This isn’t an easy month—or an easy season—for many of us. To beat back the gloom, today we’re sharing the things—big or small—that are saving us right now.

The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderful memoir Leaving Church. Even though most of us can easily articulate what’s killing us, few of us pay attention to what’s giving us life.

Once when Taylor was invited to speak at a gathering, her host told her simply, “Tell us what is saving your life right now.” She says it’s too good a question not to revisit from time to time.

This is an excerpt of my list. It’s a long list (yay!), and I’ve chosen to share the simple—though not always small—things.

1. Twinkle lights. It’s been dark and gloomy lately, so I’ve been keeping the twinkle lights—some in the room I like to read in, some in the living room—on all the time. With the twinkle lights on, it’s still dark and gloomy—but with the twinkle lights on, that seems like a good thing, or at least better than it would be otherwise.

2. Sleep. A couple of weeks ago I told you how a white noise app was saving my life right now. (Many of you asked which app: I’m using this one, although the hole is now fixed and the steel plate is gone, hallelujah.)

I think I’ve recovered from my terrible run of not enough sleep, but the whole experience has made me prioritize sleep in this (flu) season in a big way.

3. A faster first cup of coffee. Once I read a Cooks Illustrated essay about the writer’s old New England stove, which had a pilot light strong enough to keep a kettle of water at a simmer all the time, if you put the kettle in just the right spot, which meant you were always only a few minutes away from a nice cup of tea. I think about that old stove and its pilot light every time I wait for my kettle to come to a boil.

We make coffee by the pour over method at my house, which means I have to wait for hot water before I can make my first cup each morning. Sometimes it feels like a long wait. In the spring and summer, I can be zen about it: I put the kettle on and take Daisy for a short walk while it heats. In the winter, this option holds less appeal.

So I did some research and found this kettle, which I can program to heat automatically a few minutes before I wake up. I still have to grind my coffee and pour the water over, but the time-consuming part—the wait—is no more. It’s such a little thing, but it makes it so much easier to get out of bed on cold, dark mornings.

4. Endless cups of tea. More about the kettle. It heats the water fast, and then it keeps it hot for a full hour. Which means, much like that Cooks essayist, we’re basically always ready to pour a cup of tea. (I’m a coffee girl at heart, but I can only drink so much.)

My kids have been drinking lots of tea this winter, too, and it used to be a bit of a production, finding out who wanted a cup, and how many times we’d have to heat the kettle to make five or six cups, and someone didn’t want any now, but maybe in half an hour? No longer. It’s a big kettle and it keeps the water hot. It’s magic.

About the tea itself: shortly after I posted about my newfound love for Harney’s hot cinnamon spice, they brought back the decaf option, and I stocked up. (Sadly, it seems to be sold out on their site right now.) I also love Rishi’s turmeric ginger, Plum Deluxe’s meadow walk, and this homemade ginger concoction,

5. The Great British Baking Show. Great winter viewing for the whole family, funny and big-hearted and delightfully British, and all the people are lovely. Sometimes we can’t help ourselves, and we cry when people go home.

6. Beverly Cleary. I’ve been having a hard time keeping my second grader in books lately. I think he’d love Henry and Ramona, but he’s resistant. (All his siblings loved those books, and sometimes the fourth kid has to chart his own path, you know?)

But my daughters started casually reading Ramona the Pest aloud at night, and he’s hooked. (Don’t tell him I told you.) But it’s not just him: nobody can resist listening; she’s just so funny.

7. Board games. We’ve been playing games, recently, and playing them together.It’s so nice to have something to do when it’s too cold/icy/dark to go outside. Othello is our new old favorite (especially for Will and me: we prefer this over Monopoly every day of the week), but the kids also love 10 Days in the U.S.A. (and Africa, Europe, and Asia), and UNO is a reliable standby.

8. The occasional sunny day. We’ve had cold and snow and ice lately, but also a handful of beautiful 50-degree days—sometimes even on the weekend—that send us all running outside to walk and play and soak up the Vitamin D.

9. Pizza night. On Fridays, we always know what we’re having for dinner, and everyone likes it. I always serve it with a gigantic salad, in the hopes that this makes it a less-terribly-unhealthy life choice. If we’re feeling ambitious, we make it at home, but we haven’t been feeling terribly ambitious lately.

What’s saving your life right now? Link up a post below, and/or tell us in comments.

P.S. This is still my favorite post about what’s saving my life right now.


Leave A Comment
  1. Kathy says:

    I totally hear you on the occasional sunny day! I live in rainy Belfast and recently it’s felt like we’ve had relentless dull weather. Bright snowy days I can appreciate, but dark, windy, rainy, sludgy days do nothing but dampen the mood. Today though, I woke up to bright winter sunlight pouring through the window. I stood and looked out at it for a few minutes and let its light seep into me. It’s amazing how uplifted I felt then, and as the day has carried on.

  2. Amy says:

    Always fun to gather thoughts for this link-up! Oh, the programmable electric kettle – having an electric kettle is life changing, but that is definitely next level, may have to consider that extra feature when I need a new one.

  3. Terri says:

    We are with you on board games! I got my 7 year old son Ticket to Ride First Journey for Christmas and it is a little complicated for him. My husband and I are hook and play it most nights we’re together though. We love it so much that I got him the regular version for his birthday mid-January. We were pleased to learn that the two versions have very different strategies so we still play both versions and we are still working on getting our son hooked as well.

  4. Re Ramona, not only is Beverly Cleary the best, but so is reading aloud. That could be part of it. I still read aloud with my teen. It’s relaxing, and sometimes the book leads to interesting conversations.
    Tell them to read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to him next.
    Re board games: I want Ticket to Ride! The fun way to learn geography.

  5. Tracie Haddock says:

    Right there with you on the board games! We are very into Qwirkle and Splendor these days. And some of us love Ticket to Ride and some of us, um, love/hate it. Ha. I will be adding 10 Days in the USA to our collection!

  6. The Great British Baking Show made it onto my list, too! It’s unexpectedly inspiring me in me in my everyday kitchen drudgery. =) And it helps that it’s set in summer! And coffee! Illy coffee to be specific is my new coffee love.

    • Lorrie Tom says:

      When my husband and I made our What Worked in 2017 List, the Great British Baking Show made HIS list. It was so funny and sweet. We loved watching it on Friday nights after long weeks – just to wind down with nice people baking sweets!

      • Emily Breeden says:

        I’m right with you on TGBBS! It’s my go-to show to watch if I’m feeling down. The bakes mostly look so delicious, but it’s the people I love! Good, kind, humble people who are not performing for the cameras, as so many people seem to do today, even when they’re not being filmed! I would also add good books (and not wasting my time with books I don’t like) and my bullet journal, which helps me stay organized and reflects the constructive activities of the day.

  7. Emily says:

    For the past 6 years I’ve left the tree up with lights and put cut out snowflakes on it along with leaving the garland & lights on the mantle & sideboard. I put out snowmen, penguins & other winter decorations for the season. I find that the family will gather & hang out more in the Living Room with the cozy wintry decor.

  8. Melinda Malaspino says:

    My top 3:
    Turning off the TV and listening to classical music while reading each evening.
    Working with a fitness trainer twice a week and getting back on a regular workout and walking schedule.
    My retired husband, who picks up the slack on laundry, grocery runs, and housework while I in at my busiest season as a high school English teacher.

  9. Yes to twinkle lights and hot coffee on a dark, cold morning! The MMD book club and the What Should I Read Next podcast made my list … Thank you for keeping me in good books and good company this winter!

    • Emily Breeden says:

      I’m not sure how many seasons are available on Netflix now, but you can buy all four seasons they’ve broadcast in the US from Amazon. I would love to see the other seasons too. I hope PBS will pick those up.

  10. Janet K says:

    What is saving my life right now is: My aero press for my morning coffee. The coffee just tastes so good….and since I bought it, I have hardly bought any cups of coffee outside of the house. I do use my electric kettle to make the coffee with that. My Vionic slippers…keeping my feet warm and supported, so no foot pain, Yay! My favorite Earl Gray Tea, sleep and Pimsleur language tapes.
    I love these lists of your & from your list I have discovered Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice & Paris tea!!

  11. Lorrie Tom says:

    Oh…the electric kettle. It’s getting so many comments. I am a coffee press girl in the morning and a tea drinker in the evening so that might be something for my future. I don’t have a lot of counter space….hmmmmmm. Is it worth losing the space? It sounds like many of you would say YES. Love these lists!

      • Jeanne says:

        As a South African, where just about every household, regardless of socio economic status, has an electric kettle, my mind is blown to think of it as a luxury item/unusual item in the US. So bizarre.

        • Ellen Cole says:

          I’ve had an electric kettle for ages as I’d seen them when visiting relatives in Wales long ago. That said, the U.S. is a really coffee-centric place! Many households don’t even stock tea and, if they do, it’s frequently herbal tea and they use a kettle on the stove top to boil water. We visited friends over the weekend and I brought my own tea and waited for the kettle to boil on the stove. No tea or electric kettle at the homes of most of my friends!

  12. Amy says:

    At the house we moved from, we had a hot water tap installed. It’s a small tap next to the kitchen faucet that gives you instantly hot water whenever you want. (there is a tiny hot water tank under the counter) It has been badly missed at our new house! (our house is too old to trust the pipes now so we filter everything. Maybe one day!)
    Here is the one we had. Magic!

    • Anne says:

      We just moved last year, and we were disappointed to hear that the hot water broke and was replaced right before we moved in because we would have LOVED to have installed hot water on demand, but it felt like a waste to replace a brand new system. I didn’t know about this option. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Ellen Cole says:

    Our niece and nephew came to live with us when they were 16 and 10 respectively. As we worked to become a family, we pulled out a board game one Sunday night and said, “Come on downstairs, it’s “Family Game Night”! We had a good time together that night. Imagine our surprise when, on the following Sunday, the kids came to us and said, “Tonight’s Family Game Night, right? It’s TRADITION!”

  14. L says:

    My husband has been reading “Ramona the Pest” to (almost) 3.75 year old, and she’s quite enjoying it. I’ll think I’ll be looking into Beverly Cleary audiobooks for our next road trip!

  15. Pamela says:

    1. Morning avocado toast with a side of grapefruit
    2. Daily yoga (I had lots of pain after my daughter was born, and since I started doing yoga about 6 months ago, the pain is mostly GONE! Woot!)
    3. Insta Dri nail polish. I’m a nail picker, but if they’re polished I leave them alone. This stuff really does dry in about 2-3 minutes, so it’s a life saver.
    4. Grocery delivery!!!!!
    5. Money tracking via mint. I can see all our money stuff in one place.
    6. The Constitutional Podcast – with all the political craziness going on right now, it’s nice to hear that historically we’ve always been a little crazy, lol! I highly recommend the episode on Prohibition 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Your breakfast sounds divine. And I’m so intrigued by the grocery delivery—I’ve been experimenting with various services, but haven’t found one I really love.

      • Pamela says:

        I’d totally recommend what I use, but I live in CA so it wouldn’t help much, sorry!! A local grocery chain partners with Food Jets. If my order is more than $100, I don’t pay for the grocery store’s personal shopper to actually get my items (if it’s under the fee is $6 so still worth it) and I only pay a $5 delivery fee. It is FANTASTIC. I save money, too, because I completely stick to my list when I order. It has been life changing!!

  16. Katie says:

    If you don’t have it yet, you should get the pandemic board game. I love it because everyone plays as a team to beat the game. It might be too challenging for a 2nd grader but upper elementary/middle school kids should be able to grasp it with some adult guidance.

  17. Jessa says:

    Ok, my last comment about Oregon, I swear, but next time you are in Portland you can check out Klikitat street, where Romona lives. It’s an actual place! Also, close by is the Beverly Cleary sculpture garden.

  18. Becca says:

    The Harry Potter books on my audible app totally saved my life in January. I was sick pretty much the whole month and listening to Jim Dale narrate those books kept me sane.

      • Becca says:

        Thanks for the warm wishes Anne! I’m finally feeling better. I’m so thankful for Jim Dale and talent as a narrator. Nothing like a great audio book to perk you up when you’re under the weater.

  19. Rayni Peavy says:

    I always love these posts and enjoy reading the comments! 3 things saving my life right now:
    1. Reading the Outlander book series for the first time! I’m on book 7 and the last few months have been filled with so much joy falling in love with these characters (and then watching the TV show.)
    2.Keeping up our Christmas tree in the bedroom. It’s filled with white lights and colorful lights and it’s a joy to have on all the time (and to read by that light at night).
    3.Having a TV in the kitchen! We added this recently and I love having a show or news on as I cook, clean up, make my tea in the morning, etc. I probably love it a little too much. ?

  20. Victoria says:

    Nooooo! Tea must be made with boiling water! I’m English so tea is my religion ?. In the UK there is a measurable drain on the energy grid during the ad breaks in popular sitcoms as everyone puts the kettle on at the same time. The power companies plan for it. But then, not that many people have coffee machines here, even with the rise in pod-type machines.

    Have a look at bananagrams and mapominoes for games. Great fun and also educational.

    I have a set of twinkle lights in the garden that I can see from the living room and they always cheer me up. After holidays and a bout of illness I get to see my best friend tomorrow so looking forward to that. I love my expensive hot chocolate. My new cashmere jumper and the wool/cashmere lounging trousers with big fluffy socks. I’ve started back up with physio so feeling sporty in my new gym kit. Daffodils will be around soon. At the end of the month I get to spend three days by the sea and then four days in the forest with a hot tub! Sooo looking forward to it.

    • Anne says:

      We love bananagram but haven’t gotten ours out in ages! Thanks for the reminder. Your note about the ad break power demand is cracking me up. That is fantastic.

      And I just want you to be able to relax on my behalf: the kettle keeps the water at 212 degrees fahrenheit. 🙂

  21. Lisa Zahn says:

    I love these posts! What a great idea for February. I thought of a few things for my list:

    1. Fresh flowers–a simple choice, usually a bunch of one single flower type (carnations, daisies, baby’s breath) that I divide into a few jars or vases and place around the house. It’s a tiny thing but so cheery! And I feel like I’m really treating myself.
    2. Charcuterie platters on Friday nights. Forever I’ve been trying to think of an easy replacement for our weekly pizza night, just because I can’t eat pizza (even gluten free more than occasionally) without feeling yucky soon after. An idea finally hit me a couple of weeks ago–charcuterie! I put out a huge wooden platter with meats, sardines, cheeses, nuts, olives, fruits, veggies, and some bread and crackers for the rest of my family. It’s a super easy Paleo/primal option that keeps me feeling good and for some reason the flavors are SO satisfying. Not much more work than pizza! (I love that on Instagram Rob Bell called this “cooking without cooking” and have adopted that name for it.)
    3. Kombucha. I also can’t do much alcohol these days, especially wine, because it makes me feel awful. GT’s Gingerade or Cayennade really hit the spot as a cocktail replacement for me.
    4. Tea lights. 100-packs from IKEA or Target, even better than twinkle lights for me (which I also use around the house a lot in winter.)
    5. Netflix’s birchwood fireplace. I love the sound of those crackling logs and usually put this on around sunset, which is 5:30-ish right now in Minnesota.
    6. Speaking of Netflix, I just finished season 4 of Grace and Frankie and I love that show! I think I’ll re-watch it with my husband when he gets a chance.
    7. My local YMCA. Our town and Y just collaborated on a new Y building, and it’s so NICE. The yoga classes are fantastic, and I also love to run on the walking/running track instead of a treadmill. Y’s have such a great community spirit.
    8. That said, I just got a treadmill and am DIYing an at-home treadmill desk. I love it! I try to walk at least 10 minutes every hour while I work and/or just read stuff online. And it’s helping me surpass my 10k steps a day easily.
    9. A couple of phrases/mottos: Anne, your “Don’t overthink it” motto runs through my head many times a day, helping with my tendency to overthink stuff. And two, “I want my attention back.” This is the title of a Wired article I recently read, and it’s helping me step away from the phone/laptop and do other stuff.

    Thanks for the opportunity to think this through!

  22. Michelle Wilson says:

    There are 2 things really saving me right now. #1 I have subscribed to the First Up podcast from NPR. It is 10-15 minutes of news…a sort of what you need/should know but nothing else. I listen to that and then do not watch, read, or listen to any other news. #2 Classics FM-a classics radio station out of London. I am not sure of their funding but there is minimal advertising. They play wonderful music plus the announcers have lovely accents and I find it so soothing.

  23. Heather says:

    Thanks to you, Anne, I now ask other women what’s saving their life right now, and it leads to such great conversations. I make a fresh list for myself often, as it feeds into practicing gratitude. Right now? Snowshoeing (we have tons of snow, northern Canada); bone broth to start the day; and my Kindle e-reader, with which I am whittling away at my TBR list.

  24. Cassandra says:

    I love Beverly Cleary. She is the one author I know all my kids (preschool to fifth grade) will enjoy. I have several of her books on audible and if my kids start fighting in the car, I’ll stream one of her books through the bluetooth and peace is restored.

  25. Stacy says:

    I got the Beville BPA Free electric kettle for Christmas that heats the water to specific temps for the different types of tea I like to drink (green & white teas are typically at 175 degrees while black tea is best at 212 degrees). It’s definitely saving my life right now! I’m so with you on the endless cups of tea! Happy Winter!!!

  26. Ruth-Anne Hayes says:

    We are loving The Great British Baking Show too! My kids can’t get over what barbarians we are as American competitors. No Brits are swearing, running, stealing ingredients or knocking into each other. We feel smarter just watching, and I could really use one of those Mel & Sue sandwiches! ?

  27. Carmen says:

    I am loving my flickering flameless candles with timer! I have them programmed to turn on right before I get home, so I walk in to a cozy candle-lit family room. They stay on until after I go to bed. I purchased mine at costco.

  28. Jenni says:

    What’s saving my life this winter:
    1. My little blue teapot…just so cute and holds the perfect number of cups for me.
    2. Keeping the Christmas tree up way past time because the lights were helping me get through dreary January.
    3. Listening to PG Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster stories. Fun, silly and just what I need to keep me laughing and lighter-hearted this time of year.

  29. Emma says:

    Re The Great British Bake off just be warned that it moved from the BBC this year and Mary,Mel and Sue didn’t go with it.?New presenters do a great job( I love Sandi Tosvig in anything) but it’s not quite the same. If you want anything else lovely to watch Little Women and The Miniaturist were on over Christmas here. The Durrells( My Family and Other Animals) TV series was something we all loved as a family. Real Sunday night TV and brought a bit of warmth into the house. Did make me pine for a summer in a Greek villa though.

    Yes,yes to the previous poster who mentioned a boiling kettle and tea. ? People have fallen out over correct tea making procedures over here. Yes dh I’m looking at you with your warming the cup obsession.?
    What’s saving my life at the moment:-

    -Bringing the outside in,all kinds of Lidl bulbs planted in anything everywhere, pine cones,seed heads etc from walks.
    -My £10 Lidl waffle maker,goodbye scrambled burnt pancakes.
    -My ancient Gaggia coffee machine and Lavazza coffee( Illy just too £££££ for everyday?)
    – tealights,candles and fairy lights everywhere
    -my Simple Things,Breathe and Teen Breathe( I borrow dd’s) magazine subscriptions, get so excited when these arrive
    -my Craftpod subscription. I’ve made two thirds of the contents of winter2017, who knew I could sew,love the winterberry hoop
    -my bright yellow Orla Kiely watch,a splash of sunshine on a dull day
    -books to dip into( The Little Book of Lykke,Making Winter by Emma Mitchell,The Almanac by Lia Leendertz)
    -lovely novels( just finished A Man Called Ove and The Bright Side of the World)
    – weekend baking after weekend lie ins with a mixture of the above

    Yes,yes to the

  30. Annette Silveira says:

    Just read your favorite post about what’s saving your life, and all the comments. What a wonderful way to start my day!

  31. Eva says:

    Tea is definitely something I rely on to give me a boost. We usually have a few cups a day, especially in the afternoon and after dinner. Sleep is my usual go to for keeping me going, though I’ve been heading to bed just an hour late, which has set me off a little. My cat cuddling in with us in the morning also makes me so happy.

    My parents do pour over coffee in the morning, but their tip is to set it all up the night before. Then you just have to boil the water and you’re all set to go. It works well for them!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  32. Lindsay says:

    This was so fun to do, and then to read through everyone’s comments. The top thing for me is to have fresh flowers. It just makes such a big difference in the winter. Thanks for hosting the linkup!

  33. Tiffany says:

    I live for this post, and often have conversations about it.
    1.) a funky teapot I found at a secondhand store
    2.) my Sherpa slippers from Costco
    3.) planning vacations for later in the year
    4.) a heated throw for the couch
    5.) hand warners for my pockets

  34. Karen says:

    I love this tradition! Reading everyone’s lists is so fun. Here’s mine:
    1. Exercising more often (using BeachBody OnDemand at home)
    2. Spotify playlists!
    3. My regular afternoon prayer time
    4. Updating our home decor little by little (finally took care of all of the wallpaper in the house a few weeks ago!!)
    5. Puzzles with my kids (nothing like seeing them figure out how to do them independently later!)

  35. Dobj says:

    Rereading favorites in the long nights of winter. I’m currently reading E F Bensons Lucia and Mapp series. It’s not demanding, which is good for me right now, but it’s also hilarious and long enough to keep me busy for at least a week or two.

  36. I love having an electric tea kettle but warm for an hour sounds amazing!

    We’ve finally established a routine of reading at bedtime. We all read Harry Potter together, then I read to my 9-year-old daughter and my husband reads to our sons (7 and almost 5). (Which works until the toddler isn’t going to be before everyone else …) Libbie and I just finished The Attic Mice by Ethel Pochocki, a favorite from my childhood, and I let her pick whatever she wanted for our next read-aloud. How happy was I that she picked Ramona and Her Mother??? It’s amazing how fast the Ramona stories come back to my head as I start reading. I think my 7-year-old son would love them, too, but he’s a harder sell on anything that isn’t about Minecraft, space, or Dragonbreath. ?

  37. Torrie says:

    Have you ever tried Speed Uno? Basically it’s like regular Uno in every way except for that if you have the exact same card in your hand, you can play out of turn, and play resumes from you. (So if a yellow 3 was played, I could play a yellow 3 out of my hand as long as I was fast enough to beat the person whose turn it really was, then play would resume from me, essentially skipping a player or several). Then, at the end, you tally points (which you DON’T want)–the person who goes out gets zero, all numbers are counted at face value, special cards like skips and reverses and draw twos are worth 20, and wilds are worth 50. The first person to 500 loses (and stops the game), and the winner is the person with the least number of points. We’re totally addicted!

  38. Justine M Faerber says:

    THAT’S MY KETTLE!! oh, how I love using it! and the whole Henry Huggins series was just as much a favorite for much-younger-me than the Ramona series. except for the bit about the nightcrawlers. just…ew. thanks for the memories! keep rockin life!

    PS pizza’s not the devil, ‘specially with salad 😉

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