Leaving Drudgery for Coffee with a Chicken

Weekdays during the school year have a pretty standard routine in our house. Well, more like a series of multiple mini-routines; nonetheless, there is little variety day-to-day. Over time these daily routines can begin to feel automatic and eventually boring…then hollow…and then drudgery.

I hate when things get to that point. I feel my body cringe with every step of the daily routines. The early morning alarm, sounding in the darkness, feels torturous. School papers pile up in the bottoms of the multitude of backpacks as I avoid spelling lists and sight words. School lunches lose their individual touch and become a handful of pre-packaged foods that I can’t even label as “good enough”.

The downward slide feels awful for me and I’m sure it feels equally as bad to my kids.

20181018_1740556125259866228676210.jpg

I know I’m not the only woman to find herself begging for a break from the monotony of every day life. And like other women, I have found that even when a break in the school calendar shows up, the relief is short lived. The dread, and dare I say–resentment–transfers to a different set of must-do family care tasks.

At the beginning of last school year I decided that I was done with that downward spiral. It wasn’t serving anyone, least of all me. In deciding on a course of action to change my course of action, I knew I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel or create a more complex system. I didn’t want to find myself again ruled by MORE check-lists–mastered BY not master OF each day. Not another day could pass with me playing catch-up in a schedule that offered no beauty and nurturing pause.

I didn’t know exactly where to start. I mean, all the daily routines still needed to happen but I needed space in there, too. My first move was small, but it ended up being powerful. After the kids boarded their school bus I drank my morning coffee on my porch. I breathed slowly, sitting on the cold cement and watched my chickens scratch the earth in their search for tasty, hidden bits. I watched the leaves in the trees overhead dance in the breeze and felt the embrace of sun as it warmed my back. After a few weeks my cuckoo maran would come sit next to me and let me put my arm around her. Silly as it sounds, the hopes of her unexpected companionship kept me sitting outside even after the Minnesota fall extended from frost on the picnic table into a firmly frozen ground.

screenshot_20181025-132819_instagram1409617718060280530.jpg

This change wasn’t a major overhaul of my life, it was merely a nurturing act that I could maintain, do every day. Just one small change that provided stillness, beauty, and depth perception for my soul in my every day life. It fit, it was manageable, it was pleasurable, it made me feel better. It was just the start of bigger changes in my life.

What small change can you make to add stillness, beauty, and an element of re-charge in your daily life? You don’t have to quit your life as it is, you just need to add some small act of kindness specific to your needs. What do you need today?

I’d love to hear from you. Share your nurturing ritual with me on Instagram. You can tag me @bigbeautifuladventure.

Rituals…and Other Spooky Things

“Rituals are the formulas by which harmony is restored.” Terry Tempest Williams

Last night I carved pumpkins with my 3 youngest kids. It was excruciating. Hands-down the worst creative experience of my life. It was so, so messy and slimy

and I spent a ton of time moving from kid to kid to trouble-shoot those gross strings and to add my more significant muscle and dexterity with a metal spoon. I scraped and scraped and scraped then sawed with those baby-sized, orange handled saws for what felt like 100 million years.

My kids worked so hard. Serious faces concentrated on stenciled or hand drawn designs, making sure their pumpkin lived up to their expectations of a semi-magical transformation. It was kind of intense, and fairly awful, but also pretty dang great.

The kids thought the whole process was exactly what they wanted it to be. Even when we cut open one of the pumpkins to find brown goo coating the inside, my kids weren’t daunted by any of the steps. For some reason we had a package of doctor-style latex gloves in one of the kitchen junk drawers. The gloves were quite a few sizes too big but the kids slipped them on an operated on those orange orbs like pros. When I lit the tea lights at the end of the second hour and we turned off all the lights, the kids roared with giddy delight at how spooky and amazing their creations were. They danced a spooky dance, they called Dad from our bedroom to partake in their celebration. They woke this morning, checked on their babies and started counting down the minutes until the sun sets and they can light the candles once again.

My parents didn’t celebrate Halloween when I was growing up. I didn’t trick-or-treat or carve pumpkins. We belonged to a fairly conservative Christian denomination and my parents were even anti-Harvest Party in their rejection of Halloween. Really, and I think they would agree now, I think they just were cheap and lazy. They didn’t REALLY believe it was the Devil’s Day or too “of the world”—they just didn’t want to pony up for costumes or candy or trick-or-treating. It is a fairly common affliction of their generation, I think (not to be too anti-Boomer, but for realz).

I want my kids to have traditions they remember with affection, like carving pumpkins in October. We have a few silly family traditions like “Birthday Cereal”, and frikadellers on Christmas, and racing down the rows of our vineyard every Labor Day. Those traditions help keep us connected even as we grow as individuals and our paths start to move away from each other. They need those regular expressions of commonality. Additionally, I want them to know the joy of a ritual.

Ritual is a spooky-sounding word (PERFECT for this time of year) but really, rituals merely are those predictable, intentional series of acts that are life-affirming and that allow us to be our authentic selves in any situation. Mini-routines/rituals have been life giving for me, whether they are daily or seasonal. There is an unexpected fusion of connection and freedom in creating a ritual. I create movements that honor my authentic self, manage boring self-care, and connect me to the people and things in my world that need tending; and in doing so I create freedom for myself to do MORE of what I need.
My favorite rituals involve my Cozy Corner. That name sounds lame now that I’ve typed it out, but I’m going with it anyway. I love, love, love my little corner in my house. With 6 kids and 2 adults in our house-of-perpetual-projects

space is a prized possession. I honestly do not have any space in this house that is exclusively mine. Every bit is “shared” (I say it in air quotes because while I’m supposed to have rights to space, any space I claim gets encroached on by my husband or children). I try with all my might to keep my Cozy Corner to myself. I set up my favorite chair (that my teenaged daughter tried to claim for her room because her cat loves the chair) in my favorite corner (windows on each side of me), and made it comfy—throw pillows, a blanket, a basked for my books, a little side table for my coffee, plants all around me.

Turns out that this is everyone’s favorite spot to sit, but let it be known that it technically is MINE!!!! My Cozy Corner is where I write for 20 minutes each morning—nothing earth shattering, just personal writing that isn’t journaling. It get’s my mind rolling and provides some structure when I could regress into laziness (aka falling back asleep in my comfy, cozy bed). If my kids aren’t awake yet after I drop off my almost-licensed driver at his early morning bus stop, I grab a book and settle in. I have a few books that I’m reading but the usually fall into the categories of a devotional, an inspirational, and a writing book.

From my Cozy Corner I have a perfect view of autumnal leaves. I watch their progression knowing that soon the trees will be bare, and I will be watching snow fall.

Also, from my corner I watch my chickens free range around the house. They are housed in the barn several hundred yards from my corner, but they circle the house every morning, their own kind of ritual. My Cuckoo Maran is very vocal and makes eye contact with me thru the window nearly every morning.


My Cozy Corner is big enough to host a snuggle with a kiddo. My youngest daughter, ginger-haired and freckle-faced, is a new reader and has a stack of fun books she likes to read to me. This surprised me a bit because she never liked when I would read to her before this. But, her leading is fitting because one of her first full spoken phrases was, “I do it myself!”

She sounds out words in the cutest way with her light orange brows in a serious tilt and she turns her baby-toothed smile towards me whenever I gasp over a difficult word read correctly. It is Heaven, I swear it.

My Cozy Corner is kind of the heart of the household because it is where my centering rituals take place. It is where each kid knows they can go to create their own comfort or receive my comfort. They find their harmony in a place where they see me find my harmony. I hope this provides them a lifetime of knowing they have the means of returning to harmony.

Rituals are great. I feel the wobble in my rhythm when I miss one. They aren’t magic. They aren’t spooky. They are simple and sweet and create a safe center for those in our world.

What rituals do you have in your life? Do you need help figuring out how to create a ritual? Do you think they are lame? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s share on IG and hashtag it #ritualsweetandsimple Look for posts from me the next 2 weeks that share thoughts and pictures from my Cozy Corner and other little rituals in my life.