The things that are saving my life right now.

What's saving my life right now

It’s February 1, the first day of what to many is the cruelest month, regardless of what T. S. Eliot wrote.

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. In it, Taylor tells the story of when she was invited to speak at a gathering, and her host assigned the topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

It’s a good question. Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. But few of us pay attention to what’s giving us life. The question invites you to do just that.

Taylor says it’s too good a question not to revisit from time to time, and I agree. I borrowed Taylor’s idea last year, and began keeping a running list—a literal, physical list—of the things that are saving my life right now.

This is an excerpt of my list. I’ve again chosen to share the small, everyday sorts of things bringing me life on a regular basis.

daffodils and jane austen horizontal

1. Trader Joe’s bouquets. I can buy a bundle of spring for $4 or less, and if I choose the variety right they last for weeks.

morning writing

2. Early mornings. I depend on getting my daily dose of candles, coffee, and quiet.

3. My space heater. I only just tucked one of these under my desk a couple of weeks ago. Now I can stay warm and toasty without feeling guilty for heating up the whole house.

tea by the fireside

4. Duraflames. It’s the cheater option, for sure, but it makes it so darn easy to have a cozy evening (or grey winter afternoon) by the fire. And we love cozying up by the fire.

5. Bedtime rituals. For months now, I’ve been dabbing lavender essential oil on the kids’ feet when it’s time to go to bed. This little cue tells their brains and their bodies it’s time to go to sleep already. Anything that makes bedtime a little smoother is a lifesaver.

books under the window

6. A good series. I’m talking books, not Netflix! I’ve been blazing through Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series, and it’s been such a delight knowing I have many good books ahead of me. (Although I’m almost caught up—and then I’ll have to find a different great series!)

7. Kickball. My kids invented a game they call “kickball” that doesn’t look a bit like the kind in school. I don’t understand the rules but I don’t care—all that matters is that they entertain each other and get some sunshine (or at least daylight time, if the sun is hiding, again) because they love to play this game together whenever the weather cooperates.


8. Citrus fruit. Oranges and grapefruit are in season now, and we love both—especially when they’re 20 cents each at Lucky’s. I keep reminding myself that would never happen in May or September!

9. Pizza night. Fridays are for pizza, which means we have one night a week where everyone always knows exactly what we’re having for dinner, and nobody complains about it.

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

what's saving my life

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  1. Linda Stoll says:

    I wheeled my shopping cart right past the most beautiful display of potted flowers the other day … cyclamens maybe? My shopping list seemed more important at the time.

    Thanks the gentle nudge to spend a few bucks and bring some color and life into my home the next time I’m wheeling through.

    Thanks, Anne …


  2. Jessica says:

    I forgot about early mornings! This is the only few months that my kids will sleep in because of how dark it is (sleeping in being a relative term: 6:15 around here). And space heater, yes. But it is embarrassing how long it took me to figure that out!

  3. Bethann says:

    Oh….your #5…I definitely need an evening bedtime ritual/routine! I love your list and thank you for this link up!!! Everyone’s posts are already helping me with the winter blahs!!
    Bethann 🙂

  4. My list is:
    Extra cuddles with my puppy because he gets cold in the winter
    Listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks again (gets me through work)
    Remembering that this winter has been far more mild than usual
    Going on a late night chocolate cake run with my husband – delicious!

  5. Jill Koly says:

    Yay for a good series!
    My kids had 6 snow days plus a holiday over the past two weeks, and the free printable worksheets that I find on Pinterest have been saving my life.

  6. Emma says:

    Number one on my list is my best friend with whom I started a blog that launched today! It is so fun to work with her on this project and to be inspired by her wittiness and care.

  7. Louise says:

    February 1st is saving my life. I find January to be the hardest month of the year — the let down from the holidays, the bitter cold, the darkness. But in February the daylight stays until 6 PM, the earth is a little warmer, and hope returns. I’m starting my list today!

  8. dana says:

    yesterday I came to realize that I’m not as “normal” as I thought. I gathered 10 creative women together for lunch and asked the question “do you have trouble making art at this time of year?” I expected the answer to be, omg yes because that’ my answer but instead I got at least 7 blank stares. most said winter is their most productive time. so, this is a good day to list what holds me together in this dark, cold season:
    1. needlepoint: I always have a project going in winter. it can be done while snuggled into a blanket, there’s a bright light focused on my hands, and the color of the yarn is a surrogate for the garden.
    2. speaking of gardens…planning what I’m going to add in summer, researching specific things that will survive zone 5b winters, and dreaming over catalogues.
    3. taking a walk on a day that isn’t icy and might have a stray ray peaking thru the gray
    4. gathering friends around tables (ex. the annual “lunch for creative”
    5. making soups and other slow foods
    I’m not dreading February as much as I did January and it’s behind us!

  9. Pam says:

    I saw Kate Morton’s The Lake House in your stack. You MUST read it immediately! I love Kate Morton and her new book did not disappoint! My new Kindle Fire and Google Keep are saving my life right now. Winter always brings more time indoors and I have been reading more than usual. I’m a list keeper so Google Keep helps me keep track of my various lists AND I can link to my husband’s Google account for lists we both need to see. It has been a lifesaver!

  10. Melanie says:

    Confession–there’s a space heater under my desk at work and I use it year round. Even on the hot southern summer days. I’ve had it for a while now and at the risk of sounding out of my mind, it’s more to me that just a source of heat. It’s so comforting even when I’m not cold, I flip the switch and it just soothes my soul. Hello my name is Melanie and my heater is my best friend.

  11. Kate says:

    I just recently started buying the $4 bouquets from TJ. I find that they last 2 weeks but I buy one each week and mix it with the old bouquet for some variety. I let my 5 year old pick it out (with some restrictions, only flowers that last). He gets so excited to choose the flowers and he feels like he’s buying me a gift. So sweet!

    I recently discovered diffusing essential oils and the combination of rosemary and lavender is saving my live. It smells like a spa in my office!

  12. Sarah R says:

    I love TJ’s bouquets too. Such a cheap splurge.

    I have been taking warm baths each night. I have been adding a few drops of Vitamin E Oil (also from Trader Joe’s) so my skin doesn’t dry out. I also have been putting it directly on my face.

    I need to be better about dragging my butt outside for a walk! I live outside Milwaukee and I hate being cold, so it is a challenge for sure.

  13. Melissa says:

    My “URL” friends….these are my lovely friends that I keep tabs on via chat windows, email, etc. We are spread all over the country but always make sure we are doing better than fine and sometimes I feel more support from across the miles than others. They are amazing women who I am so blessed to know.

  14. Marci says:

    * Getting out there. Yes, it’s cold, but as we like to say here in MN, “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” (Said by someone famous, I’m sure, but I don’t know the source.) Handwarmers, wool socks, down coat, and silk thermal long underwear make outdoor winter activities enjoyable. I feel so good after spending time outdoors.
    * Another driver in the house. When I don’t want to brave the cold to go to the store for a forgotten ingredient, I send my teen son. I gave him life – it’s the least he can do.
    * An electric blanket. I turn it on a few minutes before going to bed to warm the sheets and then turn it off.
    * The library hold system. I pay my overdue fines without a peep because I always have good books waiting for me on my hold shelf.
    * The luxury of quiet winter days where I can read for long guilt-free hours. In June, the days are too preciously beautiful to sit on the couch, but in February when the temperature dips below zero or a blizzard rages, there’s nothing better to do than to hunker down with a book.

  15. Emily says:

    Wonderful list! I see the Dinner Playbook in your citrus shot…what do you think? I loved Dinner A Love Story and waiting to get Dinner Playbook off my library hold list.

  16. Linking up in a bit, but I love your list, Anne. I’m thinking about diving into the Midford series for the simple reason of always knowing there will be a decent read in my stack 🙂 and EVERY Friday is pizza in our house. Homemade and sometimes with lots of other loud folks. The best.

  17. Dana says:

    Here’s my list:

    1. Getting up at 6 ( 2 hours before anyone else in the house).
    2. My Morning Routine of Yoga, then
    Bible Reading/Devotional/Scripture Memory/prayer that
    #1 makes possible
    3. Earl Grey/Mango hot tea and plenty of it
    4. Clementines and home made soup
    5. Drinking lots of water
    6. My writing class that I started teaching in January. It is the highlight of my week.I have 9 senior adults ranging from 60-85 who are delightful.
    7. My Bible Study group on Tuesday mornings.
    8. Nighttime routine of sitting in the hot tub for 30 minutes, a shower and then reading in bed for 30 minutes. I am falling asleep right away and sleeping better.

  18. Allison says:

    A new nighttime routine — a hot bath and then meditation with the Headspace app. I am sleeping much better now.

    And yes to citrus and fresh flowers!

  19. I posted mine last night, and then this morning after making lemon mini=muffins I was thinking I should’ve added citrus to it. Citrus eating, citrus smelling, citrus scrubbing … I love it all!

  20. I’m new to your blog – I discovered it when Kathleen of talked about your new podcast in a recent post. I love your podcast and listened to all 4 episodes this past week! The timing of me finding your blog was excellent as I really needed to be pushed to think about what’s saving me instead of what’s bringing me down as January was a tough month for me. Some things saving me now are my boyfriend and his adorable cat, coffee, support of friends and family, and longer hours of daylight!!

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for the kind words!

      I completely resonate with the longer hours of daylight. Watching the sun set a few minutes later every night is definitely saving me!

  21. Jane says:

    I just finished the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. Feel like I’ve spent the last month with new friends. Highly recommend them.

  22. Jenny says:

    I’m in southern California so my February looks and feels very different than most of the country. Walking my dog while listening to a fun podcast in the morning makes the day brighter. I get to see a beautiful morning, spend time with my sweet furry friend, and have my mind challenge and entertained. Reading aloud to my youngest always cheers me up. Mostly though, getting up before the rest of the family, reading my bible, reading the books in my “currently reading” stack, and having time in silence saves me for sure. I recently read a line in a children’s novel Poppy Returns that said, “Silence fills me.” This is very true. So when all else fails, silence from the outer hurry saves me in these harder months.

      • Jenny says:

        Haha! Believe it or not I am jealous of not having a true winter, where life shifts due to weather. I wish we had a “blizzard” where we couldn’t leave our house and had to be stuck and not do all the things in our schedule. I’m sure it is horribly inconvenient and frustrating, but I would welcome even that conflict so I could keep my need for busyness in perspective. I’m sure only a true Californian can be naive enough to think a blizzard sounds like a welcomed addition to life. 🙂

  23. Becky says:

    The new J.D. Robb book coming tomorrow. I love the series and look forward to each new book. One in February and one in the fall.

  24. Corby says:

    1. Yoga
    2. Weekly wine tasting with the girlfriends. We are club members so tasting is free
    3. My espresso maker….hot espresso and steamed milk while taking an hour in the morning to cuddle with the puppies and read….. warm mug, warm puppies = happy me
    4. Exercise challenges. Trying something new each week keeps me going
    5. Slippers. Just love cosy feet.
    6. Knitting socks and a sweater for myself
    7. Sunshine. Nothing like getting my vitamin D the natural way

  25. Kelty says:

    Oh man, I LOVE a good series. I think I love it most because it solves the “what do I read next problem” at least for a little while! I’ve so loved the Sue Grafton alphabet series in the past. I’m going to go check out Deborah Crombie now. The description had me at “In the tradition of…Louise Penny…”

    Things that are saving my life right now:
    1. Another series – The Anne of Green Gables books. I’m embarrassed to say that I never read these until now but oh my how they are a sweet balm to my soul as of late. I’m on Anne of Windy Poplars and blowing right through. Such a great cast of characters and sweet relationships mixed with laugh out loud stories.
    2. The beauty of NC winters is that cold snaps are almost always followed by a series of 2-3 60+ degree days. We are outside as much as possible on these days!
    3. I’ve finally sorted out a decent morning routine where I make my bed, start a load of laundry and empty the dishwasher. It’s RIDICULOUS how much that is a predictor of how my day will go.
    I’m loving reading these comments. Now excuse me while I go buy some flowers at Trader Joe’s. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Oh goodness. I’m feeling a little too convicted by your “empty the dishwasher” line. When that still hasn’t been done at 4pm I am NOT a happy camper!

  26. Amy L. says:

    One thing that cheers me up in the winter is cutting a few forsythia branches (or other flowering bush) and sticking them in some water in a sunny spot inside. It’s a nice reminder that winter won’t last forever.

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  28. Debbie says:

    #1 You! I happened on your blog some time in January and I’ve been camping out here pretty regularly ever since digging through the archives. I’ve had so much fun putting together my challenge list of books, I’m never at a loss for what to read, and I really like letting my impulses guide me, but setting out a a few reading intentions for the year has been such a fun exercise.
    #2 A string of colored star lights from IKEA on the mantle. I started this last year. They go up with our Hanukkah decorations in December, and stay up till I don’t feel like I need them anymore to buoy my mood – when the world outside start offering up more light and color – usually in March. Mood lighting makes a huge difference for me in the darker months.
    #3 A maple syrup candle that I bought on a whim. I light it every weekday in before sunup in the interlude between getting my middle schooler out the door and before my elementary schooler is up. It makes the house feel cozy and warm in that Scandinavian cabin in the woods sort of way. And then I open the easterly blinds and get to see sunrise which I rarely witness in summer.
    #4 Lots and lots of reading.
    #5 My little, and ever growing, collection of succulents by our sunniest window.

  29. Margie says:

    How would you describe the cringe level on the book series you recommended? I don’t love super suspenseful/gory books, but I love mysteries. Finding the right mix is tough.

  30. Ruth-Anne Hayes says:

    Early Mornings
    Organic Oranges
    Hot tea, hot tea, hot tea
    Gas fireplace
    Late night hubby time
    Pizza Saturdays

  31. Cassie says:

    I LOVE the idea of rubbing lavendar oil on before bed! I am heading over to look at that now and see if I can do that with a baby or if little one needs to be a bit older. I also try my best to get outside every day, but if it’s under 50F, it’s hit or miss right now. When the little gets a bit bigger, I’m going to put in greater effort.

  32. Donna says:

    Happy February, Anne! It feels a bit like spring in Toronto today (7 degrees celcius) so no complaints here.
    A few things that are saving my life lately:
    1. Ballet, ballet, ballet
    One of my 2016 goals is to go
    to class 3 times a week. I went twice last week so it’s safe to
    say I’m off on the right foot?
    2. Reading and lots of it!
    Between your reading
    challenge, my winter reading
    list, and my list of 100 books
    I’m reading in 2016 I’ve never
    been more organized.
    I am currently reading my
    eight book of the year and I’ll
    be starting my second book
    for the challenge this week (The Scapegoat by Sophia
    Nikolouda – a book I own but
    have never read. I actually
    bought this one for the
    translated book for last year’s
    challenge but ended up
    reading another book.)
    3. Liane Moriarty books
    Two weeks ago, I finished
    What Alice Forgot AND The
    Husband’s Secret during the
    same week. I picked up Big
    Little Lies on Friday and I am
    already halfway through. I
    think it might be my favourite
    of the three, but I hate picking
    favourites. Love them all!
    4. Chocolate Macaroon tea from David’s Tea
    This delicious black tea is part
    of their Valentine’s tea
    collection and I’ve fallen in
    love with it. I had it 3 days in
    a row last week. It has
    coconut, chocolate, and
    pecans. *Swoon*
    5. Ice-skating
    I’ve decided to incorporate ice-skating into my winter
    fitness routine. It’s so much fun and it’s a great way to get some fresh air while staying active.
    Thanks for doing this, Anne!

      • Donna says:

        Thanks Anne! I definitely made the most of the mild weather yesterday evening. I sat on a bench in a park down the street from me and read Big Little Lies. It was so peaceful and the sky was incredibly beautiful at sunset.:)

        I stayed up way past my bedtime last night and finished it. I am in awe! It’s definitely my favourite Moriarty book. She did an exceptional job exploring the themes of bullying and domestic violence. I can’t stop thinking about it.

        Thanks again for sharing!:)

  33. Cheri says:

    I bought a pair of heated booties on Amazon (Mutual Beauty Brand). When I’m cold and need to sit at the computer for awhile I slather on some coconut oil, slip on the plastic baggies, put on a pair of socks and slip my feet into these toasty “electric blankets for the feet”. Not only am I warm all over, but my feet get a deep conditioning treatment too.

  34. Katherine Salinas says:

    1. Organizing (sort of). I LOVE to organize but I also have three little ones at home under 4.5 so my days are busy. I’m motivated to clear out the paperwork that never seems to go away…Also, found a great de-clutter calendar (one area of the home per week) that I think I can manage.
    2. Coffee, cocoa and chai. I bought some adorable mini mugs at Sur La Table right before Christmas and my kids are in heaven. We all split one mug of cocoa in the late afternoon when everyone is cranky. Mini marshmallows always help the mood. The coffee and chai (3 pack from Costco is LESS than two cups at Starbucks and its the SAME BRAND!!!) always make Mommy happy 🙂
    3. Daddy Day (aka Saturday) when we wear comfy clothes and eat popcorn and usually watch the Bulls or a movie.
    4. Unfinished basement: Though my husband groans that we’ve dreamed of a finished basement for 5 years, we’re especially thankful in the winter when we bring in the kids bikes and scooters to play until we can take them outside. SO THANKFUL.
    5. Book club: My hubby comes home early once a month so I can host our book club. My TBR list has over 350 selections doing “research” to find our next selection! Ha! (Your blog is my first place to look!)
    6. Resale stores: Getting money back on things you are done with is GENIUS.

  35. Lisa Ford says:

    What’s saving me is discovering you and all the forms of media your on. After I read what you post for the day, I go to Instagram and look through your old post.
    Soup-it makes many meals out of one.
    Netflix binging-just got this at the end of December, so it’s a fun diversion.
    Reading at night-currently reading Unreachable by Leah Raeder.

  36. AuburnCathy says:

    #1 & 2 are always on my list…not just for February ?1)Early mornings with strong coffee and my Bible and devotion
    2) Adding 3 “things” to my 1000 Gifts list (for those who don’t know- Google Ann Voskamp 1000 Gifts)
    3)a sweet Bible study on Mon night …at my house, so I have to at least tidy up each Monday ?
    4) anticipating the arrival of Mildred Reese (Millie) our first grandchild in 8 weeks.

    Thankful for your blog!

  37. Cindy says:

    Love reading everyone’s lists! And thank you for mentioning the Deborah Crombie series – I was looking for a new series to start! I live in Florida, so I live for the few nice cold and cooler days we get here, for the drier air and energy they bring. Also, a full-time caregiver, I live for those breaks I get that allow me to remember I have a life and to spend some time doing something creative. Visiting or talking with my kids, or FaceTime with my grandchildren – how grateful I am for all of it! The breaks, in turn, make me feel so grateful that I am able to be the caregiver for both of my parents for however long I can.

  38. Molly says:

    Hot tea, good books, and slow cooker plastic liners. These are my life savers right now. Next I want to get a craft room set up.

    • Anne says:

      Those are GREAT. I especially love that you included the plastic liners. It’s crazy how big a difference a seemingly little thing like that can make!

  39. Rebecca says:

    Oooh candles!!! I get up early and have my coffee but I’ll forget to actually light one, and it is such a mood enhancer!!! I’d have to say our regular quiet times are saving my life right now. We homeschool and it’s snowing all week and I don’t feel like going outside because COLD and we live in a tiny apartment … So the creative quiet times are essential to my sanity lol.

  40. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    I especially love the bit about the flowers!
    Thank you for the encouragement to acknowledge these things! Not only is it positive instead of seeing the negative in life, but it helps me to prioritize and not ignore the things that are “saving my life” these days!
    I currently have two that are making a big difference:
    1. Showering and washing my hair before bed. I almost never want to do it, but I very much appreciate not being cold and wet in the morning. I can jump straight into my day with my kids!
    2. Having a reading plan/list of book I want to read for the month. this allows me to see how much variety I have in my books and make (slightly) realistic goals. A reading plan for just a week was too short a time because someone was sick or I’d get completely derailed, but a month is perfect! I plug in my book club book(s), one for the MMD challenge, any library books that came on hold, and fill in from there. Last month I added a couple and didn’t quite finish one, but I know I read far more intentionally and enjoyably having a plan set out.

  41. Lynette says:

    Morning workouts. Audiobooks.
    Scheduled weekly “deep talk” with my husband. We have a few questions we go through, and just have intentional meaningful conversation. I think this also helps us connects better everyday, too – bonus!

  42. Hannah says:

    I have to say, just seeing the lovely colored pens in your opener photo made me smile! I’m always on the hunt for pens that will lower the bar for me to journal and record quotes. May I ask what kind those are?

  43. Addie says:

    Honestly, your post and reading through all these comments has been life-saving encouragement to me during a very difficult time. It is a good reminder to look for the positives in my own life. As for my own list…
    1) Sunshine
    2) Pictures of my niece and nephews from my sister
    3) Essential Oils
    4) A clean home
    5) Knowing that spring will come and winter doesn’t last forever
    6) A glass of wine after work

  44. Anne, I love your list. The weather has been so mild and sunny around here lately, I almost feel like it’s cheating! I can feel spring in the air.

    Two things that made my list: my Bullet Journal and stevia. The former because it has made my entire life easier, and the second because I gave up sugar two months ago and stevia-sweetened treats make that possible for me.

  45. Kate says:

    This week has been a dump heap of a week, with just too much. My new find was It’s distracted me just enough for a few minutes at a time to keep me from screaming, crying, or both, since the massive amounts of chocolate weren’t getting the job done. One Ritter Sport is a serving, right?;)

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  47. Camilla says:

    Thank you so much for mentioning the space heater – I’ve had one under my desk since I read this post and it’s making such a difference to my work day. Genious! Thank you x


  48. Natasha says:

    I love Lucky’s! They just opened a store here and their produce prices are great! Also Friday is always homemade pizza night at our house. My children love it!

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