Everyone has choices. Everyone makes decisions. Some are good, some are bad, some are boring, some are exciting; some are not the choices we want to make so much as those we need to make for the greater good.

Let’s take a moment to flashback to this past weekend. My husband and I made a choice to book a last-minute weekend at a hotel in Helen, Georgia. We knew the snow was coming, and we wanted to take our children. They’ve never experienced snow falling from the sky. It’s magic. They’ve been in snow. They’ve built snowmen. They’ve gone tubing. They’ve had snowball fights and made snow angels and had feet and feet of beautiful, fresh white powder in which to play – but we miss the snow falling by a day every single time we head to the mountains. When I lived in Northern California as a teen, we spent many weekends in Lake Tahoe, snow falling, playing, having the best time, and those memories are some of my favorites. Craig and I – pre-wtf happened to this world – spent his birthday weekend in New York City every year for well over a decade, and it never failed we’d have fresh snow falling on us. Magic.

The kids should experience that, so we booked a last-minute trip. Sadly, we were faced with a last-minute choice when the winter storm watch was upgraded (can we just call it the downgrade that it is, please?) to an ice storm warning. “Travel will be impossible, and is strongly discouraged,” “If you must be on the roads, be prepared with warm clothes, blankets, water, food, flashlights, and a charged phone as well as a full tank of gas,” “Black ice,” “up to an inch of ice accumulation,” but the real kicker came when our hotel called to tell us their plan for ‘when the power goes out,’ and to explain that we may need to add an additional night or two to our reservation to ensure we can safely leave as the mountain roads are too dangerous to travel and will likely be closed – oh, and most of the stores, restaurants, and shops will also be closed because traveling to work is out of the question with ice.

We would make it there in plenty of time to avoid the bad weather and still have some time to explore the city and have fun. We’d make it home safely, but when? Monday? Tuesday? Wednesday? There was no telling, and few things in life sound as miserable as being stranded in an unfamiliar town with no power, four kids, nothing open, and no way out. My husband is fine driving in the snow, but he expressed he is more than a little uncomfortable navigating ice – even in my brand-new, extra-long, 4-wheel drive SUV.

We had a choice – and it was not an easy one. We could go and literally go with the flow and make ourselves feel uncomfortable and even a little unsafe, or we could cancel and break our kids’ hearts. Ultimately, we knew exactly which choice we needed to make – and that choice was to stay home.

Each day, we are faced with choices from the moment we open our eyes until the moment they shut again each night. At the end of the day, I like to think that the vast majority of my own choices were good ones.

  • Good for me because without taking care of myself, I can’t properly take care of my family
  • Good for my husband because our marriage is the example we set for our kids and their own future marriages…and because I love him
  • Good for our kids because our choices today are the details that shape, educate, and mold our children’s futures

I woke up on New Year’s Day and realized I can officially say I turn 40 next year. At my age (38), I’ve learned a lot, I still have a lot to learn, and I will continue to seek every possible chance to learn – because no one is their best self if they’re not always learning. I can’t tell you what is right for you, but I can share the choices I make every day that never fail me. That said, here are five choices you’ll make before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee that will tremendously change the course of your day and even your life.

Choose to get up early

There are days I hit snooze. There are days I sleep in. Those are the days I inevitably feel rushed, unprepared, behind, and overwhelmed. My day starts in a haze of rushed panic, and I don’t get those precious few moments of time to myself to journal and to enjoy the quiet. Getting up with the alarm – set earlier than you might need to get up – is the single best choice you’ll make to set the entire tone for your day. Get up. It’s worthwhile.

Choose to listen to your body

Your body is always telling you something. That amazing feeling of good ‘sore’ you get after a great workout? That pain is telling you that your muscles are working hard and becoming stronger. The lower back pain you feel suddenly out of nowhere? It might be time for your monthly visitor to make her unwelcome/welcome appearance for 3-5 days. Your body tells you what it needs, you need only listen. If you choose to listen to your body, you can prevent so many things from going wrong – like every year in January when I choose to make no plans, to leave the calendar open for last-minute plans and spur of the moment enjoyment rather than pre-planned everything. It’s because my body tells me in December it is run down. It’s tired. It’s overwhelmed, and it’s been too many months of nonstop going and going and going with the kids and holidays and activities – and my body is warning me to slow down before I end up sick. Choose to listen to your body, and choose to make the decisions that are best for you and your own health. Cancel your evening plans in favor of a night in. Schedule a day on your calendar to do absolutely nothing. Do what your body is telling you to do – but learn to listen to your body. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Choose your spouse

Let me say this in case you need to hear this – your spouse is the single most important person in your life. Choose him/her. You chose this person to spend the rest of your life with. Choose to continue to date them. Choose to continue to act as if you are still in the beginning days of your relationship even after 20 years. Choose to care for one another, to spend that quality time together, to be a team. Choose one another. Why? Because your marriage is important. It’s important to both of you, but it’s also important to your children. If you are unhappy in your marriage, how do you think your kids feel?

If you don’t make the choice to put one another first and to choose a happy marriage, you’re modeling a poor example for your kids. Not only do they likely struggle with their feelings about an unhappy/sad/unhealthy/mediocre/distant/indifferent marriage right now as kids who worry, but those are the habits they’ll take into their own marriage. Each day, ask yourself what kind of example you’d like to set for your kids as a couple – and choose one another. It’s the greatest gift you’ll give your kids; a happy home. Our kids see a mommy and daddy who go to bed together every night, who cuddle on the couch during movies/shows, who freely kiss and laugh together, who get away for a quick night, who date one another, who are a team when a tough decision has to be made (see: a canceled trip to the mountains), who will shit talk one another to the grave during an intense Mario Kart battle, who will argue about daddy’s grandmother driving but also laugh about it, and who are a team, and who always apologize to one another when wrong or short and snippy (yes, I’m the one apologizing for being short and snippy most of the time. Craig’s an angel with more patience than everyone I know combined). The point, though, is that we choose to put one another first, and that choice has a ripple effect down the line. Our kids are happier and more confident for it, and they’ll one day choose like partners who exhibit the same qualities – and we will never worry.

Choose to be happy

Some people make it seem difficult, but it’s not. Choosing happiness is as simple as remembering to be grateful for the many things you have in life. I choose to do this by getting up and writing in a gratitude journal. I write down what I’m thankful for. It’s always my husband and kids, our friends and family, our beautiful home and life, and some days it’s coffee or the fact that the kids are in school or that I made it through Publix without running into anyone I know. The days differ, but the things that I’m most grateful for remain the same – but it’s always fun to see what I’m grateful for outside the box each day. That few minutes each morning of looking at what’s so good in life automates happiness. It makes the inconvenient, annoying, stupid things seem less, and it makes the simple things seem larger.

Choose to react

Every reaction is a choice. When you choose to react appropriately, it changes the game. I’m learning this one…slowly. I’m not always the best when it comes to my reaction. I’m what you might call a passionate person who tends to react first…and then I hear my words. It’s not always pleasant, but I’m working on it. I’m working on not reacting negatively – or even react at all – right away. I’m working (hard) on thinking first and then deciding how to react and if a reaction is necessary. So far, I’m doing well. We are nearly 3 weeks into the new year, and I’ve only reacted negatively twice when reactive Tiffany could have done that in a matter of one trip to Publix any given day. Reaction is a choice, and I’m learning it’s a powerful choice.

***Bonus choice: Choose the simple things

There has never been a time in my life when choosing something as simple as a family dinner out or a family movie night, or a game night, or a heated family Mario Kart race on the Switch kind of night has ever been the wrong choice. The simple things? Those things you don’t think about like staying home or playing a game or being a kid with the kids – those things are never going to be the wrong choice. Everything else can wait. You only get these simple moments with your family for so long before your kids are adults and have lives of their own. This season? The season in which they are still yours to keep? This is the season when the simple things are the biggest things – which is why even when we choose to forgo a trip to the snow for safety purposes, we still have the most fun on a family date day at the movies and at home playing games and spending time together. Those are little moments. But, little moments are what turn into the biggest memories. Choose those things. Everything else? It can wait.

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