A Year of Classic Vlassic

It came as a shock to me when my calendar popped up that August 1 is our sleek black weenie dog mix, Vlassic’s “birthday!” Only a year ago, Sara saw something strange on her picnic table and called me over to get my new dog.

A year of me? I’m glad!

We never saw any posts looking for him, which is good, since he crawled immediately into our hearts. He’s my faithful companion who travels back and forth between Austin and Cameron every week with me. He sleeps next to (or on) me every night, and spends a lot of his waking time on my lap.

Luckily he spreads his love to other people’s laps, often unannounced. He has caused many beverages to spill. But when he rolls over and stretches out for a belly rub, you can’t be angry.

Let me demo my belly rub face for you.

He loves his canine friends a lot, too, though he has to occasionally remind them he’s small. His little jaw snaps repeatedly when he’s wrestling with Carlton or Harvey. And when Penney joins in, it’s glorious. We humans just have to smile.

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We Have a Wine Cellar!

Anita and I are very proud of ourselves. What was a giant mess you couldn’t enter, only a few weeks ago, is now well on its way to becoming a dream wine cellar/shoe closet.

Shoe closet?

Yeah. The Master closet in the Bobcat Lair house turned out way too small, even after I got rid of most of my clothes when I moved here. I put in a shoe rack and other storage stuff, but all I do is fall over things.

Anita unwraps tiny bottles.

My real estate business partner, Carol, suggested I store shoes in the wine room, and suddenly it made sense. I’m always in the office when I leave for work and when I come home, so why not put the shoes there?

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I Deserve an Award

I don’t look thrilled to be a statue.

This whole unpacking of boxes in the garage and general removing unnecessary stuff from my house thing is not becoming easier for me. However, I am still doing it! Yes! And that’s why I honestly think someone should give me a gold star or something. So, I made myself an award on Bitmoji. I’m very proud of this award.

What keeps me going?

Certainly the lifting of heavy boxes of books and empty CD cases (Lee’s) is not a motivating factor. The heat isn’t helping (though it isn’t bad in the garage). Yeah, having more space in the garage is nice, but the real thrill is…

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Perhaps Too Much Technology

Why, hello there, friends and readers! I haven’t been quite the blogging fool I usually am for the past few days, and for what I find to be an ironical reason. I got a new laptop.

I admit to putting the IT team off for about two years, because every time I get a new work laptop, things go crazy. I just didn’t have time for crazy, even though now most of my apps and storage are off living on some cloud and not ON the laptop. I didn’t even know if it HAD a hard drive.

My previous little system had served me well, though at some point in 2017 it stopped being able to hold power if it undocked. So, oh darn, I couldn’t present at meetings. </sarcasm> I just had docks everywhere I worked, and it was fine. The poor thing has a brand-new battery in it, but whatever the problem is, it’s not the battery. Okay, so I needed a new computer.

All of this mess actually works.

Finally, last week, the thing started randomly shutting down while I was minding my ow business, typing, mousing, or saving a vitally important Camtasia file. So, I let Josh, the nice young IT dude, swap me out.

I made myself laugh, because I brought three laptops home with me to the ranch last weekend (old laptop, new laptop, and my trusty Surface), so I’d be sure to be able to work anywhere. Ha ha! Silly me.

I have, instead, spent the last three days trying to dredge up passwords for things that live in the cloud, trying to log on to the RIGHT Office 365 account for the right office, finding where my fancy Adobe Creative Cloud licensed things were, and so forth.

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Doggie Doin’s

This weekend so far has been all about my canine buddies. Thursday night we had the quarterly board meeting for the Milam Touch of Love group. Lots more people than I thought were coming were there, which made me wish I’d moved into the sanctuary rather than in the conference room. That made it rather cozy but also amplified the sounds of the folks who wanted to carry on conversations while we were trying to go through the agenda.

I’m officially official.

Though it was really different from most board meetings I’ve attended, we did get to hear from the committees eventually. And wow, a lot of good work has been started, and many new needs identified! The organization will have to be careful to stick to its mission and work with other entities, like law enforcement and other organizations, so we can all work together.

What about Penney?

And to exit my soapbox, Penney became officially ours on Friday. She even came to the office with Lee yesterday. All the noises in Cameron made her a little nervous but she did okay.

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The Ranch Goes Solar!

This is a guest post by Lee Bruns, reblogged from our real-estate redevelopment blog, Hermit Haus Redevelopment. Since it’s also about the ranch, I figure it goes here, too – Suna

Sue Ann recently posted about whether or not installing solar panels makes economic sense—spoiler alert: it doesn’t; it’s more of a religious or magical decision than an economic one. So, I thought I’d spend some words (as few as possible) to describe the installation process with pictures. And even though a picture may be worth a thousand words, I’m not going to take that truism to the Ikea extreme. Sometimes you need words to understand the pictures.

Site Prep

a man runs a gas powered trencher

Our grid interface is dozens of yards from the building where the panels are to be installed. A trencher made short work of digging the trench. Okay, it took more than an hour, but that is much faster than digging an 18-inch deep trench by hand—especially through the compacted road base that makes up our driveway. The original trench for the power and water connections were about 36 inches, so there was little risk that we would cut power to the house.

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Book Report: A Place for Us

Our little neighborhood book group met last night to discuss A Place for Us, by Fatima Farheen Mirza. This is her first novel, which makes it an even more amazing book. I’m glad we chose it! And look, a convenient way to buy it:

This month, we met at Maria’s house. We all enjoy inspecting each other’s houses for cuteness and signs of the owners’ personalities. I was most impressed that the house was mostly white, even though she has two small children. Many of us unwittingly dressed with a white theme, which made things even more festive than usual.

Anita, me, Gay, and Ruth in our white. I like how the extra cool light fixture looks like we have a halo. And what a nice bra strap I’m showing.

Another fun part of the evening that had nothing to do with the book was that we had a new member, Marilyn, who has just moved here from England. Her perspective was really welcome in the discussion of sibling issues, and she fit in so well!

I just had to stick in another picture. I wish I’d gotten one of Marilyn, though! This one adds Angela on the left and another Ruth on the right.

The discussion this month went a little more smoothly, because those of us who need a rational discussion made the effort to come up with a few discussion questions, and I brought a “talking stick,” which was actually a magnifying glass with a deerskin cover. It looks sort of like a microphone, so people kept saying, “Is this thing on?” and talking into it, like it was going to help.

Maria shares deep thoughts with the talking stick.

It did help us keep side conversations down to pretty much zero (that had been the issue last month; everyone talking at once about their own personal topics). When people spoke without the talking stick, the comments were all brief and in support of the main speaker. So, I got a lot more out of our thoughts and feelings on the book. Yay! (And later we got to just do chit-chat and neighborly support.)

Actual Book Report

As for the book, I enjoyed it so much that I took my time reading it, bit by bit, until I had to finish it for the meeting. There are actually a few really different reasons to love A Place for Us. And to me, they are equally important, so I had trouble deciding what to talk about first.

I’ve always been drawn to books about other cultures. I think it’s a great way to learn about how people live in the rest of the world AND enjoy a good story. I loved Maeve Binchy’s Ireland, Amy Tan’s Chinese-American families, and more. With my background in linguistics, I also have fun with learning politeness phrases and common terms in other languages.

This book had all that and more! While I’ve read lots of books about Muslims, most have been about Arab cultures, women in harems, and that kind of Islamic life. This book elegantly weaves normal day-to-day life for a normal Indian/Muslim family living in the US in among the story telling and life lessons.

I was especially pleased at how well Mirza included bits about the spiritual practices of each member of the novel’s family. If you aren’t familiar with the wide variety of practices in Islam (all with a common core) you might feel much more comfortable with Islam when you see how each person chooses what is meaningful to him or her, and the beauty they see in verses, prayers and teachings, just like so many Christians and Jews practice differently.

The story-telling is another thing I just couldn’t get enough of. I’ve always liked novels that present events and ideas from more than one character’s perspective. You really get to know Haida’s family (she’s the main character until a sudden shift in Part 4 of the book), their dynamics, and their virtues and frailties. I had a great time teasing out why each person acted the way they did, and realizing how small things can send a life in unexpected directions.

You pretty much end up liking everyone you encounter in the California community of Urdu speakers, because they seem so human. I drew a lot of comfort seeing how people can learn from their mistakes.

Speaking of family dynamics, here’s Maria’s family as Buddhas with succulents in their heads. Hmm

Our book club talked a lot about the family dynamics, and I enjoyed that older siblings sympathized with Hadia, middle children thought the middle daughter, Huda, got the short shrift, and younger ones had so much sympathy for how the younger brother dealt with what life handed to him.

I do look forward to more books from Mirza. She was born in the same year as my oldest son. Wow. I’ll stop before I give away a lot of plot, but one insight I had was that this actually was a mystery book, only it wasn’t a “who done it” but rather was a “why did they do it?” mystery.