Thursday, April 21, 2022

Lenten Reflections


I decided that for Lent this year I would give up criticizing/judging others and that I would spend 15 minutes sitting 
silently (outwardly & inwardly) in God’s presence. 


The results were not what I anticipated.


I tend to judge other people, particularly in two respects. I know it’s wrong, but it’s become a knee-jerk reaction, and I thought I would fail miserably at not judging other people for 40 days. I was wrong.


Because I knew the “issues” (for want of better word) that most commonly cause me to judge, I was able to implement strategies that helped me be more aware of my reactions and not slip into judge-and-jury mode. Most importantly, before entering situations in which those issues typically occur, I physically paused and reminded myself to not only refrain from judging but to be accepting and loving instead. 


I also avoided situations that typically raise the Judge Judy in me and, when I had no other choice, made a point to not notice certain things.


And while I slipped occasionally, I was able to stop judging/criticizing other people almost entirely.


I failed miserably at sitting silently in God’s presence for 15 minutes every day. I didn’t even make it 10 days. My mind raced, I fell asleep (yes, I was sitting up in a chair with a low back, but I still nodded off), and I forgot — first one day, then another, and . . . 


My take-aways?

1. I can be less critical, less judgmental, and it’s worth the effort to continue being intentional in that regard. 

2. I do want to learn to sit in silence with God, but (for me, at least) 15 minutes was too ambitious of a start. I’m starting today with 3 minutes. Yes, that sounds so easy, but I’m telling you — it isn’t!


I’ve given up something for Lent for many years now, but I can honestly say my Lent 2022 preparation has been the most impactful. It was a time of reflection and of renewal as I prepared for the blessings and joy that Easter bring.


I hope that wherever and however you celebrated this year, you and your loved ones had a wonderful Easter!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Lessons Learned from a F*& Cat



I recently acquired a cat. Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (aka Barnaby) came to live with me several weeks ago after a brief sojourn at the local humane society. {By the way, Barnaby was previously known as Egypt, but really . . . Egypt? No way!}


He looked perfectly normal-sized to me (a life-long dog lover), but the ladies at the humane society referred to him as “large”. So when I took him to the vet for his "adoptee check-up" and Kelly, the delightful vet-tech, immediately commented on Barnaby’s size, I wasn’t completely surprised. But when he dropped the f-word a few times, I was a bit taken back. I mean, my cat may be a big guy, but fat


Kelly had me place Barnaby on the scale, where he dutifully sat just long enough for his weight to register on the screen. The number displayed meant nothing more than that number to me until Kelly put it into perspective. But perhaps after seeing my winces earlier, he didn’t drop the f-bomb again.


“Barnaby is . . . well, he’s plush. He’s not quite obese. But he’s . . . plush.” Barnaby wasn’t at all offended. He continued to nonchalantly gaze out the window from his seat atop a carpet-covered cat condo. I, on the other hand, was concerned. Plush-on-the-verge-of-obese isn’t healthy. Not for humans and not for animals. 


Kelly explained, and a few minutes later the vet confirmed, a few things about plush cats and we came up with an action plan. I think there are some important life lessons in this experience and in Barnaby’s action plan.


1. Words matter. Yes, the f-word may have been accurate, but plush is much less hurtful. Takeaway: I need to be more deliberate, more intentional, not only about what I say, but how I say it.


2. Knowledge is a good thing. Had I not taken Barnaby to the vet and learned about his plushness, its harmful consequences, and a plan for addressing it, he would likely have experienced serious health issues and, eventually, premature death. Takeaway: Educate myself on issues before taking action.


3. Shakespeare was at least sometimes right when he said (Romeo and Juliet), “Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.” Unlike dogs, in order for cats to lose weight safely, they must do it slowly. Slowly as in perhaps only 1 lb. a year!! Wow!! Takeaway: Don’t dilly-dally when faced with a task, but adopt a pace that allows for the job to be completed correctly and safely. 


But my biggest takeaway is the reminder that, like Barnaby, we’re all works in progress. It’s important when dealing with both ourselves and others that we balance accountability with grace & mercy.


[On a side note: as you consider the pictures included in this post, remember that everyone that has seen pictures of Barnaby and then seen him “in person” has commented on how the photos do not truly reflect his size. Time and again, people’s response to him is, “Wow, he’s a really big cat!” Some have even said, “He’s huge!”]





Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Them's the Breaks!

In my quest to find ways to build at least one break into my busy schedule, I first kept a 5-day log of the activities that fill the hours each day (What Have We Here?). Then I sat down, mug of hot tea and bullet journal at the ready, to analyze the results.


The log confirmed what I already knew:

1. I already take breaks on non-babysitting days (weekends and, now, Mondays & Wednesdays). 

2. Perhaps because I’m so busy on babysitting days, I tend to fritter away the days I don’t babysit. I get quite a bit accomplished, yes, but I also take far more — and longer — breaks than I need.


As for finding breaks on days I babysit, I discovered that on  most days I do have opportunities for breaks. Maybe not a traditional “sit down on the couch with a glass of tea and a good book for 15-20 minutes” type of break, but a break nonetheless. I just have to be both creative and judicious in how I use the time I’m gifted every day. Here are just a few of the ideas I jotted down.


1. Combine all errands to one lunch hour per week. I could run errands on Saturday, but I choose not to for various reasons.

2. On non-errand day lunch breaks, enjoy my sack lunch while sitting in my car reading a mid-day devotional at a nearby city park. When finished eating, read or recline my seat and enjoy the view. No texting or checking social media, news sites, or play online games such as Wordle.

3. Grab opportunities that present themselves for even quick mental breaks. Any time Big Little and Little Little are playing independently or when giving Little Little a bottle, keep my eye on the Littles but quiet my brain. Instead of thinking of everything I need to get done when I get home, simply empty my brain as much as possible or pray or “sing” an uplifting song inside my head. 

4. Only reach for my phone when my daughter calls/texts (she may have a question about her daughters) or when I want to take a picture of the Littles. Instead of going online, I can take a quick break — sit down, sip some water, and relax.

5. Be completely in the moment when "working" (in my case, caring for the Littles). No more building block towers while thinking of projects waiting for me at home or wondering what's going on elsewhere. When thoughts of the outside world -- Ukraine, a dear relative fighting cancer, another friend's recent exciting news -- simply say a quick prayer or praise and refocus on what's going on right in front of me. 


There were a few more, but I think you get the idea. I put the ideas into practice all last week and was pleased but not at all surprised that my stress level was appreciably lessened. And that’s despite the fact that Big Little had a stomach virus the first two days of the week (sick to her stomach 3 times on Monday)!


I hope that you, too, are able to find ways to incorporate breaks into your busy schedule. Join in the discussion by sharing your thoughts, successes, challenges, etc., in a comment!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

What Have We Here?

When I first realized that I needed to reincorporate into my daily schedule some kind of break(s) for mental, spiritual, and physical rebooting and renewal, I seriously doubted it could be done. I knew, though, that I needed to at least try.


I thought back to all the people I’ve ever known who “fixed things” — friends and relatives who did their own car or home repairs, mended or altered their own clothes, etc.


The one thing all of them did first was to assess the problem and consider the options available to them.


For the next week, that’s exactly what I did.


I started out by jotting down a very brief, open schedule of my days. On a piece of notebook paper, I created 5 vertical sections: early morning, morning (8-lunch), lunch, afternoon (post-lunch to 3:45), and evening. Then I created 3 columns: Sunday, weekdays, Saturday.


For 5 days (3 weekdays and a weekend) I paid attention to what I did in each of those blocks of time, and when I had a minute to jot down a brief note (“checked fb”), I did.


I wasn’t legalistic about this process. I didn’t keep track of how much time I spent doing what I did unless it was a chunk of time of approximately 15 or more minutes. Why 15 minutes? No other reason but that it seemed reasonable and doable. I was careful, though, to jot down (as soon as I had a chance) everything I did during each block of time.


Each night, I very quickly glanced at what I’d done all day and added a few notes while my thoughts and feelings were fresh. For example, on Tuesday I made 2 very quick necessary phone calls while my granddaughters played independently and I sat in the rocker watching them. 


Those calls took less than 5 minutes total. I remembered that evening that even though the calls themselves were positive in nature, I felt stressed because I knew that at any second one of the girls might need/want my complete attention, have an ouchie that needed a kiss, etc. So I noted “+ stress — save for lunch break”.


 At the end of those 5 days, I had a pretty complete list of all the tasks and activities that I performed in each block of time.  


If you’re trying to find ways to incorporate breaks into your busy days, I urge you to first assess — in whatever way works best for you — what you’re facing. Look at your schedule and keep a record of what you do throughout the day and week.


That’s it . . . for now. Next Thursday (or perhaps earlier, if time permits), I’ll share my reaction to what my “time log” revealed and how I easily found more than enough time for at least one dedicated break and one or two on-the-fly breaks every day, even the busiest ones. 


In the meantime, I hope you’ll share your own experiences, successes, even frustrations with finding time to step away from the busy-ness of your day. Join the discussion by commenting here or on my facebook page (Patti Miinch).




Thursday, March 17, 2022

Break Time!

{Sigh}


I don’t know about you, but my mind is constantly inundated by sights and sounds, information, details involved in daily life, etc.


Even when that “stuff” is positive in nature — the beauty of the world around me, the sound of my granddaughters’ laughter, the request for “Nonni, play ring-around-the-rosie”, news of a friend’s all-clear after a medical test, etc. — there’s so much for my brain to absorb and process.


My body is also often overtaxed. At 60+, caring full-time for my two very-active — and dare I say, absolutely adorable — granddaughters (age 2 years 3 months and 11 months old) is exhausting. The last time I had 2 little ones in diapers, one running around and the other just beginning to walk, both of them excited and curious about the world around them and filled with more energy than I can begin to fathom, I was 31 years younger!


By the time 4:00 arrives and I’ve kissed my granddaughters good-bye for the day and am on my way to my quiet apartment, I am mentally and physically exhausted.


When I was teaching full time, I found ways to build into my day a few small pockets of time for pause and relaxation. After I initially retired, I was able to increase those few minutes into mini-breaks for Bible study, reading for pleasure, and healthy snacks. 


But now? An uninterrupted trip to the ladies’ room would be enough to make my day! :)


We’re still 5 months away from a 2/3-day-a-week preschool schedule, and finding a suitable woman (college age or above) to watch the girls one or two days a week until then has proven to be impossible (so far). As a result, it’s clear to me that I must develop some ways to incorporate even small pockets of spiritual and physical rest and rejuvenation into these busy days.


I know I’m not alone. Many men and women in their prime time years are still working full-time, caring for a home, etc., and many are also caregivers for an elderly or ill parent or spouse. According to statistics I’ve read, many are also raising — full-time, no less — at least one grandchild while working full-time and possibly even caring for an elderly or ill parent or spouse! 



So how do those of us in our prime time years and facing such demands find time and the means to give their spirits, minds, and bodies the rest and reboot they so desparately need?


That’s what I'll be focusing on in the next few weeks. I’ll be posting here every Thursday, sharing with you what I’m learning; I’ll also be sharing tips and links to helpful information during the week on Instagram and Facebook (Patti Miinch, on both sites).


I hope you’ll join in the conversation, sharing your own challenges, any tips or solutions you’ve found, or simply whatever comes to mind. 

Monday, March 14, 2022

My Year of Less — important update and change

 As of this week, I’ll be posting My Year of Less updates on Facebook. Come on over to my page Patti Miinch and “like” and “follow”. See you there!!

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Renewal


As 2021 drew to a close and I began considering my “one word” for 2022, it became increasingly clear to me that renewal was the perfect choice. I was excited and envisioned starting out the new year strong, creating checklists and action steps in my bullet journal. I could almost see the old habits, behaviors, and routines being replaced with better ones. Ones aligned with my values and goals. 


That’s not quite how things panned out. Instead, I spent the first 79 or so days of 2022 preparing for, getting through, and then settling in from my 3rd move in 27 months. I’ll spare you the gory details; trust me, it was stressful.


Renewal was never far from my mind, but I thought of it as being on the back burner, waiting for me to have the time and energy to give it my attention. Because, after all, I was the one whose responsibility it was to determine the new habits, behaviors, and routines; I was the one who needed to implement and maybe fine-tune them as well. Right?


But yesterday, while I was rocking Little Little (my youngest grandchild), it dawned on me that the past 9 1/2 weeks did not put renewal on hold; rather, they had been instruments of renewal.


And I’d had neither the time nor the energy to focus on renewal, much less take a single step in that direction.


While I was looking elsewhere — at packing and finding an apartment and setting up utilities and . . . — routines and habits were stripped away and behaviors have been changing.


I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from me. I finally got it.


I don’t have to figure it all out and create a meticulous plan. 


I’m not sure yet what I need to do, but I know Who is in charge of that, and He’ll let me know in His own time.


And I’ll be ready to listen and to obey.