The Big Blue Shawl Update

I started this shawl when I ran out of yarn for my other project, yarn which is still not here yet, thanks to a combination of me messing up the order and the weather. Who knows if I will EVER get it? The last tracking update was February 13…

So, I kept going on this mostly stockinette pattern, but adding little bits of lattice patterns in it. I added a swath near the edge of the shawl, as well as at the bottom of the triangle. I’m not sure what it will look at when I’m finished, but it was fun to do, at least!

Lumpy main body of the shawl. I can’t stretch it out, because it’s much longer than my knitting needles.

When I realized that the shawl edge was longer than my arm-span, I figured it was about as long as it ought to be, so last night I looked around for a border to put on the edge, as a bind-off. All my books are in Austin, but I found a pattern online on a fun site for free vintage patterns. It’s not too easy and not too hard!

End of shawl without a border.

I got through two repeats yesterday, so it will go pretty quickly. The instructions are a bit old-fashioned, but I figured them out.

Here’s what I’m trying to make as a knitted-on border

Confused about knitted-on borders? Well, they are lace patterns knitted back and forth over a fairly short repeat, like you see above. You can use them to bind off a project by knitting to the end of a wrong-side row of your project then casting on the right number of stitches for the border and following the pattern. The straight edge (top above) connects to the main project (my shawl, for example) by knitting the last stitch of the border together with the next stitch in the main piece of the project, then, turn and go back out. So for every two pattern rows, you have one fewer stitch on the main needle.

There is a little gap between the border stitches and the main shawl stitches. At the end of this row, I’ll knit the two stitches on either side of the gap together, turn, slip that stitch without knitting, and knit back out to the edge.

It is a fun way to end a shawl, scarf, sweater, or any project you want a nice, flowing edge to. Speaking of fun, guess who had fun romping with me, Lee and all the other dogs yesterday? Vlassic! He was so happy it got warmer and he could escape the RV for a while!

He had just licked me on my face.

Laughing at Ourselves

After all the stress of the last week or so, it feels good to be able to find humor in life again. I must admit that, at a certain point yesterday, I had lost all humor. But, hooray! It’s back now, and I am happily laughing at myself, my animals, and my friends…and of course myself. Here we go.

Yesterday, as it was thawing out like crazy, Sara asked me to come help her and Ralph with some water-related chores. The water in the big, blue barrel where the horses all were, had gotten quite low. Since it was sitting crookedly and was quite full of algae and other yuckiness, it was declared to be a good day to clean it out and stabilize it.

This was not a neat and tidy job. We were in huge mud puddles that had horse/donkey poop in them and were very slick. Sara did a great job making a fairly level spot in the mud where the barrel goes, while Ralph worked on the water supply. Major oops, a water pipe had burst in a very dramatic way, so there will be no using the barn toilet until that can be fixed! That made everything even muddier, and cause cursing and such.

My job was to clean out the barrel itself. I am not the tallest of humans, so I could not reach my hand in and get to the bottom of the barrel. I had to climb in and scrub it with handfulls of hay. I felt ridiculous. Little did I know, I also looked ridiculous, and Ralph got this photo to prove it. I laughed my substantial rear end off when I got this picture!

Now, that’s dignified! You can see the mud that Sara was trying to shovel through, too.

With the trickle of water that was coming out of the hose, we managed to finish cleaning it and get it set up, then we took our muddy selves over and replenished the hay. We actually had fun in between banging on things and getting frustrated!

The barrel filled up eventually and looks pretty good.

My intention is to never have to do that again, so next time I am in Temple, I am going to get some goldfish to put in here! I am pleased to report that our little goldfish made it through the freeze AND the cow pooping in their home and are swimming around happily, with their trough topped off, too.

The tiny orange spot is one of the fish. Note how clear the water is (this was before it refilled, when I had put a few gallons in by hand).

Today was a lot easier in the horse department. Spice and Lakota got moved back to their pasture, and Lakota is still standing, mostly. Fiona and Apache are happy as can be, now that it’s all warm again, and Fiona is still curious about everything. Here she is fascinated by one of the dead birds we keep finding (at least this cowbird isn’t eaten up).

Is that food?

Fiona is a very patient donkey, even when Sara and I got a case of the giggles and put the bird on her head (bird will become falcon food for the neighboring falconers).

I didn’t ask for a crown! Grow up, humans!

Other things to laugh at are the chickens. They are back to hanging out in the garage, and I thought this picture of Bruce and Bertie Lee was cute. I think you can see where poor Bruce’s comb is worse for wear. On the other hand, they all made it!

We like it up here.

It appears that Vlassic found yet another dead bird, a dove, and messed with it. When I came out to see the chickens, they were fighting over it. That seems strange until you remember that chickens are omnivores. At least nothing is going to waste around here…I guess.

A Bertie feather

The chickens got some new food, Grubbly, which has some sort of grubs in it. They didn’t like the plain grubs at first, but now they do. Yesterday I opened the bag of that brand of food and put some in their dishes. It disappeared very quickly, so I think I’ll switch them over. I’m so glad all the animals made it through the challenging time and that all of us still have our senses of humor, even if they are weird.

What’s in the willow tree?

One more piece of cheerful news. Not only is the ice all gone in the trees, but I heard a familiar sound yesterday afternoon and followed it. Sure enough, the male redwing blackbirds have arrived! Maybe it WILL stay warm! (The females were already here.)

Book Report: Augie and Me

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I usually don’t do two of these per day, but I’ll be really busy at work next week, so let’s take advantage of the weekend! I spent most of yesterday reading this charming book. Augie & Me: Three Wonder Stories, by R.J. Palacio, is a companion to the beautiful young adult novel, Wonder, that I read last year. It’s not a sequel, since the author has vowed not to write a sequel, so readers can imagine the future of Augie, the kid with facial deformities who’s the star of Wonder.

I also love the covers of all the books in this series.

If you know middle-school kids struggling to fit in, dealing with bullying, or even not able to figure out how they got to be the popular kid, give them both these books! And if you are an adult and want to read something positive and yet realistic, I recommend them strongly.

Augie & Me really is three short stories or novellas, each of which has been published as an e-book before this compilation. Every chapter is from the point of view of one of the characters in Wonder. Palacio says that she didn’t fully develop these characters in the first book, since it might have taken away from the points she was making, but she knew they each had a story!

I always enjoy reading from the point of view of older children, and each of these characters, Julian, Chris, and Charlotte is on the cusp between childhood and teenhood. There sure is a lot to be confused about at that age, but all three stories revolve around figuring out whether your initial perceptions of people are accurate, and discovering how people perceive you doesn’t necessarily jibe with how you perceive yourself.

Shoot, we can all use a dose of that, right?

One thing that made this book enjoyable to read as an adult is that Palacio does not make all the adults out to be bumbling idiots or fools. There are many adults who are respected by the young people in the book, and it’s heartwarming to read about how they appreciate even the quirks and foibles of their teachers and the other kids’ parents. Every character in the book has their good points and challenging areas, just like people in real life, and if young adult readers can learn this lesson early, wow, their lives will be a lot easier!

I tell you what, immersing myself deeply into the characters of this novel, as well as A Simple Favor, enabled me to stop thinking about how cold I was and how dark it is in the house without power. Books really are wonderful things!

Book Report: A Simple Favor

Rating: 2 out of 5.

It’s time to report on all the books I read while I was freezing or had no power. The first one, A Simple Favor, by Darcey Bell, is the next neighborhood book club selection, and was recommended by neighbor Ruth C’s daughter. It says it’s soon to be a major motion picture, and I can see why. It’s plot would be great for a movie.

Scary

A Simple Favor is written from the perspectives of the characters in the book, which mostly focuses on Stephanie, a “mommy blogger,” who, just like me, only shows the perky side of herself in her blog (ha ha ha). I immediately disliked her because she refers to mothers as “moms,” and was amused to find out it also bothered other characters. She is a person who operated based mostly on instinct, feelings, and hormones. She has a LOT of hormones. I’m glad at least she has all those juicy sexual memories to share (don’t worry, it’s not graphic, just frequent).

Another “character” in the book is Stephanie’s blog, which she uses in all sorts of ways to try to get things accomplished, send messages, and bias readers in her favor. That was something I enjoyed in Bell’s writing.

The other main focus of the book is on Stephanie’s “best friend,” Emily, who has “issues,” shall we say, but certainly dresses well. She’s not big on telling the truth, but she loves to ask Stephanie for “simple favors.” The glue that holds the two together are their children.

(Aside, the names in this book were not great. Stephanie’s late husband was Davis and her child is Miles. Who would name the child of Davis, Miles? All you’d do is think about jazz. And the English man married to Emily is Sean, who goes to “Ireland” in the “UK” at some point. I shall charitably assume he went to Belfast.)

Where was I? Anyway, the plot revolves around Emily’s sudden disappearance and how Sean, her husband, and Stephanie cope with it. Oh yes, even Sean gets a chapter or two to tell his perspective. Since the book is a murder mystery kind of deal, I won’t go into much more detail, other than that it involves a lot of descriptions of meals, meltdowns, and sex.

By the end of the book, you really aren’t fond of any of the characters, who are by turns gullible, cunning, slow, selfish, shallow, and deranged. I guess they’re human, huh? I know I gave it a 2-star rating, but it’s a good book if you are stuck in the house under many layers of clothing and blankets, and you want to take your mind off the lack of water and electricity.

PS: I hope you enjoyed my over-use of quotation marks as much as I enjoyed over-using them!

Grateful for Help and Relief

We are so relieved. The power came back on after just 28 hours. Lee and I were talking about spending the night in a hotel just to take showers and sleep normally, when Sara alerted me that she saw a power truck going toward our house. They did something at Mandi’s and across the street, and that fixed it!

Even my avatar who doesn’t look like me is relieved.

Lee and I were able to stop by and tell the Heart of Texas Electric Coop employee thank you. These people, especially linemen, work so hard in bad weather and good.

It’s a small rural electric coop. They are great.

I’m also grateful to my kind friends who offered to let us take showers at their houses, too. Also to our friends who are helping my sister, and our caregivers who whisked Lee’s brother to a place with heat and light last night. Plus, Ralph baked us some bread.

The cup of coffee Lee made me once we had power was incredibly delicious.

And my Austin neighbor dug out my water main control so if a disaster with water happens to us, we can fix it. After the adventure other neighbors went through last week, this brings peace of mind.

To be honest, we’ve had enough of this weather event, and are glad we’re on the backside of it. I still know folks with no power or water, though. I’m glad there are water distribution sites and warming centers.

Carlton is relieved that it’s over 60 degrees in the house for the first time since last weekend.

Please keep people in Texas in your thoughts. Most of us had nothing to do with weird power grid decisions and such. So many of us are embarrassed by uncaring elected officials and greedy jerks.

Enough. I’m gonna get ready for all the book reports I’m going to write!

NOW We Lose Power!

Now that it’s warming up and the ice is melting, boom. The power went off for us and our closest neighbors. It’s been off close to 24 hours. I guess melting ice isn’t great for power lines, because there are spotty outages all over.

Enjoy a pretty ice photo.

We slept fine last night, and I’ve sure gotten a lot of reading done, in between emergencies and such. the old horse was down yesterday when I went to check. I did manage to give him colic medicine but not correctly, but I tried.

Down horse.

Sara found him up and eating today, though, so I didn’t kill him by not knowing exactly what to do. Whew. And Sara is back, so I don’t have to worry as much. I worry about Lakota.

Up horse

Otherwise it’s okay here. Chickens are alive , though Bruce has some comb damage, poor guy. But they are alive! The dead songbirds still make me sad.

Best chicken photo I could get.

I did take a little walk yesterday and got photos of the sun shining through ice. I think I’ll miss the little ice penises the most. It’s from little stems that stuck up out of the snow. They made me laugh.

Anatomically correct!

It was so shiny still! It doesn’t really come through in the photos, but I’ll share anyway. I’ll write more when we get power. I’m in the car charging things!

The Sun Is So Bright

That yeah, we need shades. Wow is ole Sol making fast work of the ice. Even though it’s well below freezing outside, the ice is crashing and booming off the roof, and clear patches are starting to show up.

The image doesn’t do justice to the shininess.

The trees had rainbow diamonds in them this morning, and just look at the Chihuly sculpture our rain chain made!

Ice ice baby

I couldn’t write or work much yesterday, because the cell towers weren’t working. So Lee and I watched movies on DVD most of the day.

Cloudy yesterday.

I did make it out to check animals and see if we got any mail (no). Penney loved running and sliding on the ice. She went full tilt.

This is fun.

The layer of ice was over water in lots of spots. It was hard to find the right places to step. Neither Carlton nor I moved very fast.

This is NOT fun.

Ice is now falling off the roof again and booming, so the dogs are close by me. Penney and Carlton are even getting along!

All the toting and fetching of water has been hard on Ralph, so Sara and I are taking over for him now. I’m pretty sure the driveway has melted enough to get out! Freedom! Of course, the water supply is spotty.

From yesterday.

But, all in all, we see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I have my sunglasses ready. Maybe it will thaw out the water heater and heat pump and we can be clean and warm again inside!

Such a dreamer.

Diamond trees

I’m hearing my friends and coworkers in Austin are getting heat and power back, too. I sure hope some of the infrastructure issues can be fixed.

Reacting to Natural Disasters

Witnessing people’s reactions to the natural disaster event we’re going through here in central Texas has been most educational. People seem to fall into different groups, and I’ve been fascinated as I note their actions. I’ll share a few observations. Which of these are you?

Lee took this last night as the motion-sensor lights shone through icicles. Don’t stand under them.

The Helpers

I want to start out with these folks, because they impress me and keep my sliver of faith in humanity alive. All the sharing, caring and helping makes me so proud. Here are some examples I know of.

  • My coworker, Jason, lives out in the country near a road that has a banked curve. It froze over, of course, and people took it way too fast for the conditions (mostly because they were unaware). He and his son drove on a level back road until they were close to the road and proceeded to help people get unstuck, flagged cars down to slow them, and made sure everyone was safe. Most people had just abandoned their vehicles. He’s also monitoring the local NextDoor posts, and taking water and food to elderly neighbors. He sadly reported that some people just lectured others for not being prepared. I’m glad there are more people like him and his family out there being good neighbors.
  • My other coworkers are all sharing information, checking in, and offering to help. A woman in my department volunteered to boil water for people who have no electricity and can’t boil it for themselves (lots of people have neither water nor electricity right now).
  • Our business has a client who needs services, even in this weather. A Deputy from the Sheriff’s Department kindly drove our amazing Meghan to a neighboring smaller town than Cameron, because the roads were so bad. I can’t mention the kindnesses Meghan has performed this week, but some go way above and beyond her job duties.
Road conditions yesterday.

The Blamers

A lot of people with time and bandwidth seem to be using it to point fingers at various industries, businesses, and people for not doing a good enough job. I admit to being unhappy that nothing has been done about our road, with the icy bridge and the treacherous hill, but I know there are reasons for it (the district personnel had been under a COVID quarantine, AND Monday was a Federal holiday). I am trying to remember that no one set out to cause this mess on purpose. Still, I read a lot of this kind of stuff.

  • Texas is to blame for their own problems, because they are not on any US power grid. Well, none of US made that decision. Let’s deal with our weird system of buying power on an open marketplace and such later, and concentrate on making sure our linemen and other power service staff stay safe and get help.
  • The water companies are to blame for not maintaining pipes. Um. They need money to do that (and Cameron IS in the process of upgrading infrastructure). Also, when pipes burst, it ruins water pressure. Even homeowners who are doing their best to care for their pipes are having issues, so it’s no one’s fault.
  • People who dislike fracking and pipelines should just go build their own windmills for power. Okay, that is just dumb. The windmills didn’t freeze, anyway. Texas has a mix of power sources, which actually isn’t a bad idea…just no one could prepare for this stuff.
  • The President hasn’t come to save us. He’s a piece of sh**. Um, he cleared disaster funds days ago, when requested by the governor who’s the one who keeps bragging he don’t need no Federal dollars to help sick people. Meanwhile, Senator Cruz got on a plane and headed to a resort in Mexico. He can’t exactly fix things, but that still doesn’t make a great impression. I always enjoy it when the people who insult me for saying poor and/or homeless people can use some help and insist they pull themselves up by the bootstraps start blaming the government for not helping THEM whey THEY need it.
  • I’ll stop here. I do think blamers could better spend their time doing useful things.

The Bright-Siders

This is what I TRY to be, when I can. Like, right now puffed-up meadowlarks are flying around drinking water out of places where there is melting. And I have a lot of time to read and knit. Kathleen is the champion of not complaining ever, about anything. The power outage lets her use more candles, the ice formations in the field are pretty, etc. This is commendable, knowing what she’s actually dealing with and NOT sharing!

Who needs an icemaker, when you have this?

I see lots and lots of posts from people who are enjoying the birds and helping keep them alive with food and water. More than one has said watching birds has helped them get through the week in relatively good spirits. Thank you, Nature.

The Stoics

A lot of people are just muddling through. I guess that’s what you do when you truly don’t have any control over a situation and realize that complaining, blaming, or panicking isn’t going to change anything. They are conserving water and electricity (oops I am using it now), not endangering themselves on the road, and figuring out ways to eat and entertain themselves for another few days. They ask for help if needed, but try to be as self reliant as possible.

This seems like a good plan, to me.

And like Harvey, they find the warm spots and stay there (he found my heating pad and now loves me a lot more).

I’m gonna take care of animals, stay warm, and hope the satellite doesn’t go out again, so I can at least watch television. I have plenty of books and knitting, and the knitting keeps me warm. It’s my very first horrible natural disaster, so I’m learning things!

Stay safe, if your in the middle of this icepocalypse, and the rest of you be patient with people in this state. They just don’t have the infrastructure, and they have to live with the consequences of some interesting planning decisions.

Book Report: The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias

Rating: 5 out of 5.

At least you get a lot of reading done in bad weather! I zipped through the second of the unconscious bias books I bought to review for work. The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias: How to Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams, by Pamela Fuller and Mark Murphy with Anne Chow, is from FranklinCovey, the business consulting firm. That turned out not to be a bad thing.

Their format made the book interesting to read, and I was surprised how helpful some of their simple charts and learning aids were. Plus, the authors shared lots of detailed and varied stories about how they experienced unconscious bias, from the giving and receiving sides.

The business focus helped the focus stay on doing concrete things to address these biases and make the workplace better. I enjoyed the examples from different types of businesses, too.

Each short and info-packed chapter is followed by exercises that I didn’t find annoying or stupid. It’s pretty obvious that these folks know how to teach adults and engage them.

I had a few aha moments about areas I can work on. One of those is working with neurodivergent people. I plan to look for more resources to help me find ways for teams and individuals to do their best work with fewer frustrations.

An interesting passage on being careful about cultural fit interview questions

On the other hand, I saw some areas where I feel like I, and my employers, are doing a really good job with hiring and employee inclusion. Of course, we can all do better, but I think it’s a wonderful challenge and I enjoy working with our diversity and inclusion initiatives. It feels like a tangible way to make things better for all of us.

Coping with Chaos!

In my bullet journal this morning is an entry saying:

Blog without whining

Suna

All right then. Today Lee and I are camping in the bedroom, where it is warm. Penney has discovered the space heater and has freed up Lee’s lap.

Happy dog, and coffee station.

Meanwhile, Carlton is under my layers of blankets and knitting. Oddly enough, I haven’t knitted much, due to checking in on people who have things much worse than I do. We certainly can’t go anywhere, as we now have a pretty layer of ice!

Carlton and shawl project, with Harvey butt.

I’m grateful to helpers today! Kathleen’s cows got more hay, and I have no idea how they got it there, unless they did it last night. And Ralph is heroically caring for the horses. He deserves a medal. I will eventually creep over to the chickens with warm water and food. I’m hoping they are still there.

Still, we cope.

Anita and Kathleen are both still without power. I’m grateful for Anita’s gas fireplace and Kathleen’s endless supply of candles.

Meanwhile, one of my coworkers has come down with gall bladder symptoms. For gosh sake! They already have no power and certainly can’t drive to a doctor. Another colleague had water coming through her entryway light fixture, and we ALL know water and electricity don’t mix! And, word just came in that an Austin neighbor has water pouring into their garage. No whining! At least it’s the garage and not inside!

Cameron residents don’t have to worry about water pipes bursting at the moment, since the water is off. Too many water lines burst. I’m just hoping my poor sister muddles through, since we can’t get to her! I appreciate all the news my friend Lynn sends, since she gets all the alerts.

And newsflash! Pamela reports no mail because no mail trucks have arrived in days. Lee says they also have computer trouble. At least the weather has downplayed that potential conspiracy theory generator.

Once again, though, I’m impressed with how people are supporting each other and staying in touch. My friends and family are being so kind and caring about sending me news! Now I gotta go check in on more folks.

Take care! We’re coping!