Why is This Baby So Happy?

Baby Suna and her mom were really happy the day Suna climbed up onto the dresser to look at herself in the mirror. Suna was around 9 months old, a bit young for climbing. But, mirrors have always enticed her.

My favorite baby photo. My parents loved to tell the story of this.

Adult Suna is also happy after climbing up high today. It was “clean out the office closet” day, which required much upping and downing.

World’s greatest portable ladder, and my friend. It’s lightweight but sturdy.

Since we moved in I haven’t been able to organize that closet very well, and as of last week, people had piled boxes for me to unpack and multiple air beds plus huge rolls of memory foam in there. I could barely open the door. There is no photo of that.

I got Lee to move the foam, made air beds with leaks disappear, and unpacked the random boxes. They turned out to be full of baskets, so I embarked on a long-planned basket display on top of my bookshelves. More baskets will appear when the Bobcat House stuff arrives.

A few baskets. Glad I have that ladder.

Most of the day today was spent taking all sorts of stuff out and putting it elsewhere…or taking it straight to the stock trailer, which we are filling with garbage from there and the garage (a separate project). Once I got things that didn’t belong in there removed, I remembered it was a big closet.

Harvey thought I was making him his own room.

I’m going to get shelves put in there for my knitting books and yarn, so I arranged everything in bags or boxes for easy removal. It was good to have access to my looms (one simple Cricket loom and one Navajo tapestry loom ready to start a project on) and their accessories again.

Looms at right. Bags and boxes have needlepoint, sewing, and knitting supplies.

So far it’s a little goofy, but I know where everything is, so that’s good. We are yet to find out how much of my stuff will fit in and how much will have to find new homes.

Bags and boxes.

I am happy as Baby Suna to have this all cleaned out, ready to prepare for the onslaught of things from my other house.

I think I visited my grandparents on my first Christmas or Thanksgiving. Glad I found these photos during my cleaning frenzy.

It was a good day. All this cleaning also led to sharing family stories, hanging out on the porch, and bonding with Apache and Fiona until sunset. Heck, even the work stuff I did today was fun!

Hope you had a day of productive fun, or get to have one soon. I’d missed them, so that made today even better. (I didn’t forget friends dealing with floods, illnesses, and worries that I now live in the fictional country of Gilead…I’m just dealing with the present.)

Lost Memories?

Wow. I’ve discovered that I’m not alone in having trouble remembering things. That’s another reason I’m glad I have my bullet journal — I can remember what I’m supposed to be doing and am scheduled to do. But, that’s the day-to-day stuff.

Suna in the only long, white wedding dress she ever wore. Sadly, it belonged to her friend Liz (still married to the guy she wed in this dress). This is in Pennsylvania, when I went on a visit to cry about being a bad girlfriend.

Talking to people in my extended circle, I realized that many of us have lost access to our past. One friend said she no longer has memories. Others are having a hard time remembering things when they need to, or remembering whether they told someone something. Lee totally forgot to tell me his car broke down—that’s something you usually remember to share!

This photo reminded me that my dad put wood siding up on our house in Plantation, Florida, just before he left. He was ahead of his time.

We all have a clue as to why this is happening. It’s the stress, the mega-stress, the overwhelming worry and anxiety. We all have COVID stress. No one can avoid having world events stress right now, what with wars, storms, earthquakes, and shootings galore. We have overload from black-and-white thinking in politics, organizations, and families. Many of us have big work struggles. Our brains are full. And so are the brains of the people we encounter. I’m getting stressed just writing this.

Here’s a happy memory of me and my friend Robin, who, by the way, is still my friend Robin and has children older than she is in this photo.

Sometimes, you can get your memories back, though, which is why I’m glad I grew up in the age where people took lots and lots of photographs (though nothing like today). Today, for a bit of stress relief, I wandered through my photo album from 1984-1986, which were not my best times (I managed to lose the love of my life and my mom in just a few months), I’ve got to say, but which also had some really good times. I’m so glad I can see both types of memories.

Here’s a place I once lived, in Urbana, Illinois. I doubt it’s still standing. I’m remembering that is my Asbury Jukes jacket that I won at a record store.

Also, when I was young, I wrote a lot of letters. It was in my blood, since my whole family wrote letters to each other. I found a box from when I was in college and grad school lately, and they reminded me of my journals in that some were a bit embarrassing (I sure fell in love HARD in my twenties, repeatedly), but others reminded me of what strong connections I had to my communities, and that brings me back to today, when I’ve learned from some of those infatuations and heartaches and gained some balance.

I never share photos of this guy, but I remember him. It’s the late Bill Crain, my first husband, being coached on good husbanding by my dad, in 1986. He didn’t listen.

I’m glad to be able to dredge some of my memories back up, after all. I hope you enjoy some little glimpses into my box of memories. See if you can come up with some.

My office in October 1984. I wallpapered the walls of this closet/office that I shared with two fellow grad students with my word a day calendar pages. Behind me is an original IBM PC that had two floppy drives and no hard drive. I can’t believe how happy I looked. I was one big mess and had anxiety symptoms 24/7. And migraines.

In the Gloom: Life, Death, and Joyful Canines

Wow, it’s rainy and cloudy again today, but sometimes gloomy weather makes even a simple walk with the dogs an adventure sort of creepy. It doesn’t help that I just looked out the window and there are dozens of creepy cowbirds covering the grass. I hope they appreciate the local cardinals for hatching their babies…

Anyway, this morning the dogs and I went out for a quick walk in between my work meetings. They were chock full of energy, and were running around like there was some bunny to chase.

Come on, let’s go, Suna!

I was getting dizzy watching them run around each other. It was almost like lunging Drew. Things did get gloomier as we approached the trees and watery area.

The dark skies and moody greens of all the vines creeping around the pond and arroyo added to the feeling of impending doom. There are tie vines, bindweed vines, passion vines, dewberries, smilax, poison ivy (further downstream) and balloon vines. It’s dark and mysterious.

All dem vines

To save me going on and on, here are some of the dismal, yet lovely in their own right, sights the dogs and I saw.

Yes, whenever I see a mama spider all covered with babies, I admit to shuddering a bit. Thanks to Lee for finding that one. However, I’d say the thing that enthralled me the most, in a macabre way, was watching the garden spider encasing a grasshopper in its web. I’ve seen it a couple of times lately, but this was the first time I was close enough to film it. Keep watching the video, because you can see the silk coming out of the spider toward the end. Fascinating, but eww.

Life and death, right here at the Hermits’ Rest

But, don’t worry there will be more grasshoppers. How do I know? Oh, you know me and all my observation skills.

Can we have some privacy here?

AI Thinks I’m a Dude

Recently, I was talking to one of my old friends about being mistaken for a man. It happens to her fairly often, depending on how she’s dressed, since she is not shaped like the stereotypical Barbie-doll person, has short hair, often dresses androgynously, and is blessed with a deep voice (one of my favorite former singing partners). It doesn’t happen to me very often, probably because I like shiny accessories so much. Neither my friend nor I are particularly bothered by being mis-gendered, though I know it can be really difficult for some of our other friends, especially those who are trans.

I’ve talked about this before, but I tend to see my father’s face when I look in a mirror; I don’t have especially “feminine” features. And, now that my hair is quite short, it’s more noticeable, even though we all probably know enough people with different lengths, styles, and colors of hair to realize that any hair stereotype out there is pretty outdated. So, I was prepared to see interesting results when I tried that new AI software that turns your photographs into cartoons or paintings. As you can see, one setting gave me blue eyes and made me look like a 12-year-old boy.

My lovely friend.

I’d seen a few that my female-identified friends had done, and they looked cute/pretty and like women. I admit my example here is extremely lovely, but you can see they gave her eyelashes, lipstick, and such. That makes me think that the software makes a guess about whether an image is of a male or a female. I’d love to see more images from people who don’t identify one way or the other or who provide few cues to what they are trying to tell the world about themselves.

Adding glasses made me look more like a woman, but increased bye crossed-eyes.

Another thing that I notice about this software is that it’s very literal. I appear to have a “lazy eye” in most of the AI renderings, though at least in some of the photos I used I had appropriately brown eyes. The thing is, these things look nothing at all like me, whereas the ones I’ve seen of other people at least resemble them enough that you can say, “Ah, that’s so and so.” Well, it’s no big secret that AI is not perfect and that it is worse with women and people of color than men. Of note: none of my friends with darker complexions posted their little cartoon heads, unless I just didn’t see it in my feed, which is a possibility.

The bottom line for me is that the images are just plain…plain. Dare I say unattractive? I don’t imagine myself as some raving beauty, but I hope I am not as aesthetically displeasing as these images came out. The ambiguous, gender-fluid aspect is fine, even fun, but I’d like to be an attractive guy!

Oh, vanity, thy name turns out to be Suna, and THAT is not pretty, at all. Let’s change the topic, so you can enjoy Alfred and Goldie getting along well, and a nice photo of Goldie. I wish they hadn’t cropped her ears, but she’s still got a sweet, yet noble face. Like me!

Have you tried playing with the AI toy? Do you find it fun? I guess it appeals to fans of the selfie. Sometimes I am one of those, just because observing and recording the aging process is pretty fascinating.

Just Flowers

I was trying to do a photo post again, but twice it crashed. I’m too tired to write anything, probably because my watch thinks I exercised 40 minutes while riding in the car. Thanks, rough roads!

One of the beautiful smells I enjoyed today. Yes, it’s invasive Japanese honeysuckle, but it’s pretty.

So, I’m just going to show you flowers I saw today while driving from Tyler, Texas to Oxford, Alabama. Guess which is my favorite!

So, I was blown away by the beauty of the white clover blossom, second row right. It’s so lovely up close. Good thing I’m easily entertained. And that Lee likes to drive.

Always Something New at the Ranch

One of the things I like about being a Master Naturalist is that I have learned to be a more careful observer, wherever I go. I’m happiest that I’ve been entering what I see on our ranch into iNaturalist, because I can see when flowers bloom or go to seed every year, when butterflies arrive, etc. Today’s butterflies included these:

Even though our observations on our own property no longer are approved by the state office, I still observe for my own study and analysis. I have a project where all observations here are stored, and I hope some day to be able to do some analysis.

My expedition yesterday was helped greatly by something that had originally broken my heart a little. You see, Lee’s brother likes to mow, and he decided to mow all those “weeds” on the side of the road. Thank goodness Lee saw it and asked him to stop. Apparently the conversation was sort of funny, with Jim insisting it was weeds and Lee saying, “Don’t you see the flowers?”

Oops, there go some flowers. There are plenty more, of course.

The good thing about it is that it made a little path that enabled me to easily see all the butterflies and bugs and get closer photos.

Also, the public right of way counts as not being on my property, so I can get at least a few volunteer hours out of my cataloging!

This year’s been pretty interesting, which shouldn’t be surprising after the weird weather. I’ve been quite surprised to see common plants, like Indian paintbrush, not as prominent, with some new plants popping up.

What’s this white stuff? And what’s Penney pointing at?

One plant we have in super abundance is this annual trampweed (Facelis retusa). It’s really pretty in early spring. Then, when it blossoms, you don’t really see the flowers, just white buds, followed by exuberant star-shaped seed heads.

The little seed fluff sticks out and looks like a flower bud.
Here’s what the plant looks like, with leaves circling up a stem.

I’d never noticed this plant before, and it’s everywhere this year. Now it’s one of my favorites.

They look so cheerful!

Another plant I’d never noticed around here is small-flowered catchfly (Silene gallica). It’s another one of those tiny flowers from up high. At first I thought it was that chickweed or something.

Small-flowered catchfly.

Once you touch it, though, you know it’s different. You also know how it got its name. It’s sticky! It could certainly catch a fly. You can see all the hairs in the photos.

Here it is growing with some Carolina bristle marrow, trampweed

The little flowers range from pink to white. I had honestly never seen it before. Did I not notice it or did it come in with floods? Is it something that grows better after a hard freeze or two? I’m sure I just didn’t notice it, even though I’ve been trying so hard to identify everything here!

The third “new” plant I wasn’t even sure of its ID. None of the things that are suggested on iNaturalist really match the way it looks, but since I know plants can differ in color from place to place, labeled it dwarf blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium minus), and hooray, I was right! Linda Jo identified it for me. It’s another tiny little fellow, but it’s really pretty.

Another “new” plant really isn’t new. It’s a pink evening primrose. But I never saw one so white. I thought it was a petunia from a distance.

That’s quite a contrast to the usual ones, though they do come in many shades of pink. I always love to look at the clouds of them on the roadside or in fields, with all the shadings.

One of the really pink ones. I know we’ve seen them a lot, but still, they’re gorgeous.
Look at all the bugs on this Black-eyed Susans!

I really enjoy seeing what’s blooming every day. It was great to see the black-eyed Susans have started to bloom, and apparently the bugs that enjoy their pollen are also happy.

There are a few things I can’t get close enough to take a photo of when I’m wearing sandals (I only do that on the grass Lee and Jim have mowed), but I’ll get to them at some point this week.

I’m glad it rained, too, because that will keep the ground moist and let more plants get going before everything turns brown.

Can you see the turtles?

I’m glad to see that the bluebonnets are going to seed quite well, so we will have lots more next year, and my favorite patch of Engelman daisy is in full bloom. There’s always something pretty to look at here, and when you’ve just gotten yet another blow at ye olde workplace, I’m glad for all my new and old plant and animal friends at the ranch.

For you blog readers, here are more things I saw yesterday. I hope the flowers and bugs are fun to look at.

Let’s get out there and “do the needful” as they say in India. I guess I’ve had enough coffee to be strong and carry on!

Sunday Musings: It’s a Good Life, All Things Considered

Today, I’m being more explicit about what I’m grateful for than my usual gratitude practice, which is more like, “Thank goodness X is in my life, or I can do Y, or Z happened.” I want to say how grateful I am to Lee for deciding to get our retirement property early, build a house on it, and start with the rural fun and learning experiment we call the Hermits’ Rest Ranch. It’s saving my butt, that’s for sure.

Every Sunday morning, I wake up, make coffee, and hang around with Lee and the dogs up in our bedroom. It’s a huge room, so it has a loveseat, chairs, a little dining table (now Lee’s desk), and coffee fixings. Usually the dogs take turns wanting to sit by me and get petted. It’s such a gentle way to ease into the day. Weekends are the best.

This morning I had Carlton for a long time, and he was not about to let me do anything with my left hand except pet his long neck while he stretched his head straight up. Then big ole Harvey wanted some time with me. I’ve mentioned before that he thinks he’s a lapdog now, and sure enough, he managed to drape himself over my entire lap. We had a nice snuggle (I originally wrote “struggle,” which may, in fact, be accurate), though that bulky dog sure is heavy.

Not pretty, but fresh!

It is nice to review your previous day up in the bedroom, so I thought back on how happy I was to find out that all the guinea eggs from yesterday were still good, and wondered what to do with them, since I’m not heading into Austin for a few weeks, I can’t get them to my coworker who’s allergic to chicken eggs, but not guinea eggs. I guess we eat them.

Here, Apache has just picked up a clod or grass and declared round pen time was over. Typical scene with Sara working with Ace and Fiona eating grass like there’s no tomorrow.

I also reminded myself how good I am at being patient in difficult situations, which yesterday’s time with Apache once again proved. Both he and Ace were antsy, like there was something going on around them that put them on alert. I never did figure out what it was, but it led to more dancing around and trying to do what HE wanted to from Apache. He just wasn’t thinking. But, we stopped, had a little chat, and eventually went on to have a nice ride. He really likes it when I talk to him calmly.

And for those of you suggesting lessons, I’m actually signed up for some with a local trainer. That’s why I got a Coggins test for Apache when the vet was here. Sara will take Ace and I will take Apache. That means we get to practice trailer loading, because it’s been a long time since we’ve gone anywhere out of town. He used to love going to Kerri April’s to learn Parelli stuff.

This is a cool brown skink that was in the hay feeder yesterday!

I roused myself from all my musings and went out to see what’s going on with the chickens and such. Every single step I took, Bertie Lee was right with me. She’s the Big Red of my main flock. That hen just likes me. When I checked the chicks, they’d knocked their little feeder over and messed up the water, so I fixed all that and gave Star more adult chicken food (the kind they don’t like, but my shipment of Grubbly feed has not arrived yet, due to high order volumes).

They are not starving, anyway, since every time I look in they are eating away at the plant growth in and around their little coop. I’m sure no bug stands a chance in there, either!

Here’s a pretty buckeye I saw yesterday.

Then I just sat around, watched the chicks preen their feathers (it appears that they are trying to get the fluff off, so their fine new feathers can grow out), and enjoying the pond, trees, and butterflies. I got to watch the little ones go up and down the ramp, and it’s clear they are way faster at it than their mom, who carefully steps down the ramp. They also jump up and down off the small tree branch I put in their area and flap their little wings when they go to land. They will be strong! I wonder how old they will be before they can fly?

Naturally, I looked up the answer on the Googles and found they start testing their wings at around a week (check), but they don’t get their flight feathers until around 5 weeks, so we have something to look forward to!

Just looking around the ranch keeps me focused and gives me perspective. My challenges are just small bumps in the road compared to all that goes on around me every day in nature. And, like my friend Vicki has been reminding me lately:

I’ve survived all those previous hard times,
so I will probably survive this one, too.

I don’t want to just survive, I want to thrive! So I’m going to keep focused on the fact that life is good, I’m surrounded by supportive friends and family, and the new events we’ll go through will make us stronger and wiser. This is what I hope for all you out there, too.

And don’t forget to visit the podcast if you need something to listen to that’s fairly uplifting and pleasant. For me, it’s a nice break between some of my more intense podcasts! And if you want to help out with my blogging fees, consider visiting the support link at the top of the page.