The Only Question I’m Asking Every Morning


I’m in the bathroom enjoying a moment of quiet. Sitting in silence, waiting for the water to get hot, and scrolling through Instagram, my new favorite hobby.

Continuing to travel along the edge of my New Year’s Resolution angst, instead of being inspired by my intentionally curated IG feed—I’m overwhelmed. There is a painful amount of beauty online. Beauty I’m not creating. Beauty I can’t be a part of right now.

I put the phone down and step into the screaming hot shower. I stand with slumped shoulders, silent and still.

Who are all those women? How are their walls so white and bare? (How old are they?) Where is all their STUFF? How do they ALL know how to photograph in natural light so well? 

The steam billows up to the ceiling like clouds against my blue (not white) bathroom walls. I close my eyes. I’m at the ocean. I inhale it’s salt and calm.

I’d stay here all day, but there are four kids now. I look around. Where is the soap?

Bare white walls and windows that face north mock me while I shake my head, grab the shampoo, and say to no one, “I just can’t.”

Can’t keep track. Can’t remember. Can’t do it. Can’t even put soap in the shower.


Looking back on last year is strange.

It was so simple: in light of the adoption costs, every dollar was intentionally spent. We said No to a lot. And to what we said Yes, meant a lot.

It was so full: we didn’t anticipate our adoption, start to finish, would take this one year. And I didn’t anticipate not going back to a nursing job. (And not working makes life full in different ways). I didn’t expect to have some medical writing work, nor to be asked to be a regular contributor of personal essays for Coffee+Crumbs.

2016 was a year for the (my) books.


I’m tired and unsure of when this feeling will end. I realize I might still be from the travel, the changes, the physical response to my low emotional reserves. Our days are simple and life is small, to give our daughter calm and predictability as so much of her life has changed in this last month. Yet I can’t help it: I feel bad. There is so much I can’t do right now. So much I want to do that has to wait.

I take a deep breath.

You’re right. You can’t. There is so much you can’t do—so what?

The hotter the shower, the better one thinks, did you know that?

So. What?

So, what are the things I can do?

If I look back a year from now, what is the bare minimum I’d want to do to make my year a “success”? 

The idea is freeing. Revolutionary to me with it’s simplicity.

Items tick off in my head and 15 bullet points make their way into my notebook when done with my shower.

Nothing fancy or sexy. Just what would make me feel good. Here are some:

the Measurable: write 12 essays, read 12 books (one a month sounds do-able, right? And I’ve already read two, so this is totally attainable. I can taste myself crossing this off the list).

the Practical: replace the broken lamp, ohmygooness BUY CURTAINS FOR THE BASEMENT AND YOUR BEDROOM ALREADY.

the Social/Emotional: prioritize date nights with Chris (which may, very likely, look like being at home on a Thursday night with take out and beer after the kids are in bed), call your friends.

the Intangible: be the mom you want to be to your kids (at least most of the time), Viv will be on her way to being settled into our family.

the Spiritual: pray. read. abide.


I woke up the next day with the same plan as we’ve had since we got home: stay home, play with Viv. Connect! Attach! Bond!

The HUGE list of what I want/need to be doing, that continues to grow, (Hi Family, I’ll call and catch you up on life asap, promise! I’ll have those pics from China labeled in the next few days, I’m sure of it. I don’t know why you have no clean pajamas, sorry kids!) hung over my head like a soggy storm cloud. I wish I could figure out how to get it all done.

But I can’t.

— So what? 

So. What…

What can I do, to make this day “successful”?

My long term keepitsimple year strategy turned into the perfect micromanagement tool for every single one of my days. I pick the thing(s) that annoys me most, the thing I’d stay up late to do, the thing (if I went to bed without it getting done) I’d think about wishing I did it.


Honestly, the other day, I just wanted to get the stupid laundry folded. If I get the laundry folded, this day will be “successful.” Some days, success looks like: Hang On Till Bedtime. (And bedtime has been a bit rough, so this is basically, Hold On!)

Today was successful because I made an appointment and didn’t yell at anyone.


It’s with this question, What can I do? that I’m able to easily distill what really needs doing each day.


Our life looks different than it did six weeks ago. It’s been a big change. A big adjustment we’re still walking through. (Kinda like having a new baby, interestingly enough.) Much of my time during the day is spent attending to our newest family member. Sometimes, there are big emotions to manage. Most of the time, I’m sitting on the floor playing. Both need to be done everyday.

Because in the end, it will make both our days, and our year, a success.


Sonya Spillmann


  1. Play. Attach. Bond.

    That’s a pretty substantial list right there. Talk about hard and holy work. You’re totally in it, and you’re totally rockin’ it. I can tell.

  2. I really love your one question. We’re getting ready to move and make a HUGE life change this year. Everything in our life is leaning towards that event and I keep getting overwhelmed.
    Your question is a good one for sanity. Thank you.

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