good life with melanie burk
Part of cultivating a good life is creating small, meaningful traditions and habits of joy.
I have found that it is these traditions and habits that add a rich layer of happiness and fullness to my life, as well as creating lasting and beautiful memories for me and my family.
Growing up, my mother was wonderful at creating happy and delightful little traditions for me and my siblings. A weekly beach day during the summer, regular outings to museums, tea parties outside underneath the lemon trees, surprise water balloon fights with my father as he arrived home from work—I could go on and on. My mother was fantastic at creating little traditions and joyous habits in our family that instilled both hard work and finding moments of joy and play in every day.
I don’t think I realized how much my mother planned and created these traditions and habits until I had grown up and had a family of my own. I think it really became apparent to me when I had two little girls—a three year old and a one year old–and we moved to a new city, far away from any family and any friends. My husband was gone the majority of the time. He was a med student and had to spend most of his time in clinicals or studying. I found myself at home, unaware of what to do in this strange new place with these two little girls who had such different personalities and needed more attention than I seemed able to give them.
As I racked my brain and we struggled through the first few weeks, it dawned on me—I needed daily and weekly habits and traditions of things we could all look forward to! It didn’t have to be big, but it had to be things we could all enjoy. We started off with a daily tradition of making letters and words out of food and items around the house. We called it unexpected type and it was something we looked forward to every day. It was simple, inexpensive, and it became a habit of joy for us—something we still occasionally do to this day! After we got that habit down, then we started creating other habits and traditions—weekly outings to the lake where we collected rocks, fed the fish, and occasionally watched the moon rise at sunset. We started visiting neighbors who lived on our street–elderly widows who looked forward to hugging my little girls and enjoyed their little art projects and doodles.
Through all of these little habits and traditions that we created, I made sure of two things—one, that it wasn’t focused on spending money or something that was difficult to do regularly, and secondly, that it was realistic of our time and ability and effort. As we created a routine of outings and habits, my girls and I really began to thrive. Looking back, my most happy memories from that time were from moments that I created by seeking to establish a tradition and fun habit for my girls.
As the years have passed, we have adapted and changed out family traditions and habits, depending on needs, time, school, etc. One of our favorite traditions we created this past summer was a weekly “special day.” One day a week, we would call it “volcano day” or “dinosaur day” or “space day.” I let my kids pick whatever they wanted to study/celebrate that particular week. It sounds fancy but was really quite simple. It just meant a themed day of crafts, foods, and books. So for example, on volcano day, we read books about how volcanoes worked, we made our own volcano in the backyard that foamed (a little bit of googling comes up with the best ideas!), and made our own volcano art. (They blew paint out of straws to make lifelike lava.) I loved these special days because we stayed at home, I never spent any extra money, and we all looked forward to learning and playing more together. It created my most favorite memories from the past summer. My kids already have a list of “special days” for our upcoming summer!
As I reflect on why this is so important to me, I realize it is two-fold. First, working to create traditions and habits of joy ensures that I am stopping to play on a regular basis. I think life passes so quickly and so fast. It is so easy to work and work and shuttle our children from here to there for school and practice. Creating special, regular traditions allows us to enjoy them now and helps us create memories that are meaningful and lasting. Secondly, creating small traditions of joy keeps me grounded in my priorities and how I use my time. These little “habits” of making Sunday muffins with my girls and our weekly “art lessons” and “tea parties” are just as easy for me to avoid and rush by. But my kids hold me to it. Doing these weekly things—that have become habits for my children–help me to realize what my priorities are, and I set aside this time to have fun with them. It holds me accountable and keeps me doing what I feel is most important: being present with my kids.
One of my favorite quotes by Marjorie Hinckley sums it all up: “Whenever possible, say yes; they are only kids once!” These little traditions and habits of joy keep me saying yes to that which is most important—spending time with my family.
note from becky
In case you don’t know Melanie yet, you should. I have met few people who have a heart as golden as hers. I’ve been a little familiar with Melanie through Instagram and common friends, but when I really got to know her is when she was orchestrating a unique and faith-based event for just a handful of women this past fall. She invited me to attend and speak and it was through a couple phone calls that I became incredibly impressed with her. And then… to actually meet her in person and study her demeanor and have a more clear sense of who she is? Well, shoot. Why can’t we be neighbors? I love this woman and am so grateful for all the good she is and all the good she does. It is my honor to call her my real-life friend.