From Type A to Type Ahh

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World – Ghandi


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Change is Hard and Slow

peaceful-person

I wish I could say this was me everyday.  The reality is as I pursue this journey to a more genuine, calm, and centered version of myself it seems I take one step forward and one step back.  Like my experiment with my phone in January, which was a miserable failure.  I should be stronger than that.  I was recently listening to a podcast where they were talking about cell phones and addiction.  I could relate to some of it, but not all of it.   In small ways that made me a little more conscious about how I use my phone.  So I adjusted my more ambitious goals and I am just trying to ask myself a few questions before I pick it up.  This helps bring me more fully present.  What am I checking? Am I just bored? What do I physically feel if I just leave it?  Then I have been regularly plugging it in to charge  when I am home.  Now if I want to check it I have to walk into another room and pick up the phone.  That has a way of making you feel ridiculous.  I realized real change comes from all of these very small decisions that we consistently make and then build on, sometimes without noticing.  It also helped I was listening to the Minimalist podcast and they were talking about how if you look around and see everyone on their devices also notice that none of them seem happy.  I have been doing that, and they are right.

Meditation has been the anchor for me to making many of the small decisions and changes in my life.  I feel like it has made me more aware of what I really want.  When you get quiet, turns out you can listen alot better.  I will say for now, most of my improvement with meditation has been geared toward me.  I am definitely calmer and less reactive.  I am definitely quieter and actually much more content.  Where I still struggle is being fully present in my life especially with other people.  I have every intention of doing that and I find I fall into old habits and I will be in a conversation and suddenly I have drifted off.  I also really want to be more compassionate.  I have been working on it.  It is easier with people close to me.  I still struggle with judgement and sarcasm, which have been a part of my life for so long.  They are such a comfort zone for me.  I am trying to leave conversations that turn negative or gossipy.  Right now rising above often looks like taking off, but again baby steps.

There are other things that I have been working on that are going really well.  I would say health which is super important to me.  After 7 months as a vegetarian, I really feel like this is the right and easy choice for me.  I feel healthier and more aligned with my values of animal welfare and environmental protection.  Also as part of my work wellness rewards program I was able to get a Nutribullet Pro for free and now everyday I have one meal that is just juiced fruit, veggies and nuts or seeds and it has been great.  We rejoined a gym and I have committed to a minimum of 2 day a week strength training with the ideal of 3 days.  I can really tell a difference and it helps my running.  I am also very consistent about sleep, which has never really been a problem for me.  There are other things I could talk about but this is long enough.  I will deal with other stuff in another post.  If you are working toward a better version of you it may seem like you are not making progress.  It is a slow incremental process and I am sure you are further along than you think.

 


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Mindful Cat Care: Kali’s Storyline

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This will be a different post and a little longer.  Most of this blog focuses on my current pursuit of a more meaningful and mindful life but more than 20 years ago I met the cat  that made me a more mindful pet owner and was my first foray into mindfulness, but I did not know it then.

Kali came to us as so many cats did back then, an owner brought her in to euthanize her at the vet I worked with at the time. They said she peed on the floor and they had hit her over and over and she stilled peed.  She was almost 3 at the time and absolutely terrified.  I said, “will you agree to turn her over to me instead of euthanasia?”  I received the usual response, “what do I care.”  I took Kali home and she proceeded to hide in the back of the closet for nearly three weeks.  We had her urine checked for a medical issue.  None was found.  After a few months at our house Kali never had an accident.  I came home and found Kali laying on the floor.  She was lethargic, barely responsive, the veins in her neck, visible through her fur, were black.  I rushed her to the clinic.

I knew when I heard the vet say, those can’t be her kidneys they are smaller than raisins that Kali’s life was hanging in the balance.  That proved true.  The vet came in explained Kali must have been born with congenital kidney failure.  Her numbers were higher than they had ever seen.  They advised I say good-bye and end her suffering.  I asked for a few minutes with Kali, a cat I had only known a few months, but felt a connection to instantly.  I sat quietly with Kali.  She was one of those cats who change your life.   She was a very clear communicator.  I sat with her and asked her if she was ready to go.  I asked her if she even wanted to try.  In that quiet I got a very clear answer.  “I want to live.  I looked in her eyes and promised right then.  “Okay.  I will try, if you will try.”  My vets stabilized Kali.  It took a week in hospital, two weeks at home on IV fluid diaeresis and two trips to the ER.  After a month Kali’s numbers were down to what would be considered within the range of CRF, Chronic Renal Failure.  IMG_5318

Here is where our real journey began.  My vet said they were surprised we got her values down, and I should enjoy her, but at most we would have 6 months.  I could tell Kali did not agree.  I was so tuned into her and I felt like she and I worked together.  I started researching and one of the things I researched and joined was the Holisticat CRF internet group.  There I learned about nutrition and the companion role of traditional medicine and holistic medicine.  I got Kali to Susan Wynn, DVM and we worked on nutrition and supplementation.  Nutrition is Kali’s lasting legacy in my feline household.  I learned about how cats digestive tract is designed for meat.  I learned about the pet food industry and what is in most pet food.  Working with Dr. Wynn we created a homemade diet.  Since we had 7 cats at the time all of our cats transitioned to this diet.

At first we started with a cooked diet and after they were weaned off of kibble we transitioned to raw.  For a long time we fed whole ground chicken with a few supplements and some rotating vegetables.  This is what we fed Kali for her whole life and the other cats for about 10 years.  Kali thrived on this diet and the Chinese herbs she was prescribed.  She went for regular bloodwork and blossomed into the funny mischievous calico she was always meant to be.  Kali did not leave us after 6 months.  She never had to go back on IV fluid therapy.IMG_5316

As I mentioned Kali was the clearest feline communicator I have ever known.  When Kali was 8, nearly 9, I noticed she was slowing down.  I again talked to Kali and this time I got a different feeling.  I made a different promise.  “No more this time.  When you are ready let me know, and I will let you go.”  About a month after that my husband and I woke up on a Saturday.  Kali was sitting on the dresser and my husband and I turned to each other at the same time tears in our eyes and said “Kali is ready.”  We spent that weekend letting Kali do everything she loved.  We put up the Christmas tree, event though it was July, because she loved laying under the lights.  We let her lick down an ice pop because she loved that and we helped her go out to the cat enclosure to enjoy the sun.  On Monday I held Kali and I hope I was a clear communicator when I told her how much I loved her and how much I learned from her.

Why tell Kali’s story?  So many people have asked me about why I feed what I feed?  Kali taught me that my cats’ health is my responsibility.  What I learned through research and then what I experienced in my own cats changed the way I viewed cat nutrition.  Yes we lost Kali at 8 but those other cats I told you about lived into their 20s and late teens.  Mo is the last of those 7 cats.  He has been raised on raw. He is now 18.  More than how long they live is how amazing their coats are, how much energy and vitality they have while they are with us.

It is work and I am not perfect.  About 10 years ago.  Work was crazy and I had left the animal field.  I thought now there are so many organic and grain-free foods.  Surely I can feed that.  So I did.  I mean these cats were on premium all natural, grain-free kibble.  All but Mo.  He never ate anything except homemade food and he refused to recognize anything else as food so I continued to cook for him, a smaller undertaking than cooking for 6.  The others became quickly addicted to kibble and the cats that joined us and were on kibble did not understand homemade food.  After about 5 years I had 6 obese cats, lazy,with no energy, greasy coats, bad teeth.

Again a funny demanding cat would lead me back.  My little Georgia was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.  She was only 5.

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“Really, after all that, Kibble?”

I had to prioritize and my cat’s health is my priority.  Fast forward 5 years I have 5 cats: 3 are 10, 1 is 9 and Mo is 18.  If you walked in my house you would never guess it is full of senior cats.  They now eat three small meals a day.  Georgia’s HCM is controlled on a 1/4th of what would be considered a normal dose and there is little to no real evidence of heart disease anymore.  She goes every 6 months for a check up.  Pablo, who topped the scales at 21 ponds is down to 16 pounds and my cats continue to be the picture of health.  I don’t know what pet food manufacturer will watch everything my cats eat and adjust their diet weekly based on preference and reaction.  Right now we have a diet that is partially lightly cooked and raw and we use a complete supplement Wysong Taste of the Wild.  We no longer feed bone.  It was too much for our cats and research has changed.   In closing I will give you the diet that works for me. Also some encouragement.  I have over the years gotten a lot of push back from vets.  Fortunately, my vet now supports me in my decision.  She readily admits she wishes she had received more independent research and education on nutrition in vet school.  She says she can’t argue with the health of my cats and my commitment to research.

My cats Diet prepared weekly for 5 cats

6 lbs boneless skinless chick thighs – lightly cooked

2 Turkey thighs with skin- lightly cooked

1/2 pound chick organ meat (Hearts, kidneys, liver, etc.) – Raw

1 package chicken breast strips – raw

Wysong Taste of the Wild added per instructions for weight

Two Gerber Pumpkin Baby Foods

24-36 oz. of water

The chicken and organ meat is ground with a Maverick meat grinder.  Everything is mixed together.  Packaged per day and frozen.

Yes it takes work and time.  I think of all the time I have freed up not running them back and forth to the vet and chasing them to medicate them.  Also there is nothing like sitting with your little carnivores listening to them eat a species appropriate diet and knowing their bodies don’t have to eliminate all the junk in  traditional cat food.  Also I can still clearly hear Kali.  Telling me she came to us for a reason.  All the cats we have had, with her and since her, have one tough, plucky, funny, loud calico to thank.  To this day I miss Kali, but her legacy lives on my cats clear eyes and healthy lives.  IMG_5319


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Checking in and Getting Back on Track

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So I have not written in a while.  In part because I have not had time. By that I mean I have been prioritizing other things and not doing a great job of prioritizing what really matters.  You may know the feeling.  I hate that feeling of busyness without real direction or results.  I think I can easily find myself lost in that when I fail to live in the present moment.

Yes, I am still meditating every day.  In those moments I feel fully present.  The last couple of weeks maintaining that feeling outside of meditation has been a challenge.  I am not sure why.  I do know I have been feeling a little burnt out and when that happens I usually fall back on the drug of busyness to drown out that feeling.  I know I should be asking myself why I feel burnt out.  Part of me is scared to ask that.  What if I get an answer?  If I get one it may be hard or difficult to do something to fix it.

I don’t know if this ever happens to you?  It is sometimes easier to standstill in a painful position than to make an uncomfortable journey to a place where you will be more at peace and happier.  I don’t mean to make it sound like I am not doing anything about it or I am just going to stand by until passes.  It is taking more effort to move forward.

Enough whining.  What am I actually doing?  Of course I still have meditation.  It is really an anchor for me as I move forward.  I have also been refocusing on gratitude.  Even taking more time to really reflect on my day while I prepare dinner so when hubby and I share our gratitude for the day they are real and not just the same old same old.  I am trying to revive my just say no project.  Probably one of the hardest things for me.  That is a post all in itself.  I am getting back to the gym in addition to my regular running.  I had gotten lazy about reading and found myself watching more TV; and sitting around.  That is about making a better choice, which is hard if you feel burnt out.  Will power and discipline are the first to go.  I have ramped up volunteering.  I know that seems counterintuitive to the whole busyness thing, but I think connecting to purpose and giving back helps to take us out of our self-absorbed focus.

What do I need to do?  I need to listen more and talk less.  What is that whole 2 ears one mouth thing, right?  I need to be less defensive and reactive when I feel threatened.  I need to disconnect from my phone more.  I embarrassed to say this remains my biggest challenge! Ugh.  I need to try to stay in the present moment and silence my internal planner.  I wish all of that was easier.  But I keep going.  Hope things are going well for you!


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Another Birthday

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So truth be told I am not really a birthday kind of girl.  First of all  I am not that fond of being the center of attention, especially for no other reason than I apparently survived another year.  I don’t like parties, not a huge fan of balloons, and have really no sweet tooth so I don’t enjoy desserts. Also there may be some things from back in my childhood that made birthdays a less than stellar experience.  For that reason  birthday festivities are something I usually let pass by.

This year when my husband asked what I wanted for my birthday I did something different.  Usually, I just say nothing and we do nothing or have a quiet dinner, which is fine too.  Or I tell him something very specific he drives to get it instead of me.  This year as we celebrate 26 years together, my last year in my 40s and our 20th wedding anniversary, I told him what I wanted for my birthday was for him to think of me and do what he thought I would like or enjoy.  This should not be a mystery.  I mean we have been together a long time and spoiler alert, I am not an enigma.  In fact with the exception of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rainman and a Military drill Sargeant I might be the most regimented person in the world.  See my previous blog on discipline.

I think at first he was a little lost, I mean I am pretty regimented; he was prepared to hear from me what he always heard.  Flash forward to yesterday, my birthday.  He knocked it out of the park.  Yesterday morning as he handed me the gifts he had put together he had perfectly woven together a set of gifts that enable and improve my daily morning routine of 4:30 AM run followed by meditation.  The gifts don’t really matter and don’t need to be listed.  What matters is how perfectly me they were.  How they addressed these small things that I have just tossed off in our daily discussions.  I don’t harp on them I don’t go on and on.  Ladies, here is the swelling music part, he was listening.  All of this time he was listening and remembering and thinking about how these small things would change the most pivotal part of my day.

After I opened the gifts, which I loved, and which do all the things I mentioned above. I realized that I got what I was really asking for.  I got someone to see me.  To really see who I am and what is important to me.  I don’t think there can be a better gift than knowing the person you share the most intimate moments of life with really gets you.  That made it the most perfect birthday!


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The Good-Bye I Never Saw Coming

Perfection and I have been besties since as far back as I can remember.  I always had a strong inclination toward being perfect.  I wanted to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect employee, the perfect wife.  Truth be told I only saw value in myself if everyone else thought I was perfect.  For a long time I thought that was what drove me to succeed.  I thought I am successful in my life, career, and marriage because I don’t settle for less.  Also I wasn’t happy, not really happy.  I mean that kind of peaceful contentment and acceptance.  Not a manic annoying bouncing off the ceiling happy!   That is crazy town.  I was willing to give up being happy, comfortable with who I am in pursuit of perfection.  Which if I am being honest, I never achieved, even when all outside signals may have indicated otherwise to people.

Over a year ago I started to meditate and do this blog.  I started to really let myself get uncomfortable, by questioning where I was and what I always believed.  I don’t really know why.  I can’t tell you this was the particular moment I decided to meditate and look at my life.  I guess like so many other things, I was just ready then.  I don’t think the me of even 2 years ago was ready.  When I started to meditate, I could really hear myself for the first time in the  silence. I could hear what I say to myself.  Learning to take a breath in the heat of conflict I learned to hear what I said to others. Truth was, I was not perfect.  I was not open to criticism, because it is hard to be criticized and perfect at the same time.  You should try it.  I could be so judgmental and sometimes mean.  I still struggle with the impulse to defend myself, to interrupt out of my discomfort.  It is an ongoing and imperfect struggle.  Out of which I might become a slightly better version of myself. perfectionquote

Perfection kept me from a lot of things.  It is hard to be vulnerable and fully present when part of your mind is always questioning if that is the perfect answer, or did I ask the perfect question?   What are those things any way?  Is what I declare to be perfect or what someone else points out as my “perfection” actually perfect or just someone’s iteration of perfection?  This has been a difficult realization and even more difficult letting go of it.  Frankly, without perfection I felt unsteady and unmoored for a while.

What happened in the uncertainty and fear was finding a more true version of me.  I am impatient, sometimes, unfriendly, distracted, judgmental, self-involved, loyal, passionate, hard-working, compassionate, generous, and imperfect.  I am now a little kinder, a little more forgiving, starting with myself.  Once you realize you are not perfect it becomes easier to accept the imperfection in others.  We all have things that influence who we are and what we think.  I am definitely not the arbiter of what is right and perfect.  I am just another imperfect person trying to be a little more me and live a little more in tune with what I believe and value, regardless of whether or not that appears perfect.


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Minimal Cats?

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Lena enjoying a box, I am sure from something we bought them

I have been wanting to do this blog topic for a while.  Mostly to help me process the inconsistency or find that maybe I am right where I need to be.  I do strive to be more of a minimalist. I want to have less material possessions and focus more on experiences and the people and beings in my life that matter.  I have pared down my wardrobe, my kitchen paraphernalia, my coats and jackets.  I try to be a more conscious consumer and still I struggle, but I keep trying.  That leads to my cats.  I would say my cats are where minimalism goes to die in my house.

First we have 5 cats.  Most people would not consider that minimal.  For us this is the smallest number of cats we have ever had.  The most was 7 cats that lived with us full-time and 1 foster mama and 4 kittens.  The truth is if I ever won the lottery I would spend it creating a no-kill haven for kitties no one wanted.  Difficult to win the lottery when you don’t play it.  That is another story.  Back to my feline minimalism quandary.  If you walked into my house you might first ask, “how many cats do you have?”  When my husband and I moved into our current home a couple of years ago the movers commented that the cats had more furniture than we did.  My husband just calmly stated, “there are more of them and don’t break any of their stuff. ”

My cats have stuff.  They have their own “bedroom”  really it is a place to call their own.  It houses their toys (when they have not carried them all over the house) the food bowls and the litter boxes that are upstairs.  It also has a floor to ceiling post and a loveseat my husband brought home from work just for them.  They have cat posts and cat jungle gyms in every significant room in the house, including our bedroom.  Pablo and I share the downstairs as a meditation space and his cat man cave.  He has a bean bag chair he took over from us, a litter box, window perch and cat tree.  I still get my meditation chairs a sofa and the second TV so I can watch Hulu while hubby watches sports.  The cats are fed a diet I make because they are obligate carnivores and they need meat and who is going to take more care with their diet me or a cat food conglomerate?

All that is to say the cats take space, they take money, they take time, they have stuff.  With all of that, maybe, to many I am not a true minimalist.  I had to ask myself that.  Here is where I landed.

I like the concept that minimalism helps you clear the things that don’t matter so you can focus on what does matter.  To me and my husband those cats matter.  We say what we are grateful for before dinner every night and there is rarely a night where we don’t mention one or all of the cats as something we are grateful for.  When I think about life without them, or minimizing them, I feel like I would be missing out. Not FOMO, I know for real what they bring into our lives.  I feel like I am comfortable with where I am with our cats.  I am grateful we have the means and shared will to help cats and give our cats, all of whom are rescues who were thrown away, a pretty spectacular life.  I don’t see us without cats and as long as we have cats those cats will have everything they need to have a fulfilling life indoors.  What is it that makes you question whether or not you have simplified enough?


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Why is it So Hard to Pay Attention

PayingAttention-kittie-style

I am on day 475 of consecutive meditation.  It no longer takes any outside planning or preparation to make sure I meditate.  I know I need it.  I have seen a lot of benefit from it.  I set intentions everyday to pay attention: to the present moment, to how I feel, to how I am reacting, and to the people in my life that really matter.  In my mind I see myself in my office when my best friend stops by asking if I have a minute.  I say “of  course” at which time I fully turn from my computer and phone and give her my full undivided attention.  I listen intently and fully hear everything she has to say.  That is the me that lives in my intention.  I would like to meet her some day.

The me in reality, turns my chair 3/4 towards her with one eye on my screen and the work product I was engaged in and the other eye on her.  I am listening to her, but she is only slightly louder than the internal dialogue counting off how many things remain undone on my to do list.  Why is this so hard?  I have been working with single tasking and it is getting easier.  If a person interrupts my single task, I can’t seem to give them singular focus.  Why is it so hard to make that switch?

I have similar fantasy at home.  My husband will come in, I am absorbed in a book or watching TV and he starts talking about his day or some plans.  The fantasy intention girl closes her kindle and gives her husband her undivided attention.  She does no interrupt him when he is explaining himself and she is fully aware of everything going on with him.  The reality girl may still stay reading thinking ” I talk to people all day I just need a little quiet time with my book or Food Network to recharge.”  When we are in the heat of a disagreement I know and I want to stay fully engaged and hear everything he has to say without jumping in and assuming I know best, or that I have to defend myself or my position.  I often fall short of that letting adrenaline and a desire to be right win out.

Being there, fully there, and fully engaged is hard.  I see myself improving.  Sometimes improvement just means I recognized that an opportunity to fully pay attention was missed and I feel badly about it.  Two years ago I would have just said. “that’s me! Deal with it.”  I want to improve.  One of the things I am going to try to do is at least own it.  I am going to make an effort to acknowledge when I fall short of intention girl’s goal.  I want to admit to someone and apologize when I fail to pay attention.  I realize this isn’t the end goal, as with so many things, it is a start.  I will let you know how this goes.  Do you ever struggle with paying attention?