Missing the Ranch and Keeping My Spirits Up

It’s really weird to have not been at the ranch the entire month of November, especially since that’s usually a great month to be there (good weather, frisky pets, lots of time for walking). It didn’t help at all that I spent a good bit of time wandering around the area on Google Maps trying to figure out where those two people drowned. I think I got it located a bit further away from our property than I’d feared, but still adjacent. It makes me so sad.

In happier news, my one orchid that didn’t succumb to some evil scale has rewarded us with many blossoms.

I listened to a news report that said the victims had fallen out of their boat and got caught up in pond weeds. That’s exactly what I had feared. Even if you can swim, that stuff can get you. One guy had a young family and one was just 22, so young. They’re having a football game to raise money for their families. Traion Smith was just an amazing athlete in high school, and a nice young man. The news report showed the former Cameron coach breaking into tears at the thought of losing him. Life sure has its twists and turns.

Anyway, I ended up looking at what great quality the Google Maps images of our property are. I really liked how you could see each cow and all the cattle paths in the bottom pasture next to our house.

All the cows are at upper right, and you can see where they walk. The image can even get closer in! That’s Walker’s Creek and one of the streams that meets up with it.

I was disappointed that I could not see Apache or Fiona, nor the chickens. I guess the photo was taken just before we got the chicken house. So, you’re spared those images.

Sunset looking out by neighbor Ruth’s house. I love how the oak leaves are shining.

While I do miss the ranch (and its occupants, including my poor lonely quarantined husband!), I’m enjoying some time in Austin. We got to take a walk with our neighbor, Ruth, who regaled us with tales of trying to buy groceries at the H-E-B (we went a bit later ’cause I had to fill my prescription, and it wasn’t so bad). She went to the Randall’s store full of “old people” and it wasn’t crowded. That store is always full of old people! And, if you don’t live in Texas, we realize H-E-B is a weird name, but since it’s named after Mr. Butts, you can understand the choice.

Roses in my flower arrangement. They help me feel better.

And since I’m in Austin, we can have my son’s little family unit to eat out on the deck, to minimize germs and all, like we keep being told to do. It will be very small, but good.

Giant mum about to explode. This arrangement had such great autumn colors.

We will get through these challenging times. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but I feel like all this practice of empathy, compassion, and forgiveness that’s come out of the pandemic, the election, and the personal issues of those around me will benefit me the rest of my life.

I don’t know what this flower is, but I love the way only part of it is in focus.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the flowers I got at the store and our sunset. I saw no sunsets in Utah, because the mountains were to the west. That’s okay, mountains are pretty, too. Share what’s keeping you happy and in the moment, if you want to!

Doing My Duty (as tumbleweeds continue to roll)

Yippee, I managed to vote today, at last. I’m registered in Austin, so I had to wait until I was there to do it. It’s the final week of early voting here in Texas, which means the anxious people already voted, and the last-minute people haven’t decided it’s the last minute yet. The process was easy and appeared secure, as far as I could tell. Of course, I am a white lady voting in a wealthy neighborhood…

I voted. But my mask blinded me.

Nonetheless, all the electioneering around the voting site bothered me. Sure, they have to keep at least some number of feet away from the poll place, but all sorts of people were there with shelters, clipboards, and other things that I found annoying. No, I don’t want to sign your petition. And no, you aren’t going to change my mind by wagging a sign in my face. Well, at least they still let people who aren’t white males vote, so it could be worse (and who knows, may be in the future).

Meanwhile

I keep tumbling along through life like a tumbleweed gaining speed. I know I can’t fix everything, but, gee, I feel powerless to help in some situations. I tried to help a dog all day yesterday, and every time I got a ray of hope, something else knocked the hope out of me. There may be a lot more of that coming around, I guess.

My tumbleweed is practically airborn! Yow! Image by @sselby7 via Twenty20

I did get to see one of my coworkers who I hadn’t seen since March today. Here are my two teammates taking socially distanced photos of each other.

They are sharing views of each other with the rest of the folks in a Zoom meeting. That’s what passes for excitement.

All Is Not Lost

But, hooray, I managed to fix something after I voted! I had to go to the grocery store after voting, because I have NO coffee creamer at this house (little did I know that my endless fascinating meetings start at 8 tomorrow, so I probably don’t have time for home coffee). It was nice to see food, drink, vegetables, and such all arrayed in aisles and displays. There weren’t many people there, so I didn’t get too concerned about germs. I had a fun time at the checkout speaking bad Spanish with the cashier, then started to go home.

$125 to replace it. $2.50 for battery. I win.

The car’s key fob had decided its battery was end of life. No amount of trying to put the key in a better place made it start. So, I called the dealer. What to do? Can they come fix it? No. Oh, darn. BUT, the dude described how to get into the bowels of the key fob and find the battery! And I happened to be at the grocery store, a place that sells, of all things, batteries!

Back in I went. And I fixed the key fob all by myself. That tiny self-sufficient act made me feel all empowered and proud. That kept my spirits up and led to three good meetings with people on my team. Ideas were had! Progress was made! I have competencies!

I did my meetings upstairs, and even though it’s gloomy and cold outside, the Bobcat Lair is a cheerful place to hang out.

Honest, I’m not as full of mood swings as this makes me seem. I’m sharing, because right now we are all running into unavoidable obstacles or feeling unable to keep up with things that are going on around us. Finding something to center me (along with all that list of things I shared yesterday) gives me a surprising boost of well being and confidence.

Dang, it’s cheerful! It fills me with YOJ.

I highly recommend doing a good job at something, anything at all, to add to your morale as those of us in the US try our best to get through these unsettling times. What’s YOUR competency?

Baby Steps to a Comfortable Life

Work Comfort

I’m realizing that my life is coming back, slowly. It’s different, but things I care about keep coming back. For example, going back to my Austin office has let me visit my tree friends in the courtyard (even if we can no longer see them from our desks).

Courtyard oaks.

I’ve known the trees since I moved to this area. We used to drive by them all the time while they were building my house. Then they were mottes of trees in beautiful meadows. Now they got saved when an office complex got built.

So restful.

I saw extra cool honey mushrooms in the rocky karst area.

Home Improvements

Our Bobcat Lair house has been stuck in February mode. The front tree has had Valentine decor, and there was a broken statue on the dining table for months. I was hardly ever home, and Anita stayed downstairs.

Farewell February!

But tonight Declan and Rollie came over and fixed that. We put up all the decorations we have, and Rollie really wanted orange lights, so we have them.

And we did the mantel. Yay.

It felt so good to be doing something together. I miss having the kids around. And they helped so much. We may have been wearing masks and keeping our distance, but we were doing fun seasonal stuff. Time has stopped freezing.

Spooky young people. They ARE smiling.

And we all walked the dogs together. That has always been my favorite family activity, ever since I was a kid. Traditions continue. Life goes on. Love can’t be stopped!

Sending air hugs to all.

Pleasures of Home

One good thing about going away for a bit is you then see the pleasures of your home. Just little things seem new and fresh. I found myself becoming relaxed and full of a tickled kind of peace just looking at how annoyed the giant bird appears to be at the smelly candle.

Maybe it’s like Lee and hates scented items.

I have to say it’s the simple joys of home that make me happy. And the Bobcat Lair is as much home as the ranch. It’s a different joy, a more quiet one. And it smells good. Ha. Plus there’s Anita and HGTV!

Plus, wine.

Look around your home and haven. What keeps you going? What relaxes you and brings peace? Notice it and give it a grateful smile. That’s what I did with the annoyed fake bird.

Don’t forget me.

And yes, wherever my dogs are is a haven. I feel lonely without a little dog warming one of my thighs. I’ll see Carlton and Penney, my other cuddle buddies soon.

Little Progress toward “Normal”

Just a little. I’ve felt a lot better the past few days, and I think a lot of it is because life has become just a wee bit more normal, at least it feels that way. Being able to take the trip out of town and see different scenery was really refreshing for my soul, and with just a little care, we hardly interacted with anyone, and those we did interact with were either so far away we had to yell, or we were all masked. I felt like we were starting to get the hang of this pandemic safety thing.

This was my Facebook post last night. It fits the theme for today…

After work yesterday, I headed up to Austin, because part of my new “normality” is going there at least twice a month, seeing Anita, and working in the office. That also gives me Vlassic time, which we both appreciate (except when he insists on going out to do his doggie business at 3 am).

When I arrived, the extended neighbors (including folks who live nearby) were having a happy hour, a thing they used to do regularly by the pool. I appreciated them doing it on a day when I could attend. And, of course we weren’t around the pool, since the HOA has banned us from going there, because they fear lawsuits (with reason, given some neighbors’ proclivities).

We cleared out the center parking area and made plenty of space for everyone to gather. We sat in family units (except I deserted Anita due to sun in my face), neatly arranged six or more feet apart. Everyone had their own drinks of choice and had fun.

Happy neighbors on a beautiful evening.

The main downfall of this is, of course, that the hard-of-hearing folks didn’t get to participate as much. I saw a couple of people who just sat quietly, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they couldn’t hear, or read lips through masks.

Nonetheless, we heard some funny stories, got caught up on each other’s ups and downs, and didn’t die from heat or mosquitoes. October sure is nice in Texas. And doing at least a LITTLE socializing, while taking sensible precautions, was a lot of fun.

Telling stories.

I have to share one little story that made me chuckle. One neighbor loudly declared that he was NOT going to wear a mask, because his doctor told him that it wouldn’t keep him from getting sick, and only helps a little in preventing you from getting others sick. Another neighbor said his doctor encouraged mask wearing, so he was going to keep on doing what he was doing. The first guy just bellowed, “You need to get another doctor!”

Yes, changing doctors is all you need to be safe…or at least have the illusion. I just smiled and declared I’d keep using common sense.

Poor deserted Anita.

The main thing is that my life feels a little more normal, even though many thing are still different. I think we’re adapting to the way things are, and that’s what counts. At least my nightmares aren’t about COVID anymore (no, it’s still kanban cards and more kanban cards).

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

You just never know how a day will go. Today is just dandy, EVEN with an 8 am dental appointment! I had put the dentist off for four months, but I was assured they take precautions. And they did! And my teeth are okay, even with my recent jaw clenching.

I got the day of the week right!

The second day in my work office in Austin was nice. I actually had time to accomplish some work, and the team meetings went well. I think we’re getting the hang of Agility, a bit.

Mainly, though, I had a good meeting with my boss, where I got to share ideas and brainstorm. I admit it. That’s my favorite work activity. I love collaborating and planning, way more than being handed a plan and being told to go execute. Buy in! Yes! I like making things, too. I dislike tracking work and devising metrics. So, if you’re a potential employer, bear that in mind. Also bear in mind that I hope to not get a new job, like ever.

Living my dream.

So, what about the title of this post? Well, it’s hair day again. And I’m bleaching again. It has grown out to where at least half of it is undyed, which means if I keep this up, I’ll never have any hair that’s been bleached a lot, thus the straw effect will be less likely to happen. That’s my hair theory, anyway.

So, enjoy this “live blogging” version of me getting my hair done. I blogged during and after the event, because, well, that’s the time I had.

Before. Roots a-plenty , though I don’t think they look all that bad.

And, Dan the hairdresser says this time he’s making it pale blue to start out. I’m pretty excited. Yep, I’m tying under the dryer. There was no blogging time earlier today!

Bleach applied. Cooking away. Looks scary in there.

I always like the white phase. This time there’s no orange! I wish I was brave enough to keep my hair white. But, to me, blue is safer. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.

Blonde bombshell.

The pastel blue color looks fantastic even just applied! It’s quite goopy and drippy. And I hope you enjoy my little wave. It’s classy. Thanks, Dan.

Mermaid time.

I enjoyed “resting” while the color cooked, but wanted to see if it really came out pastel blue. The last time it was rather dark. I got delayed getting a picture, because my fancy earrings fell on the ground. Sigh. But lo!

It’s pastel blue! Anita says it’s the color of an ice cube tray. Michele at work says it’s blue cotton candy. I like that better.

And in my Bobcat office, it’s lighter. This will be easy to maintain and fun. Life is good, other than the headache I have. It won’t stop me from book club, where we will talk about The Vanishing Half. I won’t vanish with such blue hair!

It’s weird that I now feel more comfortable with blue hair than my natural color. It’s also weird that I now very closely resemble a manic chipmunk. At least it’s a chipmunk with clean teeth.

I Still Remember How to Get to Work

Big day today. I sucked it up and went back to the corporate office in Austin today. I really want to come here more than every 6 weeks, but to do that I have to work outside the house, so Anita can concentrate.

It was weird driving there, since I hadn’t in so long. And the parking garage had only like ten cars in it. I parked on the first floor, which I never had before.

There were lots of hand sanitizer stations and signs indicating where you can and cannot stand. At least there’s coffee. Only two people in the break area, please.

I managed to find my desk in its new spot. Oh my. It’s in the middle of the building, with no natural light or privacy. At least I have a white board “wall” for now. And a big concrete pillar to look at instead of someone’s head.

What a fine “wall.” and yes, I drape things a lot.

I didn’t give myself enough time to get settled in before my first meeting, but I did it fine. See, I don’t completely suck at scrumming. and after that, I found most of my cables and got things set up to where I can work.

Another thing I suck at is minimalism. Even not using all my stuff, I gots the decor! But I need to feel safe, secure, and aesthetically well to do good work. Ah.

Man. This looks bleak. The boxes are gone, at least. It’s like a basement that’s not underground.

No doubt I can stand this until we get better seats, which I hope will happen soon. Right now I’m only the second person in my department to go back. It’s so quiet, well, except my friend Henry is back within earshot. It’s good to hear his Spanish calls again!

I guess it feels a little more normal. But safe. No one breathed on me! (You have to wear a mask except at your desk.) Maybe I’ll have fewer nightmares tonight.

In Coffee I Trust

This morning, I sat down to start my day, and took a sip of the cup of coffee I’d just made. It was plain ole House Blend. I made it in my plebeian Keurig coffee maker, a thing I swore I’d never own one of, until I realized how much coffee I wasted making entire pots that didn’t get finished and how much paper I went through on filters. (I do often empty them out for compost, when I remember.)

Today’s coffee is in one of my favorite mugs, given to me back when the older son considered me his mom.

Anyway, it was plain coffee, with some whole milk and one teaspoon of Anita’s fancy brownish sugar. It was so delicious that I knew I’d make it through the day just fine. That’s the power of good coffee, or in this case, okay coffee.

I have been more of a coffee snob in the past, and truly admire people like my coworkers who buy only beans they know where they came from and grind them carefully in amazingly beautiful grinders, then carefully drip them through leather-wrapped holders for the perfect cup. But, I just want some coffee in the mornings, sometimes flavored (mmm, coconut).

I’m not running out any time soon here in Austin (or in Cameron).

It’s weird how rituals like the drinking of a bitter beverage every morning become traditions in certain cultures, and how they differ from place to place. Sure, caffeine gets many people going (I am okay with or without it). I think we crave the comfort of having something to do every morning that makes you slow down (ha ha and smell the coffee) and have at least a couple of mindful moments before going and doing and thinking and talking. It’s a centering ritual, even though most people who drink morning coffee would never call it that.

Thanks to friends and family, I have a fun collection of mugs. They have no political agenda.

Coffee, I love you. Thanks for being my morning buddy, wherever I go and whatever I’m doing.

The Black Dachshund Mix Goes to Austin

I’m sure Vlassic was looking forward to some fun today, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was another big rain day. For me, it was fun looking out the window while I worked upstairs.

Wetness and reflections.

For Pickle, the day meant a great deal of panting and shaking. I refrained from photographing her in her distress. Vlassic mostly slept through the storms.

Big, pre-nap yawn.

He “helped” me a lot in Zoom meetings, or acted as dead weight in my lap. He apparently gets bored hearing only one side of conversations.

I’m a cute dead weight.

He got a lot of licking in, too, especially after walking in the rain. I was really proud of him for managing to do the needful outside.

I’m about to jump in Suna’s lap.

Pickle finally got to safely go out around 5 pm. She can really hold her bladder! We got to see our neighbor, Katie, who was in the same boat. Rain is very hard on small indoor dogs. We humans were sad that book club got rained out for the second week in a row, too. Sigh.

I’m better after my walk. See, no trembling.

Vlassic is not complaining. Time spent with Suna is good time for him. He got to destroy a dog toy, so now he can spend the rest of the evening watching HGTV with Anita and Suna.

Ahh. Life as an indoor dog has its benefits.

I know Vlassic enjoys ranch life, but he sure isn’t complaining about his time in the big city, even when it’s storming outside.

I Got Nothing of Substance

Well, here I am. It’s my designated blogging opportunity, and honest. Nothing to say. But my goal is to write every day, so I’ll write. What’s up with me?

Proof I’m in Austin and confused.

I’m in Austin, enjoying a Flash Flood Warning, listening to Anita watch Facebook (people who live alone talk to a lot of inanimate objects and pets, it seems, but it’s sweet). Life doesn’t get much better.

I’m still confused about work, but have decided to go with the flow in hopes that at some point the actual tasks we have to do come into focus. At least the intentions behind what we are being asked to do are starting to make sense – they want to sell software. Surprise. So, we technical documentation specialists are gonna make that happen…somehow. I can do it!

While I made it to Austin, the clothing I was going to wear while I was here did not. I was afraid I’d have no pants that fit, but I do; it’s just that they are mint green jeans. It’s a good thing they only see your top half in Zoom meetings! I found a company conference t-shirt from 2014, so I’ll look quite prepared.

We have our neighborhood book group tonight (one reason I’m here), and I am really looking forward to talking about The Vanishing Half, since my book review of it went over like a lead dictionary. That’s okay, lots of my posts get about six readers; they are treasured readers!

So, are YOU doing something interesting today? Tell me what’s up!