If there is one thing that I am NOT good at, it is being fake about my online life.
This has been a truly awful year, in more ways than I can count.
Just like you, I’m worried what this year holds, frustrated with the lack of empathy right now, and just can’t seem to focus on anything except the hard.
I am also very aware that we are all bringing our own emotional and physical luggage into this pandemic and my scenario may look way more ideal than what you have been dealt.
That’s why empathy is so damn important.
I miss the days of, “we’re all in this together,” moments that we had in the beginning COVID days.
Pile on the heartbreaking and senseless death of George Floyd and I just don’t know how to do the internet anymore.
I decided to take a couple of weeks and do some internal work.
I’ll be honest, even though I thought I was doing a great job with inclusion and showing up for others, I have learned that I have so many behaviors that I need to unlearn.
I’m also acknowledging that my history classes sure didn’t share a heck of a lot of this stuff.
Doing anti-racist work and acknowledging my own bias is an ongoing project, but I think the biggest blessing that I’m taking out of this is that there is SO much room for expansion in my heart.
After all, when we see things we can’t unsee them.
We must do our part right now, especially if our eyes weren’t open to the injustice before.
And, when we know better we do better.
Sprinkled within this miserable life cake though have been several difficult health diagnoses among our friends, the loss of employment for those in our circle, and my own mounting anxiety with an immune compromised family.
It’s just A LOT.
I’m realizing it’s okay to not be okay.
This week I decided to start a gratitude list because, in all this hard, there have been good things that have happened during this time of sheltering in place.
Our family feels closer than ever before.
Our kids have adapted in ways that I find quite admirable.
We have had important family talks because we are together so much.
Although there is nothing life-changing in today’s gratitude list, I think any glimmer of joy is worth celebrating right now.
If you have time, leave a comment and share something you are finding joy in right now.
Big or small, joy is so needed right now.
33 Joyful Activities That Are Getting Me Through Hard Days
One: Yard Bouquets
Inspired by Cozy Minimalist Home, I have been picking greenery in our yard to make bouquets for our home. What I didn’t expect was the same sense of satisfaction a real bouquet brings me.
Two: A Quiet Alarm Clock
I bought an affordable little step counter and use it now as an alarm. The gentle buzz on my arm is a lot less intrusive than a loud alarm and it’s been nice not waking everyone up when I sneak down for a quiet cup of coffee.
It’s also been a handy reminder to move every hour (move? what’s that?) and to figure out what day it is.
Honestly, I’d have no clue otherwise.
Three: New York Times Cooking App
We haven’t subscribed to a newspaper in years, but the pandemic felt like a great justification to keep informed. When I activated our account, I added on the NYT Cooking app and it has been worth every dollar. I’m trying to do a recipe each week and it’s been a way to make all this cooking a tiny more fun.
Four: Unlimited Iced Coffee Refills
My new evening routine is making a batch of iced coffee for the next day. Although I used to make it without a pitcher, I am embracing this cold brew pitcher (a holiday gift) since it makes the process almost effortless. The inner filter holds all the grounds for you and screws into the cap. You just fill it up with cold water, screw in the filter, and give it a good shake.
Five: Lunchtime Walks
Our life has gotten unbelievably boring.
I mean, is the most exciting thing you do a prescription run?
I’ve picked up a new lunchtime habit of taking a loop through our neighborhood with my husband.
Normally, he is at his workplace and while that’s come with some necessary adaptations (more below), we are embracing the challenge and taking a daily walk together on our lunch hours.
Six: Working on Consistent Habits
My days had started to blur together and I realized that one of the reasons was because I had no real “goals” for the day.
I was on the hunt for something to start helping hold me accountable and stumbled on The Fabulous app. I tried it out for a week and decided to buy a year to help me through this season.
You set a goal that you have in mind (mine is to increase my energy levels) and then it works on habit-building by creating challenges for you each week. Although you don’t need an app to do this, it has some really great information on why these habits are important and how to reinforce them.
Right now, I’m working on an energy building trilogy of daily exercise, starting my day with water, and eating breakfast.
I haven’t been doing any of these things consistently so I’m loving the accountability factor.
Oh, and guess what?
It really is improving my energy.
Seven: Painting & Audiobooks
I’m not very artistic so I’ve been embracing doing paint-by-number kits to get my creativity on. Once I started my painting, I realized that this pairs perfectly with audiobooks.
I got a kit for my girl too so we sit with our respective earbuds and paint together.
If you have a teen girl, this is a joy-giver all around right now.
Eight: My New Oven
In the earliest days of all this mess, my oven decided to quit. It, honestly, was the most inconvenient time since no one would bring it into our house or (at that point) was even open.
I am sure we made a memory that day with all the teamwork involved trying to get the old oven out and a new oven into our home.
Now that the oven drama is behind us, I can say that having the option for convection has made my dishes taste so much better.
Also, is there anything better than a shiny new appliance after sixteen years?
I can now see my goofy reflection again when I peek at what’s cooking.
Nine: Hair Towel Time
I have never been big on washing my hair, mostly because my hair is so thick and it takes forever to dry.
I’m not sure why I’ve never bought a hair towel before, but it has motivated me so much more to wash my hair. I also love that it keeps my head cozy while my hair is drying.
Despite not seeing a hairstylist since August (yikes), my hair feels so much healthier.
These little self-care rituals are luxurious little treats these days.
Ten: A Minimized Wardrobe
A minimal wardrobe isn’t a new thing, but this summer I only got out about a quarter of my summer wardrobe.
This pared down wardrobe includes only things that make ME happy and are super comfortable.
No need to impress the neighbors on our loop through the ‘hood.
Pull-on shorts, simple sundresses, and breezy skirts (HIGHLY recommend these if you are doing the same) are on repeat over here.
If you need a few comfortable go-to pieces:
I hope you have these. I love the scoop & v-neck options (depending on what I’m wearing).
Eleven: A Renewed Appreciation for Oatmeal
In an effort to minimize charges for grocery delivery, I started making steel cut slow cooker oatmeal for our breakfast instead of buying multiple boxes of cereal.
Frankly, I just couldn’t keep up, even with the wholesale club size boxes.
We had a couple of people who weren’t as big of oatmeal fans that have converted since I started making these.
If I’m not making this, I’m baking up trays of granola.
I feel so much better when I eat this way and, thanks to the habit tracker, this has become a new priority.
Twelve: A Hand Sanitizer That Moisturizes
If you have to use hand sanitizer, multiple times a day, it’s nice when you find one that smells good and doesn’t dry out your hands.
Add, this bottle of hand sanitizer to the surprising list of things you never thought you’d be grateful for in 2020.
It smells soooo good, it dries fast, and it isn’t sticky.
If you want to add another layer, I discovered this inexpensive hand cream and add a layer of that before bed.
Thirteen: News Without the Noise
Three Instagram accounts have made digesting all this news a little easier this year and THAT is something to be grateful for right now.
I highly recommend following these three accounts to stay updated on everything.
Kinggutterbaby– Laurel is an infectious disease researcher that does an incredible job on her Instagram Stories (you can check her highlight bubbles on her profile page too) translating science into layman’s terms and also explaining if headline news is real or not.
Jessicayellin– Jessica is a former White House correspondent that does a really great daily briefing of the news you need to know. I appreciate her reporter instincts to report the news without any particular agenda except making sense of all these headlines.
Pantsuitpolitics– Sarah & Beth do a phenomenal job with their briefing on the headlines too. They focus on grace-filled politics which is something I think we desperately need right now. I’m really thankful for the compassionate way they help you understand what’s happening in the world.
Fourteen: ALDI Curbside Pickup
I am so darn thankful for Instacart and now I’m doubly thankful because I can pick up my groceries and save money on tips.
Our local store recently joined the curbside gang and now I can order my groceries and pick them up in their newly designated spots.
We tried it out this week and the entire transaction took less than five minutes.
Everything was bagged, loaded, and had contactless fulfillment.
I guess our prescription runs just got a whole lot more exciting.
We saved about $35 in delivery and tip fees on a single order alone.
I’m planning to use this moving forward, until the unmotivated winter months.
Fifteen: A Unicorn Haircut
What did we do before YouTube and Pinterest?
I am so thankful that we were able to navigate this time with some inexpensive clippers because it has been many years since I cut hair at our house.
Outdoor haircuts are the latest pandemic craze and I’ve been cutting everyone’s hair, including my own.
Have you ever used the unicorn haircut trick for your long hair?
Well, I did.
Although it is a pretty shady haircut, I’m thankful I am able to stay away from the germs for now and my ends feel so much better.
Oh, the things I have learned in quarantine.
Sixteen: Dusting Off Those Small Appliances
So many dusty small appliances have been living in our basement and I’m thankful to be rotating them in our house again.
From my bread machine to the panini press, we have been using a lot of things in our home that have not seen any love in our house in a long time.
In fact, panini night is back at the Clark house. (jazz hands!)
Our favorite combo is pesto, provolone, roasted chicken (try this easy method with frozen chicken), spinach, and tomato.
Don’t have a panini press? Cover a brick with foil and smash those sandwiches in a skillet instead.
Seventeen: Direct Care From My Physician
I didn’t know we would be in a pandemic when I switched to a direct care option for my medical stuff, but I am SO thankful I did.
It has been invaluable to have 24/7 access to a physician that knows my patient file inside and out.
Navigating all of this has been much easier because I know what is happening on a local level.
If you can afford the monthly (or annual) rate, this is the year to pay for that access.
Eighteen: Podcast Nights Together
What could be better than a glass of wine and a really intriguing podcast that allows you to escape the current day issues for a little awhile.
Our happy hour is now paired with the Rabbit Hole podcast.
Once we started it, we couldn’t stop.
Imagine exploring someone’s YouTube journey, from start to finish, and witnessing how the algorithms affect their moral compass.
We thought we knew where this was headed, but we had no idea.
Nineteen: My New Workspace
We have a double desk in our office, but rarely worked side by side. With both of us working from home, we were getting pretty annoyed with each other.
Give me soft lights, bubbling essential oils, music, and YouTube breaks.
Give him bright lights, absolutely no talking or sound ever, and Zooming all day.
Of course, once I realized how glorious it is to have the windows open and sunshine on my face, this may be the permanent solution.
I’m looking forward to picking out some fun wallpaper to dress up the top of this desk.
Twenty: Watching The Office (For The First Time)
I am sure we are the only people on the planet that haven’t seen, “The Office,” but I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I waited.
We have been belly-laughing through every single episode and I, FINALLY, can appreciate why this show is such a cult-classic.
Twenty-One: My Hair Coloring Smock
According to Madison Reed, I have been a hair color subscriber since 2018 and I am still appreciating the convenience of hair color delivery.
The brush and bowl set has made application easier, but the hair coloring smock is being used so much more than I would have imagined.
Now I get dressed and put this on over my clothes to protect them while doing my makeup and hair routines.
Twenty-Two: Mastering a Favorite Takeout Dish
I’ve been more motivated to figure out some of our favorite takeout dishes, mostly because the delivery fees can really add up and the amount of packaging can be a little sickening.
The recipe of the summer, for sure, has been this sheet pan chicken shawarma.
With all of these struggles in the meat plants though, I’m looking forward to working on some more plant-based dinner ideas to help do our part.
For now, gratitude for mastering a takeout favorite.
Twenty-Three: Socially Distancing With Neighbors
What’s the point of having a fire pit if you never use it?
We had our first neighbor night (socially distanced) around the fire and it made me feel almost…well…normal.
We ordered Papa John’s pizza (one for each of us), sipped wine, and gabbed forever in our backyard.
If there ever is a time you are thankful for a huge backyard and sitting area, it is right now!
Also, it’s great that when they need to use the bathroom, they can just go to their house.
Twenty-Four: New Family Systems
A very first world problem is to miss the amazing crew that helped you maintain your home, but we are trying to not introduce any germs into our home, as much as possible.
These chore charts have really worked out well and I am proud that we are working together as a team through this.
My husband also suggested a dry erase board for our refrigerator, to help us use up the leftovers and to jot down any items that a family member uses up.
When you have a deep refrigerator, it is easy to have a lot of food waste, so this board is really helping us be more accountable to our food.
Twenty-Five: Shower Pumps Changing My Life
I’m in charge of deep-cleaning the bathrooms weekly, and moving all of these bottles around (many of them emptied and sitting on ledges) was driving me bonkers.
Are you ready for the thing that changed all that?
Wall pump dispensers in our bathrooms have removed ALL the ledge clutter.
I reinforced these with some waterproof command strips (because kids), but it is one of my favorite purchases we have made.
Not moving around all this clutter (or looking at it when I take my bath) is bringing me a ton of joy.
Twenty-Six: Streaming Podcasts Through Spotify
I’m embarrassed to say that, despite paying for a premium membership, I have never used Spotify to stream my podcasts.
I love how seamless this platform moves from episode to episode, unlike the apps I was using before. I find it way easier to navigate and follow my favorite podcasts.
They are testing out ads that will help remember those promo codes for you, should you get sucked into an ad or two.
P.S.- Need a playlist or 55 for these months ahead? You can follow me over here.
Twenty-Seven: The New Family Lake House
Is there anything better than having someone in your family buy a lakehouse that you get to hang out at?
I think not.
We are so thrilled for my husband’s parents as they built a little slice of heaven as their next forever home.
The view is so peaceful and it has the biggest porch for us to park on and watch the kids swim.
We can’t wait until this is all over, for fun sleepovers with grandma & grandpa, and catching that sunrise view.
For now, the porch is the vacation destination we all need right now.
Twenty-Eight: Celebrating 20 Married Years With My Husband
I am not going to talk about any first world losses, but this pandemic wasn’t the 20th wedding anniversary trip that I was expecting.
Katie Whitcomb is my dear friend and a phenomenal wedding photographer.
To celebrate, we did a social-distancing photo session and got anniversary pictures.
We never had engagement photos or have had photos done without our kids, so what better time than 20 married years to get these?
These images are, honestly, something we will treasure forever and I’m planning to make an album.
If you are local, please hire her, and give yourself this gift.
Oh, and every single thing I’m wearing (including those heels) was bought on consignment from thredUP.
I’m so proud of my new-to-me wardrobe.
Twenty-Nine: Etsy Seller Protection
If anyone has showed up this year, it is CRAFTERS.
After a horrible first outing (since March), I realized how weirdly confrontational people were being about social distancing and wearing a mask.
I thought maybe a SIGN might help with that SIX FEET stuff.
I wanted to figure out a way to get people to exercise that social distancing stuff so I ordered this inexpensive button.
I also ordered a button for my husband because it’s, honestly, causing him more anxiety than me since he’s doing all the necessary errands for our family.
Speaking of Etsy sellers, I ordered these masks, as soon as this all started, and they are PERFECT.
They are pleated (for a wider expansion), have a metal nose piece to help it stay on better, and have a filter pocket for extra protection.
In all this fun, I also discovered that a coffee filter is perfect for this pockets and blue Dawn, smeared on your glasses (don’t rinse) help with the summer steam up.
This paper clip trick has helped EVERYONE in our family. Pull it in tighter for a snugger fit and it makes taking a mask on and off a heck of a lot easier.
Yes, it seems weird that these things bring me joy right now.
I *DO* love supporting crafters though and I’m thankful for these well-made & well-thought products.
Thirty: “Free” Disney Plus
Our cell phones are with Verizon so we were thrilled to discover that, if you have the unlimited plan, Disney Plus is free for the first year.
That freebie couldn’t have come at a better time.
My husband has been in Star Wars heaven and it didn’t cost us a dime extra.
Also, who couldn’t use a little Disney magic?
Thirty-One: New Post Workout Routines
I shared my favorite ways to work out at home, in my April happy list, and I’m still loving every minute of it.
Since I’m saving so much time on a gym commute, I have a little more time for my post gym routines.
The best combo I have found is dry brushing my skin before I shower (it REALLY helps if you struggle with ingrown hairs- although some say it has numerous health benefits) and after showering, I add a little Peppermint CBD Balm to my lotion. This is body tingling magic and helps my muscles recover a little better.
BTW- If you are low-income or a veteran, I adore this CBD company because they give out a 60% discount to these families, on anything in their store.
Thirty-Two: Still Finding the Funny
Gosh, it is hard to find anything that funny right now, but if we don’t laugh than we cry.
I curate ten laughs every Tuesday and, I won’t lie, it takes the entire week to gather.
Finding these is half the fun and the other half is giving the joy to others.
Thirty-Three: Getting Back to My Infant Feet
I do miss that summer pedicure treat, this year, but this weird foot mask is my new treat.
It’s just as satisfying and gross as you might expect.
What better time to shed your skin than while your home.
That’s it from me! I’d love to hear the unexpected joy in your life. I hope something on MY list can make YOUR list during this crazy time. Sending giant virtual hugs!
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