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7 things that are saving my life right now

Though today is sunny and breezy and a high of 85 Fahrenheit, February is unpredictable. In the Pacific Northwest, where we lived for three years not very long ago, it was a guaranteed cold, gray day. The hardest kind. Last year, we were in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts and gawking at one of the earth’s great wonders.

Now we are in Austin, my hometown, and it is the month best represented with a question mark. Some days, it’s like today—springlike, really, and best celebrated with long walks and shoes that don’t need socks. Next week, though, could very well be icy and bone-chilling and honestly worse than central Oregon, because at least there it snows.

Regardless the weather, February just feels…. hard. Long, despite its reputation. Hard to love, despite its holiday.

I love it when my friend Anne writes about what’s saving her life, and I keep meaning to do the same. She did it this week, so I figured now’s a good time to do it, too.

This is what’s saving my life right now.

1. Red pen and paper

book edits with pen and paper

I’m working on the edits for my next book, and they go so much better when I print out my original draft, warts and all, and make my edits with a red pen. It’s worth the extra paper and printer ink.

2. Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

This book is magic and causing me to rework my entire book (see number 1), in only the best way. He has become one of my favorite modern writers.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

You’ll hear more about this book soon in an upcoming podcast—not mine; one where I was a guest.

3. Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

Christie knows the beauty and glory in everyday home life, and she writes it so well. I’m so glad her book is finally out in the world, because she has a gift with words. They’re a balm to my soul right now.

Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy

(You might have also heard that Christie’s brother-in-law is one of the marines whose helicopter crashed and is deemed lost at sea. Her words seem to matter, to weigh heavy with meaning, now more than ever. Please be in prayer for them.)

4. A trampoline

We got our kids a trampoline for Christmas, sorta symbolic for us vagabonding types. We knew they’d love it because so many of their friends have one (and we stayed in a house with one on our trip), and now that we’re parked in one place for a bit, we thought it a good idea to give them an instant energy-release tool at home.


So far, so good.

5. Walks

Sure enough, when my brain feels addled or fried, that means I need to put on my headphones and go on a walk. Our neighborhood has a sweet little pond with a walking trail encircling it, and we can access it through our friends’ backyard down the road from us. And just like that, I come back feeling so much better.

6. Taking Facebook off my phone

I didn’t mean for it to be such a distraction, but it is right now. I’ve taken it off my phone so my default downtime spender can return to book reading. So far, it’s working.

7. My bullet journal

Several of you have asked, and I promise to write soon about my experience with bullet journaling. Right now, it’s my lifeline. I carry mine around everywhere, and it’s changed my productivity and peace of mind for the better.

my bullet journal

I’m grateful for these small but life-saving seven things.

What's saving my life right now

What’s saving your life right now? I’d love to hear.

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Katie Di Filippo

    I love how simple these things are! It’s amazing the power things so small can have on making life more sane. For the time being, baking is saving my life. Using my hands to make things from scratch while exercising my creative side slows me down and releases tension while making me feel like I am doing something essential for life, making food.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Agreed. There’s something powerful about slow food, eh?

  2. Carrie Willard

    Bullet journaling YES. I have finally found the answer to my lifelong journal slash planner addiction. I made myself use a cheapie one for two months (and I use it all day!) before springing for the official Leichsturn (sp?). I am eagerly awaiting the UPS man Wednesday 😉

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yeah, it took me another journal to test out what works best for me to really solidified what I need. Mine looks pretty different than the orthodox, prescribed one on the site…. but that’s the whole point, right? Love it.

      • Millie

        This tool is saving me now, too; I can’t wait to read your post on how you do it. I just learned about it a few months ago and it has been revolutionary for me. My notebook is almost empty, I’m interested to maximize my next book, iykwim. Also, I love that yours is small and handheld, I am going to consider whether I would like it better that way too- I sure see some advantages in that. Thanks for the other recommendations, too!

        • Millie

          I meant to say, my notebook is almost *FULL*, I need a new one soon!

  3. Susan

    I read Four Seasons in Rome before we visited this amazing city. I absolutely loved it, love his writing.

    Try Memory Wall – a book.of his short stories.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’ve heard it’s great!

  4. Jaime @ Like a Bubbling Brook

    For me, blogging is one of those things that is saving me right now… after my three year blogging break, I’ve missed the sharing and community more than I imagined! I’m eating it up right now.

    Another thing that’s saving me is books. Just picked up Chris Hogan’s new book Retired Inspired to delve into, and just finished Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform. Empowering.

    I was also looking for a less technical book — maybe Four Seasons in Rome will be the one 😉

  5. Lisa F

    Bullet journal, handlettering Scripture, Brené Brown, running, my leftover tan from 10 days in Kauai, menu planning – part of BuJo (against every natural fiber of my being but literally saving me right now), and Big Magic by Liz Gilbert.

  6. Sharon

    Journaling. February is always tough for me. I always feel blah about school, exercise, eating and cleaning. Lol. This year I started a journal and so far it is really helping me. I love pulling out my gel pens, colored pencils and creativity each morning!

  7. Caroline Starr Rose

    So, so happy to see you working longhand on edits! In addition to my edit letters, my editor mails me a scribbled-on manuscript. It’s so helpful for me to work from a hardcopy.

    I just finished working through my February bullet journal page.

  8. Lynn

    My mother in law passed away a week ago so what is saving me include my kids, 2 and 4, who spread their joy among the sadness, being able to help those that are hurting more, the support of family and friends, being able to be out in the world anonymously to return to some normalcy.

    • Laura

      I am very sorry for your loss, Lynn.

    • Miriam

      So sorry for the loss of your loved one. It was in February (1993) that I lost my 23 yr old son, and then my mother in February (2013). I trust your the memories of your loved one will give you strength to carry on and have an even stronger appreciation for life!!

  9. Kate @cohesive_home

    Love that you edit your writing with pen and paper. I’ve always printed out my writing to edit as well.

    Honestly, my days have been long and my nights short, staying home with two littles, teaching online humanities classes, and developing a new instagram community and podcast for adventurous and simple living families. So what’s saving me now is:
    1) Reading physical books in the spare minutes of my day. The tactile experience is such a stark contrast to my computer work.
    2) Walks on the beach by my house, even when it’s freezing cold.
    3) Pour over coffee in the morning. It’s the only thing that gets me out of bed (well that and hungry kiddos), and I look forward to a warm cuppa.

    Thanks for sharing, Tsh!

  10. Shauna

    I’m also a big bullet journal fan. Charting a course and accumulating checkmarks keeps me moving forward despite wanting to hibernate for the rest of winter. Committing to exercise helps—and so does coffee with a heaping spoon of cocoa mixed in.

  11. Amanda

    Definitely long walks, but in the incredible place that I live in – outback Australia. It’s summer here now, although we’ve had a wet, coolish summer by our standards, with only a few days over 40C (sorry, no one here has the faintest clue about Fahrenheit).

    I have always been a walker/runner. I do solo overnight hikes (yes, in the outback) and also camp alone. No bears or things that can eat you here, and the threat of snakes is so vastly overrated, you’re more likely to be killed by space junk than a snake.

    Most of all, I think lots of time alone, saves my butt…and writing, although I have a publisher deadline to be mindful of.

  12. Laura

    I actually love February. My sister and I were having this conversation because she dreads February, in Minnesota. I do currently live in the NW where February weather is either rainy rainy or surprisingly sunny (so not great but at least not Minnesota!)
    It is thinking about New Orleans this time of year that makes me happy. Mardi Gras. And the thought of not having anything pressing going on.

  13. Greg

    Please write about bullet journalling soon. I would like to try it out. Also guessing that you will be on Anne Bogel’s new podcast “What Should I Read Next” soon based on your book hint. So looking forward to that. You two have some of my most favorite blogs and now podcasts. These are saving my life right now. 🙂

  14. Jamie

    I edit my husband’s stuff all the time and really prefer paper and pen!

    What’s saving my life right now?
    -A gym class that gives me accountability, which means I’m actually getting stronger.
    -The intentional slowness of January/February which gives me time to really work on goals.
    -Batch cooking – my husband is going on an extended trip to survey work with refugees, so I’m solo parenting for a bit!

  15. Lizzie

    Tsh – I keep hearing about bullet journaling and it looks like just what I need. Do you have a favorite notebook for it?

  16. Dan Erickson

    Three constants that always save me: music, writing, and walking.

  17. Jill

    •My piano lessons and teacher. She is a mentor and my therapist in addition to teaching me how to approach piano pieces and practicing.
    •Carrie Vitt’s chicken broth recipe made in a crockpot. Oh my stars! It is delicious in a mug each day.
    •Knitting a baby afghan for a friend’s baby. Knitting for others pushes me out of my comfort zone in design ways but the knitting is rhythmic and familiar.
    •Online grocery ordering. Why has this been so slow to come to small towns? I love it.
    •Dry brushing before a shower. My sister reminded me about it and it is fabulous.
    •My bullet journal too. My friend posted about using one back in November and it took me six weeks of research and thinking before I decided to jump in. No wasted pages, very customizable, and simple to implement.
    •Morning scripture study and note taking on my mobile device. I love having my notes with me all day long.

  18. Sara

    1.cycle class…its just amazing all that energy and great music
    2.showering @ the gym after cycle class while the kids are still in the child care center…I never realized how luxurious a gym
    Shower could feel until I realized it comes with no interruptions like those at home…which leaves time for..,
    3.napping when I need to, while my 2 year old naps (since I don’t have to worry about showering while he’s napping anymore)
    4.sleep-tracking-new to me and it has brought a whole new meaning to the idea “sometimes you just need to lie down” I now recognize a lot of my negative feelings or lack of coping ability is just lack of sleep and I’m so much better at life when I get the rest I need.
    Forgiveness for the past.
    Gratefulness for the present.
    Hope for the future.
    This simple daily practice is a great way for me to stay grounded and focused on what really matters.
    6. Podcasts and my new Bluetooth headphones. I look forward to my household chores when I can “hang out” with the great podcasters and their guests…it’s like having a meaningful conversation with friends while I get my work done. The Art of Simple is my #1 favorite…but when I run out of those I like Happier with Gretchen Rubin and Sorta Awesome with Megan Tietz…both of which I discovered thanks to Tsh.
    7. Brain Dumping…I’m often overwhelmed worth thoughts and ideas of all sorts of things I want to remember, do, learn more about…but I’m so busy with the littles that getting it all out on paper or screen helps me relieve the pressure so I can focus on the present and know there will be more time for all that passion in the future.

  19. Kaitlin Curtice

    1. Riding a bike with my headphones in at the YMCA
    2. Coffee every morning
    3. Trying to start those mornings a little earlier and a little happier
    4. Sharpie pens
    5. Doing worksheets with my toddler
    6. Reading The Hobbit

    🙂 Thanks for this. It really helps.

  20. Rebecca

    Things that are saving my life right now.
    1. Good friends
    2. mp3 player
    3. Zumba to help me get in shape
    4. Grandparents
    5. Coffee
    6. A great warm jacket
    7. my computer

  21. Angela

    Right now I am a very scattered place in life and my head, but the usual life-savers still help, coffee, knitting a hat with nice soft Malabrigo Worsted yarn and Twitter (I know weird, but it is fun for me).

    We too bought the symbolic “we are staying in one place” trampoline. Now the kids want the other symbolic staying in one place thing, a dog. I haven’t fully agreed to that one. But the trampoline is awesome.

  22. Emma

    thank you for the picture of your bullet journal – have been watching “how to” videos on youtube and have been a bit intimidated by all the journals with fancy artwork and handwriting.
    reading real books is saving my life at the moment. I have rediscovered the local library and have put in a request for Four Seasons in Rome.
    I have just finished reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Set in Iceland and written by an Australian author – a winning combination, fascinating read based on a true story.

  23. Lee

    Yes, yes, yes to doing revisions in print form! In the past few weeks, I have spent a fair amount of time reviewing CVs for students and offering feedback; and the first step in that process is hitting the print button. There is something inexplicably useful in offering corrections and suggestions in pen v. on screen.

  24. Sarah C

    I love these posts – I’ve had one brewing in my head for quite some time, but I always end up journaling instead. (Which probably is a good thing.) I too am LOVING Four Seasons in Rome – I downloaded it during the Christmas season, and am so in love with Doerr’s writing about my favorite country that I’ve been purposely reading it slow so it won’t end. (I know I need to read Doerr’s fiction – I just such a big nonfiction/memoir girl that I have the feeling this will be my favorite of his books.) Its so interesting – I seem to often find a book around the same time you’re writing about when you found it. (i.e. – The Sacred Year, etc.). I am very much looking forward to your next book–I still remember when I met you at an Allume, and you told me you were going to write it after your world trip–I know your words will be wonderful and life giving. 🙂 (Best to you as you work through your edits – bravo to the physical page and good pens). That trampoline sounds delightful. This post is inspiring me – I really must finish my own life-saving list on my blog this week. 🙂 Thank you for this.

  25. Amy // Sunlit Pages

    I just listened to your episode of What Should I Read Next, and so I love seeing Four Seasons in Rome on this list! I guess you took Anne’s recommendation and loved it!!

  26. Shelley

    Loved this! I support women that are dealing with betrayal and this SO spoke to me. It’s so important for us to know what is helping us survive. I came up with 11 things helping me survive right now and wrote about it on my blog. Reading “Daring Greatly”, warm fires in the evening, and lip balm are a couple of my go-to’s these days. 🙂

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