How to Perk Up a Small Town

Chris, Kathleen and Jean waiting to eat their meat.

Last night I went to the Cameron Chamber of Commerce banquet. When you are in a bunch of organizations, as well as more than one business, that’s a member, you sort of feel like you have to go. Since Hearts Homes and Hands was a Gold Sponsor, we got to sit up at the front of the place, which I’d never done before (never having spent the money to sponsor anything). At the event, I learned lots of ways to get things going and make small towns better. The first one was the most fun.

Surprise Someone

There we are, right under the BIG sponsor.

Lee, Kathleen, Chris and I were the HHH representatives, but we invited two of my Milam Touch of Love Board members to come, as well (wish we could have invited them all). It was nice to bring Jean Schara and Mark McKibben along with us for a fancy meal and some beverages. (Once again, though, there was nothing for non-drinkers in the wine and cheese time before the meal.)

Lee and Mark paying attention to Judge Young.

At the end of the evening, the Chamber gives out awards to citizens and groups. After the big awards, they give out Excellence Awards to groups or people who didn’t quite make the cut, or aren’t in the in-group of Cameron movers and shakers, which is who usually gets things (not complaining, just noticing). In fact, Lee won one of these last year for our work renovating houses and buildings in the community.

It was really great, then, to see the look on Mark’s face when it was announced that Milam Touch of Love received an award for the work we have done for animals in the area. Jean had a clue something was up, because I’d told her it would really be a good idea to reschedule her Facebook Live event for her essential oil business. Mark just showed up for the food and friendship, but hooray! We were recognized. Both Jean and Mark have spent SO much time, effort and money for the group. It was great to have them join me.

We are very happy to get our award.

ALL the volunteers and donors for MTOL are part of the recognition, though, because, as with all nonprofits, it takes a lot of work to succeed. I am really proud of them.

Remind Them It Doesn’t Suck

I have to admire Judge Young, who has been personally dragging the county into modernity by courting businesses and proposing things that disrupt the status quo. He spoke for “two minutes” at the banquet, and reminded everyone how much good has happened in the past couple of years.

Melanie is timing the judge, who I don’t recognize without his cowboy hat. There were lots of them in the audience! Texas, y’all.

He’s not kidding. All sorts of solar power companies are moving in, and I can’t complain about that. We in Milam County are also some sort of bitcoin mining capital of the country, and wile I’m not the biggest fan of that sort of thing, it does bring in jobs. And while a lot of people complain about moving the city offices to the former hospital in town, it WILL provide opportunities for new businesses to come in and make downtown Cameron an actual destination.

I hope he perked up a few people…

Bring in a Motivational Speaker

Sarah collects vintage hats. Flowers came from down the road from us at Silver City Flowers.

Another way to perk up a town like Cameron is to get the movers and shakers to think differently. So, this year, Melanie Reed brought in a young woman who has worked with small towns throughout Texas to improve their images and such.

Sarah O’Brien had actually done her homework, and presented a talk that wasn’t just ideas, but had concrete suggestions. She’d taken a tour of the town a few weeks ago (including the Pope Residence – so THAT was the lady who Melanie dragged through our construction zone).

Sarah used local buildings as examples of positive and negative mindsets. We laughed when Jean’s business was used as the negative (Ms. O’Brien has NO idea what’s in there).

One thing she said, in a talk about Lee’s favorite topic of mindset, just geared toward small town leaders, was that to get people to be positive about Cameron, we have to be positive. I saw myself and my blog about potholes in that one! Oops.

We laughed even harder when OUR building was used for abundance. I guess she didn’t notice the peeling paint on her tour.

You do hear a lot of folks around here saying how hard it is to get good people to work for you, how the poverty mindset has made the citizens unmotivated to do better, etc. I see how being more positive might very well rub off! I’m going to make an effort to portray Cameron more positively and to continue to work to make it a place where people enjoy living.

Look! It’s our award. If only we had an office to hang it in.

Hey, at least I’ve helped increase the population by about ten people at the moment, some of whom are eating LOTS of donuts (the construction guys) and all of whom are buying things here! Thanks to Canova, Martha, Mike, Kathleen, Chris, Jim, Nicole, and Easton for saying yes to Cameron, even if you aren’t all here forever.

It’s fun being part of a small town trying to re-invent itself. No one gives a flip about me in the leadership of Austin, and that anonymity is nice, but it’s also nice to feel heard here in Cameron. I say YES!

Oh, Those Animals…You Gotta Enjoy Them

I just wanted to share two little things that didn’t fit in with my previous blog.

Hens

One is those silly chickens. I realized today that their ramp up to the egg laying and roosting area was upside down, and they’d never figured out how to get up there for shelter, roosting, and such.

What’s up there? More food?

So, I fixed it and put little bits of chicken scratch on each step, with more upstairs, hoping to entice them to go up. I did see them inspecting it, but haven’t yet seen one go up. I think maybe Miss Fancy Pants went up, though I was watching from the house.

I’m thinking about it.

Poor dears. I hope they do figure it out. But, they are happy and growing away! They like spinach and clover cuttings a lot!

Dogs

I hung out with my Milam Touch of Love friends today as they held a very successful micro-chipping event at the Cameron Farm and Ranch, where there’s a really useful drive-through area. I enjoyed seeing all the dogs getting chipped, but was sad to see that some of the nicest dogs at the pound still don’t have new families.

I’m saddest that Penney’s sister still hasn’t been claimed. She is as nice as Penney, and just as soft and cuddly. But, we know better than to adopt two siblings.

I’d like a family. I’m cuddly!

There’s another dog at the pound, Ghost, who is so beautiful and sweet. He is all spotted, but has something in him other than Dalmatian. I know if I had space for another white dog, I’d be taking him home. Sigh.

Ghost is just about the cutest.

It’s hard to care so much about animals and work with them, when you know you can’t take them all home. I guess that’s why they call it volunteer “work,” rather than play.

This is Rottie. He’s getting training from Mark. He was already friendly, and now he’s obedient!

I’m grateful to my MTOL friend Danelle, who not only gave me a big hug and a crystal to cling to when she saw I was a bit nerved out, but she inspired me to take some “me” time this afternoon. I’d been worrying about a situation that I can’t do anything about, but a nice bath with lavender bath salts and some orange soap Danelle gave me really has helped.

Danelle got her precious doxie mix chipped today.

And on that note, I’ll wait for Sunday dinner and all my friends and family.

Does Volunteering Count as Recharge Time?

Yep. I’m sort of resting as I spending my usual first Saturday of the month at the thrift store. Gotta help those local dogs and cats! Resting with restless young teens is not all that restful, but we have been enjoying our friend Meghan’s twin teens try to fill their time as they help out. They are at that awkward age between child and hormonal teen, which is cute, but chatty.

Jean and the kids.

I did spend a bit of time pricing jewelry my sister donated to the MTOL table. We did sell some of it, so hooray for her! All donations help! And I get to be with friends.

Canova’s stuff is among this fine collection.

Luckily there are plants to enjoy, including this beautiful “mother of millions” in bloom. I never had one do that! Not bad for an invasive.

Looking up
Here you can see the leaves with little babies on them.

And I wandered out to the side of the highway and found things for iNaturalist. That’s double volunteering!

Verbena.

Just wait. I’ll have more renovation pictures up. Volunteer time is almost over.

Coop Coop! Run! 2019 Projects Done!

Hooray hooray. Today we finally were able to get the work done on the chicken coop to get it ready to hold actual chickens. Yesterday, while enduring the longest lines ever at multiple stores, Chris was able to get all the materials we needed to finish the coop, plus a feeder and waterer.

Roofing in progress.

This morning we got going as soon as we were coffeed up, and with assistance from my brother-in-law Jim and less assistance from me, Chris got a really cool arched roof on the chicken run that will thwart even the most clever hawk or owl. HA! Raptors go eat something else!

One good-looking chicken run!

It really ended up looking pretty spiffy. Once we got the roof on, Chris and I fired up Hilda the 4-wheeler and rode around the property looking for ideal branches to turn into perches for the chickens, so they can have fun while cooped up in the run.

Feed and water holders are hanging. And the big stick for roosting is installed.

Vlassic came with us, and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the far ends of the ranch. I showed Chris every inch of the place, and we even visited the horses and Fiona.

Nest boxes are ready for hens!

I was very happy that Vlassic behaved well with the horses. He started to chase Fiona a couple of times, but she gave him the annoyed donkey look and he backed off. In the end, everyone got along just fine. That’s one dog down, and only four to go…

This sweet great Pyrenees will be adopted soon, we hope.

After we finished putting a wind barrier up on the north side of the chicken coop, we took a break, then went over to the Cameron Touch of Love to finish the last touches on the dog run we’re donating.

Sandra checks out the shade area of the dog run.

Chris and his dad put together the shade roofs for the entry and another area on the run, and also installed wind blocks in one area that will also provide a bit of shade in the summer. We got help from the Fords, our cat rescue folks, so it went pretty quickly.

That’s me in the hat. I’m not supervising. I’m helping attach the wind barrier/shade cloth.

I took a lot of pictures of the dogs at the pound with the camera I got loaned for Christmas. I wanted to practice taking close-ups.

A sweet puppy who’s heading to a new home in Colorado soon.

And I also took some bird pictures. I’ll still work on the photography thing.

Yes, I can identify these birds! I was far away from these black vultures.

Luckily, there was a sad dog named Bud at the pound who I felt sorry for, so I got him brought out to the dog run and played with him. He’s so well behaved that he hates to pee or poop in his pen. He peed for a full minute when he got in the pen, then we played and played. He loves kids and is sweet, but energetic. I hope he gets a family soon.

We came home, and Kathleen and her daughter kindly cooked a New Year’s meal. MMM. Black eyed peas! I hope to make some tomorrow, if I can get any when I get back to Austin.

Vaguely successful telephoto shot.

What a fun day we had! It was a perfect ending to the year. The last month has seen things start to improve, at least in our little world. I’m going to keep focusing on our family, our friends, and what we can personally make an effect on.

My favorite picture so far with the “real” camera.

That’s why I’m so glad we can help with Milam Touch of Love and the dogs at the pound. We CAN make a difference there.

Bragging on Our Family

I‘m so proud of the work that Lee’s nephew, niece, and brother (Chris, Kathleen and Jim) did yesterday at the Cameron dog pound. On behalf of our company and through the Milam Touch of Love organization, they put together a huge, safe dog run so the pound puppies can get exercise and play with each other. It’s also a great place for potential adopters to get to know the dogs. Below is a slightly edited version of what I wrote for Hearts Homes and Hands this morning.


happy woman and dog
Here’s Sue Ann with Carlton, the day she adopted him from the Cameron Touch of Love.

Yesterday was a fun day for Hearts Homes and Hands! We got to fulfill our promise of building a big dog run for the City of Cameron Touch of Love facility, which is our local dog pound. Lee and Sue Ann got two of their wonderful dogs from the facility, which strives to adopt out all dogs that come in, unless they are too sick or injured.

We donated the money to buy the materials to the Milam Touch of Love organization, which supports the welfare of all animals in Milam County, and on which Sue Ann has served on the Board since it was founded. As we shared earlier, we got the materials on Thanksgiving weekend, but had to wait until our crew came back into town before the big job of building the dog run could be done.

Teamwork!

Unloading the materials

Early yesterday morning, our team arrived at the pound, where Sandra Ritch, the Cameron Animal Control Officer was eagerly waiting. Our Administrator, Kathleen Caso, led a team consisting of her husband, Chris (the mastermind of this project), Jim Caso (Chris’s dad AND one of our clients), and our dedicated office queen, Meghan Land, who is also on the Board of Milam Touch of Love.

The run uses lots of sturdy fencing panels
Buiding the vestibule.
Lots of toting.

Continue reading “Bragging on Our Family”

Don't Let Them Squish Your Happiness

After reading the Happier Now book, I’ve been carefully observing what brings happiness into my life. What has also become clear for the past week or so is how easy it is to have your happiness squished. Now, intellectually, I’ve known this a long time. Haven’t you read somewhere that it takes some large number of compliments to override one put-down?

No one can take away my happiness of observing a tiny bird on a fence.

For me, one of those “highly sensitive persons,” some of the unkind things that were said to me stuck for decades. I thought of myself as “fatso” even when I was of an average size. And as an adult, there have been a few things people said to me that I couldn’t shake. I let their perceptions of me affect my self esteem.

Aww, a little nest.

These days, I’m doing better, and that’s great. Yay me. Still, you can’t avoid negativity and negative people in life. Some of them you’re related to or have to work with, you know. And, as we have been talking about this morning, as we sip our coffee, there are some folks who just don’t like to see someone else happy or doing well, so they try to pull them down to their level (apparently this is common in all the families of origin in my household).

But, what has shocked me, and what I’ve decided I need to figure out how to handle better, is how easily my happiness can get squished by people around me. I’m sharing some personal examples next, not to criticize others, but to talk about how we might interact more successfully.

Continue reading “Don't Let Them Squish Your Happiness”

Oh, Buffy Hen! (And a Long Day or Two)

The Internet ate what I was writing earlier today, and it has been a long couple of days, so you luck out and get to read about the CHICKENS again. I’ll also share some cute dogs before getting all thoughtful again tomorrow.

This evening, Kathleen and I went over to feed the animals, as usual, just before sunset. We heard a LOT of mooing, and when we got there we saw the Vrazels’ cattle in the race. Other cattle were in the pens. As you can see, these were mamas and babies (hooray, I got to see the spotted ones up close).

We are very dubious about this confinement.

They said they were going to AI all the mamas, which meant there was no way for us to get to the horses. I said I’d do it in the morning. No problem. It was fun watching them move the little ones away from their moms. They were displeased.

So, we went back to the chicken area, where Big Red and Little Red were eating some popcorn that Yanelly must have given them. I gave them some feed and scratch, then looked around for Buffy. She was nowhere to be seen, so I figured she must have finally bit the dust. Also, there were no eggs in their new nest (they have totally deserted the old coop).

Continue reading “Oh, Buffy Hen! (And a Long Day or Two)”