Why I Am "Too Busy"

You know what’s extra-extra nice? It’s nice that people care. And people do care about me! One way I know is that I am very frequently told I am too busy, or asked why I do so much. This is not new. Sensei Larry, who taught the kids karate, always called me “the Joiner,” because I did so many things at my old church.

And when I was in La Leche League, I certainly had a lot of jobs, though all that volunteering led to an actual paid job, followed by a career!

Case in point. My new knitting project has followed me to the office, so I’ll have something to work on after I run off to the park to do a Master Naturalist bioblitz. This is the calmest Saturday I’ve had since last year.

It’s true. I may be an introvert, but I like to keep busy. Boredom is not an issue for me. My whole life I’ve had a book in my hands, knitting in my lap, or some meeting to go to (choir, yarn shop, LLL, political things, my women’s group, etc.) I like being around people who are doing things. That’s how I learn.

Sure, there have been times when I’ve over committed. I’m able to figure that out and eliminate some things, honest. Right now I am totally at my limit. I can’t take on another committee chairmanship, event to organize, or new hobby (even though I’d love to learn to paint).

In the last week I’ve said “no” to several things. I’m mentioning this so that those of you who are concerned will see that I DO say no. I just don’t write about those things, since the Joiner always is sad to disappoint people. I was born this way, sigh. But I’ve had therapy!

The things on my plate right now support the things I care about passionately: animals, nature, writing for my LLL friends, our new business, and my paying job (which I love, so I’m not quitting). I’m going to be careful to not take on any new sub-jobs, and to ask for help when I need it. I just LOVE to do work I’m passionate about.

You, my friends, can help by pointing out to me when I’m frazzled and short-tempered and reminding me to ask for help. I’m glad you care. And I know that a lot of my busy-ness is to keep me from thinking about losing contact with my beloved son. I know.

This is me and Jenecia (JD), who I met in Master Naturalists, and is now my good friend. We were celebrating our two-year Facebook friend-a-versary yesterday. The nice thing about a small town is that you get to see your friends so often!

Still, I’m glad I have such kind friends in real life and in the virtual community. You help me see that life always has positives and negatives, and that you can make your own positives by getting out there and DOING rather than STEWING. Hey, did I make a meme? I’m too busy to go create one and post it, though. Heh heh.

By the way, having spent the week here in Cameron, I tell you what: I’d be exhausted if I were here full time. My goodness, I went to a lot of meetings, events, and such. I think it was just an exceptional week, though. At least I got some relaxing social time with my Cameron friends, too. Cheers to my new Bistro wine happy hour buddies, and to the wonderful servers and staff friends there!

Is This Safe? No. Remodeling Scare.

We are moving right along in remodeling the Pope Residence. You may remember that we removed a staircase that was in the entry hall, because it was dangerous (in more than one way). After it was removed, we put a temporary piece of wood over the resulting hole, so no one would fall to their death on our first floor.

See that big board, just hanging there? Oops. Two more have been repaired.

Yesterday, the crew was planning to make a permanent repair to the floor on the second floor, in anticipation of being able to put in the new tin ceiling. When Chris and Easton looked at it, their hearts skipped a beat. The previous remodeler had simply sawn through the floor joists to insert the stairs. That meant nothing was holding the floor up in that space. It’s a miracle no one ever had the floor collapse beneath them. Scary.

Just to show that we fixed it, here’s a fixed picture! It should be darned sturdy now.

Aah, safety. It’s all sealed up now!

Chris has been busily supporting things in the house, anyway. He’s reinforcing the floor in the main downstairs bathroom, which is probably a good idea. And all those sinking places are doubly reinforced. Our floors will stay!

Ready to replace damaged floors with safe and strong subflooring.

And We Can See!

In breaking news, the electric folks just came by and switched on our new, safe, and inspected electrical service! The temporary lighting works just fine. I turned on all the lights, just because I could. Now we can work all night!

Other Renovation Stuff

We’re all excited about the stuff Chris and I bought on a whirlwind trip to Lowe’s yesterday. There are the two windows to go in my bathroom and in the stairwell. They will match just fine.

Yep, those are windows, all right.

And we got all the outside lights, which will make it much safer for all of us and keep the perimeter of the building visible at all times. I think they are pretty, even if they’re just the kind everyone has. That doesn’t mean they are ugly!

Large and medium sized outdoor lights. They should get installed any day now.

The shiny red tiles for my office and bathroom came in, as did the vanity for the main bathroom downstairs, but the vanity was too big to fit in the giant SUV (it was raining, so no pickup and trailer). We did get a LOT of decking for replacing old floors, though. And while we were there, we chose a nice deep sink for the breakroom, as well as a faucet.

Stay tuned next time, when I hope to have stairway progress to share.

Book Report: Furious Hours

Oh, hooray! I finally finished a book! I’ve been reading some long ones lately, and it hasn’t helped that I have all those other activities and distractions going on. Speaking of distractions, Cathy J. gave me some fascinating used books and magazines passed along by her daughter. When I sent this photo on to Anita, she squealed via text. Cathy also sent along a VERY 1970s decorating book that may well be my next review.

I can’t wait to delve into all the dish about Lee! (Not my husband, this guy)

Oh, Wait, This Is a Book Report

Anyway, the book for this month’s book club is Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (what a mouthful). It’s by Casey Cep, a young woman with a mighty big talent for writing complex plots that you can still follow. Heck, it’s so complex that it’s hard to say what kind of book it is.

Cool fonts and scary woods just draw you in.

It’s almost like a few books all gathered together into one. There’s a crime story involving the black community in a small Alabama town, full of innuendo, unsolved deaths, and much drama. There’s a biography of the author, Harper Lee, including her childhood friendship with Truman Capote and her difficulties writing after To Kill a Mockingbird was published. There are also at least two other biographies hiding in the book, Willie Maxwell and “Big” Tom Radly). And then there’s a book on how to write “true crime” books, including how to do the research, interview people, and ferret out the facts.

The cast of characters in Furious Hours is legion. You meet practically everyone in the small Alabama town and the surrounding area from regular citizens to the law officers and politicians. You meet everyone Harper Lee was ever close to in all her travels and adventures, including, of course, all her colleagues in publishing. And you meet people who have insight into all the above.

I’m usually one of those people who has to write down all the characters in books, so I can keep them straight (I was so glad the book Homegoing had a family tree with names and relationships in it). But Casey Cep made the people in the book come alive so well (and she included subtle reminders of who people were), that I followed all the people as they came into the book, left, and came back again years later.

The person you don’t don’t get to meet in this book is Casey Cep, who prefers to let her words tell you about her. She’s the one who impressed me the most. Her research was impeccable, as far as I could tell, and she carefully clarified any time something she wrote about was not verifiable or when she got conflicting information from sources. That sure made the book more interesting to me!

There’s so much to this book that I wonder if Cep, like Harper Lee, only has one magnum opus in her. I hope not, though. Her reportage is clear, quick-moving, and a lot of fun. It’s amazing that this was her first book!

The Physical Book

I’d like to say a few words about the book, itself. You have probably noticed that I like to read physical books, rather than listening to them or reading on a screen. It’s probably something to do with the age I grew up in, but it’s also because books are a sensory experience to me.

Furious Hours has lots of photos of Harper Lee smoking. She was something else.

I also like to read hardback books. I KNOW that’s because they were such a luxury when I was young. All we had were the encyclopedias and a lot of paperbacks (Mom read romance novels). I loved her Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, though, because they were hardbacks. (However, I didn’t like the “condensed” parts once I read some of the full versions of books.) I wonder what happened to those books?

Back to my topic, Furious Hours is over 300 pages, so it’s a substantial hardback book. It’s great that there are photos of some of the people and places in the book, too.

And if you haven’t read it, for goodness’ sake, go get this book.

However, the book drove me nuts as I was reading it. Why? Well, the pages are really thick. I always felt like I must have been turning two pages instead of one. Second, the book just would not open all the way. I even tried to smoosh it down in a few places, but nope, it would not open wide. If you loosened your grip on it, it would pop shut. I’m sure it’s a good quality and will last a long time, but it sure was hard to read! I did like the quality of the paper on the cover, though. It felt good.

I find it interesting that I kept turning from this book to a large paperback I’m also reading, called Behave. I just love the way that book feels. It opens up so I can read it, the pages feel good, a blend of smooth and a little texture, and there are lots and lots of words on the pages, so I don’t have to turn them so often. (I will say, though, that if you don’t have really good glasses, you’ll have a heck of a time with its footnotes, which are in 6 point type, I swear.)

Should You Read It?

In summary: for a fascinating time learning about crazy crimes and Harper Lee, go out and get a paperback version of Furious Hours! Thanks to Anita for selecting it for our neighborhood book club.

Clearly I Care

I’m not talented with construction and building things. But I can clean stuff.

The crystals have ferns etched on them.

The big chandelier in the main room at the Pope House is a mess, since it’s been hanging there through the remodel. Yesterday, Randy patiently took down all the crystals, which was quite a job. There are over 90 glass crystals and who knows how many plastic ones, which I don’t know what they do, exactly.

It’s naked!

So I took the crystals home last night and washed them. Geez. That took longer than I thought it would! So many crystals. But they are pretty.

Soaking away.

They are also quite heavy. I carefully packed them in a box so none will break. It looks like I’ll get to the plastic ones tomorrow. I’m sorta hoping we can not use the plastic ones. In any case, I’ll have to buy a few replacement crystals. I hope they make similar ones still.

Drying.

Going Up!

I’m enjoying being in Cameron this week. I got to go to Rotary Club yesterday. Most cool, though, is construction supervision. I’m excited to see our electric boxes are in.

This will be nicely covered.

Best, though, the stairs are going up today! Here’s the first step. Heh heh. Step.

Ready for stairs.

Want to know the plan?

Chris’s stair plan.

How to Perk Up a Small Town

Chris, Kathleen and Jean waiting to eat their meat.

Last night I went to the Cameron Chamber of Commerce banquet. When you are in a bunch of organizations, as well as more than one business, that’s a member, you sort of feel like you have to go. Since Hearts Homes and Hands was a Gold Sponsor, we got to sit up at the front of the place, which I’d never done before (never having spent the money to sponsor anything). At the event, I learned lots of ways to get things going and make small towns better. The first one was the most fun.

Surprise Someone

There we are, right under the BIG sponsor.

Lee, Kathleen, Chris and I were the HHH representatives, but we invited two of my Milam Touch of Love Board members to come, as well (wish we could have invited them all). It was nice to bring Jean Schara and Mark McKibben along with us for a fancy meal and some beverages. (Once again, though, there was nothing for non-drinkers in the wine and cheese time before the meal.)

Lee and Mark paying attention to Judge Young.

At the end of the evening, the Chamber gives out awards to citizens and groups. After the big awards, they give out Excellence Awards to groups or people who didn’t quite make the cut, or aren’t in the in-group of Cameron movers and shakers, which is who usually gets things (not complaining, just noticing). In fact, Lee won one of these last year for our work renovating houses and buildings in the community.

It was really great, then, to see the look on Mark’s face when it was announced that Milam Touch of Love received an award for the work we have done for animals in the area. Jean had a clue something was up, because I’d told her it would really be a good idea to reschedule her Facebook Live event for her essential oil business. Mark just showed up for the food and friendship, but hooray! We were recognized. Both Jean and Mark have spent SO much time, effort and money for the group. It was great to have them join me.

We are very happy to get our award.

ALL the volunteers and donors for MTOL are part of the recognition, though, because, as with all nonprofits, it takes a lot of work to succeed. I am really proud of them.

Remind Them It Doesn’t Suck

I have to admire Judge Young, who has been personally dragging the county into modernity by courting businesses and proposing things that disrupt the status quo. He spoke for “two minutes” at the banquet, and reminded everyone how much good has happened in the past couple of years.

Melanie is timing the judge, who I don’t recognize without his cowboy hat. There were lots of them in the audience! Texas, y’all.

He’s not kidding. All sorts of solar power companies are moving in, and I can’t complain about that. We in Milam County are also some sort of bitcoin mining capital of the country, and wile I’m not the biggest fan of that sort of thing, it does bring in jobs. And while a lot of people complain about moving the city offices to the former hospital in town, it WILL provide opportunities for new businesses to come in and make downtown Cameron an actual destination.

I hope he perked up a few people…

Bring in a Motivational Speaker

Sarah collects vintage hats. Flowers came from down the road from us at Silver City Flowers.

Another way to perk up a town like Cameron is to get the movers and shakers to think differently. So, this year, Melanie Reed brought in a young woman who has worked with small towns throughout Texas to improve their images and such.

Sarah O’Brien had actually done her homework, and presented a talk that wasn’t just ideas, but had concrete suggestions. She’d taken a tour of the town a few weeks ago (including the Pope Residence – so THAT was the lady who Melanie dragged through our construction zone).

Sarah used local buildings as examples of positive and negative mindsets. We laughed when Jean’s business was used as the negative (Ms. O’Brien has NO idea what’s in there).

One thing she said, in a talk about Lee’s favorite topic of mindset, just geared toward small town leaders, was that to get people to be positive about Cameron, we have to be positive. I saw myself and my blog about potholes in that one! Oops.

We laughed even harder when OUR building was used for abundance. I guess she didn’t notice the peeling paint on her tour.

You do hear a lot of folks around here saying how hard it is to get good people to work for you, how the poverty mindset has made the citizens unmotivated to do better, etc. I see how being more positive might very well rub off! I’m going to make an effort to portray Cameron more positively and to continue to work to make it a place where people enjoy living.

Look! It’s our award. If only we had an office to hang it in.

Hey, at least I’ve helped increase the population by about ten people at the moment, some of whom are eating LOTS of donuts (the construction guys) and all of whom are buying things here! Thanks to Canova, Martha, Mike, Kathleen, Chris, Jim, Nicole, and Easton for saying yes to Cameron, even if you aren’t all here forever.

It’s fun being part of a small town trying to re-invent itself. No one gives a flip about me in the leadership of Austin, and that anonymity is nice, but it’s also nice to feel heard here in Cameron. I say YES!

Holey, Holey Moley

Cameron, Texas is a town full of holes. Part of its fading small-town charm is that very few things are in tip-top shape, so holes are everywhere.

Now, the true banes of my existence are the holes in County Road 140, where the Hermits’ Rest is located. As a matter of fact, I even made a movie of the potholes last year. At the moment, there are a few places where no matter how hard you try, you ARE going to hit a pothole. A couple of them are so deep that I’m surprised people haven’t lost wheel covers.

Red stars are our ranch community houses. 140 is the land of the potholes.

And ARGH, never ride in a car with someone unfamiliar with the road who doesn’t know to weave right and left to avoid the Big Ones and slow WAY down on the humpy section at the hill! I thought I was gonna get sick when Mike was driving me on Sunday.

The pothole situation in the county is so bad that a couple of people have bought their own equipment and begged the city to let them maintain their own roads. I don’t think our front-end loader can cut it, though.

Ground Holes

Canova and me at the Bistro

My sister dropped by today to have lunch and see the progress on the Pope Residence, and she needs to be careful when she’s walking. There was NO way I’d lead her across the empty lot (AKA “The Old Rossen Place”), because there are so many depressions where there were once trees. I think I’ve talked about it before, but since we’ve been having so many elders and people dealing with mobility issues, these things just LOOM in my mind. Stay on the walkways, everyone! (We do have insurance, and we do plan to level that ground.)

Holes in Houses

I am much happier with some of the holes in our renovation project, though. Chris and Easton moved the back door over, to make room for the length of stairway we’ll need to give the bathroom a ceiling. He sent me this picture:

It’s a long way to the ground now!

I looked at it and said to myself, “Hmph, the door is in a good place but, why is it opening that way?”

Not five minutes later, I got a text from him saying, “It opens the wrong way, but it will open right once we move the front door to the back.” How’s that for anticipating my criticisms! Smart guy! In any case, the doorway hole is a good one.

There are lots of holes in the ground and in the floors right now, too. That’s because plumbing experts showed up to repair all the lines and install the ones for the break room area and the bathrooms. Once they are done, we can put in floors! Hooray!

They made sure to get all the outside work done today, since it’s supposed to rain the rest of the week. I like it when people are careful like that. One of the guys told me he’d get rid of the annoying sapling/weed tree growing right next to the house and on top of where the plumbing goes in. I will be sure to kill its trunk to death, since it can’t be helping the house stay level.

Here’s the framing for the stairs and bathroom. The floor has holes, for plumbing.
This kind of stuff.

A final hole I’ve been thinking about is the ones caused by the tiles in the Hermit Haus cracking. We have decided to just pull them all up, remove the walls, and cover the entire flooring area with that nice stuff people put down in garages, with the little sprinkles. That should last forever, and if the ground shifts, it won’t be the end of the world.

More later. Gotta get more work done before the exciting Chamber of Commerce Banquet!

Light, of Many Kinds

Today was all about light. I am staying at the ranch this week, for the first time in ages, so I got to wake up after sunrise, though it was so foggy. Nice, gentle light.

As the only bush at the Pope Residence, the nandina, shows, it was damp this morning.

When I got to the office, my first task was to check out the progress with the Pope Residence. Behold! There’s a new window where the laundry room door was, which will light up that room!

They recycled a lot of old siding to rebuild the wall.

Back at the office, the UPS dude showed up and brought a giant box. Was it my chandelier? Nope. It was a beautiful lamp I’d ordered for my desk. It’s called a turtle lamp, for the glass shape. The bottom lights up to be a night light, too. It will look so cool!

Quite red, isn’t it? But it casts white light for reading.

So, where is my chandelier? I finally called up Lamps Plus, and they looked into it. The customer service lady kept saying how gorgeous it is. It turns out the label had fallen off and it never shipped. They were appropriately apologetic and promised to ship the new one immediately! We will see.

However, more lights appeared this afternoon! Kathleen picked up some old hanging lamps she bought from some friends of ours. They are all dusty now, but we’re really looking forward to cleaning them up.

I plan to hang one by the Grape Throne. By the way, here are the grapes.

The throne’s grapes

And finally, the day ended with a light show. I just can’t feel sad when Nature keeps reminding me of her glory.

Okay, jet contrails helped with the beauty.

Good evening from the Hermits’ Rest.