Posts Tagged ‘rituals’

kettle mug tea kitchen

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

—Annie Dillard

Recently, my friend Lindsey wrote a post ruminating on what she does every day. She agrees with Dillard’s words, above: the habits we keep, the actions we repeat, have a powerful effect on the shape of our lives. Gretchen Rubin’s version of this idea, which Lindsey mentioned and which I’d read before, is similar: “What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.”

Even though I’d argue that less frequent actions – things we do once a month or once a year – also shape us, I agree with these wise women: the daily actions of our lives do matter. They form us into the people we become. Lindsey’s litany of the things she does every day, or most days, inspired me to reflect on my own small daily acts.

katie selfie mirror onedayhh

Every day, I drink several cups of tea – usually brewing the first one in our kitchen. I pause to gaze out the east-facing window at the sunrise over the tops of the trees. Most days, I commute to Harvard Square, where I write stories and answer emails, go to meetings and chat with colleagues.

I walk to Darwin’s at least daily, for chai and scones, Earl Grey and hot cider, and – best of all – convivial chat with the baristas I know. I make the rounds of my beloved work neighborhood: the bank, the florist, the post office, other errands. I look up and snap pictures of the sky, or around and snap pictures of flowers and leaves. Most days, I post on Instagram and Twitter (though I usually spend far too much time looking at each). Most days, I write: journal entries, blog posts, book reviews, work assignments, emails. (Always emails.)

Every day, I text a couple of dear friends, and often at least one family member. I talk to my husband briefly in the middle of the workday. I make or juggle plans with friends; community is often fragmented in this world but it’s dear to me, and I fight for it. Every day, I dive into several books – on my commute, on my lunch break, before bed. I need good stories, and words that make me think or laugh or cry.

A few times a week, I do yoga: either at the studio I love or on my own green mat on the kitchen floor. I get out for a walk and/or a run on the river trail near our house. About once a week, I talk to my mom on the phone. Several times a week, I do laundry, cook dinner for myself and my husband. On other evenings, I spend time with friends: usually a one-on-one walk or dinner date. Every day, I make the bed, and later I stand at the sink and wash dishes, scrub out the tea strainer, wipe the counters, sort the mail.

“What do these small, mundane acts say about my priorities?” Lindsey wondered in her post. I think my small acts say that I value the daily: the act of nourishing myself and others, the act of pausing to pay attention to the world and the people I love.

I spend a lot of time and energy keeping up and taking care: of our home, of my work to-do list, of the details of my life. I’m an introvert: I need time by myself and time with the people I love, but I prefer the latter in small-group doses. I need sunshine and I need to move my body. And I am – though I sometimes struggle to believe it – a writer to my core.

As we move into the holiday season, my days will contain a number of seasonal rituals: starting with Turkeypalooza, continuing through Advent and Christmas prep (shopping, sending cards) and my annual trip to Texas to see family. I’ll pull out my beloved, battered Advent book and sing favorite carols. I’ll make an extra effort to gather with friends before we all scatter for the holidays.

Through it all, my daily routine will anchor me. What I do every day will continue to shape me. And if I need to make a change, or want to reinforce a new habit, it starts there: in the dailiness, the small round of hours and minutes that is so mundane and so precious.

What do you do every day, or most days? Do you think it matters?

Read Full Post »

freesia flower yellow candle table


These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips

These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares

These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl

This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out

This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky

This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it

The days are nouns: touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world

I am more and more convinced that the small, everyday things hold so much of the sacred. This poem expresses that perfectly. (I have been enjoying Shihab Nye’s collection Words Under the Words.)

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry here on Fridays this month.

Read Full Post »

tea makes everything better sign

As the days grow gradually shorter and the temperatures continue to dip, my tea consumption has shot up alarmingly.

This happens every fall: after a summer of drinking blackberry sage or ginger peach tea with breakfast (and a very occasional cup in the afternoon), I start mainlining flavored black tea like it’s my job.

I stock up on certain blends when the weather begins to feel fall-ish: Boston (cranberry almond) and Cranberry Autumn (cranberry orange) from Harney, pumpkin chai from David’s Tea, lots of Earl Grey. I love the chai lattes at Darwin’s, but I mostly brew my autumnal favorites over and over again when I’m at home.

This season, I’ve been enjoying a few new teas from a company called Plum Deluxe in Portland, Oregon.

Andy, the founder of Plum Deluxe, emailed me recently to ask if I’d like to try some of his blends. I was especially intrigued by the Reading Nook tea (what a great name!), but told him I also like Earl Grey and other flavored black teas. He sent me three samples (in a purple envelope):

plum deluxe teas

The Reading Nook blend has a black tea base, but it’s very floral: it involves lavender, rose petals and chamomile. The Vanilla Latte tea (a black tea base with honeybush tea) has the sweetness of vanilla and the spice of cardamom. And the Mindful Morning tea is my favorite – it’s a twist on Earl Grey with vanilla and an extra hit of citrus.

I’ve been enjoying all three – at the kitchen table, or on the front patio when it’s warm enough.

something good mug porch

I love my standby teas, but it’s fun to try something new once in a while. And I’m always happy to spread the word about a small business that’s doing something I love. If you’re a tea drinker, I’d encourage you to check out the Plum Deluxe website.

Happy sipping! What kind of tea do you like to drink in the fall?

I received free samples of these teas in exchange for an honest review, but was not otherwise compensated for this post.

Read Full Post »

green shoes purple pants

Monday morning, 8:00 a.m.

I take a last swallow of black tea, carry my mug and cereal bowl to the kitchen sink. I shrug into my jacket, reach for my shoulder bag, kiss my husband if he hasn’t already left for the gym. I hurry down the narrow back staircase, step onto the back stoop. I adjust my purse and tote bag, snap open my umbrella if it’s raining. And I walk.

Wednesday, 12:15 p.m.

I push my chair back from my computer, dry-eyed after a morning of moving words around on the screen. If I’ve brought leftovers for lunch, I retrieve them from the office fridge and stick them in the microwave. I eat at my desk, reading a few pages of my current novel, sipping water from the tall plastic cup I refill all day long. As soon as the last bite is gone, I stand up, grab my purse and jacket. And I walk.

I’m over at TRIAD magazine today, writing about the walks that bookend my days. Join me over there?

Read Full Post »

Family dinner

table summer dinner

Family dinner is one of the strongest memories from my childhood. It exists in blurred, indelible layers, the result of hundreds of nights when the four of us sat around the old wooden table in my parents’ kitchen. We used place mats (changed out with the seasons) and sturdy white plates rimmed in blue or green. We ate burritos and spaghetti and baked chicken, brown-sugar-glazed ham with green beans and buttery mashed potatoes. In the winter, Mom made hearty chili or chicken-cheese soup. When it was Dad’s turn to cook, sometimes we had breakfast for dinner.

Those dinners were our chance to come back together, to catch up on each other’s days. We told funny stories or complained about homework; we teased or argued, and always, we laughed. We always sat in the same seats (we still do, when I’m home); we always joined hands, bowed heads and gave thanks. And no matter how late my band rehearsal or my sister’s golf practice went, we waited to eat together.

Since I got married, I have begun to understand why my mother, in particular, fought so hard for family dinner during all those years. I work in a different town than my husband does; we rarely see one another during the workday, though we always make time for a quick phone call to catch up. He works several evenings a week, because marriage and family therapy is not a nine-to-five gig. In these days of mismatched schedules, I have become nearly fanatical about family dinner.

We plan out a rough menu for the week on Saturday or Sunday, based on how late he’s expecting to work each night. We go to the grocery store together, pushing the cart up and down the familiar aisles, grabbing an extra jar of salsa or box of pasta. We cook the simple, tasty meals we both love: pasta with veggies and goat cheese, my regular rotation of soups, chicken-mango curry, store-bought pizza crust topped with varying ingredients. And burritos (always burritos).

Sometimes he does dinner prep before leaving for work, turning on the Crock-Pot or chopping veggies or chicken and leaving them in the fridge for me. If he’s working really late, I cook and eat alone, making enough for two and sitting at the table with him when he comes home, hungry and tired. My favorite nights are the ones when we cook together, sliding past each other in the kitchen, the movements of this dance practiced and fluid after nearly six years.

I often wish we could have dinner together every night, that our schedules were as steady and consistent as my family’s was for much of my childhood. We live in a larger city, our lives swayed by unpredictable urban rhythms, so that family dinner is not always the constant I would like it to be. But no matter how crazy the weeks get, after a few frazzled nights or a few solo meals of leftover pasta or “single cuisine” eggs, we come back to the table, together.

Inspired in part by Lindsey’s recent post about family dinner.

Read Full Post »

My teatime ritual

queens lane

Strong black Yorkshire Gold with milk and a spoonful of sugar. Bergamot-tinged Earl Grey with a swirl of milk. Sachets of black tea flavored with orange peel, stone fruits or cinnamon, brewed strong and drunk unadorned. Paper bags of peppermint or lemon-ginger tea drunk plain, with a squeeze of honey added if I have a sore throat.

Teatime. It’s my morning-daytime-evening ritual.

I grew up in hot, dry West Texas, the land of endless summers and pitchers of dark, strong Lipton iced tea. I am still one of the only Texans I know who will turn down a glass of iced tea for a sweating glass of ice water. I like my tea hot, in a ceramic mug, and it had better not be Lipton.

I’m over at TRIAD magazine today, talking about my several-times-a-day tea habit. Click over there to read the rest of my essay.

Read Full Post »

As the days continue cold and often wet, I’ve been drinking my morning tea with the usual regularity, sometimes brewing up a second cup mid-morning if I’m especially cold or needing a pick-me-up. But after lunch, usually around two or three p.m., I’ve been coming back to the kettle for afternoon tea.

I don’t usually celebrate afternoon tea as the English do, or even as I often did in Oxford. A proper tea there includes scones, you know, with clotted cream and/or jam (and at Queen’s Lane Coffee House, my favorite Oxford cafe, they always serve their scones warm). But my afternoon tea is a little simpler – just a cuppa, usually Earl Grey or another flavored black tea, sometimes with a cookie or a bright clementine or a couple of peanut butter crackers. As the afternoon sun slips behind the western wall of our house, and as the time to turn on the twinkle lights approaches, my afternoon tea provides a pick-me-up, a warm-me-up, and a nice break in the routine of the day.

As I transition back to the workplace, this is one ritual I hope to carry over into my new job. (I certainly brewed my fair share of afternoon cups of tea at ACU – in all my offices there!) The view may be a bit different, but I have a feeling I’ll need my afternoon cuppa as much as – or more than – ever as I adjust to a new workplace rhythm.

(Tea at Queen’s Lane, May 2008…still one of my favorite photos
from my entire time in Oxford.)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »