Self Care: Dog, Yarn, and Cow Edition

Hear ye, hear ye! I’m taking today off. I am not doing regular work, volunteer work, or family stuff. I’m having a self care day!

I even gave the Bitmoji new glasses and shirt.

Much of my day will be spent looking at these guys.

A symphony in earth tones.

Or this guy.

It’s my scarred-up white haid!

Vlassic is out visiting Jim again so no picture, but I got all emotional about losing him last night and got all weepy. Harvey immediately ran to my side and started licking me. Then Penney came. Vlassic licked me, too. That was the first time I really cried in ages. I don’t think it was actually about Vlassic, but about losing all my lost loved ones.

So that made me decide to take the day off. The rest of the family went on a trip, so it’s just me and Lee until dinner, which will be pizza with the Sunday dinner gang. I’m gonna take a bath and do my hair, read, and knit! Yes, knit!

Yarn from Blue Mule, near Round Top.

It’s going to be a cowl you can also wear like a shawl someday. It’s called Nomad. It’s on Ravelry.

It’s not too hard, not too easy.

The most strenuous thing I’ve done today is go look at the chickens and the young cows who are currently behind the house. They just love the chickens and the dogs.

Y’all don’t scare us.

They are such friendly young ladies. I think they were the first ones born here after the pink mamas showed up. They are all named 18. Or they’re new. I don’t know. I just enjoy how friendly they are.

Got any food?

I enjoyed taking some portraits, and hope you like them, too.

I hope your day is peaceful, or that it’s fun, whichever you need. How are you doing self care today?

I’m just gonna snooze.

Bio Blitzing and Mental Gaps

Today’s big activity (and ONLY activity, thankfully) was to go to a local park and do our very first bioblitz in Milam County. That’s where you find as many plants and animals in a specific place at a specified time. I had a lot of fun, though there was a lot of cat herding involved and I didn’t do a very good job of trying to teach what I wanted to teach. If you want some photos and such, visit the blog article I wrote for the group.

The sun even shone a little bit.

I enjoyed hanging around with my old and new friends, and sure found a lot of plants that were hard to identify, but I guess that’s part of the fun. If you want to see what plants, animals, and birds we found, you can visit the little project we created for our bioblitz.

Nature’s bird bath.
Chickasaw plum is one of the first trees to bloom here.

After the blitzing, we came back to our office, where it was warmer, to talk about uploading our findings, then a few of us had a quick lunch. There I was a bit disturbed at myself. I could not remember things. The entire topic of the mind blindedness I wrote about just last week completely escaped my mind. I blanked out on the names of a couple of people I knew, too.

More and more often I find myself coming up with a big hole where I was certain a word, fact, or memory should be. I’m not declaring myself to have dementia or anything, but it sure is annoying. It’s hard to know when you’re just tired, and it’s normal, or when there’s something actually wrong.

So, if you know me, let me know if I’m drifting off.

Look. Insects doing it. I actually typed “insexts” at first. They are crane flies.

ANYWAY, I did get to take my friend Dorothy to see the Pope House, and there we found beautiful stairs! I was pretty excited and ran up them.

Stairs! Indoors! Safe! photo by Dorothy Mayer

The steps themselves are really pretty. Chris made them bull-nosed, so they have a lot of class. I can’t wait to see what next week brings. Until then, I am officially resting, reading, and maybe even knitting for a while. I hope I remember what I’m doing.

Those steps are gorgeous, and nice and deep, too.

Why I Am "Too Busy"

You know what’s extra-extra nice? It’s nice that people care. And people do care about me! One way I know is that I am very frequently told I am too busy, or asked why I do so much. This is not new. Sensei Larry, who taught the kids karate, always called me “the Joiner,” because I did so many things at my old church.

And when I was in La Leche League, I certainly had a lot of jobs, though all that volunteering led to an actual paid job, followed by a career!

Case in point. My new knitting project has followed me to the office, so I’ll have something to work on after I run off to the park to do a Master Naturalist bioblitz. This is the calmest Saturday I’ve had since last year.

It’s true. I may be an introvert, but I like to keep busy. Boredom is not an issue for me. My whole life I’ve had a book in my hands, knitting in my lap, or some meeting to go to (choir, yarn shop, LLL, political things, my women’s group, etc.) I like being around people who are doing things. That’s how I learn.

Sure, there have been times when I’ve over committed. I’m able to figure that out and eliminate some things, honest. Right now I am totally at my limit. I can’t take on another committee chairmanship, event to organize, or new hobby (even though I’d love to learn to paint).

In the last week I’ve said “no” to several things. I’m mentioning this so that those of you who are concerned will see that I DO say no. I just don’t write about those things, since the Joiner always is sad to disappoint people. I was born this way, sigh. But I’ve had therapy!

The things on my plate right now support the things I care about passionately: animals, nature, writing for my LLL friends, our new business, and my paying job (which I love, so I’m not quitting). I’m going to be careful to not take on any new sub-jobs, and to ask for help when I need it. I just LOVE to do work I’m passionate about.

You, my friends, can help by pointing out to me when I’m frazzled and short-tempered and reminding me to ask for help. I’m glad you care. And I know that a lot of my busy-ness is to keep me from thinking about losing contact with my beloved son. I know.

This is me and Jenecia (JD), who I met in Master Naturalists, and is now my good friend. We were celebrating our two-year Facebook friend-a-versary yesterday. The nice thing about a small town is that you get to see your friends so often!

Still, I’m glad I have such kind friends in real life and in the virtual community. You help me see that life always has positives and negatives, and that you can make your own positives by getting out there and DOING rather than STEWING. Hey, did I make a meme? I’m too busy to go create one and post it, though. Heh heh.

By the way, having spent the week here in Cameron, I tell you what: I’d be exhausted if I were here full time. My goodness, I went to a lot of meetings, events, and such. I think it was just an exceptional week, though. At least I got some relaxing social time with my Cameron friends, too. Cheers to my new Bistro wine happy hour buddies, and to the wonderful servers and staff friends there!

Is This Safe? No. Remodeling Scare.

We are moving right along in remodeling the Pope Residence. You may remember that we removed a staircase that was in the entry hall, because it was dangerous (in more than one way). After it was removed, we put a temporary piece of wood over the resulting hole, so no one would fall to their death on our first floor.

See that big board, just hanging there? Oops. Two more have been repaired.

Yesterday, the crew was planning to make a permanent repair to the floor on the second floor, in anticipation of being able to put in the new tin ceiling. When Chris and Easton looked at it, their hearts skipped a beat. The previous remodeler had simply sawn through the floor joists to insert the stairs. That meant nothing was holding the floor up in that space. It’s a miracle no one ever had the floor collapse beneath them. Scary.

Just to show that we fixed it, here’s a fixed picture! It should be darned sturdy now.

Aah, safety. It’s all sealed up now!

Chris has been busily supporting things in the house, anyway. He’s reinforcing the floor in the main downstairs bathroom, which is probably a good idea. And all those sinking places are doubly reinforced. Our floors will stay!

Ready to replace damaged floors with safe and strong subflooring.

And We Can See!

In breaking news, the electric folks just came by and switched on our new, safe, and inspected electrical service! The temporary lighting works just fine. I turned on all the lights, just because I could. Now we can work all night!

Other Renovation Stuff

We’re all excited about the stuff Chris and I bought on a whirlwind trip to Lowe’s yesterday. There are the two windows to go in my bathroom and in the stairwell. They will match just fine.

Yep, those are windows, all right.

And we got all the outside lights, which will make it much safer for all of us and keep the perimeter of the building visible at all times. I think they are pretty, even if they’re just the kind everyone has. That doesn’t mean they are ugly!

Large and medium sized outdoor lights. They should get installed any day now.

The shiny red tiles for my office and bathroom came in, as did the vanity for the main bathroom downstairs, but the vanity was too big to fit in the giant SUV (it was raining, so no pickup and trailer). We did get a LOT of decking for replacing old floors, though. And while we were there, we chose a nice deep sink for the breakroom, as well as a faucet.

Stay tuned next time, when I hope to have stairway progress to share.

Book Report: Furious Hours

Oh, hooray! I finally finished a book! I’ve been reading some long ones lately, and it hasn’t helped that I have all those other activities and distractions going on. Speaking of distractions, Cathy J. gave me some fascinating used books and magazines passed along by her daughter. When I sent this photo on to Anita, she squealed via text. Cathy also sent along a VERY 1970s decorating book that may well be my next review.

I can’t wait to delve into all the dish about Lee! (Not my husband, this guy)

Oh, Wait, This Is a Book Report

Anyway, the book for this month’s book club is Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (what a mouthful). It’s by Casey Cep, a young woman with a mighty big talent for writing complex plots that you can still follow. Heck, it’s so complex that it’s hard to say what kind of book it is.

Cool fonts and scary woods just draw you in.

It’s almost like a few books all gathered together into one. There’s a crime story involving the black community in a small Alabama town, full of innuendo, unsolved deaths, and much drama. There’s a biography of the author, Harper Lee, including her childhood friendship with Truman Capote and her difficulties writing after To Kill a Mockingbird was published. There are also at least two other biographies hiding in the book, Willie Maxwell and “Big” Tom Radly). And then there’s a book on how to write “true crime” books, including how to do the research, interview people, and ferret out the facts.

The cast of characters in Furious Hours is legion. You meet practically everyone in the small Alabama town and the surrounding area from regular citizens to the law officers and politicians. You meet everyone Harper Lee was ever close to in all her travels and adventures, including, of course, all her colleagues in publishing. And you meet people who have insight into all the above.

I’m usually one of those people who has to write down all the characters in books, so I can keep them straight (I was so glad the book Homegoing had a family tree with names and relationships in it). But Casey Cep made the people in the book come alive so well (and she included subtle reminders of who people were), that I followed all the people as they came into the book, left, and came back again years later.

The person you don’t don’t get to meet in this book is Casey Cep, who prefers to let her words tell you about her. She’s the one who impressed me the most. Her research was impeccable, as far as I could tell, and she carefully clarified any time something she wrote about was not verifiable or when she got conflicting information from sources. That sure made the book more interesting to me!

There’s so much to this book that I wonder if Cep, like Harper Lee, only has one magnum opus in her. I hope not, though. Her reportage is clear, quick-moving, and a lot of fun. It’s amazing that this was her first book!

The Physical Book

I’d like to say a few words about the book, itself. You have probably noticed that I like to read physical books, rather than listening to them or reading on a screen. It’s probably something to do with the age I grew up in, but it’s also because books are a sensory experience to me.

Furious Hours has lots of photos of Harper Lee smoking. She was something else.

I also like to read hardback books. I KNOW that’s because they were such a luxury when I was young. All we had were the encyclopedias and a lot of paperbacks (Mom read romance novels). I loved her Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, though, because they were hardbacks. (However, I didn’t like the “condensed” parts once I read some of the full versions of books.) I wonder what happened to those books?

Back to my topic, Furious Hours is over 300 pages, so it’s a substantial hardback book. It’s great that there are photos of some of the people and places in the book, too.

And if you haven’t read it, for goodness’ sake, go get this book.

However, the book drove me nuts as I was reading it. Why? Well, the pages are really thick. I always felt like I must have been turning two pages instead of one. Second, the book just would not open all the way. I even tried to smoosh it down in a few places, but nope, it would not open wide. If you loosened your grip on it, it would pop shut. I’m sure it’s a good quality and will last a long time, but it sure was hard to read! I did like the quality of the paper on the cover, though. It felt good.

I find it interesting that I kept turning from this book to a large paperback I’m also reading, called Behave. I just love the way that book feels. It opens up so I can read it, the pages feel good, a blend of smooth and a little texture, and there are lots and lots of words on the pages, so I don’t have to turn them so often. (I will say, though, that if you don’t have really good glasses, you’ll have a heck of a time with its footnotes, which are in 6 point type, I swear.)

Should You Read It?

In summary: for a fascinating time learning about crazy crimes and Harper Lee, go out and get a paperback version of Furious Hours! Thanks to Anita for selecting it for our neighborhood book club.

Clearly I Care

I’m not talented with construction and building things. But I can clean stuff.

The crystals have ferns etched on them.

The big chandelier in the main room at the Pope House is a mess, since it’s been hanging there through the remodel. Yesterday, Randy patiently took down all the crystals, which was quite a job. There are over 90 glass crystals and who knows how many plastic ones, which I don’t know what they do, exactly.

It’s naked!

So I took the crystals home last night and washed them. Geez. That took longer than I thought it would! So many crystals. But they are pretty.

Soaking away.

They are also quite heavy. I carefully packed them in a box so none will break. It looks like I’ll get to the plastic ones tomorrow. I’m sorta hoping we can not use the plastic ones. In any case, I’ll have to buy a few replacement crystals. I hope they make similar ones still.

Drying.

Going Up!

I’m enjoying being in Cameron this week. I got to go to Rotary Club yesterday. Most cool, though, is construction supervision. I’m excited to see our electric boxes are in.

This will be nicely covered.

Best, though, the stairs are going up today! Here’s the first step. Heh heh. Step.

Ready for stairs.

Want to know the plan?

Chris’s stair plan.

How to Perk Up a Small Town

Chris, Kathleen and Jean waiting to eat their meat.

Last night I went to the Cameron Chamber of Commerce banquet. When you are in a bunch of organizations, as well as more than one business, that’s a member, you sort of feel like you have to go. Since Hearts Homes and Hands was a Gold Sponsor, we got to sit up at the front of the place, which I’d never done before (never having spent the money to sponsor anything). At the event, I learned lots of ways to get things going and make small towns better. The first one was the most fun.

Surprise Someone

There we are, right under the BIG sponsor.

Lee, Kathleen, Chris and I were the HHH representatives, but we invited two of my Milam Touch of Love Board members to come, as well (wish we could have invited them all). It was nice to bring Jean Schara and Mark McKibben along with us for a fancy meal and some beverages. (Once again, though, there was nothing for non-drinkers in the wine and cheese time before the meal.)

Lee and Mark paying attention to Judge Young.

At the end of the evening, the Chamber gives out awards to citizens and groups. After the big awards, they give out Excellence Awards to groups or people who didn’t quite make the cut, or aren’t in the in-group of Cameron movers and shakers, which is who usually gets things (not complaining, just noticing). In fact, Lee won one of these last year for our work renovating houses and buildings in the community.

It was really great, then, to see the look on Mark’s face when it was announced that Milam Touch of Love received an award for the work we have done for animals in the area. Jean had a clue something was up, because I’d told her it would really be a good idea to reschedule her Facebook Live event for her essential oil business. Mark just showed up for the food and friendship, but hooray! We were recognized. Both Jean and Mark have spent SO much time, effort and money for the group. It was great to have them join me.

We are very happy to get our award.

ALL the volunteers and donors for MTOL are part of the recognition, though, because, as with all nonprofits, it takes a lot of work to succeed. I am really proud of them.

Remind Them It Doesn’t Suck

I have to admire Judge Young, who has been personally dragging the county into modernity by courting businesses and proposing things that disrupt the status quo. He spoke for “two minutes” at the banquet, and reminded everyone how much good has happened in the past couple of years.

Melanie is timing the judge, who I don’t recognize without his cowboy hat. There were lots of them in the audience! Texas, y’all.

He’s not kidding. All sorts of solar power companies are moving in, and I can’t complain about that. We in Milam County are also some sort of bitcoin mining capital of the country, and wile I’m not the biggest fan of that sort of thing, it does bring in jobs. And while a lot of people complain about moving the city offices to the former hospital in town, it WILL provide opportunities for new businesses to come in and make downtown Cameron an actual destination.

I hope he perked up a few people…

Bring in a Motivational Speaker

Sarah collects vintage hats. Flowers came from down the road from us at Silver City Flowers.

Another way to perk up a town like Cameron is to get the movers and shakers to think differently. So, this year, Melanie Reed brought in a young woman who has worked with small towns throughout Texas to improve their images and such.

Sarah O’Brien had actually done her homework, and presented a talk that wasn’t just ideas, but had concrete suggestions. She’d taken a tour of the town a few weeks ago (including the Pope Residence – so THAT was the lady who Melanie dragged through our construction zone).

Sarah used local buildings as examples of positive and negative mindsets. We laughed when Jean’s business was used as the negative (Ms. O’Brien has NO idea what’s in there).

One thing she said, in a talk about Lee’s favorite topic of mindset, just geared toward small town leaders, was that to get people to be positive about Cameron, we have to be positive. I saw myself and my blog about potholes in that one! Oops.

We laughed even harder when OUR building was used for abundance. I guess she didn’t notice the peeling paint on her tour.

You do hear a lot of folks around here saying how hard it is to get good people to work for you, how the poverty mindset has made the citizens unmotivated to do better, etc. I see how being more positive might very well rub off! I’m going to make an effort to portray Cameron more positively and to continue to work to make it a place where people enjoy living.

Look! It’s our award. If only we had an office to hang it in.

Hey, at least I’ve helped increase the population by about ten people at the moment, some of whom are eating LOTS of donuts (the construction guys) and all of whom are buying things here! Thanks to Canova, Martha, Mike, Kathleen, Chris, Jim, Nicole, and Easton for saying yes to Cameron, even if you aren’t all here forever.

It’s fun being part of a small town trying to re-invent itself. No one gives a flip about me in the leadership of Austin, and that anonymity is nice, but it’s also nice to feel heard here in Cameron. I say YES!