I started a new series this year to encourage me to 1) put a little more effort into my photography again, and 2) notice and acknowledge some of the many wonderful things that are all around me on a regular basis. Each month, I’m challenging myself to take at least five pictures of beauty, as well as document five specific experiences or things that have brought me delight, pleasure, or joy. To see past editions of the series, click HERE.
While I definitely haven’t kept up on doing these monthly (considering that the last one covered the last day of school and this one is on my daughter’s first day of school), I still appreciate any nudge to help me slow down, notice the beauty all around me, and acknowledge all the good I’ve been experiencing lately. I’ve been doing this even more as a coping mechanism ever since my latest miscarriage (my second in a row), and today I’m finally taking the time to actually note some of them down on the page.
Note: There are affiliate links to the books mentioned below.
i. golden hour
I love the idea of having grounding rituals built into my day, and one that I’ve basically done for years now is what my husband and I refer to as a “walkabout.” Ever since we became homeowners back in 2017, we’ve regularly taken slow strolls around our yard and gardens on most evenings, sometimes separately but often together. Lately this has looked like just me strolling around as Matt waters our flower farm by hand, but the ritual is still there, and it’s a daily chance to slow down, notice everything that’s growing (it never ceases to amaze me all that can change in just 24 hours!), and take in some fresh air after a long day.
Lately with the sun going down just a bit earlier, these walkabouts coincide most evenings with that beautiful time of day known to photographers as “golden hour,” when the sun is going down and its rays infuse everything with warmth and haziness and a soft, magical quality. At least once a week I’ve been trying to remember to take my camera out with me to catch some of it, especially since I well remember from last winter how I’d wished that I’d taken way more pictures during the height of summer than I had.
It’s so easy when I’m in “flower farming mode” just to see all the undone tasks like the weeds that are chest-high or taller in some areas or the too-short stems that all need to be deadheaded, but the walkabout at golden hour is simply a time to look, to enjoy, and to breathe. Sure, I may pull a few weeds here and there or snap a stem with my fingers, but just having an intentional mindset seems to make all the difference in how I feel about it.
Having three small children and running a business from home means that I am always behind and pretty much always “busy.” However, I know that I despise FEELING like I’m busy, or even defining myself that way, simply because I know that if I feel frantic or rushed, I act stressed out and impatient with everything and everyone (which is hardly the way I want to be). Certain times of year (like late spring), the frantic pace is pretty much inevitable, but the rest of the time, I try to be really conscientious about building in regular “pauses.”
Sometimes those are big pauses after particularly hard or packed seasons, such as the weekend getaway we took in February after my earlier miscarriage this year, or our big Hawaii trip in July that we took after the madness of planting out the entire flower farm was over. Big pauses are great for big mental resets and creating wonderful memories together as a family, but I find that it’s the regular, (hopefully) daily pauses that make the most difference in my overall mental health.
Right now that looks like letting one weekday have nothing on the calendar for the flower farm–no harvesting, no arranging, no (active) selling. Sometimes I’ll have a custom order come up on that day or a florist will call me wanting some stems, so some weeks I never get those truly free days. But just having them built in (usually on Wednesdays) makes me FEEL like I have a breather, and any extra sales that come my way kind of just feel like gravy since I didn’t have to work as hard for them.
During the week, I make sure I block out two or so hours in the afternoons to just take time for myself. I put Hyrum down for a nap (which often is really just a glorified play time in his crib, but whatever) and let the other two kids just play by themselves or watch a movie (although Raven will be in school now), and I take that time to read, take a nap, work on a home project or something else that I’m excited about (nothing stressful!), or blog.
Throughout the day and evening, I’ve also been building in “pauses” to keep the house tidy. Now, these don’t always FEEL like pauses, but since I’ve been a lot better about keeping on top of our house now that I’m not sick from being pregnant, it’s been easier to help it to stay that way (and more enjoyable because it’s a quick victory). I also know that my mood is so much less stressed when my house is relatively clean and clutter free.
One thing that’s been hugely helpful in this is that I discovered that FlyLady has a free app, which contains daily checklists for her morning, afternoon, and evening routines, as well as checklists for the zone cleaning and “blessing hour” for the week. I’ve tried FlyLady’s system multiple times in the past but always had a really hard time sticking with it, mostly just because I found it nearly impossible to keep everything straight and keep up on her plethora of emails. The app is simple and straightforward, and since I’ve always been highly motivated to check things off of lists, it’s also been really helpful for me as well. I don’t get nearly everything actually checked off every day or week, but we’re definitely making serious progress over here. (The app can be found HERE for Apple users or HERE for Android users. It’s also totally free, and this is in no way a sponsored post or anything; I just have loved having it as a resource.)
iii. the right book at the right time
Ahh, books will pretty much always make these lists 🙂
It’s always fascinating to me to see the power of a book in your hands at the right time. I had heard great things about Plant Dreaming Deep ages ago and bought it back in 2020, but I just kept putting it down for long stretches of time and not getting any further in it. Lately during my afternoon “pause,” I’ve been picking it up on the daily, and it has been the PERFECT read for me right now. It’s slow, contemplative, dabbles heavily in gardening and homemaking rituals (my happy places), and is beautifully written. I already want to go back and reread the beginning that I read so long ago, when I just wasn’t ready for the slow pace of it and was craving something quicker.
Another book I’ve been enjoying is Garden Maker (which is off of my 2022 Summer Reading List), so apparently I’m just in the mood for books that reflect my constant reality right now, but that still deal with it in a poetic way rather than in a this-stresses-me-out-regularly kind of way 🙂
Life has been heavily up and down the past month, as I’m sure you can imagine. The week of my D&C procedure was especially hard, as very people knew what was going on at that point and no one down here where we live. However, the Sunday before the procedure, when I was feeling particularly low, I got an out-of-the-blue dinner invitation from a family in our neighborhood who moved in about a year after we did. We’d been friendly at church and had brought them dinner when they were sick with COVID a few months back, but nothing beyond that.
The dinner invitation was literally an answer to prayer. I needed to know on that particular day that our family had a support system down here and that we were cared about and that God was aware of us in our needs. Of course I know and believe all these things intellectually and spiritually all the time, but I’m sure you can relate to the feeling that sometimes, you just need reassurances of that fact.
Since then, I’ve noticed little kindnesses all around — little pick-me-ups that provide me regular reminders that we are not forgotten, that we are loved.
Kindness is so important. Perhaps it is the most important.
v. quiet streets
This morning after we dropped off Raven for her first day of second grade, the three of us left at home (me and the two boys) were feeling a little blue, so I decided to take the boys to the park since I had purposely made today this week’s “no farming” day.
While outside time and sunshine are daily necessities for both me and my children (something I learned years ago as a new mother), they were even more restorative than usual today. The boys climbed up and down the tunnel and the slides and the stairs, and I also took them over to the softball diamond Raven had gone to for practices back in the spring, and I had the boys run the bases over and over and over again.
As I pushed the boys home in the double stroller, them worn out and happy and me feeling distinctly rejuvenated, I breathed in the quiet of the streets and rejoiced in the peace that comes from living in a small town. I don’t like everything about living in the country, but I love that when we are outside, it’s not usually the traffic I hear first, or the noise of construction–it’s the birds. It’s the neighbor’s sprinklers. It’s the whinny of the horses in the pasture that we pass on our way to the park, or the sounds of the creek trickling down the rocks.
Quiet is something I prize more and more as my daily life seems to get less and less of it, but I am grateful to live in a place that makes it easy to escape to.
Now it’s your turn — what are 5 things bringing you beauty and goodness lately?