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Morning Rituals

By Meagan Russell
In Center Block
Jan 1st, 2022


Article By Vanelis Rivera

Beatrice Tatem, owner of Wellness Initiatives, LLC and licensed professional counselor and counseling psychologist based in Monroe, Louisiana, informs, “The start of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day.” Though we tend to categorize ourselves as either early birds or night owls, Tatem notes that whenever you get the day started is the best time to establish healthy habits. “A routine tends to make people feel more in control,” she says, explaining that when we have a hand in what we can control, we are able to better manage our stress when the unexpected rears its impish head. Of course, at the beginning of the year, it’s easy to talk about the things we have to do like—exercise more, take on healthy habits, or release what didn’t work the past year. But, Tatem warns of the importance of being realistic and reasonable when goal-setting. “We should be patient with ourselves,” she says, pointing out that we are still adjusting after the socio-economic blow from COVID-19. For 2022, the best approach to any of your resolutions should be the mantra “progress over perfection.” With that in mind, and thanks to the advice from a few prominent community figures, here are some small but significant ways to rise and thrive in this new year.

But First, Coffee

The life of Monroe Mayor Friday Ellis has changed tremendously since he took office. As a business owner, he used to do everything for himself. Now, his staff  helps him schedule events and prioritize tasks. But, when it comes to his mornings, some things remain a constant. “First things first, a good cup of coffee,” he says as he runs through his usual morning. “I’m a bit of a coffee snob,” he laughs, listing his preferred homebrew methods: Chemex coffeemaker, Nespresso machine, Keurig, French press, and an Aeropress. “I still on occasion brew on my dad’s percolator,” he adds, calling it the “cowboy coffee” way. After he takes his three kids to their schools, which means three different drop-offs, he fills his morning with a second round of coffee while attending informal meetings. For the second cup, he likes to go local. At Standard Coffee, his usual is The Standard (espresso, milk, honey, and vanilla), and at Dreux Coffee, he’ll go for the Maverick (house-made brown sugar simple syrup, espresso, and steamed milk). 

Across the Lee Joyner Bridge, Adrienne LaFrance-Wells, Downtown Main Street Director at the city of West Monroe, also needs all the coffee she can get. She enjoys her first brew in the comfort of her couch in the morning. For a few minutes, she cozies up with her dog, an energizing cup of Joe, and listens to the local and national news while catching up on work-related tasks and reviewing her daily schedule. Once done, she’ll take her hubby breakfast and coffee, then she’s “off to the races.” Like Mayor Ellis, LaFrance-Wells also enjoys scheduling meetings at coffee shops. When she does, she doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of two of her Antique Alley favorites. At Seventh Square Coffee, she enjoys an Americano, while at Caster and Chicory, she’ll probably be spotted with a cafe au lait. 

Whether you’re at home brewing or opting for one of the area’s finely brewed concoctions, catching the pep to your step may only be a few coffee beans away. 

Touching Faith

Father, husband, pastor, and CEO at Key Marketing Solutions, LLC, DeRon Talley has a lot going on in the first three hours of his day. “A nice, warm shower. That’s always number one,” he says. Before dropping off his daughter at school, the pair stop at the Donut Palace so that she can pick out and pay for her own donut “to teach her how to buy things and have manners when ordering.” At her school’s drop-off, they recite the Lord’s Prayer, one of the most important things done together. “Every day has to start with the Lord,” he says. The next article on the agenda is his congregation of St Joseph’s Missionary Church. The rest of his morning consists of choosing scripture to reflect on for his daily-themed message: Motivational Monday, Tuesday’s Thoughts, Worship Wednesday, Thankful Thursday, Faithful Friday. For Talley, connecting to his faith in the morning becomes the compass of his day: “It opens up your heart.” 

Also seeking spiritual stillness in the morning is BayouIcon, Dianne Cage. “First thing I do when I wake up in the morning [is] I say my prayers and thank the Lord,” she says. She contemplates to further permeate a spirit of joy in her mornings. While stretching, she reflects on the “Lord’s beautiful world.” From the chirping of birds, her home-grown garden, the frantic squirrels outside her window, or even a cat running across her front yard, just tuning in to nature is fulfilling. “It don’t cost a lot of money,” she says. At 79 years old, she’s proud of every year, revealing, “I feel my age, but I feel good, and I like how I look.” With the wisdom of years, she’s able to embrace just how much of life is a gift and a miracle. Her morning contemplations further open her heart to this truth. 

Music Motivation

While coffee gets the body right and devotion gets the spirit ready, music gets the mind going. If you pass by Mayor Ellis’ office, you’re sure to hear some music. “And, I don’t play it softly,” he laughs. Lately, he has been digging Khruangbin, a psych-funk rock trio from Houston, Texas, but his “Funroe” playlist on Apple music has a little bit of everything: Charles Bradley, Leon Bridges, The Black Keys, and Sturgill Simpson. Even though the tunes are fun, Mayor Ellis does not take the gravity of his work lightly. “So much is at stake,” he says, adding, “What we are working toward is opportunities for families here.” Using everything he has to make that happen will, time and again, require some motivation. Torrents of rhythmic sound waves tapping through one’s headspace are a great call to attention.

Cage is also on the morning music train. “Pretty songs” by artists like Chet Atkins, Kristoffer Kristofferson, and Mickey Gilley often play while she organizes the house. Instrumentals also help her ease into the day, particularly anything by Henry Mancini. “What would we do without our music?” she asks, recognizing the intimate synchronicity between sound and spirit. 

The reality of mornings is that sometimes the best you can hope for is coffee and staying hydrated, as LaFrance-Wells notes. Nevertheless, setting the tone of the day can be in our control even with just minor additions, aiming to remind us that facing the day doesn’t have to be a hero’s journey of wellness. Sometimes, as long as we are weighing and measuring ourselves as contributing members of our community, as Mayor Ellis encourages his team to do, all we need to focus on is enhancing how we ease into our morning routines.