In my 40th year, I have discovered the joy of lists. I make them on my phone, on scraps of paper, in my sketchbook, and now, here on my blog. Here are ten small things making a big difference in my life right now. 

1. The Lazy Genius Podcast. A new discovery for me. The tagline was all I needed to be hooked: be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t. My priorities have been off lately; or, rather, non-existent. I’ve been putting as much effort into finding matching socks as I am developing new painting ideas. In fact, this podcast is the reason for this post at all. Host, Kendra Adachi, has a couple episodes I listened to recently where she lists ten things saving her life right now and encourages listeners to do the same. Voila. I’m doing it. It feels good to name what’s working.

2. 10 minute yoga. I have painfully tight hamstrings, love the idea of yoga, and almost never do it. Because I can’t fit it in. My cup already runneth over. But the past couple weeks, I’ve given myself permission to do it in smaller quantities and still say it counts. Ten minutes I can manage. Ten minutes for five days, and I’ve got more yoga miles logged than I normally do in a month. My current favorite is Yoga with Kassandra on youtube mostly because she has so many ten minute options. I can fit them in almost any time of day. My hamstrings are thanking me.

3. A reusable cup with a straw. I’ve been drinking water out of a large, fancy, expensive Yeti water bottle for a year or so now. It’s got a cap with a straw-like contraption that lifts up to drink, but it’s just not the same. Sometimes, I like to really guzzle. When I’ve got a straw, I drink more water. Just a fact. Getting a less expensive cup has upped my water game by 75% (just kidding, I have no idea by how much, but definitely a big increase). Hydration has made me feel better. My skin looks good. This cup is also smaller than the Yeti, and I like the feeling of drinking the whole thing first thing in the morning and filling it up again vs. less refills with the bigger one. Not sure what that says about me, but it’s working.

4. Heavy Duty Paint Tube Wringer like this one. GAME CHANGER. Not exaggerating. I know not everyone who reads this is an artist, but even if you are just a casual one, a dabbler, or a hobbyist, I cannot recommend this product enough! I’ve had a plastic, cheaper version of this for years– there is just no comparison. Upgrading to this bad boy has revolutionized my studio time. I can get all the paint out of the tube cleanly and easily. I’ve been working my way through the overwhelming pile of ⅔ empty tubes I’ve (probably for years now) just tossed aside in favor of a new tube to spare the hassle of fighting the last bits out.

5. Hugs. Both the boys who are still at home have begun to really like giving and getting them (don’t tell the little one that I’ve noticed it). I often just have to open my arms (with eye contact) and someone in my house is sure to fall into them. And hugs (caveat: with people I know very well) are my love language.

6. Reading on my porch. The weather in South Mississippi is currently perfect, and I expect it to be so for at least another 24 hours before the oppressive heat sets in. I have taken to reading on my porch couch as a prelude to short little live-changing naps. 

7. Gummy vitamins. For years I’ve invested in fancy vitamins packets I would, more often than not, forget to take. Because my youngest is obsessed with his gummy vitamins and asks daily, “can I have my vitamins now,” I decided to buy an adult version. I’ve not skipped a day since getting them. They are so good. I’ve noticed a big difference mostly in my fingernails which used to break often but now grow quickly and are far stronger. 

8. Sarah Ellen. She is my one, shining star of an employee. My company of 1 doubled in size– talk about growth! In the spirit of the lazy genius way, I’ve worked really hard on prioritizing the things that matter most to me (my paintings, this blog) and giving more of the other tasks to Sarah Ellen who, honestly, hits them out of the park. It tastes like liberation.

9. Poetry. Last month I was painting at a wedding in Audubon park which has some of the most magnificent oak trees. They never fail to mesmerize me. I was busy setting up, sketching, and fighting the wind, so I couldn’t just pull out my phone, but I found myself reaching for Mary Oliver’s Poem, “When I am among the Trees.” I didn’t actually know exactly how it went, and I didn’t have the free hands to look it up. So on my hour + drive home, I traded in my normal podcast routine for playing the poem being recited aloud on youtube over and over again until I’d memorized it. It took me the entire ride, but it was worth it. The very next time I had an outdoor wedding, I easily accessed the poem (from my brain). I’ve turned to it often since then. Because now I have it, cherish it, in a way I just couldn’t before I’d memorized it. Now I can, as Billy Collins says “walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch” whenever I like. 

I also recently discovered the New Yorker’s poetry podcast where host Kevin Young masterfully interviews contemporary poets who read a poem from another poet in the magazine’s archives and then read one of their own poems. These are refreshingly insightful but still very accessible discussions of beautiful poems.  If you like contemporary poetry, it’s a must listen.

10. Grocery Delivery. ‘Nuff said. 

That’s my list. If there were a theme, I’d say it’s something about guilt, and mostly purging it by focusing on what matters to me without apology.

Do you use any of these things or have something great you’ve recently discovered? What is saving your life right now? I would LOVE to know in the comments. 

Written by Denise Hopkins



  1. Anonymous

    Such a great piece!!! Hope things are good in your corner of the world!!!! xo

  2. Greg Molchan

    Great list! I had been having trouble with physical fitness and started breaking it up throughout the day. I couldn’t sustain an hour long work out, but I can do 10 minutes of abs, 10 minutes cardio, and 20 minutes of strength training, spread out from morning to evening.

    • Denise Hopkins

      I love that! Sometimes I set a timer and do 45 mins of painting then one set of some kind of weight training, rinse, repeat– gives me a break from the painting but doesn’t feel like a very big commitment.


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