My Poor Nails!

Just a quick funny story (to me). Historical background:

I bit my nails until I was 14. Nothing could stop me; I was an anxious child, and this was one of my soothing behaviors. I really had me some ugly hands.

But, a week before high school started, I got it in my head that I could have a new start, not be the outcast I was in 8th grade, and look a bit better. So I managed to not bite my nails. I can remember being so proud in Algebra I class, when I could see some white at the ends of my nails. The next week, I painted my nails red.

I interrupt this story with a picture of the lamp I had to bring into my dungeon office, because the ceiling light has gotten so dim I can’t see. Note bonus mask holder!

And, most weeks for the ensuing many decades, I’ve painted my nails. I had them really, really long in high school and painted them all sorts of interesting ways (this was LONG before nail salons and professionals; it was all me).

Once I got to college and had to type a lot, the nails got a little shorter, but other than a few brief hiatuses, my quest for great nail polish and perfect nails never ended. I always acknowledged the irony that other than a love of sparkly eye shadow and long nails, I was quite the gender neutral dresser.

Actual Story?

Fast forward, and I’m still an eccentric dresser, but also with weird hair color. I hardly ever had professional nail applications; I can remember one in San Francisco in 2005…and a few toenail polish bonding events.

But, I got a hankering for something that lasted longer, and started going to the salon here in Cameron, where I really like the people and had a lot of fun. This blog has plenty of photos of my fanciful dip nails. I miss them.

Ah, so pretty.

When the coronavirus stuff started, the salons all closed. I also noticed that the tools they used on my nails had made them paper thin. Well, I thought, a great chance to let them heal a bit.

The salon opened back up, but because of my very visible position at our personal assistance service, and my own desire to stay away from people who are less careful than me, I haven’t been back (and I am so sorry for the nail salon people!).

Golden toes. These should be fine.

I found some Essie products that are really strong and last over a week on my fingers, and have been using them. Except last time, I discovered you need to pay attention to what you’re doing.

I put the top coat on as my base coat, and the base coat on top. Hmm, I thought it didn’t come out very shiny. Then, two days later, all my fingernail polish peeled off in sheets. What? I did NOT take a picture.

Base coat left. Top coat right. Memorize. I am not compensated for this photo.

Yep, that shiny top coat doesn’t stick well to bare nails. And that grippy base coat isn’t shiny.

In fact, the base coat is so grippy that it would stick to my socks when I wore my boots. I kept the toenails for another week, but wow am I happy to have changed to the right polish in the right order.

Nice bronze nails, all my own. And a bonus donkey.

You’d think that after doing my own nails for so long, I’d learn to read the bottle of clear polish and put on the right one! Sheesh!

What have I learned here? Give me 15 minutes and I can write a long blog post about almost anything. Back to work.

An Angry Mob of One

Expressing anger is difficult for some of us. Like Suna.

No, no, I’m not angry about anything right now! Everything’s just fine. If you’re looking for drama, I’m not serving that up today. I’m just thinking about anger.

The book club meeting I attended on Zoom (of course, no in-person meetings for me!) today got on the topic of things we struggle with, and I brought up the fact that I totally suck at getting angry. The very nice women in the meeting were quite supportive of me, and the consensus was not to expect to be great at something you don’t have a lot of experience with. They were right!

Even as a child, I was discouraged from getting angry. If my little brother pestered me, I was told to, “Just ignore him.” And if I did get angry and yell or hit back after he slapped me, I’d get spanked. So, I fairly quickly learned to bottle up any anger I had and to arrange things to be as peaceful as possible in my little world.

Hence, I ended up an Enneagram Number Nine. As the website says:

Key Motivations: Want to create harmony in their environment, to avoid conflicts and tension, to preserve things as they are, to resist whatever would upset or disturb them.

Enneagram Type 9

That probably also explains my initial resistance to change, even the good kind!

Another thing it explains is why I’m always trying to attain some sort of spiritual transcendence; it’s another way to escape the real world. At least I have the sense to know that “the only way out is through,” and am coming to terms with the whole “life is suffering” concept.

I just want peace, calm, and goodness.

Anyhow, I am just not good at getting angry. Not one bit. I can’t be like Anita, who often declares she’s angry at this that or the other, but she just expresses herself strongly. I keep thinking, “Why is she angry at that? I’m sad, or…some other emotion.” That’s because if I try to express anger, it scares the pee out of people. You know, I also learned from my family or origin how to have a very sharp passive-aggressive tongue. Oopsie.

I can actually remember the two or three times I let my anger spill out. After one time, I was never able to bring myself into a particular community again. I just left and never came back. I’ve only let myself express anger at my spouse a couple of times in all these years. I just get snippy on occasion then over-apologize for it.

Dang, I need to learn how to legitimately express anger when it’s appropriate without alienating people forever, or turning into a sniveling ball of self-abuse. Those seem to be my main anger outlets. I’m just not equipped to be an angry mob of one, I guess.

As my colleagues in the book club pointed out, it helps to remember you’re angry at a situation. (And I point out that it helps to remember people are doing the best they can; though when I’m angry at an institution, that’s hard to apply.) If kindness is my main value, I should apply it to both the object of my anger AND me, right?

This is pitiful, I know, but I Googled “effectively express anger” (because, how else do you figure things out these days?) and I got this:

  1. Address An Issue Immediately Before It Escalates. …
  2. Take A Walk. …
  3. Try A Simple Breathing Technique. …
  4. Try Getting In Some Rigorous Exercise. …
  5. Journaling Can Be Another Great Way To Process Anger. …
  6. Meditate On It.
    Here’s the source of this list, so you’ll know I didn’t do this lack of parallel construction

Well, I do all that! That’s not expressing anger, it’s dealing with anger. Those are all the tools I use to maintain the peace and not rock the boat.

I turned to that oracle of knowledge, WikiHow, who went through all the above anger mitigation techniques that I already do, then FINALLY gave some advice on how to express it! That’s what I wanted!


Choose to express your anger assertively.
 Assertive expression of anger is the most constructive way to express your anger. Assertiveness cultivates mutual respect for each other. You can still express your anger, but you do so in a way that doesn’t accuse the other person. You have mutual respect for each other.

  • Assertive communication emphasizes that both people’s needs are important. To communicate assertively, give the facts without making accusations. Simply state how the action made you feel. Stick to what you know and not what you think you know. Then ask the other person if he is willing to talk. [9]
  • For example, you might say: “I was hurt and angry because I felt like you were belittling my project when you laughed during my presentation. Can we talk and work this out?”

    That one’s from How to Express Anger without Hurting People (with pictures).

Enough with the background colors. I didn’t mean to make you all sick.

Yeah! That’s it! Work on my tone!

After reading the information, I conclude that it makes sense, and sounds a lot like things I’d read in all my “how to get along with people” courses and such. I know I try to do that, and sometimes do. I just need to work on my tone, maybe.

In any case, if you have an anger problem, whether inability to express it or expressing it too much, how have you dealt with it? There’s so much anger in the world right now, it might be helpful to band together and make an effort to say what upsets us without turning the audience away completely.

I shall now go look at nice, happy animals and stop with all this self-analysis.

What Are Your Core Values?

You just get to pick TWO!

I’ve been reading Dare to Lead, a book by my favorite self-help author, Brené Brown (it’s the book I reviewed the horrible workbook for back in March). It was my suggestion for our work book club at Planview. What’s annoying is that I keep leaving the book in Austin, so I hadn’t been able to keep up, but I finally remembered to bring the book back with me last time I went, so I was able to read the correct chapter for today’s meeting.

I sure am glad I did, too, because some of the things she has us thinking about in the “Living Our Values” section helped me focus on not only how to effectively deal with coworkers, but also how to deal with the people around us during this pandemic.

Brown stresses that it’s important to know what your personal core values are, because they will affect how you make decisions, work with others, and treat yourself. And you only get to have TWO of them (though she lets you pick sub-values, too). I already had a set of guiding principles I live by:

  • Treat others how you’d like to be treated
  • Assume good intentions
  • Love yourself

But, I’d never chosen a mere two words to be my core values. So, this was an interesting exercise to me. I ended up with these:

Kindness

Making a difference

Kindness was easy. I have always tried my best to be kind, and feel unsettled and weird if I realize I’m not being kind (usually it’s when I find myself being judgmental, and I have to snap out of it).

Here are the value choices I had to select from. Oops, no one can read this list on their phones. Here’s a link to the list on Brown’s website.

I had a little harder time figuring out that making a difference was the correct second value. I thought about my past career choices, both paid and volunteer, and I easily saw that what tied them all together was that I wanted to somehow make life easier for others and/or make a genuine contribution to society with what I did. I’ve helped build educational databases, taught college students, helped mothers breastfeed, gave organizations and individuals websites to spread their messages, written documentation and made e-learning for software companies, etc. In all of these, I’ve been wanting to make a difference to people.

When the time came to do our book club meeting, the three of us who’d made choices of values had all chosen kindness as one of them. I guess I’m not as original as I thought, or people who choose kindness tend to join book clubs! I really enjoyed talking to the other three women who were able to attend today, and am almost glad it was a small group, because we were able to share in meaningful ways. Thanks, Zoom meetings!

Other parts of the little chapter I read hit me very close to home, too. Brown included a discussion of keeping this in mind when you are providing feedback:

“…everyone is going the best they can.”

p. 215

It helps me with the judgmentalism I need to worry about so much in myself. And it’s my core belief that I need to assume good intentions. And like Brown’s husband Steve pointed out, even if it’s not true, things sure work out better if you just go ahead and make that assumption.

Hmm, can you try to do that with people on the other side of the mask wearing issue? Of the other political party? I find that to be a very interesting exercise, and one that I wish I could share further. It’s not that, “Oh, why can’t everyone just get along,” plea. It’s more of a, “Where are the people I disagree with coming from, and can I use that information to better understand them, or to talk to them productively?”

The kindness art I have on my bulletin board.

I’d really like to talk with more people about these core values and how they inform our lives, and these really helpful attitudes toward other people. Feedback is welcome!

Me: Feeling Feisty – Office: Feeling Fancy

I can tell I’m getting back on a more even keel, mentally. I did a good job, for once, dealing with one of those, “It has been reported that X has happened, and if you don’t fix it, dire consequences will befall you,” conversations pretty darned well. I just asked the information-bearer to ask the person with an issue to get in touch with me, and I’ll be happy to work with them to take care of things. And I repeated that. I just don’t need third parties telling me so-and-so said this about me or that about me. I’ll happily talk to them. That’s probably not as FUN for the person in the middle to participate in, since they don’t get to lecture me in that scenario, but it sure clears up misunderstandings. (I’m sure everyone has the best of intentions; it’s just easier to communicate directly.)

Is it a clown? No, it’s Feisty Suna. Colorful!

Though I still haven’t heard from the person who needs to talk to me, I am doing my best to remedy the problem, anyway, because it’s a good thing to do. Treat others as you’d like to be treated. I mostly manage it! If you don’t let people bully you and put you down, they can’t make you feel bad, so that’s why I feel feisty. I’m just going to do my best to be strong, confident AND kind.

Before picture.

As for my office, today it’s getting a beauty makeover! We decided to put the really pretty wall hanging that looks like a quilt square made of tin, brown wood, and white wood under my mantel piece, to make it look like a unit.

It looks like it was made to go together.

After realizing there was no way to actually hang it, Chris screwed it into the mantel, and now it looks like one big, beautiful unit.

Then we went mirror shopping.

WHAT, you went out in public and SHOPPED?

No, no, we went upstairs where there are four or five different mirrors that came with the Pope Residence. We tried two of them, and one really was a winner.

On its way to goodness.

When installed, it will block the hole where the woodstove pipe used to be, so we don’t have to run a fake pipe in front of the mirror. The faux woodstove will be fine without it, since it’s electric.

I have cleaned the mirror and frame, but we are leaving it brown. There’s enough white in here now.

The other mirror we brought down is made from an old window. We are going to paint it white for Kathleen and then put it in the other bathroom instead of the tiny mirror that’s there now.

Here’s the window mirror, cleaned but not yet painted.

Oh yes, the counter top edges got dry enough to trim. That’s a manual job with a big metal file, when you don’t have a cabinet shop. But, they look good now.

I also ordered paper towel holders and a toilet paper holder, so all the bathrooms will have appropriate cleaning accessories. However, I’ll patiently wait until my office is finished to put art up. I’m so patient. Who are you kidding? I’m not, but things can only go as fast as they can go in these times.

But wait, there’s more! Here’s the stained plywood to finish the stair area. The wood looks like zebra print or something. I actually like it.

Stained plywood.

More Chicken Housing PLUS

So, how did that chicken coop project we started yesterday come out?

Well, while I was crackling the doors, Chris finished the roof and ventilation area.

Little coop.

Of course, it needed steps up to the roosting and nesting area.

We need stairs!

I got busy using up the extra white paint to cover most of the wood surfaces. I left a little paint free to look rustic. I may paint it later. Maybe red!

The nest box is painted well, since water will drip on it.

While I painted, the ramp got built, so I painted that last. It’s just got to dry then we can set it up.

Happy hen house.

Next thing I knew, Chris was working with PVC pipe. I looked up and, boom, he’d made chicken feeders he’d seen on Pinterest.

Quick and easy project!

We took them over and set them up on one of the few walls that aren’t moving soon. I put food in them (and the dispenser worked!).

This is interesting! Clarence is more interested in the bug-filled dirt where the old feeder was.

Next, we herded all the chickens into the feeding area. They found the water holder then noticed the food dish had moved. It only took a minute or two for Steen to figure out the feeder. Others joined in!

There’s food in there!

Good news at last: Fancy Pants MAY be getting les broody. We are seeing her out more and more. Sigh. Just in time for fertilized eggs. Ha!

I got bored in there.

I do enjoy these guys.

Independence Day for Hermits

Chris and Suna create desktops and chicken coops from scraps and leftovers.

One thing’s for sure, the hermits of Hermits’ Rest sure know how to celebrate without leaving the property. I’m proud of us.

Most of the day, Chris and I worked on two projects, a second hen house and nest box, and my new desk.

My project was the desk. First I spent a couple of hours sanding the doors, one of which is the desk top and one the “modesty panel.” I’m so modest, you see. I just wanted to rough them up a bit.

The modesty panel door.

By the way, the doors came from the Pope Residence, and were a bathroom and closet door, so smaller than standard.

Here it is with a coat of red paint.

The desk top was painted white. It’s paint was peeling and hard to sand, so it took a while. I forgot to take a “before” picture. I’ll blame the heat. I did really well not overheating today!

The desk top looks much brighter, since it’s base was white.

No doubt you notice the doors don’t match. It’s okay. This interesting shade of coral red (made by mixing my bathroom tomato red with the red from our Christmas float) will be an undercoat.

Two coats on. Red enough.

Both doors look nice and “rustic” so I’m happy. Tomorrow the MAGIC will happen, so come back for Day 2 of the door desk paint project!

Meanwhile, Chris was finishing the nest boxes he started, which are nicely hinged now.

Hinged box.

Then he got to work turning a shipping crate that held the tile for our house 5 years ago into a chicken coop. He added a roosting shelf, and attached the nest boxes.

Roosting shelf.

The outside he covered in more of the tin we used in the Pope Residence.

He just improvises. But measures carefully.

By the time we called it quits, he’d measured the roof and got the supports up. The hardware cloth (wire mesh) is ready for the ventilation openings. This should also get done tomorrow!

Roof supports are up. The triangles will be air vents. Hens need them.

We also hope to get more shade cover for the birds and to enlarge the pens, like I mentioned earlier. That will keep us busy at home for another day!

Did I mention that these projects only cost us labor? All materials are scraps or leftover stuff from other projects. Fun doesn’t have to be expensive! It does help to have a creative and talented team lead, though. Go team!

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

The good news about a that we have hot and cold running water at the Pope Residence!

What’s wrong here?

Did you know there’s a convention about which faucet should be for hot water and which is for cold?

This one is right!

I was admiring the new faucet handles in the bathrooms and reveling in hot water coming out of the top faucet, when it dawned on me that hot was on the right. Chris asked if it wasn’t right. So I began doubting my memory. I looked it up!

I found the answer on this Mental Floss article.

In olden days, most sinks had a single pump for cold water on the right—to accommodate the right-handed majority. When dual-temperature faucets appeared, the cold water stayed on the right while hot water occupied the left. The Uniform Plumbing Code now requires that faucets “shall be connected to the water distribution system so that hot water corresponds to the left side of the fittings.”

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/67448/why-does-left-knob-control-hot-water-and-right-knob-control-cold

So, how about that? Tubby was already set up right. Good ole Tubby (who already needs another coat of paint).

That gold faucet’s gonna bug me. But it can’t be helped.

The break area sink doesn’t have labels. At this point I don’t care, because I’m so excited to be able to wash dishes with hot water!

Future home of clean dishes and masks.

Also in the break area, I finally remembered to get Chris my iron so he could attach edges to the counter tops.

I am pretty thrilled that my bathroom is done. We are going to add shelves to the right of the vanity, since it ended up off center. More storage for me!

See what I mean?

But with all the creativity we have around here, we can fix anything! By the way, here are some finished bathroom pictures!

Have a good weekend!

Hopeless or Hopeful

Hopelessness is everywhere. Life is challenging.

The world seems upside down. Or it seems like “up” for one person is “down” for another. People I once respected disappoint me so much.

What’s up to you is down to me. What’s down to me is up to you. Image by @JosiEpic via Twenty20.

I think any of us in the US could say this, right now. The distrust is palpable, isn’t it? Even from within the tiny bubble I’m residing in right now, I feel it.

With all the new guidelines I’m following, I end up spending most of every day in a dim, 10×10 room with no windows, with the door closed. That’s hardly a recipe for optimism, cheer, or hope. But I realize I’m privileged to be able to work and not interact with the public.

Others have a whole different set of challenges. Some of us have jobs that require us to be outside or in busy buildings. These people are relying on others to help them stay safe, or, if they are of the group looking at things the other way, are being forced to do things they don’t want to do. Either way, it’s not easy.

And how do we all cope with that? Do we pray for each other’s safety and respect each other’s viewpoints?

I wish I saw more of this. Image by  @lelia_milaya via Twenty20.

No, we are so frustrated that we spend our energy attacking each other and reinforcing our divisions. That’s really why I feel hopeless.

Love one another. Give each other hope. We need it.

You tell, ’em, rock.

Asking for Input in Troubled Times

While I do try to remain upbeat, some days are easier than other. And the daily grind is challenging. I don’t know anyone who disagrees with that right now!

Every day I hear grim statistics about COVID-19. Every day I read about people who “don’t believe in” the virus. Every day I see people scurrying around in masks trying to complete their business and get back home. Every day I see people playing contact sports, walking in large groups, and choosing to ignore social distancing practices.

Everyone has their own ideas of what’s safe, it seems.

Such contrasts!

The NY Times says fighting over masks is the new national pastime. That’s so sad.

How do you deal with the conflict that’s so obvious in our state and nation during this pandemic? I don’t think yelling at each other is a good idea. Shaming doesn’t seem to work. Everyone’s stressed out enough as it is, and being yelled at and shamed won’t make anyone change what they’re doing. I totally understand that, but I also understand how people react that way.

So, I’m looking for input. What are some ways of coping and maintaining an even keel that you’ve tried? Here are a few of mine (which aren’t working too well right now):

  • Deep breathing
  • Limiting reading of social and news media
  • Spending time with animals
  • Reading cheerful books and magazines
  • Writing letters
  • Doing kind things for others (I ordered some herbal supplements for a young friend, for example, since I could get them at a discount)

This is a good start, maybe!

Be good to each other. We’re all we have!

News Consumption Blues

Wishing for a source of news that is unbiased and accurate.

Recently I was talking to a coworker about how we consume news. We both feel like we should at least have a clue what is going on at a local, state, national, and international level. Ignorance is not bliss for most of the people I associate with. I guess it’s culturally ingrained, not that there’s anything wrong with being from another subculture within the US that isn’t as concerned with knowing true from false, news from propaganda, etc. There have always been folks who are just fine in a local/family bubble; it’s sort of understandable, especially lately.

So many of us just want to know what’s happening beyond our doorstep. Photo by @madelinerosephoto via Twenty20

Anyway, my coworker and I found we were in really strong agreement about how we liked to get information, and agreed that things we see on social media platforms take too much energy to figure out whether to believe or not. We both just skip that stuff and are members of the “don’t make or read any comments” group.

A good local newspaper!

I have a source for international news that I like, and I am aware of the biases of the US-centric sources I use and that they play into my confirmation bias. I am able to weed out obvious slant-y things, but it gets tiresome! Surprisingly, I find have found local Austin and Cameron news sources (radio and newspaper) that are quite helpful and not too hard to get factual information from. I guess that’s what helps keep my head from exploding. That and NOT reading their Facebook pages.

Honestly, though, I miss being able to read a news source or watch the local news and just get a summary of things that have been happening, with no hidden commercials, obvious slants, and repetitive hype. I can’t stand the local news channels (all over the US, not just where I live) that repeat the same hyped-up snippet of a news piece repeatedly to get your attention, then present something totally bland. I’m smart enough to take information and run it through my own biases and interpret it myself. I don’t need help. Thus, I can’t make myself sit through any television news.

I don’t know how anyone manages to figure this stuff out, no matter what your biases are. Photo by @andreyyalansky19 via Twenty20

I’m aware that anything written by a person has biases, but I do remember when I was a kid we were trained to try to eliminate that as much as we could, and to clearly label opinion pieces. I wish ratings and ad revenue weren’t the actual reason for news content these days. But, it sure looks that way to me. The more incendiary content is, the more it sells.

Incendiary news sells, if you can read it before it goes POOF! Photo by @foto.privet via Twenty20

I’m wary of cutting myself off from all news sources, because so much affects me directly. Where can I find some simple statements of facts to learn from? Tell me! I’d buy some crap from a company or organization that sponsored accurate, unvarnished, information.

As always, I’d love your feedback and ideas.