The Best Moment of My Day

By Posted in - General on May 14th, 2013 42 Comments

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Working from home is wonderful in many ways, but it does means there’s no commute at the end of the day to let the mind unwind, and no external signal to move me from work mode to non-work mode. I’ve learned the hard way that I need both of those things—a way to create mental if not physical distance from my work, and a way to nudge myself from work time to family time. I’ve had to create my own ritual, essentially, to mark the end of the work day and the beginning of the family evening.

This is what I do: I close my laptop, and I go to the kitchen, the place that repairs me, that allows my mind to loosen and my heart to soften, the place where smells and sounds and flavors replace ideas and deadlines and tasks.

The first step, always: set out the knife and the cutting board. I can feel my stress level sinking already, my shoulders climbing down from my neck little by little. I pull the ingredients from the refrigerator, the pantry. Onions from the bowl on the counter, olive oil and vinegar from the basket near the stove. I may have a vinegar problem, by the way: I cannot stop myself from buying a new kind every time I’m at the store–balsamic and white balsamic, sherry, champagne, red wine.

A swirl of oil into a pan, and while it begins to shimmer and thin, a quick rough chop of an onion, the first step of almost everything.  Before I know what’s for dinner, almost every night, I begin by softening an onion and then shaking together a vinaigrette. Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper shaken together in a pickle jar. I unscrew the lid and run my finger through the liquid on the lid and lick it—more salt? More vinegar?  A few glugs of oil and another shake.

By the time the onion is on its way and the vinaigrette is made, I can feel the tension of the day unwinding, slipping off my shoulders. The kitchen is my space, the place where there are no deadlines or reviews, no demands, no hustle.

Whatever comes next—peeling sweet potatoes or slicing chicken sausages, tossing greens or roasting broccoli—these moments are some of the sweetest of my day, moments that are about texture and heat, knife and aroma.

I call the boys in—it’s their job to clear off the table. Inevitably, the table is completely covered with pictures they’ve been drawing, Batman guys, markers and headphones and laptops. Cups of cold coffee, half-drunk water glasses, unopened mail. But just before dinner, for a few minutes, the table is cleared. And it is beautiful.

I deal out plates, wipe down the high chair tray, make stacks of forks and napkins, fill water and wine glasses. The boys are 18 months and six, so let’s be clear that we’re not dining together for hours. There is no long and luxurious conversation. We pray together, we talk about our days. It takes about fifteen minutes, and usually someone spills and sometimes someone cries.

And let’s be clear that we’re not having filet mignon or vegetables I grew in our garden, although that would be nice. Let’s also be clear that I don’t have a garden. We’re having salad or soup, tacos or rice bowls.

When the meal is over, the bedtime dance begins—pajamas and books, rocking and reading. And then the house is quiet.  A few hours later we begin again another day. And all day long, I look forward to that one beautiful moment, when I close the laptop, and set out my cutting board and knife. The best moment of my day.

We’ve been told that productivity is all, that rushing is an imperative, that going and doing and pushing define us. But those things aren’t true. God made a world of extraordinary beauty, and sometimes the most productive, most important thing we can do is slow ourselves down enough to see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, enter into it. When I stand before the cutting board, knife in hand, it’s just another way, really, of praying.

What’s the best moment of your day?

What are your meaningful daily rituals or routines?

How do you do mark the switch from work time to non-work time?

 

(42) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Debby - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Out of your mouth from my heart…..this posting describes me in so many ways. I am an at-home mom, raised 4 children and my favorite time was always preparing dinner. Yes, clearing the table to set it…the kids helping. Something about creating a meal for those I love most gave me such peace and feelings of well-being. I miss that now that they are grown and with schedules, work, etc. we don’t always find ourselves around the same table. I still prepare the “made with love” meals, but miss the activity it took to get it to the table and the moments we shared around that sacred place. Your posting made me nostalgic but grateful for the incredible memories. And you said it so well.

    • Heidi - Reply

      May 29, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Ditto all you said in your comment on this post. To re-kindle some of the best time ever spent, we’ve recently started Family Dinner Night- every other week all 3 of our kids and their significant others gather around our table. I cook. It is wonderful and won’t be possible for long. One family is preparing to move across the country. So I am treasuring up every minute.

  • Abi - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Every night during dinner each of us takes a turn sharing something for which we are thankful. We have young children and hope to encourage them in a posture of gratitude, but so often this time is such a helpful reminder for my husband and me. Each day brings new thoughts, and this just may be my favorite moment of the day.

  • Amy - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I hope you know how blessed you are that you enjoy cooking and it brings you relief at the end of your work day. The exact opposite happens for me. My shoulders tense up, my stomach churns in knots and my heart rate accelerates. My husband is a great cook, but I am the one who stays home and so I take on the task. It seems that when it is time to prepare dinner that my kids become the neediest, although it is better now that they are older.

    I find relief when I sit down to write. At that moment I feel like I am where I belong.

  • Katie Bright - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 10:55 am

    I so resonate with this, thanks for sharing. My meals usually start the same way–a knife, a cutting board, and an onion, and there is something deeply spiritual about the routine of making order after a chaotic day and serving those I love. After a tough day when things seem impossible, I get to that cutting board and think, Ah, now this I can do! Xo, Katie

  • Holly - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I love our evening ritual of everyone seated at the dinner table….with a 9 year old and a 19 year old, our conversations range from The Biebs to “you must have a job this summer before you consider purchasing a ticket to Lollapalooza”. We talk about the power of words -it seems as though we all communicate electronically and there are times when inappropriate words are conveyed on the receiving end as well as by my favorite little people. I hope that these conversations stay with them when their heads hit the pillow to encourage a better day tomorrow. In the chaotic frenzy of my day, my favorite time is when I hit that pillow and can digest the day and pray for another tomorrow.

  • Katie Blackburn - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 11:27 am

    The best moment of my day is getting my five month old daughter out of bed. She always wakes up happy, and we she sees me standing above her crib she flashed a tired smile and bangs her legs on the mattress once or twice. It’s a perfect moment.

    And within about 2 minutes she’s whining for food, so it’s also short lived :) But just for a second, it’s perfect.

  • cara - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Shauna, your book inspired me to live in the kitchen a little less rigidly. I’ve begun to give myself permission to experiment, which is such a big deal because I still sometimes believe that I don’t know what I’m doing, and that I’m therefore inadequate. Now really. So instead, I start with what I know and with what my tastebuds feel is right, and get so, so excited, when, upon the meal’s completion, Honey says YES, put that on the repertoire list, and I have to respond, Love, I made it up – it’s a Christmas miracle! (And really, we may never see its goodness again).

  • Danielle - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I’m a lucky woman. My husband and I share the same passion and find the same peace in our nightly cooking. I sometimes wish I had the solitude I used to have in cooking alone, but generally it gives us time to laugh and unwind together!

  • Katie Deitrich - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I love the single line of, “usually someone spills and sometimes someone cries.” that made it for me. It is still a sacred ceremony, family food. Another way of praying indeed.

  • Lacy Ellman - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this, Shauna – especially your words about productivity – “God made a world of extraordinary beauty, and sometimes the most productive, most important thing we can do is slow ourselves down enough to see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, enter into it.”

    I’m in the midst of developing my own career and am working from home, and have struggled with shutting things off and closing the door when the evening comes. Oftentimes, even if I’ve finished all I need to do, I feel guilty if I’m not working normal hours. Today I took time off of work to volunteer at a CSA and it was amazing. I hope that as I continue to work from home and develop my career, my definition of “productivity” changes from being a workhorse to simply being present, especially when the day is done.

  • Kathryn - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Lovely thoughts. This unwinding is so important yet so devalued… I can’t think of a more beautiful moment than feeding and enjoying family.

    The most beautiful moment of my day is in the early morning – reading, coffee, and prayer. Although I’m sure once babies come I’ll have to find a different favorite moment! ;) Thank you for sharing.

  • Carlinne@ Cook with 2 Chicks - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I love everything about this post. Your description of beginning to cook dinner is perfect.

  • Lisa Jacobson - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Your description made me smile. I know it all so well. Could picture it easily.

    The best moment of my day is probably our coffee time early n the morning where we gather as a family. All who are older than 12 get to sip together and we chat about our thoughts and plans for the day. As for “transition” time ? As unromantic as it sounds , I tend to use sorting through the laundry room . I might need to change that…

  • Katie - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    okay, random question!! i looked online and your newest book, “Bread and Wine” is less than $4 for a kindle!! Is this a quick deal that will soon be over? I would love to buy and read your newest book and this would be a big incentive for me to BUY a kindle! Thanks!

  • Shauna Leland - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Hi Shauna! Love this post (and that we share our name too!).

    One thing I’ve been doing at the end of my day in order to try & be more observant is to go through the 5 senses in my head & reflect back on something pleasant that I’ve seen, smelt, tasted, etc. thoughtout the day.

    Today for example I loved smelling the jasmine flowers that have bloomed outside my front door. The best thing I saw today was the look on one of my student’s face as she discovered something new. The best thing I felt was my puppy’s soft fur as he sat obediently on my lap as we waited for him to get a vaccination at the vet.

    I’ve been discovering so much renewing beauty in this season of life as I use all the senses God gave me to further connect with His world.

  • kara - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    amen. i had begun to wonder if it was strange that i looked forward to that same moment in my day, every day, so much. dinner time is sacred. thank you.

  • Ellen Billard - Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Thanks for this fresh perspective on preparing the evening meal, Shauna. I’m currently living overseas (in a country that doesn’t really “do” ovens), so as I close my own laptop from a day’s work and migrate into the kitchen, I find it actually stresses me out even more as I am now presented with new challenges I don’t face back home … like how to disinfect the vegetables so they don’t make us sick, what to cook without the use of an oven, etc. So unfortunately for me, cooking itself is not my way of unwinding at the moment. But your post reminds me that at one time, it was relaxing and enjoyable for me, and that one day, not too long from now, it will be again!

  • Suzanne - Reply

    May 15, 2013 at 1:52 am

    What a beautiful reminder of how to keep things simple. There is beauty in simplicity. Over-complicating and rushing/pushing squeezes it out. Thank you.

  • Liz Naithani - Reply

    May 15, 2013 at 2:53 am

    … beautiful, Shauna.

    For many years during my graduate studies and working years as a translator from home that was me, plus a glass of white wine and jazz music (ideally Stan Getz). It was a way to fully be in the “here and now”. Like in prayer.

    Now I have a two-year-old and a four-month-old at home with me and the dinner prep time is my least favorite time of the day. It’s hectic and I’m constantly interrupted. But give me a few more years and I’ll return to my beloved long-established routine. I really miss it!

  • ky sandelin - Reply

    May 15, 2013 at 11:41 am

    the best moment of my day is ALWAYS the moment i head out of my home office to my barn…usually for an evening ride on one of my beloved horses…sometimes if i’m lucky and can get away early i can ride twice before i have to come in and make dinner which obviously i do not enjoy quite as much as you:) ! if no time or its too inclimate for a ride, then some quiet grooming with music on and listening to the rain fall on the tin roof. my heaven!!

  • Cara Bruinius - Reply

    May 16, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Thank you for sharing this. As a homeschooling mom, the idea of switching “hats”, moving from teacher to mom..powerful. Beginning and ending my day with this idea…transformational. Thank you so much.

  • Kelly @ Love Well - Reply

    May 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    (Maybe I shouldn’t enable your addiction, but have you tried Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Vinegar in a dressing? OHMYWORD.)

  • Kelli - Reply

    May 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Oh what sweet words. I too often use the cooking dinner time to multi-task a million other things, which is probably why my cooking sucks most nights. I’m the pre-dawn early morning sacred coffee time person…by dinner I’m mush. You’ve inspired me to use the time cooking dinner to shut down the day and draw close to those I love. Good, good stuff.

    • Marcy - Reply

      May 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Kelli – I too love my sacred morning coffee and am done by dinner. My jaw clenched up just reading about dinner prep. I’ve got to find a way to add a side of peaceful to dinner !

  • Susan Leinen - Reply

    May 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks so much for your post. I also work from home and struggle to disconnect from my keyboard and have an actual evening, I’ve been praying that The Lord would help me to set proper limits and use all of my time for Him, including chores, rest, and time with my family. Perhaps I need a physical and mental “commute” to help me break away.

  • anne taylor - Reply

    May 16, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Such an incredible post, Shauna! Your words captivate me in the best way. Thanks so much for sharing them with us.

  • Margaret - Reply

    May 16, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    I enjoyed your sharing. Even when it is a fantasy for me. Here, it’s more of the kids are neediest at dinner time. There are moments when mealtime is the gift of love it deserves to be, but not every day. Now I will wonder, what is that moment for me?

  • Angela - Reply

    May 16, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    This is the first time that I’ve visited your blog and I love your writing. I could picture you standing there, happily cooking for your family. so beautiful!
    The best moments of my day are when I’m sitting on the couch, feeding my one month old and my older two snuggle in next to me. Like your moment, it’s short lived before someone gets up or the older two start pushing each other. But, for that moment, all three of my babies are there with me and it’s priceless.

  • Katie - Reply

    May 16, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Shauna N. & Shauna L.,
    “When the meal is over, the bedtime dance begins – pajamas and books, rocking and reading.”
    What dear memories this recalled for me from when my children were young. Oh, the sweet smell and feel of a just- bathed little person on my lap eager for a story!
    “…at the end of my day, in order to be more observant, is to go through the 5 senses in my head and reflect back on something pleasant that I’ve seen, smelt, tasted…”
    Similarly, I list in my gratitude journal at the end of my day (now that I’m just tucking myself in) the sights, sounds, textures, tastes, talks, hugs, texts… from my day. Oh, LORD Jesus thank you for life abundant!!! (John 10:10)
    Katie Spivey Brewster

  • Susan G. - Reply

    May 17, 2013 at 1:16 am

    I believe we are long-lost cousins. :) I think I have vinegar coursing through my veins…I get giddy just smelling the stuff! I love pouring over recipes and recipe books…and sometimes I even make the foods…
    Love this!

  • Deborah W - Reply

    May 17, 2013 at 8:07 am

    I want to Thank Ann Voskamp for passing you my way this a.m. so many smiles remembering tables covered w children’s items. Cherish these times all you mommy’s they slip by ever so fast.. thanks for blogging…

  • Keri Misawa - Reply

    May 17, 2013 at 9:04 am

    I’m going to think about this, the best moment of my day . . . thank you for this!

  • Ronda Cowen - Reply

    May 17, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Your post really spoke to my heart. In the last year, I have left a thriving business to take on the daunting task of being a pastor’s wife, a youth pastor and a true, stay-at-home mom (although, I don’t seem to be home much). I love to cook, but baking makes me unwind. Especially making bread! I love the whole process. From the first unmistakable whiff of the yeast to the special bread knife, gliding through the warm bread, releasing a sigh of steam, that in turn releases the tension from my mind. I do not bake enough bread, as I often get caught up in the “going and doing and pushing” of my life but, your post has inspired me to place it in a higher priority category.
    Also, I rarely buy books for my Kindle, I almost ALWAYS get them free but your writing speaks to me so I must buy your book, “Bread and Wine.”

  • Becky - Reply

    May 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I have struggled all my life with “being productive”, this was rewarded and not producing was not rewarded, even as a child by parents. Now I am retired . . . recently I realized I am struggling with being “unproductive” even though I am busy. Thanks for these words. They actually spoke to my heart about looking at my days, my productivity, and my just being.

  • Stephanie - Reply

    May 17, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    You are so good at reminding me why it’s worth it to make family dinner happen! And I do love those dinner table moments, but my favorite comes a little later in the day . . .
    http://www.insignificantdetail.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-best-moment-of-my-day.html

  • Nancy Sturm - Reply

    May 18, 2013 at 7:42 am

    I have to admit, working in the kitchen is NOT my favorite time of day. Nevertheless, I enjoyed your post. The best time for me to relax is with a good book, most often fiction. Thanks for sharing your talent.

  • Brenda Davis - Reply

    May 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I loved your post. I enjoy my Bible reading & praying outside on my porch swing. I eventually want to get a picnic table and plant a tree next to it.

  • Shauna Viele - Reply

    May 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I wish I felt the same way about my kitchen. Even days off, it’s the last place I want to be.

    There are many favorite little moments…but my most favorite is what we refer to as “downloading”: we are gathered around the dinner table, and then our daughters talk about their day or whatever is on their mind. It’s like food is the key that unlocks their hearts and minds. Crazy as our schedules may be, even if we’re at a fast food place, we still try to eat as a family.

  • Summer Gross - Reply

    May 19, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Early in the morning I pull on tennis shoes, (I often sleep in warm up clothes) drowsily walk down the front steps of my yellow cottage and then head West, jogging toward Lake Michigan. Along the way, I brush past the lilac bushes planted outside the century old cottages, past the lily of the valley clustered tight beside the sidewalk and then glimpse the open expanse of the lake and the red lighthouse at the end of the pier. I’m jogging. I can’t really think about anything but the blur of loveliness. A sacred beginning.

  • Carol Wright - Reply

    July 19, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Oh my word. I just downloaded your audiobook, Bread and Wine.

    One Word: LOVE!

    Your philosophy about food, family and faith soooo resonate with me. Honestly, I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am I found your book. Last night we made flatbread pizza as a family and the blueberry crisp. What a great family evening. My husband was traveling and returned home very late that night but so wanted the meal we had shared earlier. So he and I ate warmed up flatbread pizza and wine in our bed. ;)

    Good Stuff. Thanks Shauna. So glad I discovered you!

    Carol H. Wright

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