Small Step No. 01

I do not consider myself to be a leader by nature, nor a follower. Perhaps I identify most with the term “observer,” far preferring to sit at the proverbial corner bistro table and watch the world unfold as it does with little interference from me.

If you asked, I’d tell you I’m an empath. I can sense when you’re feeling heavy or light, whether you’re overwhelmed or tense, how your emotions might dictate our plans. I observe, observe, observe. I react accordingly, adjusting my own demeanor based on the given mood, or moment.

And sure, while important to offer flexibility, this does not often bode well for a parenting strategy. We can only do so much observing-and-reacting before we’re required to steer the ship from emotion and circumstance to truth and perspective.

And so, a small reminder for myself:

Be the thermostat.

My friend Kelle taught me this once, and her dad taught her. While I’m prone to measuring the temperature, to reading the room, to quietly adjusting my own layers to better acclimate, a thermostat declares the room cold and makes it warm.

We all hold in ourselves the power to transform – in ways small and large – a room, a year, a life. We can make it hot or cold. We can make our homes into caves or havens; we can make our days stretch or snap.

It is ours to decide, and we must decide.

Yesterday, we all woke up in stormy moods. The clouds hung low outside the window, mocking our attitudes. I puttered around per usual – frying eggs, washing pans, spooning baby food – and as the day went on and the coffee wore off, the sun still hadn’t come out. My responses were shortened, strained. Bee carried a furrowed brow. Scout grew fussy.

I practiced deep breaths, spritzed some rosewater on my face, willed myself to snap out of it. The kitchen dance party playlist wasn’t cutting it; I found the extra noise to be grating.

Be the thermostat, I reminded myself. Set the tone. Rise above. You’re the grown-up. Make it warm.

I dug out an old puzzle for Bee, did 20 jumping jacks for myself. Read Proverbs. Made a few silly faces for Scout, then a few more. In very little time, with very little effort, the energy of the room offered toddler smiles and baby giggles yet again.

Eventually, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, but it didn’t matter: the house was warm enough without it.

Tell me: what small steps are you exploring these days? I’d love to hear!



p.s. These are a series of small steps that will (hopefully) provide one giant leap to greater things. Not for mankind, but for me, and perhaps for you, which will always be good enough in my book. More to come.

  • After a couple disappointments I was feeling the same way this week, so yesterday I picked up the kids and asked “do you want to go on an adventure?”. Of course the answer was a resounding “yes!”. We rushed to the library and picked out a couple things before coming home and catching some outside time. Some days (or weeks or months) its more of a push to fight for joy and these have been my go to lately:
    -daily audio proverb podcast with Brian Hardin. Young house love has also lightened the mood
    -art workshops for kids book by Herve tullet, a fav. These are so fun when you can deal with a little mess!
    -calling someone close for a couple minutes of authentic chat
    -reminding myself that joy is a Person and spending time journaling and talking with Jesus
    -pulling out the rainy day box, which is a home for rotating toys and crafts. Kinetic sand never gets old

    • My three children are all in high school this year. My daughter will graduate in May. I’m soaking up every last minute of having all three of them at home. I’m practicing the art of presence always, but with them especially. Listening, tuning in fully. Looking into their eyes while they’re sharing. Just feeling the joys of being their mom. It’s a small step that I’m hoping will bank some solid memories I can lean on next fall.

      Thanks for your beautiful blog. Your words inspire.

  • Love this so much! I just heard a podcast by Tsh Oxenreider where she mentions just looking out the window for ten minutes a day. My views are a bit urban for relaxing, but I still notice the bricks across the street bleaching in the sun, the gulls swooping toward the river, and it’s calming in its own way. Real spring will come one of these days :)

  • Hi Erin,
    I loved this post! When you described your natural tendencies at the beginning, i.e. an observer and empath, I thought to myself, That’s me! Yet, as a mother of now grown sons, I did have to learn that God had given me the power, in fact, the directive, to set a tone of peace and warmth in our home…a place of safety and refuge from the storms of life that inevitably face our children as they grow up. So, thank you for this reminder. It holds true for me even now as sons come home to visit and I live life with my man. I’m a new follower of yours and loving your blog!

    • Oh Gracia, thank you — I couldn’t agree more, and yes, we all have far more power than we realize; we need only muster it!

  • Our lives went into an abrupt transition when my sister needed to move in with us at the beginning of March. To keep the story contained, it has been one of the hardest times of my life thus far; more ups and downs than I am used to. Days don’t seem to follow a routine because I don’t know what will be coming; nights have become sleepless with my anxiety coming back full force. In all of this, in being the empath I am and worrying about everyone else, I am forgetting about myself. My small steps have included doing ONE thing, no matter the size, that brings a bit of joy to my day. Putting focus on what used to be doesn’t help, nor does looking toward the future when we are back into our home, into our routine. In the now, it is taking the small steps to tidy our home and make sure I listen to music to let myself feel again. And when it comes to dealing with family, my small steps are to think before reacting, think before responding. Your posts, here and on IG, are helping me so much. Thank you <3

  • Be able to say “I’m having a rough day” – that usually takes the pressure off, when I take it out of hiding and give it some light. Spread love all around even when you’re not really feeling it. Breathe. And again. One more time. In the case of littles, do the silliest thing you can think of, tell the silliest joke, make the silliest sandwich, and you’ll both benefit. xoxo

  • I love this. Thank you. I am an empath and observer as well. I’ve found that in my home (I’m a single mom of a 5 y/o daughter) that when I’m feeling sour, it’s 90% of the time because I’ve forgotten to take care of myself. The needs of my daughter, my job, my schooling, my family and friends all come before me and I feel emptied. If I recognize that, I can remedy it by going for a quiet walk, taking a bath (even a quick one), or anything that reminds me that I love and care for myself too. Often those reminders come in all kinds of activities (sometimes, even just a few moments of my eyes closed, deep breathing, and mustering up some love and appreciation for myself).

  • So insightful, such a wonderful (and much needed) reminder in the day to day of parenthood. Thank you for sharing!

  • Love this! The biggest, small step that I started taking years ago was to simply declare my emotional state. Typically I would describe myself self as feeling like a happy-go-lucky, laid back, buoyant individual, but sometimes I’m not, and that’s ok–so I declare myself as such. It’s not like it’s the first words out of my mouth, but if it comes up I let it out. My husband will say, “how are you this morning?” and I’ll say “I feel grumpy.” Or a co-worker will ask me to join in an office get together in the break room and I’ll say, “Thanks, but I feel anti-social right now.” It’s not a permanent new state of being, it’s a mood of moment and somehow being honest about it out loud not only gives me space to get over it faster, but gives others around me space too. My husband is a very perceptive man, he usually picks up on my moods, but nobody’s a mind reader so I feel like I save everyone, including myself, if I just put it all simply on the table.

    • I love this, Christine! Once we’ve identified our emotions, it’s so hard not to let those emotions dictate your day, isn’t it? I’m working on that step, currently. ;)

  • I love this! I’m not sure why–at thirty-something–I’m still busy learning this, but it’s so true! We have the ability to make our husbands’, our children’s, our friends’ so much better. What a great analogy and encouragement!

    • yes! it feels like such an obvious lesson, but has been a really beautiful piece of learning for me. :)

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  • Thank you! I really needed to read this as we have had many days where the household is glum and no-one trying to make it different or better. I am also practicing being present which fulfills me more than anything else. Again, thank you for this post! I think a book no.2 could be in the works, yes??!!


  • the very loooong winter season in New England is tough on a girl’s well being. I’ve been listening to a light classical mix on Spotify, especially in the early morning when the news, even NPR, just feels way too heavy on my heart. And, checking the forecast and praying for some SUNSHINE! Spring shall arrive soon. and, then SUMMER — my favorite season. And, that is what I choose to focus on. We are simply in a “season” and it shall pass soon.

  • Noticing that if I am not in a good place, it is hard to warm the room. A quote caught my eye the other day and instead of inspiring me, it overwhelmed me. (“Do Something Amazing Today”). The overwhelm told me I was in desperate need of a tune up so I could warm the room for my 4 boys and hubby Thanks for lifegiving reminders Erin.

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