What Makes a House YOUR Home?

Last night, while waiting on some guests to arrive, I took some pictures to remember the Bobcat Lair, my house in Austin, where Anita and I have enjoyed about four years now. I mentioned earlier this week how much I’m going to miss the neighbors, but I’ll also miss having a house I could set up however I wanted and decorate with what pleases me.

I got to have orange things, and dainty furniture (just a bit too much).

I know I’m lucky. Anita’s had to live with my stuff since she moved to Austin (well, she had her own area with her stuff in it, but no kitchen of her own). And Kathleen and her spouse have had to live much of the past two years in someone else’s house, crammed into a bedroom. That’s got to get old pretty fast! Most of the ranch house I tried to keep neutral, brought in the big furniture our residents prefer, and confined my collections to small areas. The Bobcat Lair was all me, with touches of Anita for good measure of course.

I got it all modern, where you can see all through the house.

I love how airy the place is and how well Anita’s plants grow in it (most of my plants are gone). I loved my little kitchen with lime green accents and shiny counters, too. I love shiny things.

Such a pleasant kitchen, and I designed it myself!

I guess I just want to honor all the work and planning that went into fixing this house up (at last) to be a nice home. I wish I could have spent more time here, but the time I did spend was restful, calm, and free of stress. That was the real luxury of the Bobcat Lair!

And my happy yellow bedroom, just for me and my stuffed sloth.

The fact that I got to have my happy colors, my flower art, and my quirky décor items just made my parts of the house MINE. I think we all deserve a place like that, where you we comfortable, because it’s ours. It’s been great having a whole house like that, but now it’s time to move on, and I will, after dwelling a bit on how much I liked my home. I’ll just work on sprucing up my Hermits’ Rest office, and it will be great. There are always options, and I am not complaining at all, just remembering. Enjoy some photos of what made this house mine.

This post was mainly for me, to act as a photo album, but I hope you enjoy peeking in at someone else’s house. I always do!

I also wanted to remember how nice the back of the house looks with the new flower beds and electrical box surrounds. The neighbors did great work.

Do You Have What You Need?

It’s yet another transition time in my life, as a lot of Anita’s stuff got loaded into a trailer and headed out to Cameron. We’re both very grateful to the guys who did all the heavy lifting, which combined with all the stairs makes for a long hot day. We’re getting ready to put the Bobcat Lair house on the market, because houses are selling so well in Austin these days.

I’ll miss looking at lesser goldfinches through my neighbor’s windows!

One thing is for sure, neither Anita nor I want to leave. The neighborhood women are all such good friends and so kind to each other. That won’t be easy to reproduce. Having a supportive community that can listen to each other and support each other, even when we disagree is priceless. At the end of last night’s book club I realized that such a community is what I’ve always needed for staying happy and centered. A lot of my unsuccessful attempts at making friends or joining groups have come because I have that need (and reinforced that just because you like some people doesn’t mean they’ll like YOU!).

Precious neighbors at book club. I’ll drive back to Austin for that!

I’ll be sure to stay close to the Austin neighborhood friends as I move on, just as I’ve tried to stay close to my close-knit La Leche League friends.

As we prepare to leave our Austin sanctuary, I realize that another thing I really need is a place where I can just be my own raw self. The nice thing about having known Anita since we were so young is that we know each other’s personalities so well that we can pretty much say and do whatever the heck we want to around each other and there aren’t hard feelings, misunderstandings to straighten out, or topics to avoid bringing into conversations. If we disagree, we talk about it. That’s rare, very rare, at least in my experience! (I can only think of two other people who fall into that category right now.) It’s just so great to be able to relax and not self censor for a while. It’s been great to have the Austin house to be a place of respite where we can simply be.

Goofy Friends For-Ever

I’ll still have Anita in the future, and I hope spending time with her at her new house will be a good break from the fun and adventures of home and work (which also have their great points and are important to me)!

That’s important, because the third thing I really need is that mythical “place of one’s own” where you can surround yourself with what YOU like. My Austin living room and bedroom were that for me, as was the beautiful office I made at the Pope Residence, which needed to be used by others for business reasons. I only got to use it a few months, at most, but wow, I loved having my desk, my window of glass objects, my pretend fireplace, and my beautiful chandelier surrounding me while I dealt with job issues, did volunteer work, and thought my own quiet thoughts.

I loved this office, but never got to come back after the Snow Event.

My office at the ranch house isn’t quite that, and I’m not sure why. Probably because there are so many dogs, interruptions, and things I don’t like in the room. I’ll bring in things I DO like and make it better, though. Whining about it won’t help get me where I feel comfortable, productive, and at peace, now, will it? I’ll just get stuff from my Bobcat house, my beautiful Cameron office, and elsewhere, and fix things up. And shut the door, even if it inconveniences the dogs.

So, what do you feel like you NEED to live your best, most comfortable, and most productive life? I was surprised that the things I talked about today were what came up for me. But, at least I know, now, and I can keep working on enjoying what I do have (my amazing family, friends in Cameron, and ranch of wonders) while tweaking my environment to best meet my needs, but not interfering with others who are meeting THEIR needs. Because, yep, other people’s stuff is also important, right?

Peaceful Interlude in Austin

This is a rare time. There really isn’t anything pressing at the moment, and I spent all last night doing things that weren’t stressful (other than figuring out why the television isn’t working in the living room at the Bobcat Lair). I even did the things on my to-do list (Kathleen now has software for us), including finding someone to clean the ranch house. I have three candidates to talk to!

Highlight of yesterday was getting this odonata (damselfly) to hold still.

One thing that’s good about having two houses is that you get new scenery and a bit of a break. I LOVE that there’s usually so much to do at the ranch, but an occasional day of not sweating profusely or shoveling anything does give my back a break. I’ll have plenty of energy for when I get back!

Anita and I watched Dr. Pol (show about old Dutch vet in Michigan) in my beautiful bedroom and said ooh and aah to cute puppies and kitties, and ICK when there were two scenes of cutting off cow nipples. That was plenty of drama for me!

Regrettably, this may well have been the last peaceful evening we have. Tonight we have visitors and will get some work done around here as we prepare to move all Anita’s boxes to her new house in Cameron, and I prepare to get the beautiful and unique Bobcat Lair sold. Have I mentioned the housing market in Austin is ridiculously hot? So, as a professional house flipper, I know it’s time to flip the house, as much as I love it.

I will miss my quirky but very pleasant office so much.

The plan is to get an apartment near my work for the next couple of years. A quiet one, if possible. We just have to get the boxes out, sell the house, and move things to various places, other than the things that just go away.

I am no longer stressing out or worrying about any of this. We can handle it all by doing one thing at a time. I may still occasionally lapse into patterns of self doubt or have trouble handling change, but I’m sure doing a lot better. That’s all any of us can ask; to do better. I’m also doing way better accepting people in my life just as they are, warts and all, and am only requesting that favor in return, when possible. No wonder things are a bit calmer for me!

Glad for Goods and Good Vision!

I’m just plain glad and just plain good, I guess. As always, I’m glad for nature. When I stepped out of the house at 6:45 am to drive to Austin, I discovered we had a visitor. We looked at each other, I took her picture and bid her a good morning. Kathleen said she was still there when she came out to go to the gym, so I sure hope she found someone else to visit before the dogs woke up!

Young, confused skunk.

As I drove down the side road to US 77 (to avoid the potholes of our road), I saw a deer jump across the road. Thinking that if there was one, there were probably more, I slowed down. Yep, another one jumped by. When I got to them, I saw that they were both mature bucks with beautiful racks of antlers. I’m always glad to see the deer population recovering in our area.

Excitement!

All that nature love fit right in with my new license plate, which came in yesterday. It’s even prettier in person, and has my nickname surrounded by hearts on it. The plates raise money for our organization, and look way prettier than the standard one. Those are some good goods.

I learned a lot at work meetings today and got to hug various people who I missed very much during the pandemic times. At one point, my cheeks hurt from smiling at old work friends. That’s way better than my back pain from all the shoveling and Drew wrangling I did over the past few days! All good, though. Goodness.

And in addition, I got to enjoy good vision, finally, because I was able to pick up my two pairs of glasses at the optometrist. They are still very serious about their masking and such. It’s a very clean office. Anyway, the round ones are transitions lenses, which I know aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but work great when I’m messing with horses and having to go in and out of the sun.

I hope you enjoyed that tour of my lip wrinkles and saggy jowls. Both glasses look much better in reality than they do in these photos! But, what matters is that I can see better; good vision is good. I am curious to see how the ones I ordered online came out. They should be done soon for which I will be glad. That will certainly do for glasses for a few years!

That is just about all the goodness I can dredge up right now, but I’m sure something will come up. Are you good? Any goodness to share? Do you hate it when people say “Are you good?” to mean “Are you well?” Are you glad I’m moving on from the topic of goodness and gladness?

Joy and Affirmation

This will be a quick one, but I can’t help but share how happy I am with the work we’re doing at the Pride Employee Resource Group I help run at work. We just sponsored a Q&A session with a trans woman who’s been a legislative activist for trans rights, and also works in the high tech industry. I was a little concerned, because the speaker has been a friend of mine for almost as long as I’ve lived in Texas. I didn’t want her to have a bad experience or feel unwelcome.

I’ll just share some lovely plants from around the office to separate my gushing pargraphs. Hydrangea.

Far from it! My heart is full of joy, and I feel like at least one little part of the world is becoming a better place every day. I served as moderator and asked my friend questions that we’d come up with, plus some of the 75+ attendees also asked really thoughtful questions, from which we all learned a lot, including the speaker.

Rock rose

People shared their thoughts and experiences respectfully, but we also laughed a lot as we enjoyed just being people getting to know each other. I really feel affirmed, welcome in my workplace, and and genuinely pleased at the kindness I could feel coming from all those square black Zoom boxes.

Japanese maple

My friend re-iterated what I always say, and what certainly shone through during today’s discussion, which is once you get to know someone as a person and you find things you have in common with them, things like gender expression fade into the background.

Beautyberry

Yep. The world is not all bad and people are not all afraid of anyone who’s different. I will try to keep remembering moments like this.

My companion on my stroll. He or she did not move as I walked right under the tree three times.

What? We Have a Pool?

Apparently, we do have a pool, and it’s right behind the Bobcat Lair house in Austin. I’ve lived here part time for four years and owned the house for six, but I’d never really seen it, just glimpsed it through trees.

Look, Ma, there’s a cement pond! (as they would say on the Beverley Hillbillies)

I discovered this (just kidding, I did know there was a pool there; I simply had never seen it up close) last night when my friend Carol, from back in the Hermit Haus Redevelopment days, came over to visit. She brought some delicious food, we pulled out the good wine, and we had a lot of laughs catching up. The recent goings-on in Cameron led to much laughter.

The infinity area, with scenic view.

Now, when we had most recently walked Pickle, the neighbors informed Anita and me that the pool had indeed re-opened after a year of slumber and intense renovation. I wanted to check it out, since some of the neighbors had done most of the renovating themselves, including the lovely plantings around it, and I wanted to see it up close and in person.

You can see the moon. Once it got dark, it was really pretty. The pool edges look so nice now.

We mentioned it to Carol, and she also wanted to see it. Why, she had even brought her bathing attire along with her in case she could go swimming at the Y near her house at some point in the day. So, I donned my fabulous modest bathing suit and grabbed the towel I bought two years ago and hadn’t used yet to join her for a dip. Even though it was 8:30 pm and Carol only had fancy sandals to wear, we slipped between the houses and went down.

A cozy spot to dine, or take notes, which someone forgot about.

We were very impressed with the resurfaced pool (even though I had never seen the old version), the painted areas, and the cleaned-up limestone. The lighting is also lovely, and explains why it’s never really dark outside my bedroom window.

It’s all so clean and fancy!

It turns out the pool doesn’t close until 10, so we enjoyed the water (even Anita, who had hiccups the entire time, dipped her feet in) for quite a while. I sure wish we had made time to use this neighborhood feature before, but I figure I’ll get the most out of it while I can this summer. (Excuses include losing the key for a couple of years, being exhausted every night, and COVID.)

Don’t make me take my socks off. Our house is just to the right of the one you see behind Anita.

I really appreciate the hard work people in this neighborhood are doing to improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood. They are spending their own money, since the HOA is not inclined to do more than mow and trim.

Carol checks out the plants. That’s our house, at right. Pretty close.

Sigh, actually hanging out with your old friends is fun. Thanks to all the people who worked so hard on the COVID vaccine, too!

A Tiny Win for Me (Radio Edition)

Sometimes the little things really mean a lot. You see, quite a while ago I bought a radio, yes, an actual radio, which has a weather band in addition to AM and FM. It has a stronger antenna than most, so my hope was to be able to listen to the Austin NPR station, KUT, from here north of Cameron, two counties away.

I was very excited, but when I turned the radio on, I barely could hear my station. So, I only used it to listen to the local station, KMIL, for the rural news and Tejano/Czech Polka music. I’m weird. I really like that oom-pa stuff.

Every so often, I’d try KUT, hoping maybe they had boosted their signal or something. But, no, until TODAY! I tried again, and there was Morning Edition, clear as a bell. I was thrilled, and way more excited than, say, new dog Goldie was yesterday afternoon when she came in from the heat.

I’m really going to enjoy the radio when I’m not in meetings and just chilling with the dogs in the home office. One thing I was concerned about when we made plans for me to move out of the Austin house sooner rather than later was that I would miss my news source, which is not the same as the rest of the household prefers. I don’t like sensationalism, and the format of Lee’s television news drives me nuts. Too many teasers.

Photos of dogs are just because they are so cute. At one point I had four in here snoozing yesterday.

Anyway, that’s my happy morning news.

Feeling Pretty…Social

Blinding whiteness

It’s been an interesting few days of social activities since I came to the Austin house Tuesday evening. I got my hair turned back into my preferred whiteness yesterday, and that always makes me feel better…prettier…fancier. It makes that last month or so with the extensive roots worth it. I think adding the silver worked well to make the roots less obvious, so I may do that again, especially seeing that the bleach made it go away.

Working on hair seems like such a privileged thing to do, but I save up for it. Yesterday I even got a nap while sitting under the hair dryer. And it’s always fun to listen to the stories my hair stylist tells about his life and adventures. Well worth the time and sort of worth the money.

Getting pretty isn’t very pretty, however. My hair looked like worms when I came out of this dryer. I felt like a butterfly undergoing metamorphosis.

As soon as I was released from my cocoon in the salon, this social butterfly ran next door to participate in our first vaccinated people’s book club meeting indoors. All of us were so happy to be able to both see and hear each other! We did have to keep steering the conversation away from topics that might lead to strong words (Did you know none of the homeless people in Austin are willing to work? Neither did I.). One of the women there lives in the alternate world, and said she’d not worn a mask except the few times she went to Austin last year. Wow. I kept waiting for Anita to jump on her, but we were all good and decided not to cause a book club scene.

I took myself, my PRIDE! shirt, and my giant rainbow earrings (I wonder why that one lady wouldn’t talk to me?) home just before yet another bad storm rolled through. Those are so hard on poor little Pickle the dog. Anita and I tried to distract her by watching weird shows about people with weight and skin issues, and she did eventually calm down.

Today I am back to feeling pretty and social. I was feeling so femme that I suddenly painted my fingernails and toenails this morning, and put on ALL the makeup I haven’t worn in a year. It worked out, because the office had more people than I’ve seen since February 2020 today. It has been so much fun seeing old coworkers, meeting some in person for the first time, and eliminating misconceptions (one coworker is much smaller than her large Zoom personality would indicate).

I may not be gender fluid, but I sure go from tomboy to lady-like in a flash. Hey, you just take fun wherever you can get it, right? I like wearing my “costumes” and looking different every day as much as my hair stylist likes to wear a white t-shirt and khaki shorts every day!

By the way, today I tried out the new “columns” functionality in WordPress. It looks pretty good on the computer, but let me know if it looks weird however you view the blog.

And yes, I will podcast again. I’m just really low on time these days (or bone tired) and can’t get to a lot of my volunteer and optional activities.

Knowing Your Issues Doesn’t Fix Everything, Nor Should It!

As always, things are changing in my life. One of the changes anticipated for this year is that Anita and I will need to move out of the Bobcat Lair house in Austin. That’s sad, because we really love the setting, the house, and most of all, the neighbors. But, the cost of just paying the City of Austin property taxes is more than the mortgage to our old house, and now that we are getting closer to me retiring from paid employment, we’ll need the money from that house as part of our income stream. Things are winding down, and it’s time for investments to pay off.

It’s the Austin house (Bobcat Lair) showing lovely dark rain clouds. Ah.

Yes, that’s all logical and good. Anita has her own little house in Cameron that we hope to get renovated as soon as her contractor is available and her tenant, who’s already month to month, knowing Anita is going to need to live in the house herself, finds another place to live. This is all quite reasonable, right?

But, when Anita started talking to me yesterday about how much she’s packed up already (she does all her moves all by herself, because she would rather invest her time than her money), and that she gave her tenant notice that she needs to be out, I found myself going back into one of my old, unproductive ways of reacting. I am not good with moving, AT ALL, and the thought of having to leave my beloved sanctuary sent me into a panic. It just seemed like a HUGE amount of work, change, and uproar was impending, and I kind of shut down.

A little wine on the deck helped me feel better, too.

Anita (bless her) kept talking me through it, and I began to realize that I can do things in stages, that I actually don’t have all THAT much furniture in the Bobcat Lair, and that I even have a place to store things like my books and such. And all the boxes I still haven’t unpacked (though there aren’t all that many now!!).

Plus, I plan to rent an apartment near my work, so I can easily figure out what things go where, move them, then get the rest moved to Cameron (except for what’s needed to stage the house). I’m just trying to breathe as I think of more things that need to be done, like electrical work to fix outlets that stopped working…but it’s not too much.

I just have to face it; I’m who I am, and I’m going to have trouble with changing things when it comes to my home, because having my own place grounds me. I’m still a fine person!

Ernesto apparently agreed with my coping strategy. Photo by  @juleslang via Twenty20.

I’m Not Alone

Speaking of my issues, which I am, I had an odd experience last night watching the PBS show on Ernest Hemingway. Now, he’s not someone I ever would have thought I had anything in common with, other than being fond of short sentences (he was way better at actually writing them, though). As I learned how he grew up, the experiences he had with his family, and how he coped later, I was really surprised to see how we have a LOT in common when it comes to our inner demons and how we deal with them.

One part of the show, in particular, hit me hard. He was talking about how happy he was when he had both his wife and another woman he was also in love with. He said it made him inexplicably content, even if he knew it was hurtful. And then he talked about how, in his relationships, he always made sure to have another love interest all lined up before he left someone. Ouch. Those were my destructive patterns in my younger days.

Hemingway statue in Cuba that apparently chokes people up.  @prezioso02 via Twenty20.

I’m really glad I didn’t live such a public life as Hemingway did, because reading all the criticism of my life, like he had to, would have been really uncomfortable. I’m glad I just got to judge myself harshly without too much help from others (except former partners).

I don’t think Hemingway was able to get much control over his demons, much like his father, who committed suicide when he couldn’t get a handle on his mental struggles. He knew perfectly well what his problems were, which is clear from his books, but knowing what his challenges were didn’t mean he could fix them, any more than I can help my issues with moving.

I’m glad I had help, good reading, and inner work that has gotten me out of destructive patterns, at least with romantic and friendship relationships. I’ll be interested in watching the rest of this series and getting more insight into this fascinating writer and historical figure.

What a good thing that we happened to watch this interesting Ken Burns documentary right after I was beating myself up for repeating patterns from my youth (I know perfectly well that I hate to move house because leaving my beloved home as a teenager was so hard on me). It gives me perspective to cut myself some slack and bear in mind that some of our personality “features” are deeply ingrained, just like those unconscious biases.

We can only do the best we can and keep making an effort to improve. Thank goodness I’m a lifelong learner and never plan to stop enjoying the challenges of living up to my best intentions. Let’s all keep open to ways to learn more about ourselves and others, and be patient with ourselves.

That’s my lecture for today. Take what works for you and leave the rest!

A Note from a Friend

After reading my blog (with all the typos I just fixed), my friend Kelli Martin Brew responded to echo my thoughts. I really got a lot from what she said, so I’m happy she allowed me to share her thoughts with you:

I love this. The longer I live, the more it seems clear that a lot of who we are and what we do is hardwired. But how I have wanted to believe that knowing something was the same as changing it! At this stage in life, I think we can use this hard-won knowledge to be more merciful – and to be honest about our own struggles and behavior. I grew up with a huge mandate to “be a good example.” At this point in life, I have contented myself with being just an honest “example” of… something. Whether it is deemed “good” or not will be decided sometime in the future, if at all.

Kelli, Facebook, April 6, 2121

I really treasure connections that allow us to share our inner thoughts, struggles, and learnings. I plan to be an example, too!