What’s My Problem?

My brain is not working, that’s my problem. Somehow, I’ve allowed myself to fall into a pretty deep hole of depression, low self esteem, or hyper-protectiveness to where anything I try to do that even remotely resembles work is a huge hurdle. Anything that has drama, misunderstandings, unkind behavior and the like makes me want to flee, and it’s spilled over into my volunteer work the most. It’s hurting my head to write this, but I’m going to, anyway. Someone has to say something, and perhaps if it’s me, I’ll feel better and more like keeping on.

“What is happening in her head? Ooh, I wish I knew!” (paraphrasing Pete Townshend in Tommy)

What’s happened is that one of my “triggers” has been triggered. It bugs me, because I’ve worked really hard to get past it, but I’m getting the idea that I didn’t get past it; rather I buried it. I’ve talked about my issues with La Leche League before, but I’m going to briefly re-hash a bit to explain why I’ve been so messed up for the past month or two.

First, I love the friends I made in LLL. Love them to pieces. They are some amazing people. But, the organization itself keeps repeating its mistakes, as if no one learns from history (which is probably true). In a majority-women organization with a strong, focused mission, many people get “power” for the first time. And it really screws up some people’s senses of right and wrong, and for some reason empowers them to bring new things into the mission (like natural childbirth, co-sleeping, baby wearing, etc.)

Continue reading “What’s My Problem?”

Stress Dreams: A Cry for Help You Can’t Answer

One thing that becomes clear to me is that if I try to squish down stressful situations and pretend they don’t affect me, my anxious brain has its own ways to beg to differ. It’s all well and good to consciously remind yourself that the only things you should concern yourself with are things you can do something about. But some part of you (probably hanging out somewhere with those unconscious biases, over in the unconscious stressors area) still feels stressed about those things.

Envying butterflies. They eat a lot, then sleep a lot. After that they just have one job, they do it, and then they go to butterfly heaven.

Usually I feel okay during the day, sort of observing what’s going on and doing my best to let other people’s problems be their problems and not take things personally. That’s a major triumph right there! I do a lot of deep breathing, just like I do with the horse. People, horses, they’re all things I can’t control, only offer information to.

At night, though, I have a completely different type of dream when I’m feeling anxious and overwhelmed than when things are just normally stressful. First, it’s the dreams about being in school and not knowing where to go or what the test is about. Then I’ll be at a large conference trying to avoid the scary people. Lately I dream about trying to get dressed in fancy clothing, but having forgotten how. That sounds like a COVID dream, doesn’t it?

I also think I’m trying to cover up my insecurities and put on a more professional/fancy face, but failing. People try to help me, but that makes me end up dressed really funny. I tend to end up going out to the party, meeting, or whatever half dressed. That’s a work-based interpretation. It means that all this hashing out of the same problems but only coming up with half-assed solutions ends up creating something totally unworkable. Hmm, that’s what my colleague L. and I talked about just today!

This is how I feel. All “extra” and woozy.

Otherwise, I’m overwhelmed with baby animals, adult animals, and their excrement. Duh. That’s literally true at the ranch, and figuratively true with my work and family life.

The dreams partially come from having so many animals in bed with me, and partially come from my problem of wanting to take care of everyone who’s helpless or needs comfort. Even when I consciously tell myself I can’t help people who don’t want to be helped or comfort everyone who’s hurting, my heart wants to anyway. Oh, stop it.

For me, I get physical symptoms only when my subconscious’s other ways of communicating don’t work. Right now they’ve been screaming at me for a week or so, and that’s led to my favorite anxiety symptom: chest pains. That means I need to do something NOW or I won’t be fully functional. I also get weird feelings like everything’s in slow motion, which makes it hard to talk. Usually, I can get through these and still do what I need to do, but it takes so much energy!

My mind and body are crying for help, obviously, but there isn’t a darned thing I can do to make today any different. I just have to get through today and see what tomorrow brings. We can’t always cope, and that’s actually fine. Sometimes we have a right to have an anxiety attack. It helps to know they will pass, and things can get back on an even keel.

Hope you aren’t having the ups and downs I am today! If you are, know you aren’t alone, because I’m surrounded by people in the same boat!

Ways We Cope with Stress: Featuring Plants

Because I’m so darned introspective, I’ve been examining how I cope with stress these days. I find that I can only handle a subset of the priorities I could before, and I avoid duties that appear like they’ll bring on more stress. That’s how I’m coping now, to the detriment of a couple of projects. But, as I look around I realize mine is only one way to cope. I also notice it’s not just us people who cope in different ways, so rather than call out people today, I’ll illustrate my points with how local plants are coping with the stress from Winter Storm Uri.

A perfect example is how some trees have died, some are struggling to come back, and some look fantastic, and this difference can happen in the same types of trees.

Some of us seem to deal with stress as if it’s not there at all. These people are often deeply grounded, have been through a lot, or have lots of support (roots!). These people, just like the Ashe juniper trees, often support others.

Others retreat and focus on one thing at a time, and try their best to do it well, like a rose bush with just one perfect flower.

Only one blossom, but it’s a good one.

There are people, and I know quite a few of them, who not only handle stress well, they thrive on it and so some of their best work when there’s a lot going on. Sometimes doing something is a way of coping and staying busy (I’m guilty of this), while others find challenges energizing. They enthusiastically bloom where they’re planted!

There are those, and who can blame them, who go into hiding, and only begin to peek out when the danger is over. Even then, they go slowly. It takes a lot out of people and plants to get their bearings when a stressful situation begins to ease up.

Stress tends to scatter some folks, too. They try this method of coping, and that method of coping, trying to find one that will actually work and get them through the hard times. I see this a lot in stressed oaks, which start putting out new growth all over, and not just at the ends of their branches. Some pop up along old limbs, and other pop up from the roots (very common).

This motte of oaks is sending out new sprouts all over the limbs and trunks.

When stress is really causing problems in living your usual life, though, sometimes starting again in a new place might help, like the redbud trees I’ve seem who look pretty sad up top, but have vibrant new growth farther down their trunks.

How many of us know people who have no choice to start over, even when that, too, is a struggle. I saw this poor tree with no leaves or other signs of life on its branches, but that hadn’t given up completely, and was starting again, hesitantly, and perhaps slowly. But, it’s still THERE! I count those of us who are in this situation as stronger than they realize.

I’m coming back!

Many of us fail to thrive during stressful periods. And it’s hard to say who’s going to cope well and who’s going to fall apart. One thing I noticed was that often there are two or more trees of the same variety near each other, and one looks great, while another struggles or succumbed to the weather? What’s the difference? You can’t tell on the surface what internal resources a tree or person has. That’s why we need to be patient and not blame people for their problems.

Same tree (an oak), different success rate.

I think flexibility, along with resilience, makes a difference in how we weather the inevitable Winter Storm Uri events in our lives. People who lived very rigid, inflexible lives really have had trouble with pandemic changes, just like a plant that’s been groomed into a stiff hedge with no choice in how it grows may have more trouble in a winter storm.

There are hundreds of these around the office, all very sad looking.

Those of us who aren’t well situated in the first place or already have anxiety issues may cope by throwing things every which way. A lot of the plants I seem seem to be reproducing like crazy, trying to grow, and growing in weird ways, like they’re trying ALL the options to make sure they’re making a good, healthy, happy impression. This has to take a lot of energy, and I wonder how well they’re going to do if they keep all that extra-perky energy up. I’ve noticed some crashing and burning of late…maybe a bit by me, to be honest.

This inland sea oats has come back strong, and has generated dozens of little buddies, just in case things don’t work out.

Now, some of the trees, and some of the people don’t make it at all through intense stress. I know more than one person who seems to be hanging by a thread right now. Some of us are just out of our element, like tropical trees (palms and such) that look pretty awful right now. I can’t fault them, and can only offer support and virtual hugs. And I will honor those we have lost.

We salute you, fallen non-native and non-cold hardy tree.

Looking at all the ways we humans and plants deal with unexpected stress is a good exercise for me. I can easily see the parallels among us, and what’s most clear is that there’s no right or wrong way to cope, nor are we all going to cope equally well. So, I’ll try to be patient with those who are struggling, including those who cope differently from me. I hope you can, too.

Happy COVID Freedom Day to Me

Today’s a milestone that never could have happened before this year. It’s been two weeks since my second COVID vaccine, so my immunity has officially kicked in. I am free to move about the country now! I even gave myself a bouquet of wildflowers to celebrate.

Toadflax isn’t a beautiful name, but it’s in the snapdragon family, which is cool. This stuff is everywhere right now. Small but mighty.

Look, I know this doesn’t mean I’m immune, nor that I can’t transmit the virus if I somehow became infected (no idea how that could happen, since I haven’t been going anywhere). But it does mean I don’t need to have that fear hanging over my head if I need to go to the grocery store or want to do something fun. And I WILL wear a mask when going to crowded places, because I’d prefer to avoid getting even a mild case, seeing all the long-term effects those around me are experiencing.

Even a cute, little bug is a bug, right?

I look forward to being able to hang out with vaccinated friends and have a chat, with coffee or wine. I can sit on the porch with Mandi again! I will feel okay traveling and seeing my relatives who are vaccinated. To be honest, I simply feel lighter and freer than I have in over a year. And by gosh, I’m going to go HUG SOMEONE. How rash!

Small things CAN be beautiful, both hanging around with friends and a tiny blue-eyed grass blossom.

There’s still plenty to do right here at the ranch, though. I’m still reading all those books on bias, knitting away at my current project while waiting for the yarn for my supporter gifts to arrive, and hanging out with the animals. It’s a full life, right here on the ranch. That’s especially true at my favorite time of the year, when every day brings new flowers (also, the swallows have returned!).

Getting closer to 60 inches of entrelac, so I can start the lace border on this wrap.

I hope you and your circle are starting to become more fully vaccinated. I know we all want to see friends and family sooner rather than later!

Even the trees are blooming! This is black willow that’s grown up by the driveway.

Plans for Today Cancelled

I had so much confidence that I’d have few side effects from my second COVID vaccine. But, while it’s not as bad as last time, just a couple hour after I woke up I got the bone tiredness that’s common. So, Sara will ride my horse today and I will read knit, and nap.

But, at least I have a nice new bed set and valances for the dogs…I mean for me to sleep under.

I ordered these Western linens (on sale, too!) to see if they’d make me like my brown walls better. They do look good with the headboard Lee made, and the valance looks pretty good, though we plan to stretch it out a bit. We also have valances for the windows, but need something to hang them on.

The dogs always enjoy morning walks, even when it’s cloudy and breezy.

It’s a windy, gray day, anyway, so I’ll be okay inside. The clouds were really pretty, in a gloomy way, this morning, a nice start to the last day of Standard time.

Is it important for your clothing and dog to match your knitting? I think it’s classy.

I’ll get back to my knitting and resting at the Hermits’ Rest. I hope someone listens to the podcasts! Enjoy my lisping. You will also get to enjoy music from my son, Declan Murtagh, on the podcast. It’s just what I wanted!

Spring Support and Hopefulness

Hey! Thanks to all of you who sympathized with my being so hopeless and sad right now. You all rightly pointed out that many things have led to our collective urge to just sit and stare ahead. There’s even astrological reasoning! This afternoon, Sara postulated that because we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, all the stuff we’ve been holding in has started to leak out. Yeah.

Carlton is tired of being confined to his backyard. We understand.

Today I was getting a bit concerned about myself. I kept having trouble concentrating, and somehow managed to leave Austin late. Partly I was distracted by welcome signs of life coming back.

Ferns are popping up!

I enjoyed lots of redbud trees and pear trees. I’m so glad they made it. And the first thing I spotted when I got to the ranch was an Indian paintbrush!

I looked and looked for these last weekend!

I’d heard bluebonnets are blooming at last, but didn’t spot them until I got to the hill leading down to Walker’s Creek, where they are beautiful every year.

I sure hope to get prettier bluebonnet pictures soon!

I was still pretty squirrelly when I got to the ranch. I was nervous about getting my second COVID vaccine, so I forgot my vaccination card and panicked because I couldn’t find my paperwork. Uh, it was in the car. Then I drove off, leaving a can of drink on the trunk. That’s gonna make a mess when I open it, I’m sure.

I took off like a startled heron.

But! I got to the vaccine place! Turns out I was supposed to be there yesterday. But, they let me in. The shot didn’t hurt, and so far I have little pain. Maybe I got all my reactions over with last month.

Fully vaccinated, I’m now exhausted.

The other part of the day that made me feel supported and hopeful was that I went to the drugstore in Cameron to pick up my precious drugs, and got to see Mandi at her new job as a pharmacy assistant. Yes! After we had to let her go, she made good use of the time and got her certificate back. See, some people DO use their unemployment to get training and get a job. I’m so proud of her and will hug her in two weeks.

Signs of spring. Can you see the birds?

Once I got home, I took a nap and felt fine feeding horses. We had to give them the nastiest wormer of the series we are giving this spring. Both Apache and Lakota made some sad faces and rubbed their faces on the ground. Tomorrow if I’m not having reactions we will reward them with grooming and riding. They are shedding big time. I need it, so I hope I feel less scattered and more centered.

One last photo. Crow poison is beautiful, despite its name.

Little things like signs of spring and the promise of future hugs help. But knowing I’m not alone and have wonderful, supportive friends everywhere to feel a sense of community with is the best. Sincere thanks to all. We’re in this together. That’s helping me know I can crawl out of this hole!


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Craft Therapy

Since ye olde pandemic set in, I’ve noticed many of my previously non-crafty friends jumping into the “craft therapy” club. I don’t blame them one bit, because there are so many reasons engaging in crafts can be soothing. I found myself so out of sorts during the Snowpocalypse and my last week at work, that I took to coloring in an adult coloring book.

The paper bent a bit, but it looks good flat. This reminds me of myself as a teen.

It felt good to just randomly pick shiny colors and fill them in. It took enough mental space to clear my mind of my surroundings, but didn’t give me a headache from thinking.

I had a sort of bad pen for the background, but I am coming to like the texture.

I’ve seen lots of pictures of things people colored on paper or on their computers, and they are always cheery. Friends with art talent are painting more, too. I’m told it’s great fun. Kathleen had made some of those things with beads, but I haven’t seen any. I’m told it’s the same kind of “just enough thinking” project.

The need to create beautiful things and concentrate on something other than the news is why I came back to knitting, too. I’m not alone, either. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see my friends taking up knitting or crochet and having fun. I was very disappointed when my friend Melanie, who gave us our late dog Brody, had someone pick on her for being a “granny” because she took up knitting. No, she’s a granny because her child had a baby, sheesh.

ANNOUNCEMENT:
Knitting is popular with young people, old people, men, women, gay, and straight. So is crochet.
Thank you.

I’m happy to report that the table runner for Lee has grown by another pattern repeat. It may get finished soon! Then I just have to finish the border on the shawl project. Oh, no, will I be out of projects?

It needs to be 50 inches before I start the border. I’ve got a bit more than a foot to go.

First of all, it is hilarious of me to ask that question, knowing how much yarn and how many pattern books I own. Still, I do have a birthday coming up…

So, I admit I followed an ad and bought a pattern for a lovely project ($5).

It is just what I need for sitting in my cold Cameron office, if I ever get to go back.

So, then I had to find yarn to make it. Luckily, the local yarn shop that I like to support, Hill Country Weavers, had the yarn, three different shades of this stuff, though not the ones in the picture (naturally).

While I was there, I browsed around and bought some more Noro knitting magazines, because I just love looking at things made with that brand of yarn. Then I found a slightly more difficult project to make that I ALSO want to try, so I got yarn for it, too. I detect a pattern in my choices. I like self-striping yarn!

This has entrelac, which I love, plus simple lace. Fun times. I picked a color with no purple in it. I have too many purple shawls.

So, that takes care of my birthday gift from Lee! I get exactly what I want!

Maybe later in the year I will make something in a solid color. We’ll see. I think bright colors are therapeutic for me.

So, have you taken up a new craft or other project to keep you a little calmer and help you feel productive?

Bah. Sick.

As if it isn’t bad enough the heat can’t keep the house above 60 degrees, I’m not feeling well. Feverish and achy. Can’t stay awake.

To top it off, I managed to mess up my simple knitting project and had to undo 1800 stitches! Ugh!

At least I got the horses fed a LOT this morning. I’m wishing for helpers today! I think I can get some food to them. And tomorrow I assume I’ll have slept it off and will see how I cope with historic low temperatures.

Anyway, no interesting blog from me today. Sleet has started and it’s really icy. Fun times.

The Aftermath: Brr + Ow

Honest, I’m not a weather wimp. I recall only recently writing a post about how much I love to exercise in the snow. I do! It’s hard to exercise on ice, though, and that’s what we still have at the moment here in the middle of the Texas icefield (subject to change). Today was just not a great day for me to have to get out and deal with the cold and its consequences.

Carlton was not about to go out with me!

But, I am doing the needful, as they say in India, where it might be warmer right now, at least in some parts. The problem is that I am that lucky rare person to get ALL the vaccine side effects! Yippee! So, my arm feels like a dead weight and prefers to not be lifted, thanks. And I have had a raging headache since yesterday, plus I feel like I have the flu. This will all be temporary, but I sure didn’t want to venture out into 26-degree F weather this morning.

As Sara pointed out to me while she was texting my instructions, you have to be a responsible livestock owner. And right now I’m responsible not only for my livestock, but the cows over here and all the horses. Sara is stuck at her other house for a few more days, so I am happy to help. Luckily, Ralph is helping out with his cattle and is going to bring over a LOT of hay, which will make things easier.

I wish I had a picture of my horse feeding outfit. I was plenty warm, especially because I had a great combo of a ear-covering band, a hoodie, and my facemask to keep my head warm. My thick gloves worked great until they got wet from breaking up ice in water troughs, but I know all the livestock appreciated it. Kathleen’s cows were looking at me like, “Help!” this morning, even though they DO still have water in the arroyo.

The chicken water is totally frozen, but they also have other sources once they are out of their coop. I’m sure glad we built that small pond near the house!

Visual proof all horses have been moved.

When I got to the horses, my job was to move Spice and Lakota from the pasture they are in to the pen where Apache and Fiona are, so they will have more shelter and some hay. I was really glad when my fellow rancher arrived to help me open the frozen gates to the pen where the tiny calf had been (tiny calf was spotted yesterday romping through the icy field with his buddies!), which gives the horses more shelter AND Fiona a more accessible water trough. There was much banging (which totally annoyed Big Red, who was trying to eat her chicken scratch).

Those open gates were not easily accomplished. So grateful for the help!

Moving the horses went fine, and I was pleasantly shocked to find that Spice’s blanket was still on her. She’d somehow torn the back of it up, and completely broken off one of the straps. I managed to McGuyver up a way to keep it on, and by gosh, it was still on this morning! Yay! I also found one more blanket, which is good. If that one goes, there is a spare. There were none in Tractor Supply yesterday, and my friend Courtney said she bought the last one. (As an aside, her story of making their pony a blanket out of a fleece blanket, some plastic, and duct tape was pretty funny, at least to humans; the pony was not amused.)

Yep, it’s on, all right. Not shown is the makeshift attachment in the rear. She is able to poop, which is all that matters, I guess.

Spice and Lakota got all excited to be in a different place and ran around like crazy. I guess that will help keep them warm. Apache and Fiona were like, “Wow, this is a lot of hay,” and were chomping away when I left, which was hampered by the fact that the condensation on my glasses, which I’d had to remove, had actually frozen. Yep, it’s cold.

It’s only going to get colder! I’m really hoping we all keep power and heat! You may have to endure more snow pictures in the next few days. None of us remember it ever being so cold for so long here. I guess we will have to get used to it for the future. I know I plan to get a trough warmer when/if we get our horse barn here!

Got any cold-weather stories to share?

COVID +1, Ice 0

Ice is zero, because that’s how cold it is in Celsius. COVID is +1, because I got my first Moderna vaccination today. I’m really relieved to get the process started, because it means I might be able to go back to my nice office in Cameron without being so paranoid about potential exposure from Hearts, Homes and Hands staff who work with so many clients (and we are glad they do). Anyway, that’s why I got to get the shot before turning 65 or 64 or whatever age it is.

This is a good thing.

The Vaccination

The County Health Department has the luxury of two closed hospitals to use in cases like this (thanks to all the rural hospitals closing down…moving on…). That meant there were lots of rooms for counseling and giving the shots. Everyone was SO nice. You could just see how happy they are to be doing this for our citizens.

Sad room, wishing it could be part of a hospital again.

The nurse who counseled me was especially nice, and we spent a lot of time praising the County Judge, who has been quite the stoic through this whole pandemic. Half the county says he’s the Devil and half says he’s a Saint. Whichever, the job certainly has been more than he thought it would be when he ran for office!

All fogged up. And I have on two masks.

The only part about the whole thing was that, because it’s truly cold and most of the people getting their vaccines are elderly, they had everyone wait inside rather than sitting in their cars and being called in. I truly understand why they did it, but GEEZ I felt claustrophobic waiting in a hallway filled with fragile people, where there was no way to get 6 feet away from anyone. I did double mask, though, and I’m sure most of those folks were like me and never leave their houses except for things like vaccinations!

They DID have chairs spaced out. The ones next to each other are for couples.

Now I just have to wait a month to get the other shot, then two more weeks and I’ll feel a bit better interacting with folks (with mask).

The Ice

One thing I realized when I was driving to Rockdale for the vaccination is that up here in Walker’s Creek/Silver City (or wherever I live), we got much more ice than only a few miles south of us did. Some of Rockdale’s trees looked perfectly normal. On the other hand, there are lots of trees down here (and my friends in northwest Austin really, really had lots of damage).

These poor trees just keep getting smaller and smaller every time there’s bad weather.

On the other hand, ice sure is pretty.

I love this ice-encapsulated beggar’s purse!

I’m glad the temperature is a balmy 32 F (0 C) today, since I need to load up on hay for Apache for the upcoming Polar Vortex. Sara and Ralph got blankets on all the horses, but Fiona is so fuzzy, she’s fine. Everyone has shelter and seemed just fine this morning, once I broke the ice in the water troughs, which I will have to do again this evening, I’m sure.

We are fine, and have hay. And all the cattle are munching away, happy as can be.

Enjoy some more photos of our icy time. By Sunday we should be getting snow or worse. It may get down to the OTHER 0 degrees! This is NOT normal Texas weather!