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!