When the big picture is overwhelming, which lately is most of the time, I often have a tendency to wallow, playing possible scenarios out in my head (entire US Senate revolts!), and other less-than-helpful activities.
I’m really glad that I am able to put myself into situations that will snap me right on out of it, thanks to arranging for my life to have regular POPS of nature here, there and everywhere. That lets Mother Earth politely poke me on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I’m still here, as are all my minions, and we want you to breathe and be one of us.
For example, this morning, I was stressing a bit about having to go get blood drawn, and in a rush. But, when I opened the garage door to leave, I was greeted by the sight of the front “yard” of the guy across the street. Now, this poor area is the least “kempt” of the tiny yards in the NorthCat Villas. Everything is quite overgrown, and I believe that much of the vegetation is volunteer.
Still, it is full of color and texture, and the sight of the yellow flowers and nandina berries truly made an impression that our planet is pretty darned clever. That reminded me that even my messy mind can make beautiful things, too.
Then, as I attempted to hurry my way to the clinic, I had to stop and admire the deer who were casually noshing in the fancy HOA plantings. They reminded me that they are clever and reslient, and so maybe I should take that as a goal for myself. Thanks, Nature.
And finally, when work had me more than a little annoyed about things beyond my control. I had just 25 minutes between meetings, so I went out and zoomed around the courtyard for a while. A coworker asked me to slow down and I said, “No.” As I zoomed, I heard the hawks a lot. Then a sweet sound crept into my consciousness. Where was it?
The next time I came around I saw a very chilly mockingbird just “talking” to herself. There was all sorts of chirping, chortling, and the occasional longer stretch of song. After a few laps, I stopped and thanked her. She looked at me, fluffed her feathers and got back to singing.
I’ve decided this was the Earth’s way of telling me to not let all those negative Nellies and distractions interfere with my personal song. I just wish that same Billy Joel song would STOP playing in my head.
For the past few weeks I knew I had been filling my time with too many things that take away energy and not enough things that build it back up. I know perfectly well what those things are, and usually I am able to keep a good balance, even with all my jobs, volunteer positions, and social/family stuff.
But, hey, as we all know too well, life happens. So, even though I have my nature walks, dogs, horses, chickens, and good friends to build up my reserves, some of these new things that have popped up have tilted the balance. I’m just worn out.
What’s Draining My Energy?
Well, some of the things are small and some are large. Some are at least superficially good, and some are plain irritating.
I got a new job responsibility in Austin that seemed like it wouldn’t be too much, but has put at least half a day per week of meetings on my schedule. Meetings drain me (the new people I work with are great, though, and I actually want to contribute by doing this work).
Some new management strains have surfaced, too. Yet another initiative for “creating a mentoring culture” and “celebrating wins” has arrived. These things are all well meaning and “just” take a few minutes. For each direct report and your own self. And then you need to schedule some one-on-ones, which will add another few hours of meetings (with people I like, for sure, but still…I want to do actual work). And corporate initiatives drain me.
I try to schedule just two nonprofit meetings a week, but with the Master Naturalist class going on every week, there ends up being more many weeks. I thought I had it all straight this week, with one MN meeting and one day of volunteering for MTOL and all the animals at the thrift shop, but, suddenly a house closing, in Austin, popped up. ACK. I wanted to do it, but that would mean going to Cameron for a Thursday night meeting, then to Austin for a Friday afternoon closing, then back to Cameron for the thrift store in the morning. I want to do all the things…but wow. Too much driving drains me.
Many of my friends and family members, near and far, haven’t been well. I want to be there for them, too. I can’t let that go to the wayside. Sending out good energy drains me.
And I want to help Anita get her Cameron house ready for a tenant who’s going to help her fix it up. Watching her work so hard with no help drains me by proxy.
So, I find myself having a hard time getting through days. I was just sure yesterday was Thursday. It was Tuesday.
Yesterday afternoon, after work meetings for both jobs, I was all nauseated and had one of those squeezing headaches, but powered through a 2-hour meeting. Today I had allergy symptoms and my throat has that weird feeling like it’s sore, but not like I have a cold or flu. I get it when I am physically run down. DING. I can’t even keep my eyes open.
Hey, that may mean I need to STOP WRITING and go rest. Gee. Quit yelling. My head hurts. I need to be kind to myself and remember that if I don’t get my balance back, I can’t be much use to anyone.
Gonna make a few schedule changes and re-balance. Lee already changed the closing to doing it from Cameron. Now to meditate. Om.
Those of you who are my friends on Facebook may notice that I don’t share very many memes, but when I do, they tend to be from the Tiny Buddha page. Tiny Buddha was founded by Lori Deschene in 2009, and has always been a favorite source of content that is both uplifting and insightful. The content they share is always relevant and thoughtful, unlike a lot of meme sources that I don’t particularly enjoy.
Today’s meme that was shared is one of those little ideas that spark some contemplation in me. That usually means I have to go for a walk around the office to think, but since I’m working from home today, I walked the dogs and thought, using the rest of my lunch break to write. (Now you know how I do all this…I fit things into small blocks of time and type fast.)
When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be Supergirl. I wanted to save many planets, bring people in danger to safety, and be invulnerable to attack. In fact, I still like Supergirl, since she’s a superhero with a big heart and a little bit of self-doubt on occasion. I think, in reality, my goal was to do something big with my life, not just hide in the shadows and watch the world go by.
The above paragraph does explain a lot about me. I wanted to be relevant, meaningful, and accomplished (in what I do not know, but I think it involved typing fast, for sure).
Of course, time passes and goals slip away. I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped in my first career choice, thanks to a relationship or two that went bad (mistakes were made and mostly by me) and made me want to flee. I got lost for a while. I floundered. Then I crawled out of a hole, and one reason was that I stopped wallowing in my failures and found ways where I could help others.
No matter what’s gone on in my life since I caught my second wind, I’ve been proud to be able to help others, contribute to important causes, and make people’s lives better (helping mothers with breastfeeding and parenting, along with teaching so many people to knit and crochet may be what I am proudest of). Does that make me a superhero? No, probably not.
I haven’t physically fought bad guys, brought down corporate evil-doers, or written a book that saves lives. But, I can see that I made a positive difference in people’s lives by bringing them happiness, joy, or a sense of accomplishment. As someone recently pointed out, I always seem to be teaching someone something (that may explain the Master Naturalist thing).
You never know what YOU might do that constitutes being a hero. Maybe you listen to a friend in need. Maybe you can share a passion for animals or plants. Maybe you find a way to volunteer. Maybe your kindness to grocery store clerks makes their days better.
Somehow, this all raises my spirits. I can think of people I know and what their “superhero” traits are, and my heart fills with admiration. Mandi mentors both adults and children in community theater, with no reward sought (I was proud she got acknowledged at last weekend’s children’s theater award banquet, though).
My friends Carolyn and Georgia constantly raise my awareness of social and political needs and actions I can take. My sister shares beautiful animals she finds on the Internet. My husband mentors people who want to learn about running businesses, even when he isn’t trying. Facebook friends and fellow bloggers open their hearts and make me feel both smarter and more connected. On and on.
You don’t need to be a superhero. Just be you. It matters.
Yesterday I ended up spending a lot of time around the resident cattle, even when intending to hang out with the horses and Fiona. It was all fun, though, and a great reminder of some of the things that are common on a ranch that aren’t common for city folks.
For instance, I was walking toward the end of our main pasture, when I realized that the cattle I was looking at were in FRONT of our gate. Hmm, that would make the dogs happy. I then realized Gary V. was moving some round bales (a type of hay bale) into our hay storage area, and they had followed him. He and I shooed the curious ladies and their offspring back to the correct side of the gate. No doubt they were sad, since we have oats growing in our pasture for them to eat later.
The cows kept coming toward the gate, so I stayed until Gary was finished, and closed the gate behind him. That wasn’t the last surprise these particular cattle would give us!
Horses and Cattle
I made it to the horse area, where Sara and I warmed the horses up, then saddled up for a ride. I practiced not using my reins, in preparation for using a bit with Apache. I used a stick to direct him. It went well until he got tired of it and marched off to where he wanted to go. Once that was dealt with, we toodled down the race (long fenced path to the far pasture) so we could ride around in the bottom (the beautiful area that floods in bad weather).
When we got to the gate, there were four perfectly charming calves looking at us. They thought we were fascinating, and had no intentions of moving away from us. Sara got off Spice and did her best to encourage them to go back to their mamas, but they just walked off a little way. I guess it was Curious Cow Day. When we got through the gate, they kept coming up to investigate the strange creatures (us). We would move them a little, then they’d come back. Finally we left them (one was still there when we got back).
We rode all over, and checked how the place where the stream meets the creek looks. There is a much larger piece of creek with water in it, but the recent rains were not enough to get Walker’s Creek flowing, so the stream is just making a nice pond.
By the time we got back, the horses were happy to be set free in the small corral. Spice ran and ran and then dropped to roll. Apache waited a bit, then also did a bit of a roll. That had to feel good.
Nicole and Easton visited (they are moving nearby in Temple soon) in the evening, and they wanted to see the horses, so we all walked back to the corral. On the way, we noticed a cow laying like she was dead. We decided she was in labor.
On the way back, after a chat with Ralph and saving poor Vlassic from a bunch of dogs, we saw the cow was standing. Did she have a baby or was that a salt block? We had to stand there and watch until the “salt block” wiggled. We have a new calf to look cute in the front pasture!
Wait, what’s the mama eating? Eww. Afterbirth. Ranch life. It’s sure real.
I couldn’t remember the breed of chicken our new brown one, Ginger, was. I knew if I just saw it, I’d remember, but it wasn’t listed on the Bird and Bee Farm website.
Chicken-loving friends to the rescue! Cheryl pointed out on Facebook that she is an ISA Red. I got her so that I’d have at least one high producer, and they are fine looking gals. Here’s what Cheryl posted:
Such pretty ladies! I think Ginger might be an ISA Brown. Great egg production, but not as long-lived as many other breeds.
I wondered what ISA is and why they are short lived. I looked it up! Tractor Supply said:
ISA Browns are one of the top sellers in the industry because of the number of eggs they lay and their calm demeanor. Their eggs have excellent shell quality and texture. This especially sweet, docile, gentle bird, is extremely easy to work with and are great birds for new chicken owners or young families. ISA Browns produce almost an egg every day and do well either in confinement or free ranged. Hens begin to lay around 4-5 months of age with adequate daylight hours. When they are hatched, the pullets are red and the cockerels are white for this color sex-able sex-link.
ISA stands for Institut de Sélection Animale, the company which developed the crossbreed in 1978 for egg production as a battery hen. They are very popular in large egg production places. Glad Ginger is a free bird!
As always, the high egg yield is detrimental to the long-term health of the hen. The ISA is one of several breeds developed for high egg yield at the expense of longevity and natural reproduction.
You may remember that last year, after I’d lost a lot of chickens to an owl, I went and got seven new ones at Bird and Bee Farm. I was surprised to realize that was almost a year ago. Things continued to get my poor birds, and now I have only three left, Buffy and the reds, Big and Little.
We decided to let those birds stay at the cabin by the old easily infiltrated coop, since they have figured out how to stay safe and enjoy their free range lifestyle. Our renters at the cabin like them anyway. I’ll just give them a chicken cube every so often.
We have been working on a new coop for a while, and finally decided today was the day to put some young hens in there.
My sister, Canova, loves to look at chickens, and niece Kathleen loves all farm animals, so I brought them along. After stocking up on chicken treats and such, we headed off to the country between Rockdale and Milano.
We had a great time looking at the turkeys, guineas, and of course the plants in the wildscape.
It was fun watching Canova and Kathleen when they saw just how many types of hens there were! There were really some cool ones!
Like I was talking about yesterday, I’m trying to take notice of little things that bring joy. I think it’s important, even when you know perfectly well that the bigger things require attention. I just don’t want the scary stuff consuming me, because that would paralyze me and I’d get nothing done.
So, here are a few things that have sparked joy in me over the last day or so.
Of course the Pope Residence renovation is bringing joy! We have master masons working to shore up the brick on the interior, and the rest of the walls have been revealed. Want more pictures? I put some up on the Hearts Homes and Hands blog.
There are a couple of small town signs that I enjoyed yesterday, too. One was put out by the local bank. It’s so smart of them! And still, it has small-town charm. I edited it to say “office” and deleted “drive-thru” and hung it on our office door.
This one has to be my favorite. Kathleen and I walked to the Bistro to get our Friday wine, and I glanced over at the Italian restaurant. I thought, hmm, someone must be hanging out there and annoying people. Then I looked on the bench. I had to take THAT picture!
It’s Ricky, the town cat, owned communally by all the downtown merchants. According to my friend Jean, he’s not only loitering, but soliciting pats! There’s a happy Cameron kind of thing, right?
Other things that have kept me perky are just things. We got new sticky notes and magnetic clips to give to clients at Hearts Homes and Hands. I think they came out great, which is always a relief when you pay money for things.
And the last thing is I got my nails done and honored Imbolc, my favorite time of the Celtic calendar. I put Brighid’s sacred flame on them. That will make me smile for the next couple of weeks. It wasn’t easy for Tina to do this, so I appreciate the effort, even if I’m the only one who really knows what it’s about.
And what else?
We are going to go get CHICKENS for the new coop today! And food for the old chickens, who get to stay right where they are. As you can guess, the ladies in my family are pretty darned excited.
Let’s hope they get along with the dogs. There will be some training involved!
Since I hit the big 6-0 with a splat in 2018, I’ve gotten brighter and shinier. My hair has been flaming red, orange, pink, and all colors in between. I have quite a collection of sparkly shoes. I have shiny nails, shiny jewelry, bling-y tops, and some pretty interesting glasses. In some photos, I stick out like a heavily bruised sore thumb.
The response, at least to my face, has been surprisingly positive. Random people at work tell me I always cheer them up, or that I’m their outfit coordination role model. I get shouts of, “Love Your Hair” from people I’d never have suspected would love my hair, based on their appearance.
Why, Suna, Why?
I have always enjoyed choosing clothing and putting together outfits, which conflicts mightily with my urge to wear a t-shirt and jeans every day (I just coordinate accessories, I guess). I’ve found that looking at my happy clothing cheers me up when I’m in long meetings, dwelling on how ill all my friends seem to be, or listening to the news.
If I look deep in my heart, I’m sure a part of it is enjoying the positive attention, because, let’s face it, short, chubby, mousy women with graying hair and a tendency toward sarcasm tend to not get a lot of it. But, I’m inevitably surprised by attention, because really, the brightness is to help ME keep positive, look on the bright side of life, and share my internal peace and joy with the outside world.
My Austin home is also really colorful, and it makes me happy to be there. My book club members and friends who see my photos often comment on how the bright colors reflect me and Anita and make the Bobcat Lair house feel so homey. All the color in the ranch house is in my office, but I make up for it at my office. I like to be around things that are bright. They remind me of how much inner light I feel shining within.
Really. The last two years I have felt so much more at peace with myself, at home in my body, and secure in my place in life, that I just want to show it. Sure, I get upset occasionally by world events or situations beyond my control, but I’m doing a lot better at focusing on things I CAN control, surrounding myself with people who DO care about me, and letting other things sort themselves out. Not trying to save the world, help others fix themselves (unless requested), or sending all my energy OUT has helped me find a lot of inner peace.
It shines through.
What Helps You Shine?
You don’t have to dress like Elton John on a worldwide tour to project a blinding shininess to the world. Just taking the time to notice what makes you happy, and perhaps sharing it with the world is a good start.
For example, today I woke up to more sparkles in the world, as the sun shone on heavily dewed fields. As I was driving out of my driveway, my breath was taken away by the color of the bare river willow trees along the arroyo. Everything looked shining and orange (like one of my outfits, ha). I didn’t get a picture of it, but I found this one that really evokes how I felt:
Share how you shine, how you would like to shine, and what makes you happy. Give me a comment here or on Facebook, share on Twitter, Instagram, or email. Just walk around and be your shiny self. THAT is something we can all do to make the world better, inside and out.
I got great comfort from all the people who came up to me in person or wrote on Facebook to say “Wow” about my post from yesterday. I’m really grateful to the original author of the explanation of political liberalism in the US, Lori Gallagher Witt, who wrote it a couple of years ago. It just struck a nerve in me yesterday. I just want to be clear that the part at the bottom of my post was not written by me. And no, it was not written to convey any implication that if you have different beliefs from mine, you are a bad person. If it made you feel that way, examine your belief system.
You can’t keep a happy person down, though, and yesterday brought me many reminders that all is not gloom and doom. The best thing was that we finally got a GOOD rain, after many days of fog, drizzle, and damp. I can’t wait to see how the tanks/ponds at the ranch are looking.
And during a long day at work, filled with meetings, brainstorming, and thinking, I looked out the window. I had to mute my microphone and tell Craig, sitting next to me, to look out. There, in the bare cedar elm trees, was a flock of goldfinches. It’s not a huge surprise, given that this is the time of year we see them in Cameron, and I happen to know the area where I work is right on a migration path. But still.
Those yellow males and their flitting green-gray female companions literally brought puffs of sunshine to a rainy, rainy day. We watched them jumping around and fluffing their feathers for a long time (though I did go back to concentrating on my call). I looked a lot in iNaturalist for what exactly these could be, and I think it’s lesser goldfinches, due to the amount of black on the males. I’ll upload a photo and see.
I’m sharing my coworker Jason’s photos, since his came out better than mine. That courtyard is just a whirlwind of bird action!
Ending on a Good Note
Last night we were the hosts of the neighborhood book club, in which we discussed Ragtime. It was great to see the neighbors who weren’t sick or out of town (about half of them). We’re all different, of course, but so supportive of each other’s ups and downs.
In addition to the book, we talked about how being “old” just creeps up on us, then suddenly doctors are taking your age into account before procedures, you’re needing to get things replaced or lifted. Everyone was in agreement that they weren’t old in their heads!
To me, community is what will hold me together during the hard times we’re experiencing. That’s probably what held our ancestors together for tens of thousands of years, too. Our neighborhood never wants anyone to move, even though we know some of us must. It feels good to feel a part of something warm and loving.
And get this! Today dawned bright and beautiful. It was as nice to see the sun this morning as it was to welcome the rain yesterday. It’s all got its place. As I left to take Vlassic on his morning walk, I was enthralled by shining droplets of water on the “cedar” trees by the deck.
I hope you enjoy my pictures. Of course, by the time I got out the phone to take them, the sun had moved. But, it was still a shiny greeting for the day.
Go thank a member of YOUR community for keeping you sane!