Savor Life: Self-Care, Week 45

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Didn’t you love the sunset yesterday? After a dreary day of chilly rain, it was a special gift. I’m so glad I took a few minutes to savor that glory. (Although this picture doesn’t do it justice and I really wish I could crop it, you can still get an idea of the glory!)

Remember, back on Week 21, we talked about savoring your food? It’s still a good Self-Care Tool. And with Thanksgiving coming up, it’s something we might all be wise to re-visit. *wink*

Today, though, I want to talk about Savoring Life in General.

After all, if you’re like me, you reach the end of the day (or week or month) and wonder where it all went. All that time you thought you had now feels as if it’s evaporated.

Can you believe it’s almost Thanksgiving? Where did the year go?

Yes, we are busy. Yes, we need to do the everyday things that keep body and soul together (as my aunt used to say). We need to work and rest and pick up the kids and play and eat and do laundry and pay bills and pursue a dream and accomplish a goal and help a friend and… And the list goes on.

But that’s just the thing. While we DO need to do all these things, sometimes all these things start to overwhelm us and all these things become “just one more thing to do”. If I can learn to savor the ordinary-ness of life and enjoy moments as they come, I can consider my life a good one. Everyday ordinary IS a good life. Those moments when we glance out the window and catch the glint of a dew drop on the grass or the hot pink cloud of a sunset. Those are the moments that fill our soul and heart and give our over-tired brain a breath of fresh inspiration. If you can savor the smile of a teenager, who doesn’t often grace you with one, that is a treasure not to be missed.

This seems strange to me, even now. When my mother passed away, 9 years ago, it was a gorgeous, clear, crispy November day- my favorite kind of day- but my heart was broken. I clearly remember, though, the one bright yellow leaf hanging brilliant against the intense blue sky outside the hospital window. In spite of the enormous loss, it somehow gave me hope. Almost as if it was a parting gift from her. And when I think of that day, in that ICU, I remember that glorious leaf and the gift it gave me. It caught me off guard, I wasn’t looking for it. But to this day, I savor that split second in time. It softens the loss I will always feel.

Moments are gifts.

Yes, there are definitely times to put the pedal to the metal and flat out GIVE yourself to a project or person. And those times are important. However, it’s especially important to be sure to balance those “all out” times with times of quiet and contemplation. In other words, balance the “all out” with “savoring”. What was enjoyable about the “all out”? What needs to be changed? What did I learn from my “all out” time?

I’ve never launched a book or opened a store, but I have done a project or two that took a lot of effort to prepare and present. I try to include a quiet day or two after the event, to enjoy and savor the fruit of my labors. It’s good to take stock of your big efforts and enjoy them. It’s good to give yourself a pat on the back and an “atta girl!” or “atta boy!”. Good to allow yourself to enjoy the glow of a job well done (or figure out how to do make it good next time!),

Savoring is probably a good synonym for the modern buzz word,  “mindfulness”. Savoring/mindfulness keeps us grounded. It can feel like a safe place in the storms of life. It gives your brain a tiny rest, which in turn, gives your body the same tiny rest. It’s like a deep breath, and indeed, is best accompanied by one. It can put us in touch with gratefulness, another Self-Care Tool that is good for body and soul. It enables us to see the ordinary as good, even grand. I venture to say everyday ordinary moments can even be magical- if we are paying attention.

Savoring needs to be engaged in deliberately, too. And, while catching the “moments” is good, it’s best done in silence or solitude. Because silence and solitude is also good for us. Take all the savoring, mindfulness, solitude, deep breathing and silence, put them together and you find peace and rest for your soul in the presence of God. The promise from Matthew 11.

When we savor moments, we can lessen the feeling of overwhelm and the feeling that somehow life is slipping away from us. Yes, the day/week/month will still be zooming along with us hanging on trying hard to control it. But. If we take the time to look back on the day/week/month, and see those moments when we noticed a small gift, we can feel more peaceful and less like things are taking us for a ride. There’s touch of control in our lives.

When we deliberately set aside time to savor, in times of quiet and solitude, we find peace which gives us hope and courage to continue savoring life, whatever it dishes out.

Do you take time to savor the ordinary gifts of life?

Thank you for taking a piece of your precious time- and time is definitely precious- to read this today. I would love to hear your thoughts on Savoring Life in General.

Many blessings… Much love.

Take a Few Minutes: Self-Care, Week 44

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I am just going to take a few minutes of your time to encourage you to take a few minutes! There that’s it. I could just sign off. So, you can continue reading for a little expansion on the subject, or you can quit reading now. I do hope you’ll read on, though.

I am busy prepping for a Bazaar this Saturday. As usual, my “Plan” was to put this off until a number of other big events over the past couple of months were complete. That’s a pretty good plan until it’s not. In other words, I’m under the gun… a day late and a dollar short… up the creek without a paddle. Choose your cliche. And I feel like I should jump out of bed in the morning, hit the ground running and work, work, work all day without a break.

I’ve lived long enough to know that is not going to work. At least, not for me. How about you? Can you put the pedal to metal and go, go, go all day … and EFFICIENTLY produce? Can you PEACEFULLY create? No. Me neither.

So, in case you’re tempted to jump into your day with both feet before making sure you have a firm foundation underneath you, I’m here to encourage you to STOP (in the name of Love…).

The only way to  create is peacefully. When we are stressed, creativity flies out the window. And anything you do manage to produce is filled with stress. It’s like putting a cat in a bag. It might happen but you and the cat are going to be REALLY upset and you WILL have a bunch of scratches.

It pays in aces to take some time first thing in the morning, and even during the day, to touch base with God, to meditate on His Word and goodness, to be sure you are on His page.

Take a beauty break and take a short walk, or glance through some lovely nature photos.

Make sure you’re not trying to live yesterday’s plan- today is a new day. Perhaps it requires a new strategy.

Be realistic in your plans. Another 5 paintings? NO. Not gonna happen- and there’s no sense in even trying.

Set boundaries and stick to them. That is partly how I got into this tight spot. Yes, I said, I have an extra day, but no. I didn’t have an extra day. And I should have said “no, not until after the bazaar”.

Take some deep breaths. Always helpful. Take a lot of deep breaths!

Be compassionate with yourself. Instead of berating yourself for doing this in the first place, ask for help. And talk to yourself as if you were your best friend. What would you tell a friend in your situation?

The Bible tells us to test ourselves in 2 Corinthians. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you yourself- Christ in you, the hope of glory. And ask for a plan. He will give you a good plan but you have to do be still enough to hear Him. Inhale- Exhale.

In case you didn’t notice, this post was born out of… frustration. It isn’t what I originally intended to write about. So, as usual, I’m preaching to myself. Calming myself. Stepping back from the edge. Reminding myself that it’s all going to be okay, it’s all going to work out fine.

And you know what? Whatever you’re facing that’s got you in a tizzy (maybe a melt-down?), is going to work out, too.

The thing is- take a few minutes. Those few minutes (or more) will be the best time you spent and you will end up accomplishing more the rest of the day because you took the time to get peaceful and listen for today’s plan.

May your days be filled with peace that passes understanding and may your tizzies be small and short-lived. *wink* (We all get into tizzies, right?) Did you notice all the cliches? Just trying to lighten things up, here.

God bless you super good!

Compassion: Self-Care, Week 43

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I hear you, “Isn’t compassion about OTHER people?”

Of course, the answer is a resounding “YES!”.  But did you know, being compassionate positively affects your brain? There’s one reason to practice compassion.

But let’s start with the definition of compassion. “Compassion is sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” (Merriman Webster) Compassion is the awareness of suffering and the desire to relieve it.

We sometimes interchange the use of “compassion” and “empathy”, however, “Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” … While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.”(https://greatergood.berkeley.edu › topic › compassion › definition) Emphasis added.

As usual, there are lots of studies that tell us many amazing things about compassion. Many studies and experiments have shown that having compassion for others is actually good for us as well.

It can be said that compassion is what makes humans beings human. We are wired to be compassionate. We know through brain scans (and the Bible) that we can change our brains by changing our minds, the stories we tell ourselves and how we think about things.

Compassion is like a muscle. When we use it, it grows. So the more compassion you have, the more compassion you have! (Read that again. It’s not a typo!) Studies have indicated that a person can learn to be compassionate, so it’s good news that using it can encourage the growth of more compassion in us.

Compassion and kindness go hand in hand.

Compassion encourages us to action. When we see a need and want to help (compassion), we are more likely to find a way to do just that. Simply feeling empathy for another person’s suffering is not as likely to spur us to action. However, the DESIRE to help pushes us to act on that desire.

Compassion blocks fears and sparks courage in the brain by dialing down threatening feelings.

Meditating on compassion has been shown to increase happiness and decrease depression. With compassionate meditation, participants in one study experienced stronger immune responses and had lower cortisol levels in stressful situations.

A compassionate mindset improves heart rate as well. When we connect with someone on a deep level, as with compassion, we produce the hormone “oxytocin”, which is key in maintaining cardiovascular health, by reducing blood pressure by dilating the arteries.

Compassion even helps slow the aging process by contributing to “vagal tone”, which is the health and fitness of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve controls the body’s response to inflammation and inflammation is a major contributing  factor to aging.

Folks who are compassionate toward others tend to be more helpful in general and are even less afraid of suffering.

All that sounds good to me!

We know now that being compassionate toward others is good for us. So, how about being compassionate toward ourselves? Being kind to ourselves is so important yet we are so often extremely hard on ourselves, women are especially “good” at being hard on ourselves. We wouldn’t treat our enemy as badly as we treat ourselves, most of the time.

It’s time to change that! If we can learn to be compassionate toward others, we can learn to be kind toward ourselves.

“Having compassion … means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. ‘There but for fortune [or the grace of God] go I.'” (article, “Self-Compassion”, by Dr. Kristin Neff)

That pretty well sums it up!

We are generally our own worst critics, judging ourselves without mercy, offering ourselves no grace, no kindness, no understanding. We, mysteriously, expect ourselves to be perfect in every way.  Why?! Even Mary Poppins, was just “practically perfect in every way.”

By the way, self-compassion and self-esteem are different. While self-esteem appreciates me because I’ve done something well, self-compassion appreciates me just because I am a human being.

If we think we are worthless and no good, we fly in the face of God Almighty, who thinks each of us is totally worth dying for. Have you read the Bible? Look at all the wonderful things God says about us! I mean, GOD, who made heaven and earth. GOD, who breathed the STARS into existence, with that very same breath, breathed you and me into existence, too! YOW! WOW! As if all that isn’t enough, GOD knows your name. He sings over you. He calls you His friend. He calls you “Beloved”. He rejoices over you. He love, love, loves you.

No matter how terrible you are- or think you are- if GOD can find something to like about you, I’m sure little ol’ you can find something, too.

When you’re having a hard time, admit it to yourself. What would you tell a friend in that same situation? When you live in a difficult (HARD) environment, pat yourself on the back for making it through another day. So what if you didn’t invent a way to clean up the oceans? So what if you couldn’t adopt all the stray cats at the shelter? Maybe you gave a homeless person a bottle of water. Maybe you called a relative to encourage her in her hard situation. You are doing what you can and you are making it. Give yourself grace. Smile when you burn dinner- again- because the baby threw up all over himself and you. You might have burned dinner, but, honey, you MADE dinner!

Getting the idea?

Self-compassion is a big tool in your Self-Care Toolbox and you will need to practice using it until you can use it skillfully. Don’t give up. Give yourself a break (another tool. Remember?). When the tool slips out of your hand, pick it up and try again.

We didn’t talk about that nasty, mean critic inside your head. Suffice it to say, you can put your foot down and SHOUT at Ms. Mean Critic and tell it to SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP! Just go on and do it. You have my permission.

Life is hard. Be gentle with yourself. Speak kindly to yourself. Treat yourself as you would your best friend or your darling child.

 

Your turn. Are you compassionate with yourself? Do you speak kindly to yourself? I would truly love to know your thoughts. Please comment below.

Have a gentle, kind day!

 

 

Don’t Get Mad, Self-Care Week 42

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The thought oozed into her brain, nearly unnoticed. It was just a small thought, brought on by the frustration of not enough sleep, too much to do and the umpteenth time a simple job wasn’t done. It was a thought she’d had too many times already and it was a thought she worked hard to move away from when it presented itself.

But today, she allowed the thought a voice. “WHY…?”.

It’s not a good idea to answer that question when you’re already predisposed to answer it negatively. Once you set foot on that path, it’s a slippery slope into outright anger and even rage. Better to suck it up, turn it into something positive (“he/she was in a hurry to leave on time… really does know how to do this… etc.”) and find a healthy way to move on. By the way, now is probably not the best time to confront the person in question. Best leave confrontation until you are in a better frame of mind.

There’s a Proverb in the Bible that addresses allowing anger to proceed. Proverbs 17:14 says, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.” (NAS)

The World English Bible translates that verse this way, “The beginning of strife is like breaching a dam, therefore stop contention before quarreling breaks out.”

Of course, this verse is talking about when we are getting ready to argue with someone. And it is certainly good advice for that situation. But it also is good advice for dealing with your thoughts.

Negative thoughts began to consume her. Soon, everywhere she looked and every small thing that was out of order, elicited another burst of rage that was bigger than the one before. Now, the anger wasn’t just against the one who had left the job undone, now the anger was aimed at everyone in the household, even the dog. But as bad as that was, her anger was spewing against herself; making judgements and accusations against herself that were simply not true. Did this make her feel better? No. To quote someone, “hell, no”.

The negativity and rage now consumed everything… the toast she was getting ready to butter, the egg that broke in the pan. Silly stuff, really. Ridiculous stuff. And did that solve the original problem? Oh no. Not at all. In fact, she’d almost forgotten the original problem now that everything she saw and thought was draped in the blackness of totally out of control negativity.

That’s what happens when we allow those first negative thoughts to flow freely. They quickly engulf everything and now we cannot figure out how to close that gushing breach. In fact, realizing that we allowed the situation to get out of control becomes more fuel for the fire of self-condemnation.

At this point, a hug, a kiss, a kind word can’t be received, it feels completely false- even though it is truer than the flood of negatives passing through your mind and from your lips. At this point, you can’t hear sound advice from the Holy Spirit, from another person and certainly you can’t seem to find anything remotely resembling wisdom within yourself.

And none of this addresses the terrible effects of anger on your body. There’s plenty of research on that.

Okay. We’ve established what it’s like to be mad. Let’s move on and find out how to avoid it and how to pull yourself out of the pit when you find yourself in it.

I think the number one thing that helps us avoid that downward spiral into the pit is getting enough sleep, silence, and taking control when you first get up in the morning. Does that sound like more than one thing? Even though it is more than one thing, they are so important that they occupy the number one position together on this list. In fact, they are the only thing on the list.

Sleep is self-evident. We all know, and science has shown us that we need enough sleep- at least 7 hours, and for most people, even more. Brain science has shown this to be true.

We need times of silence to process our thoughts and the events of our lives- especially if some of those events were hard ones. Brain science has shown this to be true also.

We are also aware of the need to begin every day with an intentional setting of boundaries and thought patterns. When we open our eyes and groan, thinking about how many things might go wrong, we set ourselves us for just that; things going wrong. While it would be very nice to spend some quality time meditating or exercising or reading, simply repeating a positive sentence or scripture or other quote, will set the tone for the day. You are more likely to have a good day, to recognize the blessings of the day and to be able to handle the day if it goes completely off the rails. Again, brain science has shown us this is true.

What can be done when we realize we’ve made the mistake of stepping onto that slippery slope and you’re beginning go headlong into the spiral?

Once you see what is happening. Stop! Stop right where you are and take a deep breath. Now’s the time to decide. Take at least three deep, deep breathes. Am I going to continue into the abyss of rage? Or am I going to dig myself out before I get in too deep? And if you’re going to dig yourself out, you must realize it’s likely to be a battle. When the devil has hold of you, he’s not going to give up without a fight.

Find something to be grateful for. There is always, always something to be grateful for, even if it’s only the cat at your feet or coffee in your mug. Once you find one or two things, you’ll begin to see more and more reasons to be grateful. “Look, the toast is perfectly even”. “How nice the jelly jar isn’t sticky.”

If you use essential oils, get out your favorite grounding oils and blends, use them liberally! Put them on pulse points. Inhale them deeply, several times. If you’re still seething in 10 minutes, inhale them again, and apply them to the back of your neck. Diffuse the oils into the air.

Now, I know first-hand…(Who me? Angry?)… that this is not easy. In fact, there are times when you don’t even want to give up your anger. It feels justified and righteous. Well, maybe it is justified and righteous, but it will still wreak havoc with your brain and your body if you choose to give it free reign.

So, let’s look at another way to get control. Prayer, scripture, meditation, affirmations, quotes are all good ways to reign your negative emotions in. Be sure you have a few tucked into your memory, or at least, written down, for just such an occasion.

Get quiet. Sometimes a game or novel can distract you and allow you to calm your mind.

Refresh your coffee or tea or smoothie. (Now is probably not a good time to have wine. Save the wine for later.) Have a big glass of cool water, maybe with lemon or lime in it. Don’t grab the nearest cookie or bag of chips. That might seem comforting, but it is really not helpful. And you know it.

Go back over the things you are grateful for.

Call a friend and ask for prayer. Be careful here though. Sometimes re-telling what made you angry in the first place, will reignite the fire you’re trying to put out! It’s best to give a brief, general explanation and just ask for some encouragement.

Now, get out your phone and text another friend who needs encouragement. Maybe text two friends without telling them your troubles. You can tell them later. Just send some love and encouragement this time. Usually what we give, we get back. It’s good to spread a little love. And it helps restore your good feelings about yourself.

The Self-Care Tool for this week is “Don’t Get Mad”. Can you see why this is taking good care of yourself? Absolutely!

Now, please, don’t think I’m saying to ignore the anger, or excuse the behavior. I’m not saying to stuff the situation out of sight. I’m only saying to get control of your emotions first. Take care of yourself before you confront, so that you can do it gently. So often, when we confront in anger, it ends badly, with more anger and hurt and miscommunication. In short, it doesn’t get resolved and is left to smolder until another blow up. That is not the outcome anyone wants. When we take the time and do the work of controlling our own anger and emotion, we are more likely to have a good outcome.

Controlling yourself is good Self-Care.

Do you have specific methods you use to dampen anger before it gets out of hand? Please share in the comments. We can all use help along these lines, I’m pretty sure!

God bless you!

Tribute to a Ginger Cat Named Ebert

 

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Not much has changed: Only one small thing.

Yet it all seems different, everything is different.

A cat is a small animal. Even large, overweight, cats are small in the world of humans.

But a cat can fill the house.

A cat can fill your heart.

Ebert was “just a cat”. But…

Ebert-bebert was, oh, so handsome.

He was orange, ginger, really. At one year old, he had no white on him. Totally ginger.  His eyes were amber- just a little more yellow than his ginger fur. Have you ever seen a single-color cat? Very beautiful. Very.

Gorgeous. Handsome. A real piece of eye-candy.

Did I mention how SOFT Ebert’s fur was?

 

When I first met Ebert at Safe Haven for Cats, about 6 years ago, he purred so hard, looked me in the eye and kissed me. (Cat kisses = his wet nose to my nose.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but when you meet a handsome fella, who whispers sweet nothings and gives you a kiss, I take him home! Little did I know that purr was really anxiety speaking. But even the anxious purr was endearing.

The purr that was nearly constant- mostly because he was nearly constantly anxious. When he was REALLY anxious, he’d purr with his mouth open. THAT, my friend, is anxiety. He probably needed medication…

EB had a deep desire to be loved- to be loved, receive it and give it. But, remember? Ebert was ultra anxious. He could never quite overcome his general mis-trust of humans, no matter how good we were to him. And we were very good to him. He sat next to me in my chair once for about 5 minutes. That was a milestone. It only happened the one time and it was precious. He would walk across our laps but not stop for a visit. He’d sit at our feet, purring. He’d sit on the back of the chair behind our heads. But he would not sit on our laps. I feel bad that he never felt safe enough to relax and accept the love we gave him.

When he was a little younger, twice, he jumped onto my shoulder. What a surprise! But even then, he didn’t choose to stay but half a minute.

He wanted loving and loved to be stroked and scratched under the chin. Ebert had a special talent. He would jump up to meet your hand when you reached out to stroke him. Ella declared it his “dolphin jump” and that term stuck. It was quite amazing and he did it regularly. He would jump so high sometimes, he’d actually leave the floor, kicking his back feet up.

Ebert was fastidious. Our other cat, Joey, who had been his cage-mate at the shelter, is not all that neat. In fact, Joey often does not cover his business when he pees in the litter box. However, Ebert would come along behind him and cover it for him. A helpful fella, for sure. When he was very sick, not long before he died, he could no longer make it up the stairs to the litter box, so Ebert, being helpful, peed on the throw rug in the half bath. I know he knew it would be easy to see and clean up. (Of course, I immediately moved the litter box downstairs at that point.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Ebert was not perfect. Nope. He would not use a scratching post for love or money! That cat! He ruined the carpet on our stairs, anxiously clawing the sides and making a general mess. And we never did figure out how to stop him doing it. See? Not perfect. At all.

Ebert was not a big talker. He’d let you know when he had something important to contribute but generally, he was quiet. Except for that purr. You would know where he was by following the rumble of the purr… often, it was under my chair.

Ebert hated being confined and he hated having to travel to grooming or the vet. However, much as he hated it, he rarely howled about it. Just a few uncomfortable, tenuous mewoooo’s, to remind us that we were offending him.

He loved to wait outside our closed bedroom door and make a bee-line for under the bed as soon as it was open. We had to be quick to catch him. Sometimes, however, when he secretly wanted to be held for a moment, he’d dash inside, then give a slow stretch, as if the say, “come on and get me”.

At times, Ebert would stretch up my leg, much like a toddler lifting his arms to be picked up. So, I would pick him up, like you’d pick up a toddler, hold him on my shoulder and scratch under his jaws. He’d love that. For about one minute. Then, it was squirm and wiggle, until I put him down.

He hugged us. If we were close by the dining room table where he liked to hang out (see? He was not perfect. The dining room table! Really?) He’d come over and stretch his front paws up to our shoulders. We called it his hug. He’d even do it if we patted our chests and asked for a “hug”. He really was a loving guy.

I keep remembering small things that made Ebert the unique cat he was.

He loved his treats and didn’t mind stealing Joey’s. In fact, he would even stalk those treats!

He knew when it was time to go to bed. He’d start hanging around, quietly encouraging me to go to bed because he knew I’d give treats with his evening feeding. But instead of heading directly upstairs with Joey and me, Ebert would loop around through the kitchen, through the dining room and then up the stairs. We never figured out why going straight up was a problem for him. It was funny, though. And he’d sit under the dining room table, waiting until I began to climb the stairs before he’d finally zoom up them.

Like most cats, Ebert loved a sunny window. Often, we’d return home and see him in the upstairs window, his beautiful orange coat practically glowing in the sun. By the time we got inside the front door, there was Ebert, waiting to greet us.

As anxious as he was, Ebert was the one who liked to hang around when people were visiting. Even when the entire gang of 11 grandchildren were present, you’d find Ebert mingling. Of course, some of the kids wanted to pick him up and cuddle, and of course, he would have none of that. However, if they stroked him, he was a happy boy!

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Cat toys? Oh yes, thank you. Ebert loved his toys! He wasn’t a cat to chase a ball but give him a small cat-nip-filled toy and he was in heaven. He’d sit on it. He’d roll around with it. He’d bat it from here to there on the floor. He’d even toss it in the air and jump up to get it. He was awesome! He liked to chase a string, but those toys were totally under his control, ready for play whenever he was.

I was once asked the question, “What is the strangest thing your cat has done?” My answer? Slept in the bed I bought for him to sleep in. I mean, how many times does a cat do what you want him to do? But Ebert really did sleep in a cat bed. Until he got tired of it, that is.

He liked to hang in the laundry basket that was tucked in the corner of the laundry room. There are gift bags hanging in that same area and Ebert must have felt safe, partly hidden there. At Christmas, he loved sitting under the tree, keeping an eye on all our comings and goings.

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I know I’ll think of many other things to add to this list. He was a sweet kitty-boy. I miss him. He’s left a big hole in the household. We all miss him so much.

If you’ve read this far (1,300+ words!), you must be a cat-lover too. So, you understand that writing about Ebert, remembering him, sharing him, is my way of beginning to process his loss.

Thanks for listening.

 

Comfort: Self-Care, Week 41

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The day was rainy and chilly.

It was only Wednesday, but it was already a challenging week, with a fabulous high and a hard, continuing low. Remembering the good stuff always helps counteract the hard stuff but it was not resolving and it cast a shadow over everything.

Praise and worship, good music and coloring helped. Reading, remembering God’s promises, deep breathing and prayer… all good. All helpful.

The chill remained despite the sweater and breakfast coffee. Now it was lunchtime, still rainy, still chilly, still an unresolved hard thing sitting on her head.

 

*

What is it about warm soup that is so comforting? If you make it from scratch, the process itself is oddly comforting- the chopping and mixing and the delicious smell that permeates the air as it cooks. (“Oddly”, I say, because work isn’t usually considered comforting. Satisfying, but not comforting.)

If you open a can and simply warm it up, perhaps adding cheese and crackers, you still derive the comfort of a delicious smell and a tasty, warm meal.

Whether homemade or store-bought, warm soup is comforting. It soothes your stomach and your soul. It’s homey. It’s simple. It warms. It helps keep you hydrated.

Chicken soup is well-known for lending relief from cold and flu symptoms. The warmth and saltiness soothe a sore throat and cough and helps clear up congestion. Some studies even suggest the ingredients in chicken soup can help reduce inflammation. Other studies suggest that chicken soup can help reduce symptoms of upper respiratory infections by slowing down the movement of neutrophils. Yes, neutrophils help prevent infection but they also increase inflammation and mucus production. When their activity is slowed down, the symptoms are reduced and we feel better. Warmth from your soup helps rid your body of mucus more rapidly, helping transport infections outside your body as well. With noodles or rice, you are gaining carbs for energy to fight infection. And, depending on what veggies and seasonings you add to your chicken soup, you can also be adding vitamins and antioxidants to your sickness-fighting arsenal.

Did you know, if you use bone broth as the base for your chicken soup, you are upping your nutrients even more.  Bone broth contains vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorous and collagen. All the minerals and collagen contribute to healthier bones and joints as well as help reduce inflammation. Turns out there are amino acids in bone broth that improve digestion. Bone broth is good stuff! But wait! One more benefit of bone broth is improved sleep. Whether you’re sick, or just plain weary from a difficult situation, a good night’s sleep is essential to outlook and health.

*

Soup for lunch made all the difference. Nice, warm tomato with red pepper soup… with some cheese and a few crackers, and tea. The chill left her body. Her soul felt more hopeful.

The situation was still the same, but finally, using several Self-Care tools from her Toolbox, she was able to change her focus, change her perspective. Be more positive and more fortified to face whatever the outcome of the on-going hard situation.

*

Do you find soup comforting in times of stress, sadness, sickness?

What’s your favorite soup for combating the hard things in life?

Please share your thoughts. I’d love to know.

God bless you!

Give Yourself a Break Again, Self-Care,Week 40

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Wow, ya’all!

Week 40! Only 12 weeks until the end of the year! We’ve come a long way together. Thanks so much for sharing this journey.

Like any journey, we’ve had some easy times and some challenging times. I truly hope you’ve found some encouragement in every time we’ve gotten together!

So today I need a little break and feel like maybe you do too. Even though the past few weeks have been fun, little Self-Care Tools, there are times we just need a break. Remember, “Give Yourself a Break” is one of our earlier Tools. And what are tools for if not to use.

So this week, I want to encourage you to dig out that “Give Yourself a Break” Tool, dust it off and use it! Take care of yourself.

And here’s the main thing I want to share with you today… You are enough. You do sparkle. You have come a long way. While you’re diligent to be kind to others, be kind to yourself.

No if, ands or buts, my friend. Re-read the sentences above. Don’t add anything to them. Believe they belong to and apply to you, yourself and you! Snuggle into a big God-hug and allow yourself to be loved by Father God.

Then, smile! Smile because you’re loved. Smile because you are enough and you sparkle and you have indeed come a long way. Smile because God Almighty loves you unconditionally!

You can read those words. You can let God love you. You can smile. Right now. There are times when we truly do not have enough time to really pull away from the craziness and just pamper ourselves a little. Those are the times you can remind yourself, right there at the corner of Crazy and Mess Streets, that those things are true. And you can make an appointment with yourself to get away from all the stressors and Take Good Care of Yourself soon.

Repeating the sentences above, feeling God’s love and smiling are ways to give yourself a break. Making an appointment with yourself is giving yourself a break.

So, short and sweet: You’re enough. You’re loved. You sparkle. Smile.

Believe it. Do it.

Be blessed, friends. And have a good remainder of the week.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are encouraged and you’ll share this with someone else who needs to be encouraged.

Throw a Ball into the Air, Self-Care Week 39

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Here’s a short and fun little idea for Self-Care.

We sometimes need small tools, too. You know, when there’s not much time but you need a little boost. Or maybe when you begin to feel stress creeping in and want to nip it in the bud.

When we are aware of our feelings and the stressors surrounding us, we really can get a jump on that stress. We do not have to wait until we’re in a full-blown panic and need to use 3 different Self-Care techniques just to get ourselves back on level ground. Catching the stressors before they feel like a bulldozer rolling over us is a good thing and often all that’s needed is a fun little tool.

What does throwing a ball into the air do for you? First of all, it’s completely different. Unless you’re a baseball player by profession, of course, you hardly ever have occasion to throw a ball, right?

Next, throwing a ball requires some eye-hand coordination and makes you move a little- unless you’re really not good at it, then you need to move a lot. It takes your mind off the problem that seems to be developing and helps you see it in a different light when you return to it.

And, it gives you something else to think about for a few minutes. It’s like blowing bubbles. A mindless little game that, amazingly, clears your mind.

Don’t have a ball? Use an apple. Use a roll of toilet paper. (Whatever you do, don’t use a knife, though. Promise me you won’t use a knife!) Use a rolled up sock. Use your imagination for what to use.

You can always throw a ball by yourself but throwing a ball with someone else is called playing catch. Playing catch is a social game. Maybe that small bit of casual social interaction, in addition to throwing the ball (or whatever), is the icing on the cake you need to head off a major problem.

If you’re really battling big stuff this might not help much. It’s the kind of thing that can help small problems keep from becoming big ones if used soon enough.

There are many times we need a big ole power tool to get us into a steady state. And there are plenty of times we need that medium-sized, handy screw-driver or hacksaw. But if the job isn’t too involved or is a delicate one, what’s needed is a tiny screw-driver. You know, like when your glasses need a tweak.

Stepping in with a small tool is being pro-active. It’s heading off the bigger stuff at the pass. It is better by far than dragging out that big bulldozer to dig you out of a deep hole.

Throwing a ball doesn’t float your boat? How about playing solitaire? Mahjong? How about taking a walk? Remember blowing bubbles. That’s one that you might enjoy more. Shoot some baskets. Read a good fiction novel or talk with a good friend. All ways to take your mind off the problem and give yourself a different perspective.

Thanks for reading today. Please let us know what small Self-Care Tool YOU use most to keep small situations from becoming a big problem.

God bless you, have a great week!

Take a Bubble Bath (or not), Self-Care Week 38

 

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Today’s Self-Care Tool is take a Bubble Bath.

First: I’m not a fan of bubble baths.

Second: it’s my first child’s 50th birthday! Celebrate!

Third: it’s the First Day of Autumn, ya’all!! I love Fall!

But Autumn and my son’s birthday don’t have anything to do with Self-Care, not really. (Although I think I could probably make a case for both having something to do with Self-Care.)

Let’s move on.

Today’s Self-Care Tool is a Bubble Bath! This is one tool that I personally will probably plop into my Toolkit and forget. I know I’m supposed to like bubble baths. But bubble baths are a little like summer to me. I love the IDEA but really don’t care for the walking out thereof.

The bubble bath itself is nice enough- if you can get comfortable sitting, basically, on the hard floor. I have to admit, candles and aromatherapy and warmth are very nice. Throw in some music and maybe a glass of white wine. Very relaxing and a good way to give yourself a little extra care. Ahhhh…. what’s not to like?

Well, now that you mention it, for starters, cleaning the tub is a pain. I don’t really enjoy cleaning the tub. Do you? I mean, face it, no matter how clean you keep the tub, before you SIT in it, you want to be sure it is really clean, so you clean it.

Then, there’s all the soap that leaves a skim on your skin. What are bubble but soap, right? So you still have to shower off after all that relaxing. And, speaking of soap skim (AKA: scrum), it has to be washed off the tub as well. Thus another tub cleaning is in order. Sure, you could leave it but the next person to take a shower just might find themselves slipping and sliding. Safety first! Clean the tub- again!

Somehow, after all that cleaning, I’m not so relaxed anymore.

I, for one, think I’ll just go out on the front porch and blow bubbles!

So, friends. Please tell me how I’m missing out by not enjoying bubble baths!! Why is a bubble bath on almost every list of self-care techniques you read? Are YOU going to put bubble baths in your Self-Care Toolkit? And the real question, are you going to use it?

God bless you!

Thanks for reading and thank you for telling me your experiences with bubble baths! Have a great week!

Play! Self-Care Week 37

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Hey Ya’all,

I hope this week is being kind to you. It’s already been a challenge around here, so when I realized this week’s planned topic is “Play”, I was tempted to choose something different, something a little more serious.

But I heard the Lord say, “No, “play” is exactly what’s needed.”

So, ladies and gentlemen, this week’s Self-Care Tool is “Play”! Before we tuck it away into our Self-Care Toolbox, let’s check it out.

When we are facing hard times and hard circumstances, as adults, it’s hard to think that the next right thing to do would be to play. As a society, we even seem to have a hard time allowing children to play. We over-schedule them and plan each moment until we squeeze the spontaneity right out of them. If we’re that hard on kids, you can bet we adults are going to have a hard time playing.

But isn’t it frivolous to play? Isn’t it a waste of time? After all time is money and we MUST stay busy, busy, busy with important stuff. Yes, but… sometimes it’s more important to let our hair down and just do something FUN. Why?

Turns out “play” is serious business. There are scholarly PhD kinds of people studying it. There is research available about it. There are books written about it. If you want to be serious about it, you can get all kinds of details about the subject itself and how to accomplish it. Who would have thought?!

Rather than bore you with details of who studied what, here are some highlights regarding the benefits of play for adults…

It relieves stress and improves brain function.

Play stimulates the mind and boosts creativity.

It keeps you feeling young and energetic.

Play helps improve social skills and can even help heal emotional wounds.

It feels good to change up your routine and take a break from the computer screen.

Any of the those things sound like good Self-Care? Yes! Definitely!

Do you think you can allow yourself to play a little? Perhaps you’ll just be able to play for a short time, once a week to begin with. That’s ok. But don’t stop there. I think playing 3-4 times a week is a good goal. But frankly, that might be kind of challenging to do for all the productivity driven workaholics. So start where you are. Try it and see how you feel. Once you’ve taken a break from your work, you’ll probably find you have more energy and more creativity when you return. Playing can actually help you do your work more effectively! Not a bad exchange, right?

Do you take play breaks?

Are you going to try taking play breaks?

Hey, wait! WHAT exactly is a play break?

It might be playing with a child. They have to greatest imaginations!

It might be as simple as meandering along the green-way path. No, not running or speed-walking. Meandering and SEEING the trees, flowers and bugs along the path.

How about just breaking into song or dance? You don’t have to know the words or even carry a tune. You don’t have to know the steps or keep the rhythm. Just do it because it’s fun and feels good!

Smile, laugh out loud.

Think of different and opposite ways of using common items- just for the fun of it.

Be sure to have unscheduled time to day-dream or reflect.

Try something new and different. Wear a goofy hat or bright colored scarf.

That little list will get you started. See what you can come up with on your own now.

What are YOU going to do for the fun of it?

Thanks for reading. I hope you week is includes fun!

God bless your play time!