This morning, with Ralph, having a latte.

I’ve never been one to stick to a routine for long. Since childhood, I’ve been through various and numerous phases. You name it, I’ve probably written it down or mentally tasked myself with the habit–make your bed every morning, write 500 words a day, exercise five times a week, cook every day for a month. From cleaning routines to reading schedules, I’m always curious about different habits and especially how people fit them into their own lives.

Regular people are out there jogging at 5 AM–every day! For weeks in a row! Months! Years!

Eventually the habits I set fall away, making way for something different or new–or no particular habit at all.

To be fair, some of them do stick. I always, always–even if I’ve had a few too many glasses of wine–wash my face before I go to bed. After almost 28 years, Sunday mass is the best kind of muscle memory. An evening walk has become a regular, treasured part of the day.

I often think about my grandfather–my dad’s dad. He was an Air Force veteran, a man of discipline, routine, and great humor. Every morning–even if he was traveling or visiting us–he would appear in the kitchen, fully dressed with his shirt neatly tucked into his khakis. He’d quietly set out a full breakfast spread, complete with a napkin, utensils, and cream for his coffee. Not just splashing half and half from the carton but pouring it into the actual porcelain creamer and, frankly, doing the whole thing right. Breakfast with Grandpa was the clink of spoons and milk over Cheerios and the newspaper crossword and endless cups of coffee. Travel mugs and phrases like “on-the-go” were entirely foreign to him.

My breakfasts typically look almost nothing like his. But as the years go on, I feel myself pulled in that direction. Living a life with more intention, less out of rigid habit and more out of joy in the ritual.

Without realizing it, a routine has formed rather effortlessly. I wake up. I make hot tea or a creamy matcha latte and find myself sitting on the back steps of our house in Little Rock. Ralph explores the yard, sniffing the dewy grass as I take slow sips from my mug, gazing at the sky. Sometimes it’s hot and humid, occasionally cool and cloudy. Today was brisk and blue-skied and I thought how lucky I was to be sitting right there in that backyard on a Monday morning. I felt the cool air on my face, my fingers wrapped around a warm cup. I sat very still, closed my eyes and offered up one of a thousand quiet prayers.

There is no expectation, no self-imposed goal. I’m not mentally checking a box. Guilt finds no home in me while I’m on those back steps. Lately, guilt is finding a harder and harder time finding a home in me at all.

Joy is how I know I’ll continue doing something. Cooking a hearty Sunday meal brings me joy. Seeing a crisply made bed brings me joy. Reading novels brings me joy. Sitting next to my husband in a church pew brings me joy. Writing this post, wrapped in a warm sweater while Norah Jones’s voice fills the house brings me joy.

I’m discovering that when joy–not guilt– is the driving force, habits become welcome comforts instead of obligations. If a habit flames out, that’s okay too. Maybe it’s making way for something unique or it simply wasn’t serving me anymore. I have the freedom to order my life in a way I love. I give myself full permission to luxuriate in the good things while taking care of the necessary ones. As I get older, I trust myself to be intentional without stressing about the details.

So today I’ll take a page out of Grandpa Jones’s book and do something with complete purpose. I’ll carve out the time to do it right and revel in the experience. I’ll pour that latte and do the work and maybe–always with a grateful heart–I’ll do it tomorrow too.

Happiness, Hobbits & Tabby Cats

Lately I’ve been relentless in finding delight in seemingly mundane moments. The steam from a great cup of coffee. The way our dog curls up next to our bed, comforted merely by proximity to his people. A clean kitchen or a pink sky or grocery store flowers or a well-worded email or a foggy morning or a story about hobbits or a million things that require only that I notice them. My theory is that if I make a habit of turning to small, good things, I won’t be able to stop.

Read More

Small Victories

I need a haircut in a bad way. My floors need mopping and I need to backup the photos on my phone. I need to write more blog posts and go on a few more runs around the neighborhood. Perfection is something I’ll never achieve, but as I scroll through my social media apps, you’d

Read More

Milky Way Wishes

One day I’ll look back and think about my tired, bare feet swinging from the back of the car. My husband’s blue eyes tracking the clouds overhead, calculating what storms still lay ahead of us. I’ll think about reaching the top of a mountain and wanting to take a picture of Scott to remember the way he stood in awe, gazing at rock formations that predate us by a few million years.

Read More

The Marriage Chronicles: Year 2

Another year is officially in the books for the Hartsfields. I always love doing these posts to look back on the highlight reel of the past year–and the not so glamorous moments, too. No matter what’s happening or where we are, marrying that man is the best decision I’ve ever made. Whether we’re watching The

Read More

Montgomery, Alabama

This month, we officially spent our longest stretch apart since we got married. 25 days, but who was counting? (Me. And Ralph. And Scott.) Scott is (still) attending training at Maxwell Air Force Base for Squadron Officer School until the end of February. At first, in his absence it was nice to be able to

Read More

Home

I thought home was this place you could buy. You could purchase enough throw pillows and rocking chairs and patio lights to make sure you had a sense for the word. When you were lost and someone asked where home was, you’d give them the address on your custom stationary. You’d say the blue Victorian on the street you love. The one with the white shutters and the tire swing out front. Take me home, you’d say, and you’d of course be trying to give directions.

Read More