Small Moments, Huge Joys

It seems that over the last year or two I’ve become more sensitive to stimuli around me. Or, maybe, I’m finally slowing down enough in life to take in the sights, sounds, smells and touches that I once barely noticed. And though life definitely feels slower than it did in the years I was building my career and taking care of a very young child, the stress and anxiety haven’t necessarily gone down proportionately. Raising a tween, I’m finding, is challenging me on new and more anxious levels. Our parents are getting older, and more frail. College and retirement are no longer so far that they’re out of sight. I’m being pushed into another life stage just when I was starting to get comfortable in my previous one.

I take the moments of tranquility whenever I can, and I’m grateful that I’m paying attention when they come to me. Sometimes I’ll seek these respites, like driving to a café or paying for a yoga class, but I love it when they come to me, out of the blue.

The following are some of the very ordinary sights and sounds in my days that lift me no matter how down I might feel:

1) The sound of our dishwasher

Hearing our dishwasher swish and shush is the first time in many years that I’ve noticed how comforted I can be by a sound. Since we don’t have a big family I do a lot of things by hand, from washing dishes to hanging laundry, but occasionally I’ll go all out and load the dishwasher. Pressing the “on” button is like hitting “launch” on my internal rocket to escape. Machine on, kitchen lights off, Cecilia out. The shooshing tells me that I’ve got the evening off.

2) The sound of Dr. Phil’s voice

I’ve recently begun hearing the muffled sounds of Dr. Phil’s voice from the television downstairs. As some of you know, Max and I own our own business and we work from home. I think to many friends we look like we’re never working, because we volunteer at Fred’s school or do Costco runs in the middle of the day. The truth is that the pressure of sustaining your own business is nerve-wracking, and while I will try to take one day off a week, Max is working whenever he can squeeze it in.

Even when he is watching Dr. Phil.

Max has only been in America for five years, and Dr. Phil is a fascinating piece of americana to him. I roll my eyes every time he tries to update me on the latest story of parent turning against child (or vice versa), but the truth is that I like it. The sound of Dr. Phil’s voice means that we’re in our off-season at work, Max is relaxed, and work is rolling along.

3) A memory of Fred being scolded 

Fred is part of his school’s taekwondo team, and he participates in a number of competitions and performances every year. Most recently he has been training intensively for the team’s second out-of-state competition. As a martial art, taekwondo is an exacting sport, and this is the one area in his life where he does not get a trophy just for showing up. During training his coach does not tolerate any goofing around or any slack in discipline.

Then one day, as all the members had to run to their respective positions, the coach bellowed, “FRED! WHAT IS THIS??!!” and proceeded to imitate Fred’s manner of “running,” a move that was more like a joyful hopping and skipping through a spring meadow. We all laughed in affection, because that’s pretty much Fred in a nutshell.


Fred marching in a martial arts parade at age 7

After all, this is the same kid who earlier this week replaced his white board to-do list of homework and chores with this:



How I birthed such a positive and happy child will remain a mystery for my lifetime. But anyway, he’s divided the white board into three sections, one for him, one for me, and one for Max. “Have you been epic today, Mommy? Did you feel epic?” He kneels before the 4 foot white board waiting for my answer. I hem and haw and “pretty good” is the best I can come up with. Epic, though, is now my goal. 😉

What ordinary moments make you feel extraordinary?

38 thoughts on “Small Moments, Huge Joys

    • He also had “Be Awesome” but it looks like he erased it. Maybe he was trying to consolidate! 😉 Ah, to have such freedom to feel so good…why not, right?

  1. I love Fred’s checklist. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow it. I, too, want t to strive to be epic every day of my life! I know what you mean about the dishwasher swooshes signaling you have the night off. For me, it’s when the kitchen lights go out. We spend so much time cooking and cleaning, when we finally turn off the kitchen lights, I know we’re ready to relax on the couch with our books and stories.

    • Absolutely, do borrow the list! 🙂 I can just imagine how good you feel when you turn the kitchen lights out – and on a satisfied and full stomach!

  2. Loving your post today – makes me think, ponder, smile 🙂 My Top 3 – #1 getting my exercise on at least twice a week, #2 taking time for myself (30 minutes in the AM & 30 minutes in the PM), and #3 reading and writing and photographing. Happy Thursday!

  3. I love Fred’s list. My daughter also uses “epic” as a part of her vocabulary. It made me chuckle the first time I heard it.

    I love how you are comforted by sounds. I am the same way. The sound of my coffee brewing, the whoosh noise of the air conditioner, and the thumps of my daughter’s feet are all part of my morning choir.

  4. Yes, the sound of a dishwasher is strangely relaxing! I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes the sound. Unfortunately, there’s no dishwasher in my apartment… but someday…

    I really like Fred’s whiteboard list. He seems to have a good handle on what’s important 🙂

  5. One of my daughters could not sleep until we turned on the dishwasher! Then we got one of those very silent ones and we had to get a white noise box to help her fall asleep.
    I do know about owning your own business and the worries…it is good to meditate to the dishwasher often, and be thankful you could purchase one!

    My last ‘tween was very “hyper active” and had Oppositional Defiant Disorder Now at 27 she is a good business woman and has a lovely boyfriend – soon to be partner – and I feel epic all the time – am an amazing or awesome parent – and I took care of my 94 year old mother 24/7 after she fractured her back during the same time…. I will never forget the exhaustion and worry and I have learned how to sing my self-support; the wisdom of this age.

    How lucky to be living with a positive, happy Fred….yes! EPIC is a great idea and describer

    And now I have time to read all the books I want! I have read 7 books in the last 7 days – that feels EPIC too…..I am loving Fred’s word and it makes me smile! Thank you for sharing

    • Patricia, I am loving your epic comment (and so sorry I am only catching up on my replies now)!!! You are truly amazing and we all need to recognize the beauty and strength in ourselves too. I will take your advice now, and Fred’s, and strive for epic AND recognize it at the same time.

      I hope all is well with your family…and congratulations to your daughter! 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Carolyn! He asked me the other day, “Do presidents have the power to make up words? Who makes up words? How can I make a new word? I want everyone to use ‘epic'” 😉

  6. Just reading about Fred makes me smile. I always think the only real thing I want for my kids is for them to be happy. It is too easy not to be in this world.

    My ‘epic’ ordinary moments:
    Sun shining through the windows of my house.
    Listening to the rain in bed at night.
    The sound of sleeping children.
    Everyone laughing (and getting along) at the supper table.
    Campfires crackling and loon cries from the lake when we are camping (coming soon!).

    Thanks for making me think about this. 🙂

    • Thanks, Naomi, and I love your list 🙂 It’s nice how everyone (I mean, those who commented here) is able to find the beauty and peace around them. I love that no matter how hard things might be, those small joys can be found, right there. And I agree there is nothing like hearing joy and peace at the supper table!!

  7. This is a delightful reminder to appreciate any of the simple moments that ease the anxiety of a crazy world.

    Fred’s manner of ‘running’ made me grin.

    My ordinary moments that console or unwind seem too few of late. Walking, but its dropped off the plate in recent weeks. Otherwise, my boys when they call or text just to say hello…

    • DA, I hope life has calmed down a bit since you wrote this comment. Some good tea, wine, and food? And more walks in warmer weather? I hope you’ve been well! xoxo

  8. There is so much I love about this! It is interesting how many of us are finally starting to embrace the ordinary as the exceptional moments in our lives. I love witnessing it in my own life and seeing how transformative it is for others, too!

    My ordinary moments are:
    My afternoon coffee during nap time
    Seeing the sunrise along the ocean during an early morning run
    Morning snuggles from my three year old
    Finding an unexpected perfect photo op

    • I love all those moments, Heidi! I felt the peace just reading your list. I hope you get to enjoy and experience this on a daily or almost daily basis! xo

  9. Cecilia, I love your small moments. I am comforted by sounds too; for me, it’s bird songs in the morning, my girls pleasantly working together in one corner, a train rumbling across town from a distance, the sizzling pan…

    As for the pressure of owning your own business, oh how I hear you. We’re buying a home now and because My Guy is relatively new at this, it’s hard to even secure a loan, and now that we have, we have to worry about keeping the pipeline flowing to afford this loan! But this freedom that comes with the risk? The ability to do mid-day chores and volunteer in the kids’ school? Totally worth it.

    And that list from Fred? Brilliant. We need that in our house, although I tend to agree, epic is not often what I go for. That’s more My Guy’s speed, but once in awhile, why not eh?

    • Oh Justine, we’ve been there…trying to buy a house and trying to convince banks to lend us the money. We can talk off-line about this…but it’ll all work out. Everything is twice as hard when you work for yourself – so much you have to prove, so much you have to pay yourself. Sometimes I groan about this, but in the end I just can’t trade my/our freedom for all the convenience in the world.

      Love your comforting sounds too. I also think there’s nothing more delicious than the sound of peace in our families. Here’s to striving for epic!

  10. Very evocative moments, Cecilia! I can just hear your sigh of contentment when that dishwasher starts 😉

    I love the smell of my dog’s paws (“rumours of travel” as Hana says in “The Engish Patient”). Last summer a friend introduced me to her favourite organic free trade 85% cocoa chocolate bars and her habit of having one tiny square every day. I’ve picked up the habit and it’s a favourite moment in my day. I love the sound of my daughters giggling behind a closed door. This isn’t an everyday occurrence so when it happens I stop and take note and it never fails to make me smile.

    Love your stories about Fred 🙂

    • Thank you, Lee-Anne! And your moments are precious. I also have my occasional secret stash of dark chocolate. And that’s adorable about your dog’s paws and the sound of your girls giggling. Sisterhood! I hope you have been well 🙂

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