Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Clear skies bring a respite

Lenten Reflection #36

Looking up at the sky and seeing an elephant or funny face in a sea of clouds is something I continue to do even though our kids’ gaze has since lowered.

So when my husband reminded us about April’s Full Pink Supermoon tonight, my daughter and I dashed out to see it. We peaked up and pretended to blow on the clouds to try and move them so we could see the wonderment behind this so-called Paschal Full Moon. (We also wanted to finish watching another episode of The Office). My daughter is 17, appreciates literature and music, and her childhood imagination rekindles in a blink as if committed to muscle memory. So without hesitation, we stood an extra few minutes and stared at the bright light behind the clouds.

The sky was beautiful. In fact, our dear planet has been the sole beneficiary of this unforgiving virus. Since the stay at home measures taken by most of the world, there has been a sharp decline in pollution and carbon emissions resulting in a positive development for the planet and the humans who live on it. Paris skies are clear, Madrid’s sunsets are spectacularly vibrant and Italy’s waterways are like crystal paths.

Tonight is the perfect night to look up and see our big bright, beautiful sky, so we did and I hope you did too…

I hope you looked up at the moon tonight, I hope in that glance or gaze you saw hope. I pray you saw our children playing tag on the playground again and families not going hungry. I hope you looked deep into the soft silver-lined edges of the moon and saw a love-filled world where together we survive our darkest moments. And I hope you found faith that we will all embrace once again.

“And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky.”

-Disney’s An American Tale

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Can I run outside with the stay at home restrictions?

Lenten Reflections #33

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the 79-year-old director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the answer is yes.

He is an avid runner who lately, works nearly 20 hours a day, but still finds time to power walk or run.

Dr. Fauci said running outside during the shelter in place rule is fine as long as you follow the six-foot rule. Fauci continues to run even with the long, taxing days and has cut back to 3.5 miles per day.

That means no excuses, get outside, keep your distance and GO the distance!

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Call Grandma & Grandpa…with House Party or Zoom?!?

Lenten Reflections Day #31

My parents are 81 and 84 and they keep busy. So when the “shelter in place” rule hit, my sisters had to do a lot of parental redirecting.

I think at one point they hid the car keys, which isn’t a bad thing as Dad has Macular Degeneration. Simply put, this sight loss condition makes driving quite challenging for him–unless Mom sits in the passenger seat and “directs” him. It’s kind of like being in a new Subaru with the fancy bells and whistles that alert you when you’re too close to a car or a pedestrian. Instead, it’s just Mom yelling “Dad! Car!” in a used Honda.

In an effort to keep Mom and Dad home and bring all of us together virtually, we reviewed the options. We had heard of families using House Party to visit with their grandparents who “loved it!” Instead, we opted to start small and less bold by setting up a Google Hangouts call.

Inevitably, the sound didn’t work, Dad could “almost” see us and Mom lost interest about 6 minutes in. When we realized she had definitely moved onto her crossword puzzle, we told her we could try a different day, to which she quickly said, “No, let’s just get it over with now”.  One thing my parents can always do is make me laugh.

We’re still working on virtual calls with Mom and Dad, maybe a Zoom will be easier. In the meantime, Mom is sewing masks for doctors and nurses, reading and doing puzzles while Dad is spending a lot of time outside fixing and building things.

The picture above is a rare sighting. Dad painting. Not sure how this transpired, but it is just one example of how all of us are stepping out of our comfort zones and trying new things. Not always because we want to, but that’s where we are so why not embrace it or rather give it one of those weird elbow bumps.

I think I’ll stick to regular phone calls for now. I like it when Mom and I are chatting and she says, “Hold on a minute, I’ll go get Dad, he’s outside and I’m not on the ‘walk-around phone’, I’m attached to the wall.”

Behaviors may change, but deep down, Mom and Dad are going to stay who they are, picking up the phone when it rings, hanging laundry on the line and taking care of each other.

Try something new, be safe and take care.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Being home: from homework to hunger

Lenten Reflections #23

They are home.

Elementary school kids are home with their parents learning to tie their shoes, tell time, count money. Tweens are spared from what can be tumultuous middle school moments, and high school students are navigating Chemistry labs, Rhetorical Analysis, and document-based questions (DBQ’s). All at home.

DIFFERENCES

I called to check in on my students and their families today.

The gamut ran from,

“We’re doing well. He just finished working on sequencing and now I’m teaching him how to tell time from an analog clock.”

TO

“I haven’t heard from my social worker, I don’t know how I’m going to feed my two children, my parents are quarantined and I have to have surgery on Thursday.”

My gosh. Just when I started to grumble about making dinner, I thought of the families who have nothing…NOTHING to bring to the table.

Note: I was able to contact our administrators and they connected the family with MUST Ministry who would help provide meals for the family.

This was true testimony that while some grapple with studying, some are trying to survive. As parents we simply want our kids to be happy, learn and sidestep struggle. We want to do our best…and make them their best selves.

LET THEM LEARN HOW TO LEARN…

Just today, I felt like a rock star when I was able to help my youngest son with his 8th-grade Algebra, yet completely useless when my daughter was working on her Physics lab. One child asks for help, another tackles the work until every eraser in our home is worn.

My son who is a Sophomore incorporates breaks into his studies. Every 30 minutes or so he rides his bike, walks the dogs or works on projects in the garage. His brother shoots baskets outside or plays fetch with the dogs. A stark difference from a 6-minute transition between one-hour and 45-minute classes.

My daughter stays the course, she should wear a t-shirt with Einstein’s words: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

They each know how they learn best. They have to know.

As they made their lunches today I asked them to pray for those who are hungry or sick or lonely…and Seniors everywhere who are longing for the proper graduation they deserve, but may have to sacrifice for the betterment of all.

The majority of kids truly miss school. They long for their friends, the guarantee of meals, the routine. 

After prayers tonight I reminded them to count their blessings.

As we all should.

Be smart. Be kind.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

“Best Lent Ever”

Lenten Reflection #10

The last three years I’ve watched many of the “Best Lent Ever” episodes by Mathew Kelly, a Catholic Guru.

Here’s a snippet from his first reflection this Lenten Season:

In our journey with God, there are many different seasons. There are some times in our lives when we’re hungry to pray, we’re hungry to learn, we’re hungry to be with God. There are other times in our lives when we’re not. There are times in our lives where certain types of spirituality engages us, and there are other times in our lives where those very same things that brought us great enthusiasm and great passion leave us dry and desolate. And so it’s important to recognize the seasons in our spirituality.

What are your spiritual seasons?

May they be fruitful and plentiful.

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Teenagers: 6 funny reasons for bad grades

40 Days of Lenten Reflections

Day #7

I’ve read numerous articles about why we should let our kids fail. So I gave it a try.

For a few months, I was the hands-off mom. The cool, “Study…um…or not…up to you” mom. Turns out, it worked. The failure part, that is. 

Some parents regard any failure by their children as a crisis. James Lehman, MSW with Empoweringparents.com said,

“In a crisis, parents see the danger part very clearly, but often don’t see the opportunity part. They don’t see that their child has the opportunity to learn an important lesson. The lesson might be about the true cost of cutting corners, what happens when he doesn’t do his best at something, or what the real consequences are for not being productive.”

Or in some cases, the lesson may be to craft clever reasons for why they failed. Here are some popular examples I compiled based on experience and research:

1.  “SHE didn’t give me a study guide.”

Typically teachers give students tools and strategies to study for tests, but there are those kids who think their teachers should hand deliver the said study guide to their home, place it on the kitchen table, and maybe even complete it for them.

Trust me, under the crumpled paper, broken pencils, and PE clothes in their backpack lie a study guide.

2.  “EVERYONE did bad on the test.”

To be executed correctly, this excuse should be said with backbone. Stress on the word EVERYONE while holding onto evvvvvvv——eryone should help their case. Teenager’s pre-frontal cortex has convinced them that if the masses failed, it clearly wasn’t their fault.

Maybe the class is full of slackers or maybe, well, nevermind.

3.  “He hasn’t put in the grades for the work I did REALLY WELL on yet and he takes FOREVER to grade!”

(except for tests, apparently)

This excuse is usually coupled with “There’s only one grade in the grade book, so that’s why it seems like such a bad grade.”

Nope. It’s actually a bad grade.

4.  “I had THREE OTHER tests to study for!”

Helping students develop good study habits is insanely hard. Teaching them to prioritize and manage their time is even worse. Ultimately it’s up to them what they study for first if at all, but if this is their excuse, make your follow-up the classic:

“Well, you should have started studying earlier.”

5.  “It’s not my fault the teacher doesn’t know how to teach!”

Once your kids get into the harder subjects, like AP Calculus and Physics, using the ignorance of the teachers bodes well as an excuse and is surprisingly convincing…I mean the reason for not doing well is coming from a child who qualified to be in the class, so…

NOPE! Don’t fall for it! They should have studied.

6.  “I THOUGHT I did well, but I didn’t.”

This is my son’s favorite. It’s the moment when parents have two choices: admit their child did not study enough or at all; or worry they don’t understand any of the content and cancel the family’s summer vacation.

So it turns out failing is an important ingredient in life, but learning from failure is a natural consequence we can all benefit from.

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Puzzles: why seniors benefit from these brain boosters

Lenten Reflections #6

Nowadays, the thump of a newspaper hitting porch steps is about as rare as hearing the beeping drone of a telephone’s busy signal.

Up until a few months ago, you could hear both sounds at my parent’s home. (They have caller ID now which they completely ignore).

Every morning, nestled under coffee cups and bowls of Cherrioes lies the Albuquerque Journal spread across the large table (which once sat six) as if poised for a large art project. Dad takes the front page, Mom pores over the local news, they both rotely read through the obituaries. Then Mom starts “the puzzle” as they call it. She nearly completes her half of the daily crossword effortlessly (depending on the day) and passes it to Dad. Inevitably they finish it together.

Crossword puzzles, jokes, riddles, and intermittent episodes of Jeopardy are a huge part of my parent’s lives.

According to wordwealth.com,

“When it comes to senior people, the daily crossword puzzle is a game-changer. The benefits of solving puzzles for the elderly are innumerable, including enhanced memory, better cognitive skills, improved concentration, and much more. It can even reduce the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the elderly.”

Mom and Dad are no exception to this rule. So when my sister sent the above picture of our parents with a beautiful puzzle they had recently finished, I had to share it with you all. The text attached, read “FINISHED!” Yet another successful puzzle solved and completed by Mom and Dad.

These jigsaw cardboard conundrums remind us to take time to sit and search for the tangible corner pieces, edges and crazy pieces we try so hard to force-fit into a spot, but also, help us to weed through our own lives and piece together who we are, what we are destined to do, and how we can gracefully arrive where we belong.

Thank you kindly for reading.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Lent’s alarm

Lenten Reflections #3

I was thinking about the backstory of Lent. The “Why”.

Not how it all transpired. Moreso, how it changes us and makes us better. Or not.

So I turned to two of my favorite writers for words of wisdom: Pope Francis and Anne Lamott.

When writing about Ash Wednesday, Lamott said,

So God bless you all today, GOOD. Whether you celebrate Ash Wednesday or not, it is always a day for awakening. Don’t hit the snooze button. Wake up, right now, spritz yourself with a plant mister, look around, gape, give thanks, help the poor…

Pope Francis also connected Lent with an awakening:

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.”

Our long winter’s nap ends as we embrace the change in mind, body, and spirit Lent freely provides. 

Make a change. Make it positive and make it now.

FAITH Challenge: say a quick prayer every time you hear a siren today.

FITNESS Challenge: Go for a walk or run.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Holding each other up

40 Lenten Reflections – #2

I love writing about my parents. However, every time I start, I never finish as there is so much to share. Instead, I sit and stare at 17 blog drafts about mom and dad and keep writing. 

But today when I was working on Venn Diagrams with first graders, thoughts about my parents escalated. As we discussed characteristics that make us unique and similar to each other, the kids wrote things like “Bella likes Barbies and I like the Braves, but we’re BOTH crazy at recess!”

We discussed what makes each of us special and why it’s important to respect each other even if our friends root for the Braves while we cheer on the Yankees. We also talked about what connects all of us…being afraid of the dark, liking pizza and loving PE. Then one slight, wide-eyed girl said, “My mom and dad don’t live together anymore, that makes me different.”

That’s when my heartstrings started tugging. I couldn’t help but think of my own mom and dad. They have been married nearly 60 years and were both born in the 1930s into Hispanic families with simple, humble beginnings. Their similarities indeed outnumbered their differences.

As octogenarians, my folks give more than they take, pray for others before themselves and cherish family. Sure there are differences. Every phone call, dad says he feels “GREAT!” no matter what because he’s “just happy to be here.” Mom will candidly tell you if she’s not feeling well. And I chuckle every time she says “Okay, I’m done,” when she’s exhausted from talking/listening to me on the phone. On the other hand, if she held a plank in Pilates longer than her classmates, she’ll definitely stretch the conversation.

I am constantly awed by my parents.

As in the photo above, they literally and figuratively hold each other up physically, emotionally and spiritually.

You’ll hear more about them throughout these 40 days and more.

Celebrate what makes you special, but remember in the Venn Diagram of life, the big chunk in the middle shows just how similar we really are…

Pray for others…and please be kind.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Reuse and recycle it all!

REDUCE

I grew up in a no-waste home. Bones were given to our dog Dusty, and our “compost” was a bucket filled with the wilted iceberg lettuce and corn cobs which we dumped into the lamb’s pen. Every stray branch was used as kindling for the fire. And newspapers with nearly completed crosswords were laid out and used for serving hot popcorn while we watched Jeopardy or Johnny Carson’s monologue.

RECYCLE

Water is priceless in New Mexico. In the summertime, water drips from the side of my childhood home where the swamp cooler runs. Alongside the brick, my mom has nestled a small McCoy planter in the gravel to catch the water. This oasis serves as a resting spot for what might be the most robust toad in New Mexico. When the planter is filled, mom shares the water with her tomato plants and returns the toad’s tiny home to its spot to refill.

REUSE

I’ve picked up a lot of these no-waste habits from my conscientious parents and yesterday found myself practicing another one of their tricks.

Here’s how it goes:

It may sound crazy, but I try to vacuum daily. We have two dogs. TWO. That’s one away from crazy. And, they are NOT the purebred, never shed, well-behaved type. They are the insanely lovable, loud, shed-like-crazy mutts that are so cute you can hardly stand it. So I vacuum and vacuum and then I do it one more time.

Yesterday I was about to go over the carpet and realize I had completely surpassed the mark on the vacuum bag that says DO NOT FILL OVER THIS LINE. The bag was so full, the vacuum itself felt significantly heavier. I glanced down at the carpet and saw mud from someone’s shoes they “forgot” to take off and spots where the dogs decided to roll so they could spread the dirt in the neglected areas.

Time to clean up the mess…

Unfortunately, I thought I was ahead of the game and gleefully opened the closet and saw every type of bag EXCEPT what I needed. Of course, I did the logical move and tried to force a Hoover bag into a Riccar vacuum. It didn’t work last time, but I had to try again.

In this case, one size did NOT fit all so I thought…what would mom and dad do?

Well, if they had not picked up extra Electrolux bags at Sears or the last yard sale they went to, it would be DIY time.

I reluctantly fished out the used vacuum bag I flippantly tossed in the trash barrel and knew what I HAD to do. With no time to go to the store or use Amazon, I pulled up my sleeves, stood over the trash bin and removed all the yuck (and one missing sock) from the bag. The garage looked like a scene from the Grapes of Wrath.

After emptying the bag (and dusting myself off), I finished my job and marveled at how well the vacuum worked with the “new” bag.

My parents continue to teach me so much about reusing, recycling, saving, and being a smart consumer. From watching This Old House with dad growing up or using YouTube now, I am convinced DIY jobs are worth a try and recycling is ALWAYS the right thing to do.

I know this vacuum hack produces a lot of dust, but I saved a few dollars, found a sock and saved one more bag from going into a landfill.

Do you have any clever recycling/reusing tips? Please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

BONUS INFO:

I later researched a clever way to empty and reuse vacuum bags.

Here’s what I found:

To empty a vacuum bag multiple times here is a suggestion from the  Do It Yourself Website.

  1. Get a strip of duct tape and tape it vertically along the back of the bag (the opposite side of where the bag opening is) that covers about 2/3 of the bag’s length. Cut a slit through the tape and through the bag, taking care not to cut all the way through to the other side of the bag. Leave about an inch or so at either end of the tape uncut. Empty out the bag.
  2. Cut another strip of duct tape long enough to cover the slit. Add another inch and fold over the end of the tape onto itself about ½ inch from the end. This will provide for a handy little non-sticking end that will make it easier to pull off. Affix this new strip of tape over the slit.
  3. Replace the bag in the vacuum. Next time you have to empty the bag, merely peel off the top strip (using the end that has that neat little handle) and empty out the contents.

Happy cleaning…