The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!
Since the weather is warm and it hasn’t started raining yet, I decided to see how the life around here is faring after last week’s bad weather. The first thing I found was that, indeed, the cold has messed the chickens up. Look what poor Buttercup laid!
Not all is bad for them, though. While they seem to dislike something in their scratch grain mix, the damp weather has been perfect for sprouting whatever it is. That will make good browsing for them or new chickens that we get!
I wondered if any insects and such were out, so I was happy to find a checkered butterfly and two lady bugs! I saw a moth, but it was too fast for me!
I found that most of the usual plants for this tome of year were blooming, but I was surprised to see a cranesbill had already managed to produce seeds!
Here are a few of the other blooming plants I saw. It was good to see them recovering.
I also found the wildflowers in good shape, including my favorite yellow daisies and bluebonnets. We’ll have color this year! And speaking of color, the cold gave some unusual leaf colorings.
I heard a lot of frog sounds from across the road, and plenty of birds. I heard a whooshing sound and turned around to see I’d disturbed some ducks on one of the tanks/ponds. I did get a photo of them flying, though I don’t know what kind they are.
Spring is coming. Winter can’t stay forever. I’m glad I got some entries for iNaturalist today!
Ooh, scary, I’m back to my deep thoughts again. You can blame my friend Louise, who is always sharing thought-provoking content. Or you can THANK Louise, after you read this!
Come to think of it, though, a lot of my “musing” posts (which you can find in the Rants and Ramblings section of this blog) have been about my long and circuitous journey toward emotional maturity. This journey, which doesn’t end by the way, for any of us, is probably the one I care about the most in my life. When it comes down to it, my goal has always been to understand myself better, so that I can understand others better and treat all of us as kindly and gracefully as possible.
Looking back on my past, I realize a lot of the times when I judged others, put myself down, doubted myself, or blamed others for what happened to me, it’s been because I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to see clearly this:
Nothing is as black and white as you think it is, and perfection is an illusion.
And, as a correlation, when others behave “badly,” hurt me, or misunderstand my intentions, it’s for the same reasons. They have some emotional maturity gaps as well. For example, getting to where I am on my journey helps me be more patient with my son who hasn’t spoken to me for two years, knowing he’s always tended to be a black-and-white thinker and a blamer. He is working at his own pace, and may re-think things sometime. In the meantime, it’s my job to be understanding of that and not blame myself.
All this yammering has been brought on from Louise posting on Facebook the lengthy article I’ve pasted at the end of this blog post. I looked around and found its original source, but I’m displeased that it has no author attributed to it. Maybe I need to dig further. In any case, I find these items very helpful to check up and figure out how I’m doing on my journey, and thought you might, too.
When I review these, I can see how I’ve done an impressive job on some of the signs of emotional maturity (1, 6, 11, 15) but I can still do some work on others (9, 21, 23). That’s just fine, because, like I said before, none of us (except maybe bodhisattvas) are going to hit the maturity mark all the time. In fact, like #18 shows, we will all slip into earlier patterns, and that’s normal and human (or “hormal” as I first typed).
I invite you to read this article and think about it. How are you doing? What are your areas of strength and your areas for growth? Where are you muddling along somewhere in the middle.
Oh, and note that, thanks to all my reading on disability bashing, I replaced all the words in the article with more neutral ones in square brackets . It was fun and enlightening to practice identifying these kinds of words and thinking of alternatives.
Since ye olde pandemic set in, I’ve noticed many of my previously non-crafty friends jumping into the “craft therapy” club. I don’t blame them one bit, because there are so many reasons engaging in crafts can be soothing. I found myself so out of sorts during the Snowpocalypse and my last week at work, that I took to coloring in an adult coloring book.
It felt good to just randomly pick shiny colors and fill them in. It took enough mental space to clear my mind of my surroundings, but didn’t give me a headache from thinking.
I’ve seen lots of pictures of things people colored on paper or on their computers, and they are always cheery. Friends with art talent are painting more, too. I’m told it’s great fun. Kathleen had made some of those things with beads, but I haven’t seen any. I’m told it’s the same kind of “just enough thinking” project.
The need to create beautiful things and concentrate on something other than the news is why I came back to knitting, too. I’m not alone, either. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see my friends taking up knitting or crochet and having fun. I was very disappointed when my friend Melanie, who gave us our late dog Brody, had someone pick on her for being a “granny” because she took up knitting. No, she’s a granny because her child had a baby, sheesh.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Knitting is popular with young people, old people, men, women, gay, and straight. So is crochet. Thank you.
I’m happy to report that the table runner for Lee has grown by another pattern repeat. It may get finished soon! Then I just have to finish the border on the shawl project. Oh, no, will I be out of projects?
First of all, it is hilarious of me to ask that question, knowing how much yarn and how many pattern books I own. Still, I do have a birthday coming up…
So, I admit I followed an ad and bought a pattern for a lovely project ($5).
So, then I had to find yarn to make it. Luckily, the local yarn shop that I like to support, Hill Country Weavers, had the yarn, three different shades of this stuff, though not the ones in the picture (naturally).
While I was there, I browsed around and bought some more Noro knitting magazines, because I just love looking at things made with that brand of yarn. Then I found a slightly more difficult project to make that I ALSO want to try, so I got yarn for it, too. I detect a pattern in my choices. I like self-striping yarn!
So, that takes care of my birthday gift from Lee! I get exactly what I want!
Maybe later in the year I will make something in a solid color. We’ll see. I think bright colors are therapeutic for me.
So, have you taken up a new craft or other project to keep you a little calmer and help you feel productive?
At some point next week, I will be an even older Baby Boomer! But I still don’t have to register for Medicare, so I declare I’m still middle aged. Why does this matter? Well, for the last few years, I’ve raised funds for a good cause rather than ask for gifts, so I thought I’d share it here, too.
I get questions ever year, so here’s why I do what I do. Maybe you can support an organization or group, too!
Why a Facebook fundraiser? I know some folks don’t like them, because FB no doubt makes interest on donations before they pay them out. But, they do pay every cent donated, and it’s easy to donate. Any reader who’d like to donate another way can go to the MTOL website and use their form or mails check. Please say it’s for my fundraiser, so they will know how to allocate the funds.
Why only once a year? I think people can feel bombarded by requests for money. I know I do sometimes. So, I tend to do my own donations privately, but I do give to birthday fundraisers for good causes and to honor people I care about. And once a year I choose a nonprofit to support. You’ll see that not all the donations are big, which comes as no surprise during these challenging times. It feels good to give to others sometimes, though.
Why Milam Touch of Love? The main reason is that I honor my commitments. When I was at my last MTOL Board meeting, I said I’d do another birthday fundraiser, so I am! The organization has done an incredible job rescuing puppies and sending them to places with plenty of adoption opportunities, spaying and neutering pets to help drive down unwanted births, and microchipping pets to make finding their owners easier. And the president of MTOL writes educational articles in the local paper each week. She’s amazing, and I want to support her hard work. She even got certified as an animal control officer, to better help the animals in our county.
I hope that all helps a bit. Since I’m not able to be an active member of MTOL anymore, it’s even more meaningful to me that I help this way. I always hoped that our mutual love for animals would keep the MTOL team diverse and mutually respectful, but that’s hard these days. Still, I encourage my friends and readers to put aside our differences and help those who can’t help themselves.
Things are hard right now. Believe me, trying to get a small business started during COVID has not been easy on my family’s finances. But, we still do our charitable giving, at a scale we can manage. I hope you do, too, and give to organizations like MTOL, who use you money to directly help others.
We all need to spread a touch of love in this world.
Now that the weather is more normal, I’ve been enjoying the antics of all the local animals. I haven’t seen them all—for example, Lee saw a large, striped bobcat cross the road yesterday. I missed that!
I did get to see this charming kitten with a crazy tail today. She’s been hanging around the cabin and barn for a month or so, and the neighbors feed her. We haven’t had a cat stay on the ranch since Cathy and her menagerie moved.
Anyway, I said I’d feed her this weekend, so I had my eye out for her when I walked by the cabin on the way to feed horses. I didn’t see her, but I saw a black dog, though I knew Copper was out of town with his owners. Wait…that was Tess the cattle dog, great-great granny of these sweet pups.
So, I was pretty sure ole Tess had found the kitten’s food. She isn’t too old to sniff out any morsel of food! And sure enough, the bowls were licked clean and the kitten was looking disappointed when I came back down the driveway. I refilled the bowl, and she chowed down fast.
I love how the kitten holds her tail angled back like that. And she is sweet. It makes me happy to have a cat to pet again. Lee’s allergic, so we can’t have one in the house, but maybe we can get barn cats if our horse barn happens.
More Cuteness, Cattle Style
I’ve also been enjoying the cattle on our property. They get friendlier and funnier all the time.
Yesterday, I took some more food for Big Red, the chicken who lives with the horses. It was in a plastic feed bag. It was misting rain, so I was concentrating on not stepping on cow patties. I opened the gate to leave our pasture, and when I turned around, I saw that the brown cow was like three feet behind me. I didn’t hear her at all! The others were lumbering behind her.
I guess they really miss getting cattle cubes from Kathleen, and were sure my bag had cow treats, not chicken ones. She sure looked sad when I took the bag with me.
Today, the cows were insisting on standing in my path as I walked to the gate. Maybe they were thinking of shaking me down for treats. I got to the gate, then heard thundering footsteps. Jim had let Vlassic out, and he wanted to join me, like he did yesterday. But, Sara’s dogs would be there today, so Vlassic had to go back for his safety. That made me have to intrude on the cows again.
When I came by the third time, after taking Vlassic back, I had to stop and watch them. They were playing like little calves, butting their heads and jumping in circles. It was a pleasure to see them enjoying the more pleasant weather, and it was a shame to stop them, just because I was now late. I wish I’d gotten a video! The cows aren’t too far past calf-hood, so I guess they still have urges for fun.
Heck, so do I. My fun for the day was listening to this red-winged blackbird, way at the top of a willow tree.
He was alternating between the familiar chiming song they make and repeated tweet calls. I think he thought someone was answering him, because he was so loud that he had a robust echo. I wonder how long he kept that going?
There. Not every post has to be a rant or controversy. I needed some cuteness in my day today!
I’m hearing a lot of complaints about the service people have been receiving from the US Postal Service. Now, of course, some of it is related to the weather issues of last week, when people where I live didn’t get any mail at all for a week or so. The weather is a good excuse, but doesn’t cover issues people are having elsewhere.
My example isn’t of anything critical, except to me. I ordered the yarn to finish out the table runner I’m making for Lee on February 3. I got the notice it had shipped on February 7. When did it arrive, you ask? February 25! That’s almost three weeks. Usually things take 3-5 days…well, up until recently anyway. Since the end of last year, when the election thing happened and the higher-ups at the USPS started cutting services, it’s been hard to get mail.
I’ve had more than one thing simply not show up at all. An order of Christmas stuff from Doterra came mid January, which did not help with gift giving. But that’s nothing. One of my friends has had very expensive medicine delayed. She was okay, but there are others, like diabetics, who’ve had crises due to medicine being delayed.
Our horse supplements were also delayed, which wasn’t funny, even though they aren’t technically “medicine.” I’m still waiting for my turmeric tablets to show up.
Lee reports some of our clients haven’t received their bills in a timely fashion, too. That means money is not coming in. How many other small businesses that rely on the mail for billing have been adversely affected by the mail slowdown? This article shares some other consequences.
We need to be able to rely on postal mail, even if many of us pay our bills and do other transactions online. You need to be able to order something and have a vague idea of when it will show up.
It’s been pointed out to me that, back in the not-so-distant past we were used to waiting 3-5 weeks for packages, and that’s true. But, back them most people paid their bills by mail, and if you gave it a week or so, you’d be sure your payment arrived on time. And if you bill for services, you’d know that if you mailed the bill at a certain time of the month, recipients would have plenty of time to get the payment back to you on time.
That’s no longer true, and it concerns me greatly. I’m not alone, as the delays are annoying lawmakers as well.
Content warning: discusses weight issues, bullying, and put-downs; also mentions diets
Oh, let me tell you, I’ve had enough of this one. My fat shaming began at Day 1 of life when everyone apparently laughed and laughed when I drank two bottles of formula (not the modern stuff, either) right after birth. Well, you would have, too, if your bone-thin mother’s smoking and drinking had kept you deprived of delicious nutrients while you were in the womb listening to her puff away.
My first diet was in 6th grade, after getting sick of being called fatso, water buffalo, elephant, and such. I was always tall and sturdy for a child, so all those stick children* thought I was fat. I lost ten pounds on that early version of the Atkins diet, and since I was also going through puberty, I grew my final few inches, so I both appeared slimmer and became comparatively smaller, since all the other girls were growing. That was the last year I was second-tallest in the class. By seventh grade, I was short, because the boys started growing. I remain short and sturdy, just like my dad.
Yes, it’s genetic. I didn’t get my mother’s natural slimness, I got my dad’s natural roundness. And that leads me to my point, which you can learn a LOT more about in this fine Highline/Huffington Post article from 2018 that I read yesterday, Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong, by Michael Hobbes. I think I read it before, but yesterday, since I was still sort of steaming from thinking about ableism, I really started pondering how this bias against fat people has messed with my mind and my biases.
Because of all the labeling my family and friends did when I was little, I have always been fat in my mind, even when, looking back, I was pretty average. I blamed most of my problems on being fat (and ugly). I was sure that’s why I didn’t have boyfriends (never imagining it might have been how I acted or my personality).
And I went on diets and more diets, though thankfully I mostly did the “eat less, and eat healthy food, and get exercise” method, which is at least not harmful. I’ve only stopped with all that in the last year or two, and it is hard, hard, hard to just accept myself at the weight my body naturally stabilizes at. But, I’m close to being there! I’m me, and this is how I look! I am in good physical shape, can do lots of things, walk/ride horses/do chores a lot, and don’t eat too many things that are “empty calories.”
So, my attitude to myself is better, and I’ve stopped labeling myself. But, all that talk I heard growing up, all the put-downs I heard aimed at myself and others, and all the media pressure really got to me. I can still hear people calling a kid named Larry “Lardo.” I remember my high school boyfriend and his best friend making fun of all my chubby girlfriends (except the thin one, who they made fun of for something else). (Hmm, making fun is not actually fun, it turns out.)
I’m afraid I’ve had a pretty bad case of bias against fat people my whole life. Sure, I made lots of strides, and have even been in a relationship with a very large man. My current spouse has always been on the larger side. And of course, plenty of my friends are in various sizes. But still, somehow, my first impulse upon seeing a large person is that they are dirty and lazy. That’s my unconscious bias sneaking out, like if you can’t control your weight, you don’t care about yourself or anything else. ACK.
My intellectual self knows perfectly well that my biased reactions are unfounded, wrong, and quite unkind. I mean, how many clean, energetic, amazing fat people do I have to know to get this gone? I could name dozens of people I admire, look up to, think are beautiful, and even love that do not fit my stereotype. It makes me very disappointed in myself and angry at society to think of how deeply ingrained my unfounded bias is.
Oddly, once I get to know people, the weight issue disappears for me. I don’t put my friends into fat vs. not fat categories. I may assign labels, but they are more like kind, funny, grumpy, brilliant, talented, or annoying. None of those things correlate with size.
What can I do?
As with all the unconscious biases we don’t realize we have most of the time, a great first step is acknowledging the bias. Once I saw it was there, I could work on retraining my mind to not implicitly judge people based on their weight. I know, having retrained my mind on things in the past, that it will take a bit of conscious work to not ignore or pass over fat people when I first meet them, which is what I always tended to do. It will be worth it in the long run, though, because I’ll get to make friends with all kinds of great folks faster than I would have otherwise.
If you catch me putting people down because of their size, their appearance, or other external qualities, please point it out. It will help me remember that judging people by appearances is not helpful at all (see, I didn’t say it was dumb!).
Back to the theme of the article I read, it really helps to remind ourselves that fat does not mean unhealthy, nor does thin mean healthy. People’s heredity, social circumstances, and many other factors affect weight, not just whether they eat too much of the “wrong” things. We need calories to live and thrive, including fat. Like almost everything else, our weight is caused by lots of factors. It’s not a character flaw.
I am convinced that if we studied how to use moderation in everything, like food, exercise, sleep, and work, we’d all be healthier. And certainly, with all the stressors out there, we don’t need to pile on more.
We are all doing the best we can, unless we don’t care, and then that’s our business, right?
*Note that it was pointed out to me, correctly, that calling thin children “stick children” was thin shaming. I shall endeavor to do better in the future, and appreciate this being pointed out!
As you may be aware, I’m on a big kick to learn about my own unconscious biases, and as a former linguist, I’m very interested in how the language I use reflects these biases. I have already been thinking a lot about issues with and labels for neuroatypical folks, since they apply to many of my friends and family members.
My friend Rollie has been a great source of information and resources about labels, concerns, and the great diversity of people who fall into this category (it’s not just people on the autism spectrum). For example, just yesterday they posted about being hard of hearing, which means their audio processing is different from a lot of people’s, so they need to be spoken to slowly and clearly. They got a button to wear to let people know, which I find very cool. It helps an invisible challenge be more visible.
The above shows how I am learning to use words like neurodivergent or neuroatypical rather than things like Aspie or whatever. I just have to ask people what they prefer, and that helps. That’s a great start, but when I start examining my own language, I realize I come out with some cringe-worthy utterances, all the time. Constantly. A lot.
I got started thinking about all this when another friend, Robin (who happens to be the offspring of my two favorite linguistic mentors), posted an article in Forbes magazine by Andrew Pulrang called “It’s Time To Stop Even Casually Misusing Disability Words.” Hmm, I mused, I think I do that without giving it a second thought. Could this be another one of my unconscious biases coming through?
Yeppers, it sure is. The best news about the article, for me, is that it’s directed at organizations and companies who are trying to focus on diversity and inclusion, another of my favorite topics right now. The opening paragraph sets a great tone, I think:
It’s not “oversensitive,” or too “new” of a concern for organizations and businesses to take a hard look at reforming ableist language. Ableism itself is not a new phenomenon, even if “ableism” is a new word to some of us. And avoiding offensive language throughout organizations isn’t just about preventing bad publicity. Curbing use of stigmatizing and problematic language makes workplaces safer for diversity, more productive for employees, and friendlier to customers and clients.
Andrew Pulrang, citation above
Most of us probably are aware that it’s not a great idea to use “retarded” in polite speech (or any speech unless you’re talking about how a plant’s growth was retarded in last week’s weather incident). What I hadn’t thought about very much was how often I and my friends say ideas or actions are stupid, lame, dumb, idiotic, moronic, and such. When we say something has crippled something else, that’s insulting people with physical disabilities. I’m pretty sure that in most people’s minds, these words are no longer labels for people, but that’s not a good excuse. As Pulrang points out:
The fact that a people still use such terms without intending to hurt disabled people doesn’t matter. They are harmful in all cases.
Andrew Pulrang, citation above
Sure, I know that asking people to find other ways to express that an idea is not great falls into the “politically correct” category for a large swath of people. I do get it that most people have no idea they are insulting others with their words. That’s because it’s a product of unconscious bias, not conscious. But, now that I am aware that I tend to talk this way, especially when I’m upset (another sign that unconscious bias is leaking out), I really want to work toward not using ableist language and monitor my speech and writing.
And calling me “politically correct” is not insulting, in any case. Speaking respectfully to people and taking their desired names, pronouns, or labels into account seems like a good thing. So there.
Well, what should we say, then?
That was my first question. Luckily, Pulrang shared some ideas. He cites a blog post by Lydia Brown titled Ableism/Language, that was updated in June, 2020. Brown writes more about ableist words and expressions, and offers a helpful list of alternatives for a wide variety of words and situations. I’m gonna refer to this often (and read more of her blog, which looks fascinating).
I also ran into this excellent diversity style guide that is fairly current (the preferred terms change frequently, as we know). Glossaries in the collection are very helpful for figuring out if you’re saying things in a neutral way or an ableist way.
Having to think about better ways to say things may well be to our benefit, too.
An added benefit of consciously reshaping our use of disability words and expressions is that it forces us to think more deeply about what we are talking about, and express our thoughts and feelings more precisely, maybe more humanely. “Crazy,” “insane,” “idiot,” and “moron” aren’t just offensive to people with mental illness or intellectual disabilities. They are also cliches that allow us to write people off without having to contend with their ideas and actions.
Andrew Pulrang, citation above
Are you feeling bad for frequently using some of the terms I’ve been talking about today? Don’t be, since you are just talking the way you have heard people talk your whole life. And as Lydia Brown points out right at the start of her blog post:
Note that some of the words on this page are actually slursbut many of the words and phrases on this page are not considered slurs, and in fact, may not actually be hurtful, upsetting, retraumatizing, or offensive to many disabled people. They are simply considered ableist (the way that referring to a woman as emotionally fragile is sexist, but not a slur). You’re not automatically a bad or evil person/activist if you have used random language on here, but if you have the cognitive/language privilege to adjust your language, it’s definitely worthwhile to consider becoming more aware/conscious of how everyday language helps perpetuate ableist ideas and values.
Lydia Brown, Ableism/Language
I find this all pretty darned fascinating and educational, which is why I have probably overwhelmed you with quotes. Please go read the articles I link to if you’d like to learn more about ableism and what you can do about minimalizing it and treating all your fellow humans with respect and kindness. I don’t want to insult people without intending to, so I’m glad to learn more.
Don’t be a doofus, go learn!
Wait, I think doofus may be one of those terms I should retire from my vocabulary. It sure is, because I found the definition: “A doofus is a dummy or a simpleton.” Wow, the definition gives me two more words to avoid. Off I go to learn more! It’s weird how excited I get when I glom on to a new topic to research.
I woke up this morning and walked to the front window, as I do every day, to check out the sunrise. Whoa, those are dark clouds, I thought.
I then looked to the right and saw fire! What the heck?
I told Lee something bad had happened. Sure enough, it had. By the time Lynn H and I talked we found out it was a horrible train/semi truck accident on the other side of Cameron in the Marlow community. You could see it all over the county. The photos were so scary.
The train cars had some petroleum products and coal in them. Luckily the hazardous material got quickly moved. The good news is no one died and not many structures were damaged.
I do have friends who will have a hard time getting to work until this is cleared up. it will be a while, apparently. The fire is still burning, too.
It was even on the BBC News! And the ABC news on TV!
I was so shocked that I said to a coworker, “This is probably the worst disaster in Milam County since…uh…last week.”
I’d be fine if we actually did NOT have a disaster every week from now on. I was really out of it trying to do a presentation at work, because I wasn’t yet sure my friends who live near there were okay.
I tried to take a cheerful walk to see Apache and Fiona. When I got home, there was Vlassic running around with a dead baby bunny. GEEZ!
I’m ready to chill out with no icky things. I’m gonna spend the evening coloring. My book is too scary and I’m too worn out to knit.
It’s true. I can’t believe this happened, but in my Facebook feed today were two posts in a row, one by an ultra-conservative friend and one by an ultra-liberal friend. Both of the posts were about the really awful power outages that people who live here in Texas endured last week, some of whom are still dealing with it. Here’s the first one:
And here is the second one:
This is exactly what’s driving me crazy these days. Each side has found a way to blame the other for the issue. Neither article talks about anything anyone is doing to remedy the infrastructure issues or get help to people here. They just want to increase polarization.
It’s no wonder why I’m so uncomfortable with how people isolate themselves in their own echo chambers of slanted information. I think I know stuff, then I go over to some Facebook group and discover there’s a whole world of other news and a whole lot of people who say they hate me (I actually said something in the group once, just to see what would happen, and the piranhas pounced).
I remember getting a chuckle out of the endless parade of “Thanks, Obama” posts that came up whenever anything went wrong when he was President. The stuff some of these people blame on Biden has me scratching my head, though. And I truly enjoyed them going on and on about how Ted Cruz going to Mexico was JUST FINE, heck, they’d have gone too, if they had money.