Putting a Dream on Hold

I just did something that both made me sad and and reminded me to be grateful for what I have. This morning (way overdressed for the task), I took down the signs that we’d put up over at the church to direct people to our businesses. I’d had a lot of hopes for the church building, which is still The Hermit Haus in my heart, but plans change and pandemics get in the way.

Even the sky looks bummed out (it rained hard right after this).

What Happened?

Well, long-time readers will know that the Hearts, Homes and Hands business moved to the stately Pope Residence across the street, so the sign for that was confusing (and it had the old phone number). That’s all good! I’m so proud of how well we’re doing and how many people we are able to help, not to mention providing jobs in the community. That’s a winner!

The hermit says goodbye to the door he guarded.

Our Hermit Haus Redevelopment business has wound down, though the real estate work Lee and I do with Hermits’ Rest Enterprises is doing fine. His office is over at the Pope Residence, too, so I put our little hermit by his door. Aww.

He now gets to guard a new door and a fancy air conditioner!

And I had to face it, with all the things going on with the HHH business, as well as some other stuff that’s going on, business-wise, I knew I would not have the time or energy to do something fun with the Hermit Haus for now. Mandi is going to be working in a pharmacy as soon as she finishes her class, and with me still working full time in Austin, when would we be at the building?

No more sign directing people to the basement, either. But, my garden turned out nice and was pretty all summer.

We’ve had one wedding there recently, because one of our team members’ family lost their venue at the last minute. And we had Master Naturalist classes (hybrid Zoom/in person) there last month. So, it gets used, but we aren’t able to really have a business. That dream has to wait.

Yay, we have a sign.

So I decided to admit the dream is over, at least for now, and take those signs down today. The good news is that now we have a sign for HHH at our actual office, which, along with the new address numbers, makes it a lot easier for people to find the office (since we still aren’t bringing in visitors, it’s mainly for people doing job interviews, which there are a LOT of).

It’s All Fine, Change Happens

With so much changing every day in my life, change has become my new normal. And I’m finally getting better at it, I think. I think of plans and schedules as things that might or might not happen. I think of work teams as temporary. Pets, friends, and colleagues are to be enjoyed in the present. Yep, focusing on today really makes things easier. All is well, today, especially since we got the first significant rain of the month today.

How are YOU holding up? Are things too steady or too changeable?

Wake, with Dogs

After spending the evening with friends, remembering a beloved community member who had passed, I tried to watch the US Presidential debate.

I’d had too much wine for it. I went out into the “quiet” in front of the house. As the night sounds hummer in my ears, I looked up at the moon, thinking of Lori and Dale, who are no longer with us. I sang my favorite hymn, to the waxing moon.

For the beauty of the earth, for the splendor of the skies, For the love which from our birth over and around us lies, Source of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

I sent up my wishes for healing and peace.

Then I looked around. Four dogs had come out with me. All four were standing quietly, looking in the same direction as me. I’d swear they were praying with me. It was powerful.

Thank you, Carlton, Alfred, Penney, and Harvey.

Seeking Comfort and Seeing Red

This morning I’ve been thinking so hard about what the families of my friends and acquaintances are going through, losing loved ones and dealing with the COVID-19 thing in their families. You can’t rally around people as easily as you normally would in situations like this. And you know these people could use some comfort, along with the wider circle of loved ones. Lighting my candle and sending loving-kindness out counts for something, I guess.

A candle for loving-kindness.

But what’s good is that today we do have ways to reach out and comfort people. Kind words in chat, video calls, and social media posts can reach hurting people immediately (while sending a card is also good, just takes longer). I’m seeing this unfold as groups rally around to support each other. One group has scrapped an organizational meeting, just to be there for someone who lost their best friend. Another group is right there in their Facebook group when someone gets a new wave of grief. It’s so comforting to see this love manifest.

We may feel confined and alone, but our support network is out there. If you don’t have one, I’m here!
Three of my friends, experiencing joy at our class reunion a few years ago.

Yesterday, when I asked that people reach out to those they care about, my little group of friends I’ve had since my early teens jumped right in to remind each other how much we care, even if many of us are far apart. I can always count on these women if anything happens to me. And one of my favorite bloggers even checked up on me. The world is our community! Thank you ALL.

That, along with some kind check-ins from my local friends and family who noticed I was down, really helped me remember that death is a part of life and we all have connections that will go beyond artificial boundaries like life, death, space, and time (or at least I can hope that!).

(Note that me being down is small change compared to what the close friends and family of my friends who passed on are dealing with; it’s certainly NOT all about me, but it is my dream that similar outpourings are happening for them.)

The Comfort of Red

Today, though, I decided to comfort my own self. I did this by surrounding myself with what has become my favorite color in my later years, red. I even dragged out my old red glasses (I can see okay in them still).

And I even smiled. Had to look perky for work meetings, ya know.
Sooo much red.

I looked around my office (you know, the red, pink, and orange explosion of colors and objects), and all the red things comforted me. My red lamps, my little leather notebook, ah. Redness.

Then the mail arrived. It reminded me that red’s been on my mind since that Master Naturalist talk on cochineal! Two books on the color red showed up (plus two other colors, and a book for work book club). I’m definitely needing some red in my life.

So, yeah, I’m really grateful for so many supporting people in my life who are holding me up yet not telling me not to be sad. I passionately believe it’s important to tell them how grateful I am, often and sincerely. I’m feeling surrounded by invisible arms right now, with a red glow. What brings YOU comfort when there is much to be sad about?

Reach Out to Someone Right Now

Hard day.

Two woman I admired very much passed away within 24 hours of each other. Both from breast cancer complications, to simplify things. I’m glad they each had so many friends who treasured them. We have so many shared memories.

I can’t tell you to go out and hug your friends. That’s because COVID is also hurting people I care about right now. It’s way too close for comfort.

So…reach out to people you care about. Maybe a couple a day. We never know how long we will have with people we care about. Or how long we have in this life.

Thanks to all of you for being one of my connections.

What’s Up with Renovations?

I haven’t posted a renovation post in a while, have I? That doesn’t mean nothing’s going on! The main improvements have been to the second floor of the Pope house, where we had to expand sooner than expected, thanks to the growth of Hearts, Homes and Hands (a good thing – we sure are thankful to Kathleen and the team for that!).

Our care team now has an office on the second floor, with a great view of trees and the balcony. Meghan has a great command center for scheduling, keeping records, and filing, while there are two other desks for care team members who help her out. It’s hard to believe it’s grown that much since we opened for business last November!

Before we could get that office going, we had to get a nice, strong sub-floor in the upstairs hallway. The next improvement will be to remove the weird kitchen-y room, so people can get to the balcony without going through the future conference room (you know it’s a conference room, because we put the conference table in there).

It’s a good thing that the plumbing was all inspected on the second floor, because that let us set the upstairs bathroom up for the team to use. Right now, it’s functional, but not quite done. When it’s finished, it will be very cute and rustic, to match the theme of the building.

Work in progress!

Those of us who work in the office have really been enjoying all our fall decorations and the atmosphere in the building. I even get to eat lunch in my little break area.

Looking down at the break area and my office.

Hoping you are taking the time to enjoy what you’re doing, right now, and where you are. Take some time to look around. We’re alive, so let’s make the most of that time.

Enjoying my office every day!

I’m Becoming Irritating

Maybe it’s irritating; maybe it’s righteously indignant; maybe it’s newly awakened evangelism. Whatever it is, I can’t stop talking to all my friends about the Caste book I just read. I keep retelling the parts about the lynching postcards, Hitler’s use of the US as a model in how to de-humanize Jews, and the clear explanation of why poor whites identify more with powerful elites than to other poor people. Apparently, I have been deeply affected by Isabel Wilkerson’s scholarship, and I simply MUST share.

This woman is inspiring.

Have you ever read something that you can’t shut up about? I was recently that way about Nature’s Best Hope, which I begged everyone I knew to read (and at least I know all my Master Naturalist friends will read after hearing Doug Tallamy speak in person. I can remember being that excited over The Color Purple, too, as well as the first book on feminist spirituality I ever read. But, it doesn’t happen often, so forgive me, if you know me in person, if I keep going on and on about things the US has institutionalized to maintain an artificial difference between two groups of people.

These are the kinds of things that just get me angry at my fellow white people.

You will be either pleased or annoyed to know I just got Wilkerson’s first book, The Warmth of Other Suns, which is about the immigration history of the US. I can’t wait to learn which group of misfits gets scapegoated decade by decade. I’ll try to keep my enthusiasm to a dull roar, hee hee.

I’ve been thinking, though, about what gets me all riled up into a pile of agitated activism. It always seems to center around people or other living beings not being treated fairly. That’s what sparked my religious outrage in the past, nearly all of my strong political feelings, and my advocacy of child and animal welfare. None of us is ACTUALLY any better than anyone else, people, animals, plants, rocks, whatever. At least that’s what I’ve been socialized to believe.

Just shut me up. Hey, at least this stuff keeps me from dwelling on other things that annoy me. Yeah, Suna, just keep on shaking your fist at the status quo!

Thanks to all the reading I’ve done lately, though, I can see how other people come to view things differently. I may not think it’s right all the time, but it’s odd how learning about the treatment of minorities, indigenous people, and disfavored groups has led me to a better understanding of how desperately people cling to anything that lets them believe they are members of favored groups.

I’m still thinking. In the meantime, what book (or movie or television program) has led you to get all riled up and ready to take action about injustice?

To Travel or Not to Travel

I’ve been thinking about traveling lately. Getting out and seeing different parts of the world is really good for my soul. It reminds me, at the same time, of how much similarity there is in all these places, as well as how different places can be. For example, on my field trip last weekend, I saw many of the same kinds of trees I do here (post oaks, live oaks, cedar elms, eastern red cedar), but I also saw many kinds of plants that were very different, like the rattleboxes (repeated from yesterday, but they are so cool!

These make all sorts of sound when it’s windy out by Edwards Lake!

Now that we are mostly working from home, it seems to me that I could travel and work at the same time. As long as I have the laptop and Wi-Fi, I’m set! Zoom is only a click away!

So, I have booked some travel that’s not vacation, just living in a different place. I’ll just have to be really careful getting where I’m going, but that’s not impossible. Once I’m there, I can get all cozy in my rental accommodations, look out the windows at different scenery, and pretend I’m someone else, in a less awful time. At least I’ll be somewhere else!

London, January 26, 2020. People wearing a face masks to protecting themself because of epidemic in China. Selective Focus. Concept of coronavirus quarantine. MERS-Cov, middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

I don’t want to get sick, which means, boo hoo, my shopping habit won’t be indulged in. But I can certainly take walks on paths and trails that are not crowded, enjoy parks, and order fun food delivered to my room, right? I’m hoping that this “middle way” of not acting foolish, but not sacrificing the few years of being able to travel that I have left, will get me through the rest of this year and next year.

So many people I know think the risk of getting COVID isn’t real. They aren’t taking precautions, and that’s their right, I guess.

Knowing people who’ve had it, I can’t say that nothing will happen to travelers. But I also think the reasonable solution to the problem is avoiding crowds and keeping clean. That, I can do. And I won’t go anywhere that doesn’t have a lot of safety measures in place. (I’ll tell you where I’m going when I get there!)

I’m not going here, though I’d like to. Image by @omom via Twenty20.

Feedback? Am I being foolish? Do you have any fun ideas for out-of-town activities one can do?

Book Report: Fifty Words for Rain

After the emotional turmoil of reading Caste, I wanted something less intense and not about race. Well, the next book I read, Fifty Words for Rain, by Asha Lemmie turned out to be intense and about race, but it also had fun elements, so it was a bit of a break. Here’s how the Amazon description starts out:

Kyoto, Japan, 1948. “Do not question. Do not fight. Do not resist.”

Such is eight-year-old Noriko “Nori” Kamiza’s first lesson. She will not question why her mother abandoned her with only these final words. She will not fight her confinement to the attic of her grandparents’ imperial estate. And she will not resist the scalding chemical baths she receives daily to lighten her skin.

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/1524746363/

Turns out little Nori is half Black, and that was quite a problem back then, especially for a member of the Imperial Family. The poor girl certainly has a hard time, but she’s one of those resilient types, thankfully. I found it interesting how she made the best of whatever situation she was in, and was able to learn and grow into an amazing person. She is amazingly good at being alone, that’s for sure.

Pretty cover.

Other than a few annoying repetitions (how many times must Nori bite her lips so hard that she tastes blood?), I enjoyed the writing and the fascinating (if sometimes scary) characters Nori encounters. Her family puts the D in dysfunctional, to put it mildly.

The other part that was fun for me, in particular, is the Japanese language and culture from the times I’m most familiar with that is spread through the novel. I’m way better with formal Japanese than colloquial, so I understood most of it (I was trained by a fairly formal Japanese speaker, or actually, I’m glad Swann-sensei didn’t teach us what he did know; that would be fifty words for alcoholic beverages). At least some of the horrors of that culture didn’t shock me, since I knew about them. Other readers might find some of the book a little disturbing, but that’s what you need in a novel, right? Something to get you to turn the pages!

I predict Lemmie’s writing will only get better, so I look forward to future work by her. Even if the race theme keeps popping up to remind me not to become complacent, it’s worth it. Go ahead, get it! It will give you a nice break from reality. It certainly improved my Saturday afternoon and evening!

What’s in Burleson County?

I wanted to know. There are very few iNaturalist sightings there that weren’t made by Eric from my Master Naturalist chapter. He, along with Alan, who lives on and runs a fish farm near Somerville, wanted to do something about that!

Near the main house

So we met up at the property today, to see what kind of fun field trip we could come up with to educate chapter members about the area, how Alan has been managing the water — fish ponds, lakes, streams, etc.

One of the ponds, with Bad Patty, the dog.

Of course I had to get a tour! Let me say that was fun! Alan is a great tour guide, and I got to see all kinds of new plants and insects. The lake is great, and there are many different micro-climates on the property.

American lotus

My favorites were plants whose seeds rattle when they dry. And all the water plants!

I enjoyed talking to my friends and learning about raising fish, grasshoppers, and so much more. I can’t wait to go back. It’s outdoors, we stayed apart, and the weather was great.

I also made this weevil friend. It crawled all over me for a long time. It’s Eudiagogus rosenschoeldi.

Remember my resolve to have more fun? I’m still working on it! And doing it! Not all serious all the time!

A lovely variegated fritillary I saw.

So, are you having any fun?

Brown Recluses, Crows, and Cochineal: Stuff I Learned about This Week

I’ve enjoyed the Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting, for the most part. There were a couple of dud presentations (I won’t say which ones those were), but I managed to learn a lot. I really missed interacting with others before and after sessions and being able to interact.

But I did learn a bunch. I’m really glad I went to the brown recluse spider talk, because now I know how few people get bitten and that females don’t even walk around. If you see one out, it’s a male.

Hmm

They have six eyes, paired as in the photo. Easy to tell from other spiders, though I doubt I’ll get that close.

Unrelated to these guys, I found out the baby spiders that parachute across the fields are the jumping spiders. They are my favorites. They are all so pretty and friendly. Sara and I talked to one for a while yesterday. Yes, we’re weird ranch gals.

I learned about corvids, which include ravens, crows, magpies, and jays, among others. The surprise there is how similar their brains are to ours, just more densely packed. Really amazing birds.

More on recluses. I didn’t get bird images.

Another interesting talk was on fungi, but I realized I need images in my sessions. I am not an auditory learner, I guess. The speaker had very few slides, and I got lost. Luckily, she recommended a book I’ll go buy. That makes, I think, four I must have thanks to the conference!

Finally, I got a kick out of the presentation by a very sweet and very Texan Master Naturalist on cochineal. I could tell he’d learned way more about the fashion industry than he had intended to. But it was a lot of fun sharing his amazement about the ups and downs of these tiny insects, some of which happen to be right outside my door!

I’m gonna have to smoosh some up, use lemon juice as a mordant, and dye something red! I’ll read the books and report more later.

Well, I have an adventure to go to, so that’s it for now. Have fun on your Sunday, too!