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Two Bowls and a Venti Cup of Mindfulness

The morning rituals are the same, largely, regardless of weekday or weekend, freelance or on the clock for someone else. And, I realize as I write this, they're patterns that have taken root not by deliberate choice but by the needs or patterns established by others.

Between 5:45 and 6:40, my eyes will flicker open, sometimes waking after a night on the couch if I've fallen asleep watching something off the DVR (the TV has an off timer set for 1:30 a.m.) or in bed, on the left side of the queen-size set-up, and I acclimate by sound.

Is the cat, Little Bean, eager for breakfast? Using the litter box? Stretching and yawning next to me? If A, make beeline for kitchen, with said cat racing between feet and mewing, and check fridge for whatever one of two open cans of Fancy Feast (Gravy Lovers), is in the rotating flavor wheel for breakfast or dinner enjoyment. Reach into cabinet drawer adjacent to fridge and grab small fork. Dole out one quarter can, with proportional amount of gravy, into one of 12 cat dishes (Petragous design, with human-enticing art stencils) stacked on the counter nearby. Pivot to microwave above the stove, enter "8" for smallish portion, "9" or "10" for slightly larger portion. Quick nuke, then remove and stir with fork so food is spread evenly, with no overly large chunks. Walk dish 6 paces to Bean's preferred dining spot on the floor (unless she's jumped up on counter in exuberance, in which case present dish in place), place dish and say the magic words, "There you go, gravy girl!" Back away, savoring contented slurping sounds.

From there, we start to chart our own courses.

I grab my iPad from the kitchen table, where it's charged overnight. Check news alerts from N.Y. Times and WaPo and Chicago Trib and CNN. Any grabbers, I'll head to the couch and dive right in on headlines. If none, I'll open up Solitaire for the daily challenge, which takes about 105 moves and concludes in under 3 minutes. After that, Simpsons Tapped Out, for a 2- or 3-minute round clearing properties and sending characters on their morning missions. Then it's on to those news reads, for at least a half hour. More time — lots more — if it's big news day. Then Facebook scrolling. Maybe a bathroom break somewhere in that span.

Open patio door for Bean (her morning Joe, as L named it for Theda Bara and which I still adhere to because, you know, it's great cat conversation).

Now it's my nourishment rite. Bowl of Cheerios, with 1/2 cup of skim milk. Hot tea — most often Twinings Earl Grey but sometimes any one of 6 or so others, per mood and morning mindfulness reflection. Sometimes in one of the two Starbucks 2015 tall mugs, most often in the retro Minnie or Mickey Mouse Disneyland mug or the Star Wars Yoda mug.

Weekends, especially Sundays, it's always some of the Mariage Freres Voyageur tea, because it's strong, and chocolate notes permeate, and because it echoes one of my favorite Paris visits with wonderful people. Sometimes it's the Joy seasonal mix from Teavana. Amazing nose and palette. Other mornings, it can just be a mango herbal or English Breakfast. But tea is the cornerstone.

One-quarter of a tall glass of orange juice — Simply Orange, with pulp, from Costco, bought in gallons) is consumed after I put the cereal bowl in the dishwasher. Then it's onto the most recent inclusion, added two years ago and echoing L but with my own signature flavors and serving size: a small container of Fage yogurt, rotating flavors from those available in the 0% fat family: cherry pomegranate, blueberry acai, raspberry, strawberry. (When the Costco custom pack is available, we go all in on 24 days of a whole other mix, including banana guanaberry.)

Yogurt consumed. Tea savored from steep to last sip, taking the moments to appreciate the scent and the warmth in all its gradients. And then we share with Bean. Fingertips dip and scoop from the corners of the Fage cup — yogurt only, no fruit, to be kitty friendly.

That's the beginning of most of my days, happily rooted in the needs and habits and desires of those whose mornings have come before mine.

It's a good start to the morning.

Background noise

Still Monday.