Grateful for Help and Relief

We are so relieved. The power came back on after just 28 hours. Lee and I were talking about spending the night in a hotel just to take showers and sleep normally, when Sara alerted me that she saw a power truck going toward our house. They did something at Mandi’s and across the street, and that fixed it!

Even my avatar who doesn’t look like me is relieved.

Lee and I were able to stop by and tell the Heart of Texas Electric Coop employee thank you. These people, especially linemen, work so hard in bad weather and good.

It’s a small rural electric coop. They are great.

I’m also grateful to my kind friends who offered to let us take showers at their houses, too. Also to our friends who are helping my sister, and our caregivers who whisked Lee’s brother to a place with heat and light last night. Plus, Ralph baked us some bread.

The cup of coffee Lee made me once we had power was incredibly delicious.

And my Austin neighbor dug out my water main control so if a disaster with water happens to us, we can fix it. After the adventure other neighbors went through last week, this brings peace of mind.

To be honest, we’ve had enough of this weather event, and are glad we’re on the backside of it. I still know folks with no power or water, though. I’m glad there are water distribution sites and warming centers.

Carlton is relieved that it’s over 60 degrees in the house for the first time since last weekend.

Please keep people in Texas in your thoughts. Most of us had nothing to do with weird power grid decisions and such. So many of us are embarrassed by uncaring elected officials and greedy jerks.

Enough. I’m gonna get ready for all the book reports I’m going to write!

Coping with Chaos!

In my bullet journal this morning is an entry saying:

Blog without whining

Suna

All right then. Today Lee and I are camping in the bedroom, where it is warm. Penney has discovered the space heater and has freed up Lee’s lap.

Happy dog, and coffee station.

Meanwhile, Carlton is under my layers of blankets and knitting. Oddly enough, I haven’t knitted much, due to checking in on people who have things much worse than I do. We certainly can’t go anywhere, as we now have a pretty layer of ice!

Carlton and shawl project, with Harvey butt.

I’m grateful to helpers today! Kathleen’s cows got more hay, and I have no idea how they got it there, unless they did it last night. And Ralph is heroically caring for the horses. He deserves a medal. I will eventually creep over to the chickens with warm water and food. I’m hoping they are still there.

Still, we cope.

Anita and Kathleen are both still without power. I’m grateful for Anita’s gas fireplace and Kathleen’s endless supply of candles.

Meanwhile, one of my coworkers has come down with gall bladder symptoms. For gosh sake! They already have no power and certainly can’t drive to a doctor. Another colleague had water coming through her entryway light fixture, and we ALL know water and electricity don’t mix! And, word just came in that an Austin neighbor has water pouring into their garage. No whining! At least it’s the garage and not inside!

Cameron residents don’t have to worry about water pipes bursting at the moment, since the water is off. Too many water lines burst. I’m just hoping my poor sister muddles through, since we can’t get to her! I appreciate all the news my friend Lynn sends, since she gets all the alerts.

And newsflash! Pamela reports no mail because no mail trucks have arrived in days. Lee says they also have computer trouble. At least the weather has downplayed that potential conspiracy theory generator.

Once again, though, I’m impressed with how people are supporting each other and staying in touch. My friends and family are being so kind and caring about sending me news! Now I gotta go check in on more folks.

Take care! We’re coping!

Heat and Love

We have been warned of historically bad weather coming. I look forward to the coming snow, and enjoyed some great pictures from my friends in Washington! But, it’s gonna get cold and wet, which means power outages are possible.

Totally iced over by Walker’s Creek church.

I said to Lee that I wished we had installed the extra gas fireplace we had leftover from our last renovation project. We couldn’t find it, which is weird, because we both remember it sitting around…somewhere.

It looks sort of eerie.

Then it occurred to us that the store nearby where we bought most of our furniture sells fireplace inserts. Lee dropped by, but they didn’t have any in stock (they usually order them custom). Then she remembered there were some laying around…somewhere.

All the fences look interesting.

But, yay! They found stuff! All we had to do was pick it up! We went over there, which gave me a chance to take pictures of the icy landscape in our area. It’s just so…white. I’m sure it would have been spectacular if the sun came out. However, that’s unlikely for a few days.

Ice at the furniture warehouse.

When we got home, it was clear that these weren’t fancy new fireplace inserts. But, they are fine looking.

Carlton really wanted to help Lee install the logs and such, but his paws were too big.

How can I assist you?

Lee didn’t put the fancy controls in. We will wait until our resident expert comes back. It works now, though! And the logs are just fine! I consider this my Valentine and a true display of Lee’s eternal love. Aww.

Installation in progress.

We are quite pleased to have backup heat at the Hermits’ Rest, just in time for the wintry mix and such. I’m so grateful to Franci at the furniture store for going above and beyond to help out. Love to her family, too!

Fire time!

And hey, I made chili with some of the 5 pounds of dried pinto beans Meghan brought us. We won’t starve. We are ready For the deep cold. Brr.

Mmm. Chili.

A Gift from the Heart

This repetition may be getting tiresome, but I’ll say it again. No matter what stress and strain life presents, there are always bits of happiness that help you get through. Yesterday was one of those times!

My husband, Lee, followed through on a promise he made to me a few years ago, and made me a headboard for our bed out of recycled materials. The headboard was originally a set of double doors that led from the living room to the dining room in one of the houses we owned on Travis Avenue in Cameron. We had taken that wall and another one down to make the living area of the house larger.

Lee held on to those doors all this time, hoping to be able to do something to recycle them. He also knew I’d been asking for a headboard for our bed at the Hermits’ Rest house.

The doors right after painting.

He decided to do it this year, and figured out a plan. It sounds like it was a lot of fun to work on, hiding in the garage room. He and his nephew apparently had a lot of fun asking at the hardware store for a brownish kind of red color to paint it. They ended up with a lovely color called Red Ochre. That reminds me of all my reading on the color red! Ochre is the first paint the people used in caves, other than charcoal!

At last the weather cooperated enough that he could paint the doors. They called me in to take a look, and I was so touched to see it the red doors. Lee was trying to make them look rustic, and did a great job not making it look perfect.

You can see bits of the original wood stain, and the brush strokes. It’s intentionally rustic.

Once he scraped off the paint on the panes of glass, it was quite lovely.

Here you can see the supports behind the headboard. Also, you can see an electrical outlet. Luckily, there was a broken pane of glass RIGHT where the outlet for the cord that keeps the bed pumped up is!

Last night, Lee installed it, all by himself (tiny help from me and the nephew, but mostly him).

It’s up. Great picture of Lee’s bed that raises up and down, too.

There’s a ledge of trim that connects the two doors and turns them into one piece.

Here you can see how the headboard sits on something sturdy. The piece of trim does a great job connecting the doors. We left the holes for the handle, for authenticity.

There are also many screws, and such, including an invented kind of attachment that holds the bed to the headboard, courtesy of our resident mechanical genius. I’m just amazed!

The dogs were relieved to have their bed back. They did not like it moved to the middle of the room.
Happy headboard user.

I don’t have a picture of everything completely set up, but you can get the idea.

I slept well last night, thanks to my new bed. I felt loved and appreciated. I’ll think of Lee every time I walk into the bedroom now (as if I didn’t, anyway).

What treasured objects remind you of someone you love every time you look at them?

Thirty Years Ago Today

On January 15, 1991, the Gulf War was all that was on the news. I was, however, preoccupied with other things, since the previous day, I’d taken a very bumpy and snowy drive to the local hospital in Urbana, Illinois, where I’d spent the least-pleasant day and night in my life. No one wants the gory details, but in the end, the day dawned with a new human being in the world, my son, Kynan. The name means high and mighty in Welsh, or something like that.

Cute little tongue!

I have to say that this baby brought so much joy to his parents, grandparents, and friends that it was totally worth the interventions and ickiness of his birth. We had so much fun with this bright, funny, and entertaining little soul.

He started talking at nine months. We went into the back yard to look at the stars, and he pointed up and declared, “Moon!” He’s never done things the standard way. My dad said K. was revenge for how I was as a baby and toddler. I apparently talked constantly, too. Lucky for me, I was in my element gabbing away and reading to my little buddy.

Woodland exp0lorer (sorry, bad photo; it’s high on a shelf)

He was also an annoyingly early walker, but again, that was fine. He got his dad’s athletic build and skill, that’s for sure.

Raising this young man was one of the great joys of my life. I always enjoyed his friends and was impressed with his loyalty to them. If a friend crossed some line, though, they were out. His sense of right and wrong has always been very strong. His intellect is bright and very sharp; he’s fun to debate with (he was good at it in school!). He’s a gifted musician, and I always loved listening to him play his mandolin.

Stick a beard on it, and that’s him as an adult.

The other greatest joy I had was proofreading his college papers. It was awesome to see how his writing became better and better during college. By the time he as finished, he wrote as well as me and didn’t need my help (and I couldn’t really understand the philosophy stuff, as he’d passed me long ago).

I’m very proud of his work as a high-school teacher, and have worried about him a lot during the COVID-19 period. That has had to be so challenging for someone who cares so much for his students.

Here, he looks like an angel. Even though it hurts, I look at this every day.

Anyway, it’s a sad day for me on January 15, 2021. Like many people I know, I have a child who will not communicate with me. The last time I heard from him normally was two years ago today. It’s been a hard time for both of us, I think, as there have been many challenges in both our lives. I hope though, that he is happy with his family and household, and thinks of me in positive ways, at least occasionally. I know when he’s ready, he’ll get in touch again and I’ll find out what caused him to ghost me two years ago.

If you have a close relationship with your children, tell them you love them often! And if you’re estranged, hold hope and love in your heart. That’s about all I can do. I’m not looking for advice, just sharing how things are right now. My sadness today is perfectly normal, and I’ll be fine and keep coping.

My children aren’t big on gift giving. This is my treasure, which he had made for some band fundraiser in high school.

Change is always possible, and is inevitable. I’ll be here for my son whenever he wants me to be.

When It Rains, It’s Wet

Ya know, because of the pandemic and all, Lee and I don’t go anywhere very often. But, today we really had to go to Austin, since my car has a tire with a big ole bubble in it that needed to be fixed, and we hadn’t given my son and his partner anything for Christmas yet (we knew what they needed/wanted).

I wish.

Naturally, today is the day it finally rained some real rain, rather than in dribs and drabs and hundredths of inches. It’s the big storm that’s going to mess up New Year’s for the “important” parts of the US, i.e., the east coast. We always need rain, so yay for the weather.

Except we had to drive, and Lee doesn’t like driving in the rain, even in his new vehicle with the spooky features like adaptive cruise control. Nonetheless, I’m the one in the family who does what they say they will do when they say they will do it, so off we went.

Rain and drenched Christmas decorations.

Yep, it rained a lot. But, there were fun clouds to look at (especially if you were in the passenger seat, I grant that). We managed to find the Costco store in south Austin, and got somewhat wet going in there. Still, the trip was a success, because though the store looked crowded, people were distancing themselves like old pros, AND we found a darned large television for a good bit less than $300. In my mind those cost three or four times that much, so that was a deal (and the picture quality was great!). Plus, the rain let up while we loaded the car.

We easily found the apartment complex of the young folks (Lee had never been there, since he doesn’t go to Austin unless he HAS to), and handed over the television in the parking lot, avoiding any meetings in confined quarters. They appeared to be pretty thrilled.

They look sneaky to me.

Then, they gave me a VERY thoughtful gift that they’d looked hard for on Ebay. Sniff. That was so sweet. And, off Lee and I went again. No dilly dallying.

It will do.

The new car told us in no uncertain terms that we needed to get gas, so we planned to stop halfway home. The horses and chickens needed food, and I needed a calendar to mark horse feedings on (because SmartPack, the supplement supplier, didn’t send us a calendar for the first time in many years!).

Well, our luck with the rain ended there. A real downpour began, and there was no way to avoid a real soaking. My boots, pants, sweater, and most of all my hair…all soaked through. I looked like a young man of some sort who just swam across a lake, and no amount of SnapChat filtering would fix it. I did laugh a lot at myself, which confused Lee, poor guy.

To be honest, I’m blathering a bit, because I am sad. I’m happy I got to write about Carlton. And I’m so glad I got to see the kids today, because this week has just been chock full of bad news that really isn’t blog material. And no, it’s not all people from our business, though our staff and clients have gotten some raw deals from the hands of fate, that’s for sure.

The worst. Today I found out a young man I’d always liked passed away in a house fire, and that was just the last straw. My heart just aches for his parents and sister, who have always been incredibly kind to me.

Please tell people you care about that you’re there for them. I’m gonna even tell the son who won’t speak to me. Because I do still care.

Exciting New Uses for Tongs and Other Items

This morning, I was emptying the dishwasher of items used in last night’s holiday meal. I kept picking up tongs. Tongs and more tongs.

Hmm. Tongs.

I’m a person who never uses tongs. I’m not sure why. I just use other kitchen tools. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally bought tongs. So, how did we get EIGHT pairs of tongs?

Tongs for every possible tonging need.

Anita and I were baffled. With such an extensive collection, we could do so much! We could open a store called “Just Tongs.” When my cousin, Jan, called she suggested a Tong Monster Halloween costume. Hmm.

You could play a game where you try to grab people’s heads with tongs.

My best idea, though, was to form a tong band. With so many sizes and materials, you can get a lot of sound out of the tongs, I think. And they are easy to use as a rhythm instrument.

You could poke an eye out!

The pictures here are me trying out the bass tong and the baritone. They made a cheerful sound! I need to get a couple of other people to help me out and create a composition for tong orchestra.

Another Creative Use

So, at Christmas I gave Lee a lovely silver box with turquoise stones on it, which I found in Utah. He seemed to like it. I had thought he could store some of his nice pens in there, but naturally, he has a set pen storage system that no gift can interfere with.

That’s Lee looking pleased.

Meanwhile, Kathleen gave him a series of joke gifts to help him deal with the woman in the next office (her). There was aspirin, a funny calendar, etc. Lee realized that one of her gifts could be beautifully stored in the silver box.

Yep. That’s hemorrhoid cream.

So, whenever Kathleen is a pain in his butt, he can reach into the silver box on his desk and find relief.

We are quite a creative family, huh?

Did you experience any gift creativity at your COVID Christmas celebrations?

Okay, Let’s Spread Some Cheer

One of the things I like about the way Hearts, Homes and Hands does its business is that they do lots of nice things for the clients and staff. Every year, goodie bags and flowers show up out of thin air to give out to everyone.

Just kidding. Many hours are spent making those goodies. Last night, after a long day of work, Kathleen, Meghan, and CC showed up at the Hermits’ Rest to go into goody overdrive. I got to help, and even Lee measured some cocoa for fudge! (I picked and shelled a small bunch of pecans from the tree outside our office, but Lee ate most of them.)

Ready to make treats.

Meghan and I made many, many pretzels dipped in almond bark and sprinkled with sugar. We got better as we went along. Everyone laughed at how I wanted to be sure every treat bag had the same number of treats. Well, MAYBE I enjoy divvying them up! (Hey, I spelled divvying right the first time!)

The pretzels are hiding in here.

The other half of the crew made Kathleen’s special fudge recipe, which contains cheese product (you’d never guess). The microwave was going nonstop between melting fudge ingredients and almond bark. Good thing we have a big kitchen.

Fudge, not solidifying.

After the fudge was done, Kathleen made “trash,” which is her version of Chex Mix. It’s spicy! That’s mostly for the caregivers, since we don’t want to shock the systems of the clients.

Trash. And remnants of the pretzel operation.

We had so much fun making a mess, enjoying adult beverages (some of us), and telling stories to each other. I’d say the management team put a LOT of love into our gifts.

This morning, they discovered our fridge wasn’t quite cold enough, and the fudge hadn’t solidified. It got re-melted and put in the freezer for a while. Our poor saucepan was traumatized, but everything worked out, and after a good soak, that saucepan can cook Christmas foods.

Ready to deliver the goodies.

Eventually, everything was all packed up and ready to be delivered by Kathleen and Meghan at some point today.

Personal Note

I’m really proud of them. They work SO danged hard, taking phone calls at all hours, filling out paperwork, supervising…trying to help team members better themselves…etc.

A personal assistance service is not an easy business to be in, since you tend to be surrounded by sick people, hurting people, grumpy people (and FUN people, too, don’t get me wrong) and doing your best to make their lives easier. Luckily, the great people on our team and the truly wonderful and appreciative clients make up for it. I’ve always felt that work that helps others is the best, and I think the Hearts, Homes and Hands team will agree.

The Truth about Organizing Closets

I spent much of (but not all of) today getting my closet re-organized. Thank goodness, there was a nice interruption when a baby magically appeared. (Figuratively —he came with parents, too).

It’s a BABY! I remember babies.

It was my great-nephew (by marriage—my siblings were not breeders). Actually he’s a step-nephew but what the heck, little Ryker is as close to a grandchild as I’ll get, I’ll wager.

Mmmm. Babies.

I hadn’t met him yet, thanks to the good ole pandemic, but no one was in quarantine at the moment and his parents needed to stop by briefly. I enjoyed every moment of holding him and being goofy.

However, that was a brief highlight. Mostly I organized my closet, a thing I tend to do about twice a year. Now, I always thought I had a messy closet because my closets were too small. Nope. My closet is this big, thanks to how we enlarged the first floor of the house.

Legit large-ass closet. Not shown: shoe wall.

Our contractor, Ruben, did this for me, and I’m forever grateful. That island holds 8 drawers Bd is covered with beautiful natural quartz. Too bad it was totally covered with clothing, suitcases, and Christmas gifts this morning.

As I finished my three hours of hanging, sorting, and selecting things to donate, I realized that the size of the closet doesn’t matter. Unless you’re a really organized person (like my dad was) your closet will slowly become a mess until you make yourself fix it.

I can’t blame my narrow and annoying closet at the Austin house for my poor closet management, since I can’t keep this huge room looking neat. It’s me. I’m not a whiz with the closets.

Let’s see how long this lasts. I plan to iron some things, and maybe get some cute organizing stuff. And tomorrow the jewelry area will also be fixed. Maybe if I spiff it up a bit, I’ll do better.

Here are closets I cannot emulate. I envy these people. Thanks to California Closets for the images.

Am I alone, or are closets hard for most people? Does your closet look like a California Closets ad?

Warmest Solstice Greetings

Last night, as the official solstice occurred, I went out and looked at the Jupiter and Saturn confluence (or whatever it’s called), humming “Star of Wonder, Star of Light” to myself. It was a welcome getaway from the people in the house once again discussing why they don’t like my stovetop (this is said with a laugh).

A doe in Illinois, not Texas. Photo from: @castlemandesign via Twenty20

The morning dawned frosty and silvery, with the sun practically rising in the south, it seemed to me. I was given the gift of watching a herd of deer bounding across one of the nearby fields, with the buck turning briefly to look at me. That’s enough to warm my heart for the rest of the day.

In my office, which is a bit of a mess while I await my new glass shelves, I lit all the available fake and real candles, and of course have a roaring fire in the fake fireplace. Sitting here in the darkened room gives me plenty of time to reflect on all that’s transpired since last Yule, when Lee and I were happily preparing for our supposedly solo trip to Bandera.

Don’t these look pretty?

This evening, I plan to light all the candles in the house and pretend I have a Yule log in the fireplace (unless I can convince someone to light a fire). This year, especially, the longest night of the year provides time to finish mourning the losses in the past months and look for the glimmer of light that’s approaching. I’m glad there are now vaccines for essential workers.

Solstices Past

I haven’t done a memoir in a little while, so I’ll share how my family used to celebrate the solstice. It was a lot of fun when the boys were young. As they got old enough to understand, we explained to them what the winter solstice meant, and how it was celebrated in the past.

These are all the cheap fake candles that still work after a year.

We had a tradition of having a fire, lighting all the candles in the house (and I had lots back then, since the kids’ dad was not deathly opposed to scented candles), doing a little ceremony where we shared the best thing from the past year and the worst thing (these were often pretty funny), then selecting ONE present from under the Christmas tree to open before Christmas (we also celebrated Christmas!).

Continue reading “Warmest Solstice Greetings”