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!

Trim and Tidy and Safe

The work on my future office is progressing. The bathroom just needs the sink picked up and installed, and some paint touch up. Then I can add my plants and wall stuff.

Now the edges of the tin won’t attack people. It looks so good.

The office trim is getting painted for both rooms on this side of the house. It will get installed as soon as it is dry.

Shiny.

The same is true for my beautiful mantel. We revised it a bit and really like its shape. Creative use of leftover trim makes a huge difference!

Side view of mantel shelf. I’m gonna have a baby fireplace!

Also, because the State has requested more precautions in businesses, we added places right inside the doorways of both the current and future offices so anyone who goes in can spray their shoes with sanitizer and clean their hands.

We canceled a lot of upcoming activities, too. Until the virus spike in Milam County calms down, our little ranch community will keep doing our best to entertain ourselves. So glad for our pets, livestock, and weather.

Peace to my friends, family, and the community.

Horse Improvement May Be Expensive

The good news, for sure, is that Apache is walking a lot better. The bad news is that between the vet yesterday and the farrier today, plus new medicine, he is one expensive pet. But, I knew going in that horses are not for the penniless.

Apache declares’s he’s worth it. That’s me, watching him on FaceTime.
This is NOT dignified.

Yesterday, while I was at the closing on the Ross house and helping stick colored glass in the floors at the Pope house, Dr. Amy came to the ranch to float teeth on all the equines and give them their shots. I was so sad to miss that, since I’ve never been there when their teeth were floated (that is when the veterinarian takes some sort of giant buzzing raspy thing and makes their teeth even, so they can chew more easily and won’t hurt their tongues on sharp teeth.

She ended up doing all of them, even poor Fiona. Of course, they said what a great donkey she is, etc. I felt sorry for her with the giant mouth-opening appliance in her. The good news is that they do sedate the animals for this undignified procedure.

I’m smiling, really, Fiona says.

Since I could not be there, Sara was kind enough to FaceTime me, so that I could see everything. That’s why my head is in most of the photos.

Apache was very good for his floating. I am sure it was easier to keep him still, because he wasn’t wanting to walk very much.

He made Dr. Amy laugh.
No fun for anyone.

He also showed that his feet weren’t TOO bad by picking each of them up so that Mark (Sara’s friend who used to train thoroughbreds) could paint some goop on his hooves. I think he thinks Apache is gonna croak at any moment, but we think he is already getting better.

Dr. Amy prescribed some powdered Bute, which I went and bought for $45. Of course, he hates it. ARGH. We agreed he needs to eat empty calories, and she prescribed some food that fits the bill (though his current beet pulp does, too), as well as a supplement with a lot of turmeric in it. I take it, and it helps ME!

I haven’t seen the bill for that yet, but I feel a lot better having him with all his shots up to date and with an actual doctor looking at him.

Today, Trixie came by to do the long-awaited adjustments on Spice that she’d been holding off on until she got her teeth floated. As always, that was fun to watch. She also did Lakota, but I missed that part, because I was at the other work. Anyway, she said Spice is incredibly stiff. She’s coming back in a few weeks to work on her again. On the other hand, Lakota is in such great shape she could not believe he is in his late twenties. She kept gushing about his conformation and how great shape all his joints are in.

Lakota is Mr. Popularity.

Fiona was declared fine, so she didn’t get any farrier work. YAY!

But, Trixie was fascinated by Apache’s feet. Like I’d noticed before, his hooves do not feel hot to the touch (usual for laminitis, which is his current diagnosis). She also said his hooves looked pretty normal, not like the hooves of a foundering horse. Hmm, that’s what I thought, too. Maybe we’ve caught the issue in time to get him better.

Your feet are fascinating, Patchy.

What she DID see was that the bony area in the middle of his foot, around the “frog” area was longer than the hoof. Now, that’s like walking on your nail bed. It would hurt like the dickens. She trimmed him all up (and again, he stood on three legs just about as well as he normally does), and we are waiting to see how he does. It’s a short trim (someone was concerned, so I am adding this), but will be fine and allow healthy hoof material to get to the end of his foot faster.

Being a good boy and holding his foot up.

I’m sure none of the horses feel all that great, with all those shots, scary dental appliances, and hoof trimming. To be kind, we have delayed worming, which would be a final indignity, until two weeks from now. Lucky guys.

Can You Learn to Be Positive during a Pandemic?

Some people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and I am definitely an old[er]…person. I’ve always thought of myself as a realist, in that I see the beauty and good in the world, but I don’t deny the sadness, sorrow, injustice and pain that’s around me, either. Life is suffering, after all, says the Buddha.

Top that off with a healthy dose of empathy and sensitivity to the moods of others around me, and I end up not being the biggest little ray of sunshine in Central Texas. I have even railed about “toxic positivity” and “non-toxic positivity” right here in this blog, not that long ago.

For me, there’s room for each.

However, in the last few months, life has been conspiring to teach me new ways of walking through life, thanks to some people who just sorta showed up, or I just started paying closer attention to them. And it’s not just reading all those Buddhist articles that help you see that living in the moment is key.

You see, I used to avoid the relentlessly optimistic if at all possible. Always seeing the bright side of things, ugh. “Oh, no, I have the flu.” “That’s great! You can catch up on your reading!” I also got tired of the relentlessly negative, too. I know people who can suck the life out of any conversation by pointing out the negative consequences of anything: “It’s such a pretty day!” “Yeah, but you’ll get skin cancer if you stand in the sun.”

Depending on how you look at life, this may well be true.

I probably have mentioned before that I loathe being told to smile when I am, at the moment, not actually happy. Sure, I’ve read that forcing yourself to smile can make you happier, but sometimes there’s good reason to be unhappy, at least temporarily. Okay, fine.

Look at that happy face!

I’ve been watching the positive people in my life more closely, though. Here’s one you can watch yourself: go follow Emma G on Facebook. That is one positive woman. I happen to know that she’s faced some challenges in the year I’ve been reading her posts, but she never fails to find something good, some way a challenge has helped her grow, or a way something she’s learned can help others. I look forward to that smiling face every day, as she shares how she’s working on her musical career while minimizing danger from COVID-19.

Here, wine is helping us stay positive.

Living with Kathleen the past few months has also been a lesson at looking on the positive side of things. I have never seen anyone post so many cheerful memes in my entire life. Sometimes I’m like, geez, you have insomnia and are sick to your stomach, but you’re still posting “everything’s GREAT” all over Facebook. I see, though, that she’s trying to draw in the good stuff by sharing it (guessing it’s the power of attraction or something). Whatever it is, even when it irritates me a little, I can’t HELP but be reminded to look at what’s good in my own life, which is leading me toward a more positive outlook. She’s another person who’s had some real challenges to deal with in the past year but is finding ways to see the good. She’s never afraid to go talk to someone about our business and get some sort of positive outcome, too. Also, she’s one amazing idea generator. Now she wants me to have a donkey ranch.

This was taken just after Pam gave me a positive pep talk.

Another beacon of positivity is my friend Pam B. from the Breakfast Club here in Cameron. She’s another person who just radiates happiness and works hard to cultivate good in the world. Every time I talk to her, she says something about wanting to “elevate the good” or find joy or something to that effect. She is amazing at bringing people together for the betterment of this small but quite vital community (and is really fun to watch in community theater). Seeing how she works so hard to bring happiness to her friends, neighbors, and families is a real inspiration.

Here’s Eva with the sun behind her, making her even sunnier.

A final source of positive vibes is my coworker, Eva. I’ve known her since I started working at Planview, so I’ve had plenty of time to soak in her attitude. Especially in the past few years, she has provided a great example of how to take feedback that might upset someone or get them down, and turn it into an opportunity to learn more, find a new way to present information, or create a better product. She’s confident in the skills she has, and doesn’t take it personally when I mess with her grammar, because she knows perfectly well that the actual ideas are great. But it’s not just about work, but all aspects of her life that she brings along a sunny attitude and a lot of gratitude. It’s rubbing off, slowly but surely.

Here’s one of Kathleen’s memes.

People like this have been in my life before, some for many years, but I must be in a position to be more open to their input and to learning from them (thanks to those Enneagram books, I guess). I’ve been told that people come into your life for a reason, which is hard for someone like me, who has mostly been convinced that life is random. But, maybe there’s something to it, and something to the idea that if you surround yourself with positive people, you’ll be more positive, even if there’s a pandemic going on.

Another thoughtful meme that I have taken to heart. Some people may wish I hadn’t.

Do you know a relentlessly positive person? If you do, THANK them, and see if you can let a bit of that attitude rub off on you. Things in the world won’t change, but you may be better able to cope with it. I am, thanks to Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva (and all you others I didn’t mention).

Okay, let’s all be SUPER HAPPY! Be a ray of sunshine like Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva!

Horse Tragedy, Dog Comedy, and Fairy Eggs?

Sometimes life sends you from one extreme to another so quickly that it takes your mind a while to catch up. Today was one of those days.

I was walking to the horses so I could feed them, accompanied by Vlassic, who was jumping around eating grasshoppers, chased a cow, and had a grand time. As I came past the bales of hay, I looked toward the cattle pen, to see how Apache was doing.

My heart stopped. He was lying motionless in the dirt. Fiona said hee-haw and he didn’t move. I quickly walked up and said, “Apache?” In what I’m sure was a stricken pet-owner voice.

I’m okay, mom. See? I’m trying to be funny and stepping in my dish.

He flipped his head up an whinnied. Whew. But, had he foundered? Could he stand up? Did I have to call the vet? He answered that question by hauling himself to his feet and shaking. He’d just been napping.

He’s up and eating!

By that time, I’d called poor Sara, who said, “You do know they lie down, right?” But she understood why I’d panicked.

Actually he is walking marginally better today. He’s still not great, though.

Fiona always stays close.

Meanwhile, Fiona kept nudging me. I turned to see what her problem was just in time to see a little black butt slipping into her water tub. Vlassic was apparently hot.

The tub, the water, the dog, all black.

Fiona was not amused to see him in HER water, but I went straight from my fear for Apache and his feet to laughing maniacally at the dog. That was great.

That was NOT funny. Also, this pen is too small.

We fed the other horses, who are on their best behavior, then went back to chicken world to get today’s eggs.

We’re over here, being good, eating our own food.

All the ladies and Bruce were fine, but there were no eggs. Then, on the ground, I saw this:

That is one small egg!

What the..? I went to the Googles and found that Ginger had laid what is called a fairy egg! They are tiny eggs, usually with no yolk. They are also usually lighter or darker than a hen’s usual egg.

Lee’s thumb, usual egg from Ginger, fairy egg. Yep, it’s darker.

They happen when something disturbs a hen’s reproduction process. Well, of course! Ginger and Bertie were quite disturbed by being cut off from their pen and all those new pullets showing up.

We will have to see if Bertie pops out a fairy egg tomorrow. Little do they know, but tomorrow they get a new boyfriend. Oooh. Don’t tell them.

We Got Horse Trouble

Ranch life. It’s always something. We get the chicken situation under control, and the horse situation goes bad, or worse. Here’s how the week with Apache went.

He was out in the pasture with the other horses Sunday and Monday. Tuesday I thought I’d try riding him. It was to be a big day! Nope. He just stood there. Crap. He’d had too much rich grass and was starting to founder. Panic time.

Pretty sparrow egg. Just something to distract you.

I got him moved over to the “dry” pasture where he spends most of his time. Next day, he was worse. Mandi came over and we decided to give him bute, the powerful horse painkiller. We gave a small dose, and he seemed more comfortable.

Since then, he got one more dose, but that’s it. Last night Chris suggested I move him to the cattle pen, where there isn’t much grass at all, and the ground is soft.

We’re fine now.

So this morning, after determining the keats’ water dispenser sucks and had soaked their shavings, I headed over to move him.

As always, Fiona was right by his side. He had trouble walking at first, but eventually made it to the pen. He was very sweet about it, and I let him take his time.

I also like this hay dispenser.

Once he got in, he found his hay dispenser and noshed a bit. I’d emptied out Fiona’s water tub, because it had mosquito larvae in it. He checked that nice clean water out and enjoyed the cool dirt.

Then he came over and loved on me. That’s when I called Sara to see if I was doing the right things. She remembered we have some natural anti-inflammatory stuff in the tack room, Bute-less. Aha!

This is good water. And thanks for the shade.

Apache likes that stuff just fine and ate it up. Let’s hope that helps and isn’t dangerous like the big drugs. It takes a village!

The vet comes Thursday but if he’s worse, I may have to call sooner.

Anxiety, You Are My Weird Friend

Goodness knows, we are living in unprecedented times of stress. But, they are also times of opportunity for positive change. I’ve actually been feeling encouraged by some events in the past week or two. Even my most pessimistic coworker had to grudgingly admit that that there ARE positive trends (though he stuck firmly to his trademarked pessimism).

Anxiety, while in a Zoom meeting.

So, why have I been dealing with an onslaught of anxiety symptoms for the past couple of days? Why was I unable to get to sleep last night thanks to pesky thoughts about potential issues popping into my head (totally unbidden; I was relaxed and ready to sleep). Why am I having my least-favorite symptom, big ole chest pains? Why is my head all fuzzy and buzzy?

The answer is that at the moment I have no idea, but I know well enough that these symptoms are a part of my makeup and that I need to listen to them when they make their presence known. It’s like, “Hi Suna, are you doing the things you need to do to maintain your mental and physical health? Is there something going on that you are choosing to ignore and not deal with? Are you concerned about someone else?”

So, I’ve been sitting here thinking about what my conscious mind may be trying to hide from me that I need to address. I know there are three family members with health issues that concern me. They’re very important to me, and it’s hard to see people you love in pain. One is getting better, but two are struggling (physically or mentally).

As I type this, AHA, I get the idea that a lot of the anxiety is about my struggling family members. In the past week or two I have tried to help out and really not had much success. So, I’ve stepped back. For one of them, matters are becoming more pressing. I know I tend to get anxious about things I can’t do anything about, especially when I really NEED to do something.

Thanks, weird anxiety friend. You have told me in no uncertain terms that I need to not keep hoping issues will go away if I don’t think about them. Some part of me is concerned and it’s causing physical symptoms.

What a good lesson this is for me, and perhaps you, too. Like I realized when the Enneagram book helped me embrace my inner sloth, the problematic parts of our makeup have a place in our whole selves. My anxiety is my messenger. I’ll listen.

Still embracing that inner sloth. Image by  @jandall via Twenty20.

It’s worth thinking about what parts of yourself that you may not be thrilled about actually are serving a useful purpose. I hope you enjoyed reading how I worked out what was going on in my head. What do you find? How do you figure things out?

Are We OK? Okay? Heading Down a Path to Okay-hood

It’s fascinating when things happen in different parts of your life that coalesce into one collection of insights. Right now it’s been “okay-hood” and how to cope when advice overwhelms me.

One area in which this happens for me is the issues I’d been having with Apache and his sudden backsliding in behavior. I’ve appreciated all the advice I’ve gotten from a variety of sources, very much. At first I started to get worried that I’d upset people if I didn’t do THEIR idea. Then, upon further reflection, I realized that I know the horse and he knows me. I know our abilities. I can take what I’ve heard and learned, and incorporate it in a way that works for us. And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll try another thing. It’s okay!

Equine Okay-hood

For example, I decided I didn’t want to use the bit for the foreseeable future with Apache, but was willing to listen to input from Chris and Sara about other options than the halter. Sara gave me this rather sad-looking side-pull bridle (one that does not use a bit, but combines nose pressure with reins attached at the sides of the mouth) and I said I’d give it a try.

Before: a sad side-pull bridle

First I had to clean it up. That was really fun, because the dang thing turned out to be a completely different color than it was when all covered with mildew and ickiness. Saddle soap is a great thing!

Continue reading “Are We OK? Okay? Heading Down a Path to Okay-hood”

Where Did I Go?

True, the blogging machine known as Suna didn’t write anything for a few days. Just the effort I was taking to keep on an even keel over the weekend was all I could manage. I was already feeling pretty useless and unhelpful to the people in my life, and it all came to a head, and I felt crappy. I realized I hadn’t been doing a good job supporting my family, their business, my friends, and blah blah blah. I slipped back into my old habit of telling my own self I suck.

Scarab beetles and thistles made for Mother’s Day cheer.
A phaon crescent butterfly visits an Indian blanket flower.

I know I am not Suzy Sunshine. It’s just not my nature. Maybe it’s being a Pisces. We tend to have melancholy in us, and to always see both sides of things, happy and sad. I like it that I enjoy feeling all my feelings and honestly think that’s healthy, for me. But, I know it comes across poorly to others sometimes, and I’m sorry.

Because I certainly didn’t want to burden others with my own self-inflicted issues, I put a lot of energy into trying to have fun this weekend. Then, boom, Lee told me this morning that I’d seemed all mopey yesterday. That was with me TRYING not to be! Lordy!

I love watching roses blossom. Thanks, Lee.

All you can do is try to do better, right? But, once I get into one of my rare really down periods, I am not able to immediately crawl back out. I will, though! I know I actually don’t suck. And usually my brain, subconscious, or whatever it is that sends me into a downward spiral, agrees with me. I don’t appreciate how poorly it deals with negative feedback one bit! But hey, I’ll work on it!

The wildflower bouquet I made, after the beetle flew off.

Not much could have made my Mother’s Day any better. Everyone was so kind. Chris made perfect omelets for breakfast for me and Kathleen, Lee sent me roses on Friday, I got a little box of cheer from Chris and Kathleen, I got calls from all sorts of friends and family, and I heard from many of my sweet children and bonus children. A friend even dropped off a little trinket for me in my mailbox. What a sweet surprise!

Pure white beauty.

We spent the day relaxing, while Chris fired up his extra cool barbecue machine and made his professional quality ribs and chicken for dinner, which my sister was able to come and enjoy. It really was a lovely day, and I truly appreciate everyone’s efforts and kindness.

A yellow rose, in Texas.

Shoot, if I can manage to be a mess through all that great stuff…I’ll just blame the virus, the stress it puts on all of us, and just being a human. I have a book report and some beautiful horse photos coming for you, when I get breaks from work, and I hope they bring YOU some cheer.

Non-Toxic Positivity and Maintaining Community

One of the things that has been making life easier for me the past few months has been keeping in touch with people I care about. I’ve been writing letters back and forth to my unofficial daughter-in-law, Rollie, which has been a great way to talk about things we don’t put on social media. I’ve been writing lots of letters (for me) to other people, too, just to remind them that I care and value my relationship with them.

Letters of love. Photo by @Stoyanovska via Twenty20

One funny thing that’s resulted from the letter writing is that I get a lot of return phone calls rather than letters. I know I can count on my stepmom to call after a letter arrives, for example. That’s fine, too. I really am AWFUL about making phone calls (probably wore out my ear as a teenager), so people need to call ME. I will talk once people call! (That also explains why I blog a lot and post so much on social media; my preferred communication mode is writing.)

Trying Something New

Last night, I was reading my current book (oh boy, another book report to come) and I started thinking about how I’d just love to hear from more people in my life. Well, I thought, maybe I should do something to make that happen that could get people talking, and maybe even help them feel better.

So, I just posted a simple question on Facebook:

“Have you done anything fun today?”

The idea was to help people remember that most days have a little bit of fun in them. That’s the non-toxic positivity part. Also, I wanted to let them feel encouraged by reading what others are doing. That’s the community building part.

Did It Work?

Yes, and it has been so much fun to read about everyone else’s fun! I’ve gotten to read about gardening, walking dogs, trips to get supplies (exciting right now), talking to family members, creating art and craft projects, and installing an alternator in a car TWICE. People have been interacting with each other, too, which is an added bonus.

Just going on an errand and seeing different scenery is fun these days! Photo by @laurienblomphotography via Twenty20

Of course, no one has a fun day every day. I was gratified to learn that a few of my Facebook friends were brave enough to admit that they didn’t really have any fun yesterday. Some of us are having some hard days right now, and sometimes it’s just hard to find ANY fun in your day. That is just fine with me. I’ve had a couple of days like that myself. If I had fun, I didn’t see it, because the other stuff overwhelmed it. My intent wasn’t to pressure people to have fun, just to encourage friends to relish and share any fun they did have.

What I hope for all of us is that we still keep plugging away and do our best to see even the little things that are fun, like seeing a rare bird at your feeder, soaking in a bathtub, or spending a few minutes relaxing in a hammock during a busy day.

Moving Forward

Look, I realize that those of us who are able to find fun in this time of huge unemployment, concern about health and safety, and frustration at our in abilities to do what we want to when we want to are privileged. I feel extra privileged, because I still have work and a supportive community.

Ideas! We need them. How can we reach out?

Our privilege and ability to find fun in our lives provides an opportunity, though. What can we do to make the lives of people who are truly struggling right now a little better? Can it be fun and rewarding? I think so.

  • Even small things like the letters I’m writing can let people know someone cares. Letters don’t have to be long. Or you can send a personal email. Those are rare these days, too.
  • Those of you making masks can find fun in the creativity in your fabrics and help people who desperately need personal protection equipment.
  • I heard of someone who got a surprise grocery delivery. Putting one of those together for someone you know who’s having financial trouble could be a lot of fun.
  • Parents of young children are a group who are struggling. Wouldn’t it be fun to volunteer to read to kids, work on a project with them, teach a new skill, or otherwise occupy them and give their worn-out parents a little break. There’s a lot you can do on video!

That’s just a few ideas. Do you have more? I can share them with others here and on Facebook. By choosing to do things that are both fun to us AND help bring some positive energy to others, we can build our communities and help each other navigate the world we find ourselves in today.

Make that “us.” Photo by @pamelasphotopoetry via Twenty20