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Welcome to Nourish, a newsletter to help you be kinder to yourself and others. I'm Erin Strybis, a writer/editor, registered yoga instructor, bookworm and steadfast believer in grace and gratitude. In this issue, find thoughts on thankfulness, practicing hygge, mental health and honoring our saints.

Dear reader,

Last November, my husband Jay and I hosted our first Thanksgiving.

The stakes were high: we'd planned to cram 10 adults and two feisty toddlers into our small home, prepare multiple side dishes and roast our first Tofurky.

Jay, an engineer by vocation, drafted a down-to-the-minute-cooking schedule, including Thanksgiving Eve meal prep. "Babe, it will be fine," he said while tacking the schedule onto our refrigerator. "We just have to follow the plan." We would ace Thanksgiving; he was sure of it. I, on the other hand, worried we'd made a mistake welcoming so many people over, but it was too late to back out, and I was grateful we had a plan.

Reader, I think you know where this story is going . . . The big day came, and despite our preparations, the schedule fell apart. We botched the sweet potatoes, and I frantically called my mom to request her recipe. Then the side dishes were running behind — due to our sweet potato mishap — and somehow, we’d lost a star anise (or two) in the cranberry dressing.

By the time Jay put the Tofurky in the oven, we were operating on pure faith. Jay’s mom swooped in to save us, and we managed to serve dinner before my son and niece could throw tantrums.

Gathered around the dining room table, we bowed our heads and prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.” I opened my eyes. Candlelight flickered in the center of the table, our loved ones sat shoulder-to-shoulder and an abundance of food laid before us, including Mom’s sweet potatoes. The sight alone filled me with gratitude. It was a miracle.

Thinking back on it now, I realize the miracle wasn’t that our meal came together — it was our togetherness.

***

In a year that often feels like a giant kitchen debacle, in a year that’s separated us from our loved ones or deepened divides between those with whom we disagree, in a year that’s defied all plans and expectations, how do we taste and see goodness in all circumstances? 

We slow down. We look. We grow eyes for gratitude.

We savor the gifts in our midst.

Nourish yourself

GET COZY: Winter is coming, and while I may not feel ready for it, the thought of practicing hygge makes me look forward to shorter days and chilly nights. Hygge — pronounced hoo-gah — is the Danish art of embracing comfort and contentment. Writes Anna Altman for The New Yorker: “It’s wholesome and nourishing, like porridge; Danish doctors recommend 'tea and hygge' as a cure for the common cold. It’s possible to hygge alone, wrapped in a flannel blanket with a cup of tea, but the true expression of hygge is joining with loved ones in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere." Consider this your invitation to relish life’s simple pleasures: your coziest blanket, warm socks, a steaming cup of tea (here’s a nutty one I love), the glow of your favorite candle (here’s mine), the presence of loved ones (whether in person or virtually), and perhaps a sweet treat, like this mouthwatering pound cake or the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

MEDIA DETOX: As election day approaches and anxiety around its outcome builds, I’m planning to enforce strong boundaries with my media consumption, whether it's social, television news and web stories. How do you want to feel this month? What media boundaries do you need to stay informed and feel your best? Develop your strategy now for digesting and abstaining from media and what you’ll do if you need space to destress and process the news — whether that’s phoning a friend or meditating. I’m not suggesting you pull an ostrich and put your head in the sand but maybe, just maybe, you’d sign off after a certain hour on election night, or even try a complete media detox, if feasible, some time this month. A year ago, while on retreat in the Cascade Mountains, I experienced my first media detox and gained a new sense of clarity and presence. I now recommend it as a form of self-care. And, if you haven’t already, be sure to vote!

GIVE THANKS: “When I’m worried, and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I go to sleep counting my blessings,” croon Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney in one of my favorite scenes from White Christmas. November is a wonderful time to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, whether you count blessings in your head at night or put pen to journal and write them down. Some suggested resources: this gratitude creativity challenge from Callie Feyen looks like a lot of fun, and families may enjoy creating a gratitude tree or chain of blessings together. Maybe you'd pick up a book on thankfulness, such as Ross Gay's poetry collection, The Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. In these uncertain times, giving thanks seems particularly urgent and grounding. Anne Lamott writes that "gratitude tugs on our sleeves and says, 'Wake up!' Look around at the kindness that surrounds us, the love we are being shown, the hope that now makes sense."

Nourish others

CHECK IN: This article about acedia, which is akin to listlessness, named the persistent dips in motivation I’ve felt throughout the pandemic. I worried I was the only one feeling it until I shared it with a friend who agreed she had similar sentiments. In another article on mental health and parenting, I learned that "we need to be treating [the pandemic] as a mental health crisis, and one that does not have an end we can see,” according to Pooja Lakshmin, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. The point is: many of us are struggling with mental health. In my experience, I've found that connection helps ease the toll of anxiety. I wonder, is there a friend or relative you can check in with as the holiday season approaches? Plan a video call or send someone a surprise in the mail to brighten their days. Keep in mind especially older relatives, neighbors and others in your circle who live alone. Find an accountability buddy so you can support each other’s mental health.

KID LIT: My friend Lisa told us about the kids’ podcast, Reading Bug Adventures, and now we’re basically obsessed with it. With its mix of imaginative storytelling, music and even a book list pairing, it's perfect for filling the void of slow afternoons! Jack especially liked the Egyptian story and I liked the train mystery. If you have a young child in your life, check out this this fun podcast that promotes a love of reading. Speaking of which, I just introduced my son to A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books and we've enjoyed laughing through these classic tales. (This delightful poem inspired me!)

HONOR SAINTS: On Nov. 1, Christians observe All Saints' Day, when we mourn lost loved ones. In this piece, Pastor Tim Brown offers some ideas for remembering the saints that have gone before us. One suggestion of his that I love: “Make a favorite meal once cooked by someone whom you love but who is no longer with you. With children or other family members, go through an old cookbook and seek out recipes. [Then] make a meal from your childhood and reminisce with the smells and tastes.” This month, join with friends or family to honor a beloved saint. Hold space for each other in your grief. I also found this essay about the death of a dear grandmother and how we share love particularly moving and commend it to you.

Nourishing words

On my nightstand:

  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
  • The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Grace Notes by Brian Doyle

Some of the mamas from Exhale Creativity participated in a spine poetry challenge and I cannot get enough of it! Here’s one on faith. Plus this one on strong women. And one about finding home out west. And mine. Find more by searching #spinepoetrychallenge and join the fun by creating your own.

“Yet to deny that white women have been in Harris’ shoes—interrupted by men in classrooms, boardrooms, at the table, and beyond—is to deny part of their feminine experience. Maybe the answer for me is actually a “both/and”: I have both been interrupted by men, and I have allowed Women of Color to be interrupted."

Jay and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary last month, so naturally, I wrote a poem.

While we're ruminating on love, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece by Marlena Brown about her relationship with a firefighter. They voted differently and argued about social issues yet shared core values. I listened to it on Modern Love: The Podcast while washing dishes last week and I'm still thinking about it.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from this prayer written by my dear friend, Pastor Kimberly Knowle-Zeller:
Dear God...
Can you keep track of how many tabs are open in my browser?
Do you see the number of times I’m cleaning noses, diapers, and spills?
Can you count how many cheerios are on the floor and stuck in couch cushions?
Do you know how many meetings I’ve attended in person and virtually?
Can you see the emails accruing one after another?
Do you see me mindlessly scrolling and refreshing the news?

God, in these moments of unrest, keep me coming back to you.

Wishing you peace and presence, now and always. Thank you for being here. 

Gratefully,
Erin 

P.S. If you liked this newsletter, consider forwarding it to a friend. Or if you received it from a friend, you may subscribe here. I’ll be back in your inbox in the weeks ahead with a new blog post, followed by next month’s newsletter.
"Love yourself.
Then forget it.
Then, love the world."
—Mary Oliver
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