Fun Times in Downtown Cameron

Times are getting more exciting here in little Cameron, Texas, and it’s not just because Anita will move here soon. Lots of new businesses and jobs have been coming in, and the upcoming relocation of some of the County offices to the old hospital will be freeing up some cool places for investors to come in and start new businesses. We all have our favorite “dream shops” we want to see, but which buildings are right for what?

That question is what led to my fun day yesterday. A few people who are members of the Cameron Chamber of Commerce got together, and let by the fearless Melanie, trekked all over the downtown area to look through the buildings that would soon be available and “re-imagine” them. Looking through historic buildings and offices is my idea of fun, which is why I volunteered to tag along and was so grateful for the opportunity to help out in a small way.

We looked at buildings that are still being used, buildings that were full of mold, buildings in great shape, and ones that required some imagination. We all had clipboards to write down our ideas.

I was enthralled by how many county records are in the old buildings.

I liked that some old buildings have cool windows up high with views, which makes me envision loft living. Other places would make great bars, bookstores, restaurants, gaming places (one even used to be a roller rink…could it be again?).

My favorite things, I guess, were seeing how many dang old jails there are in this town. The one we looked at yesterday was really big, and I had NO idea it was there. Ooh, scary.

Old jails make excellent, secure storage.

This jail adds to the ancient hoosegow, old jail museum, jail in the old police station (where someone lives now), PLUS the actual County Jail that is in use. My big idea was to have a “Jails of Cameron” tour, with little jails painted on the sidewalk to lead you from one to another, each with something interesting to see or do. That didn’t go over terribly well.

The jail could be turned into a restaurant, where you eat in cells and people serve you through the little door…right? Sounds romantic to me.

Other people had real ideas, so it will be fun to see what comes of all this! At least I know they aren’t building a subdivision next to my house or anything, because I made Lee buy all that land. I was a visionary, I guess.

PS: It sure was fun to do something with people like this. We couldn’t have a few months ago!

Soggy and Soggier

It’s still raining today. There were brief respites, but we’ve had at least an inch. Whew. The good news is we have a lot of mushrooms to enjoy.

Happy puffballs.

I tried to go check out what was going on at the fence project. But it started raining real hard, so we went off to see a horse that we may board over here to keep Apache company. It’s all alone, and belongs to some folks who live near our office.

Howdy. I’m Prince.

He needs a Coggins test and stuff, but if he came here, his owner says we can ride him. That would be fun. At least he’s small, and he’s named after my dad. This isn’t a done deal, but a possibility. In any case, I got to meet a friendly horse.

It then rained more. But, not before I went out to take some pictures of the Black-eyed Susans. I lucked out and Penney joined me. I got some lovely photos of her looking romantic.

I’m so romantic.

She sure blends in well with scenery.

This is just so beautiful. I love the storm clouds.

Being with the dogs makes you notice so many things! I didn’t even get mad at Vlassic when he jumped up and got my entire outfit muddy.

Who, me?

But even muddy weather has its good points. There’s always beautiful nature to enjoy. Like, why were there so many mud daubers on sunflower leaves? And why is Mr. Toad living in this trough?

All in all, it’s good to be back in the swing of things. I got work done and caught up with my Master Naturalist blogging. It’s volunteer week at work, so it was authorized. What fun! I’ll try to get more fascinating tomorrow. I’m still wiped out.

Penney is tired too. All that glamour wore her out.

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?”

Information, Not Advice in This Cancel Culture

Today’s topic is something I’ve been mulling over for a long time, and I think I finally have come up with a way to present my thoughts coherently. I think it explains why I have close to zero tolerance for bullying in volunteer organizations and presents an alternative way to make valid points and open people’s minds to new and different ideas.

When I was a new mother, my lawyer and one of my mentors, Roberta Bishop Johnson, encouraged me to attend meetings of the mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group, La Leche League (and if talking about breastfeeding gets you all giggly, you can try to remember you’re a mammal and make an effort to be mature). I didn’t know any other new mothers, since I was older than most of my friends and the first to reproduce.

That’s right. We’re mammals.

So, I bravely went into the home of a stranger and sat down on the couch next to a woman who seemed nice. And I listened. At these meetings, only one of the people was speaking for the organization, an accredited La Leche League Leader. But, when people asked questions, all the other mothers were very welcome to chime in and share their experiences with their own babies. One thing that got repeated often in these meetings was to please share information, not give advice. Not even the Leader told women what they should do. The mothers were considered smart enough to make their own decisions based on their experiences and to use the experiences of others to help them. That led to the second thing I heard a lot, which was to take what works for you and leave the rest.

No matter what picture I chose, someone will find something wrong with it. She should lift her shirt from the top! Why is she white? Is her positioning right? Image by @nslebedinskaya via Twenty20

By getting to know all these different mothers with all their different babies it became very obvious that the best answer for one of us would not work at all for another one, and that was OK! We had lots of areas where we differed. There was cloth versus plastic diapers. There was jarred baby food versus “whole foods” only. There was the “family bed” versus having a crib for babies. There were vaccinators and non-vaccinators. Some mothers weaned promptly at one year (or earlier), while others kept a-goin’ until the child didn’t want to anymore.

The thing is, those of us who learned the LLL philosophy (which is a list of ways to be a good parent) mostly got the point that there’s more than one right way to parent AND that for some folks, ways other than ours make more sense to them. If a mother asked for help, we gave it and helped her work out a solution that made HER happy, not us.

I eventually became a Leader and learned a lot from the women I was friends with then. It was a lot of fun and such a great way to give to my community. But, when they started begging Leaders to become administrators (there was quite a hierarchy back then), my Leader, Sharon, took me aside and warned me that things weren’t always so warm and fuzzy at the State, National, and International levels. Oh, how I wish I’d listened to Sharon.

But, no, I like leading things, and because I’d made a little website for our group (before there were images on the world wide web) my mentor, Roberta, begged me to help them get on the fledgling Internet, so I went to a conference in Chicago, met the Executive Director, and suddenly I was the webmaster and co-owner of the first email list for Leaders, where we got to meet fellow mothers from all over.

Time marched on, and I had a lot of fun and met most of the people who read my blog. But, it turned out Sharon had a point. Once I started going to meetings and conferences outside my little bubble, and once I started reading the email lists, I began to see how La Leche League got its reputation as a bunch of breastfeeding…shall we say…”tyrants” (because I prefer not to use pejorative word word other people used). You could tell that there were members who we called “More League Than League” who looked down on you if your choices happened to come on the less radical attachment parenting side of things. Woe unto the parent who used a stroller and not a sling to carry babies (even outside conferences, where strollers were hazardous). You get the drift, I’m sure.

A lot of the time I spent as an administrator, web person, and eventually as a director in the organization was trying to keep portraying La Leche League (LLL) as an organization open to all who were interested in breastfeeding and parenting, not just a few people of a certain demographic (that would be white, Catholic, home birthing, stay-at-home mothers). It was never true that this group was even a majority, but it’s the reputation that came out. And the reputation that we told people to do this and that, and such. This all got to be quite exhausting, especially when we were wanting to help mothers succeed by their own standards and meet them where they were, not make them into other people!

There were, indeed, people in the organization with agendas that were at best peripheral to the core purpose of supporting breastfeeding in the communities where we lived. The diapers, the slings, the boycotts, the sleeping arrangements…subtly pressuring people to make certain choices or they weren’t “cool” led to a lot of sadness. I always thought either they should come out and say they’re an organization for a small group of people with certain beliefs and principles, rather than claiming to be for everyone, but alienating people whose cultures and ways of life preferred to do things differently.

Indeed, as the years went by, it came to pass that things got weirder and weirder at the higher levels, and we came under a lot of pressure, no I’ll say bullying, to only organize in certain ways, and only meet in certain ways, and…after a couple of years of trying to keep my team going through all this, I ended up being asked to leave. If your job, whether paid or volunteer, isn’t fulfilling and rewarding, it’s time to find a new job. And when my closest friends started in on me…it was time to go.

I did keep what I learned, though. I’ve always found it much easier to change someone’s mind or teach them something new by offering a wide range of information and suggestions and trusting them to figure out what works best for them. I’m so grateful for that lesson. There was and still is so much good in LLL. Honestly, this is a loving critique.

Now, today, a whole lot of years have passed, but it makes me chuckle a bit to learn that there are still factions battling it out to be the “right” kind of organization. The causes have shifted from Nestle boycotts and “Ferberizing” to trying to cancel members who aren’t deemed sufficiently on board with chestfeeding and racial/cultural issues.

All of that just isn’t the helpful kind of support parents, members, administrators, and former members need. And confronting, bullying, canceling, and lobbying against people you have a problem with has never, as far as I can see, solved the underlying issue, which is education. You know, perhaps we WANT to listen, but just being called names and treated like we aren’t even worth engaging in dialog with won’t help us learn a darn thing.

I can only suggest that people with strong feelings to convey consider this information I’m sharing, just as one option. By listening to the viewpoints of others, seeing where they are coming from, finding areas of commonality, and sharing our experiences as if they are all worthy of respect, I’m pretty sure some of the newer versions of the people I left behind in 2006 might be more successful at attaining their goals. I think they want more people to be welcome and included in LLL. I think that is a worthy goal that may not require tearing down others to achieve.

Breastfeeding is a great thing, and I applaud everyone who wants to do it, in whatever way works for their culture, religious practice, or social group. Sometimes having lived as long as I and some of my long-time LLL friends have, you learn that a little bit of listening and respect go a long way. We don’t all have to do things the exact same way, and we all will learn from our mistakes and new experiences.

Please, let’s be gentle with each other. I’m simply not going to let myself be put down for being who I am, and I don’t think any of you, my friends, should, either. And I do NOT want to put down others who have perfectly legitimate complaints, issues, or ideas! We should all have a chance to grow and learn, even us old white fogies.

I Did a Social Event! With Airplanes

What the heck? This sure came as a surprise. I realized there was a little airshow coming up this weekend, and that Lee had volunteered to help out with the Chamber of Commerce table. I hadn’t considered helping, but I didn’t want him to go be social all alone, since he hadn’t done it in over a year. So, off we went to the Cameron airport this morning, to celebrate the recently renovated runways and such.

This was Cameron’s “soft opening” for events, too. There were vendors, including my friend, Pamela, plus Manley the king of jams, and even wine. They were all in an excellent open hangar, so we felt breezes and fine wearing our masks.

Lee and Melanie managed to sell a whole bunch of the Chamber of Commerce raffle tickets, so they felt quite successful. It was a lot of chatting for Lee, but he did well. Now he’s exhausted, though.

Melanie and Lee are telling visitors what fun you can have in Cameron. I got to choose the giveaway winners. No cheating from me!

I mostly knitted and talked to my Master Naturalist friends. We got a little giddy when we realized we were all fully vaccinated and could actually stand near each other and talk. It was a small thing, but made us so happy. Sigh, maybe we can have real meetings again soon, if people keep being careful (like we were today).

I truly love this picture. We could not stop talking, and the dog could not stop jumping long enough to get a photo. But I sure was glad to see all these fully vaccinated friends.

Most of the action was outdoors, though, and it was so much fun to look at the 20-30 little planes that showed up. It was the most planes I ever saw at this little private airport. Lots of them were old and interesting, no doubt, and I’d explain more about them if I knew anything at all about private planes. I did ask our banker friend, Richard, who happens to be a private pilot (and has been a looooong time), so I knew that the one that did the tricks was a trainer plane from after WWII, and the cool green plane that blazed in from Georgetown was a Russian trainer.

One highlight of the day was cutting the ribbon to officially re-open the airport. All the local dignitaries were there, including the whole city council and mayor, plus the airport team, the engineer, and others. But the star of the show was Marion Travis, age 92. She was a pilot in her youth, and a true aviation pioneer. She is Cameron royalty (and a real hoot). She cut the ribbon.

There wasn’t much to the actual air show, since one of the trick planes had a mechanical problem, but the one that did fly had some tricks. It sure was fun watching that plane going upside down and making loops. I’m glad I was on the ground, though. I was told the pilot is a Southwest Airlines pilot for his day job.

I feel practically human, though really tired, after walking around looking at planes then walking around with Apache trying to figure out how he’s feeling (he was a bit weird yesterday, not cooperating and tossing his head a lot). But, hey, it was almost like a normal day from the olden times, other than all the masks people were wearing!

Suna let me eat the forbidden grass, but just for a few minutes.

Ooh, one more horse note. Apache has shed most of his winter coat over the last two days. It’s been most impressive brushing him out. Some bird will be able to make many nests from his fur. By the end of today, I suddenly realized I could see his patches on his skin again. I got down to his summer hair! He’s going to feel a LOT better now that it’s slowly warming up. More goodness to look forward to over the summer, I hope.

He must feel lighter after getting rid of so much hair. He lost this much yesterday, too.

I Found a Spring! And Pollinators!

I started out my morning nature break trying to find pollinators and check for damaged flowering plants for a survey of pollinators and plants used by monarchs on iNaturalist. I was very happy to have found bees and a butterfly, and was watching the water flowing in the stream with the dogs.

Then, Lee showed up, wanting me to help get the dogs back up so he could feed them. I said, okay, but look how well the stream is flowing! He noted that the runoff from the pond did not seem to be flowing, but the place where it dumps into the stream WAS making nice little waterfall sounds. So, where was the water coming from?

The stream is flowing so nicely and consistently that actual aquatic plants are growing.

Lee pointed out to a new puddle or marshy area that seems to have (no pun intended ) sprung up since the snow event happened. I’d been meaning to check on it, too.

The newly wet area. You can see it doesn’t have any water plants yet, so it’s new.

The puddle was very full, not like all the other ones that have dried up. Then, lo and behold, I spotted a little hole. That little hole was full of clear water, and it was bubbling up! I finally found the source of one of our intermittent springs! I was pretty excited.

Not much to look at, but it is full of bubbly water!

So, water is coming up from this hole (perhaps from the pond, who knows?), then flowing to the marshy puddle, then heading to join the pond runoff water, and on into the big hole that starts the stream.

I labeled the new spring’s path, since it’s hard to see for the grass.

Yay! Farther down, the water is running really fast, thanks to at least two other springs. We had heard that there have been springs all through that area, but most of them have not flowed since we got here, which was when the big drought of 2011-12 happened. I guess the aquifer has finally recovered! Wow!

This springy area has been holding up since last year.

Anyway, I was happy to find a Sulphur butterfly, a hairstreak and lots and lots of bees outside. They were pollinating the henbit and dandelions.

Also, one of the young willows in the small pond has started sprouting, plus I saw a bullfrog in that pond (and heard another one jump). I found one wolf spider and another insect that got away. That means some of them lived. This all makes me very happy.

I do hope to see turtles soon. I am worried about them. But, wow, so happy to have found a spring!

Birthdays and Fundraising

At some point next week, I will be an even older Baby Boomer! But I still don’t have to register for Medicare, so I declare I’m still middle aged. Why does this matter? Well, for the last few years, I’ve raised funds for a good cause rather than ask for gifts, so I thought I’d share it here, too.

WOO HOO MY FACEBOOK FUNDRAISER!

We got Carlton and Penney from the Cameron Touch of Love dog pound. Your donation will help pets throughout our rural county through the nonprofit Milam Touch of Love (MTOL) organization.

Some Fundraiser Considerations

I get questions ever year, so here’s why I do what I do. Maybe you can support an organization or group, too!

  1. Why a Facebook fundraiser? I know some folks don’t like them, because FB no doubt makes interest on donations before they pay them out. But, they do pay every cent donated, and it’s easy to donate. Any reader who’d like to donate another way can go to the MTOL website and use their form or mails check. Please say it’s for my fundraiser, so they will know how to allocate the funds.
  2. Why only once a year? I think people can feel bombarded by requests for money. I know I do sometimes. So, I tend to do my own donations privately, but I do give to birthday fundraisers for good causes and to honor people I care about. And once a year I choose a nonprofit to support. You’ll see that not all the donations are big, which comes as no surprise during these challenging times. It feels good to give to others sometimes, though.
  3. Why Milam Touch of Love? The main reason is that I honor my commitments. When I was at my last MTOL Board meeting, I said I’d do another birthday fundraiser, so I am! The organization has done an incredible job rescuing puppies and sending them to places with plenty of adoption opportunities, spaying and neutering pets to help drive down unwanted births, and microchipping pets to make finding their owners easier. And the president of MTOL writes educational articles in the local paper each week. She’s amazing, and I want to support her hard work. She even got certified as an animal control officer, to better help the animals in our county.

I hope that all helps a bit. Since I’m not able to be an active member of MTOL anymore, it’s even more meaningful to me that I help this way. I always hoped that our mutual love for animals would keep the MTOL team diverse and mutually respectful, but that’s hard these days. Still, I encourage my friends and readers to put aside our differences and help those who can’t help themselves.

I couldn’t help myself. Suna helped me!

Things are hard right now. Believe me, trying to get a small business started during COVID has not been easy on my family’s finances. But, we still do our charitable giving, at a scale we can manage. I hope you do, too, and give to organizations like MTOL, who use you money to directly help others.

Carlton is giving his mommy a touch of his love. He also made it hard to write this, since he wanted to play.

We all need to spread a touch of love in this world.

Do What You Can

I’m having a pity party about this damned pandemic. The germy people are everywhere and no matter how we try, there’s some random exposed person lurking around. I simply can’t hide in the house 24/7. It’s frustrating and scary.

That’s right, I’ve resorted to Snapchat filters to diffuse my ennui.

I complained on Facebook, and probably offended some super spreaders, but wow I see a lot of party photos and long trips being shared. But, everyone has to weigh pros and cons. I did, when I went to Utah.

Love this background.

The Good Stuff

Still, my heart is warmed by how people around me are doing what they can for others. I can’t share details, but our Hearts Homes and Hands team is making a real difference in someone’s life, and we’re seeing first hand how community support keeps people in need going. That’s holiday spirit.

Does this filter creep you out as much as it does me? Bye, Snapchat.

And my friends at MTOL have gotten together to help a woman and her dog. They will be safe now. No matter what our personal differences are, our board will stick together and work to help animals (and their people) in need. This kindness, creativity, and generosity is what gives me hope.

The fact that Big Red is still coming up for her daily ration also buoys my spirits.

So, though I know our business puts us at high risk and I get annoyed that people who could easily stay safe choose not to, I’ll do what I can and keep trying to be helpful. I will trust others to make decisions that are right for them and evaluate their own risks.

Fiona has decided she wants treats.

The Word “Weary” Seems to Fit

Since work has started up and since groups I’m in have started meeting, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people I know. I’m seeing similar things in Facebook groups, chats, etc. It’s summed up by something my friend, Barbara, wrote this morning, which I quoted in the title of this post.

At night, when the snowflake lights are on, this peace tree manages to provide comfort to me.

We’re Weary

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve been in this week that either started or ended with someone looking into the camera, bewildered, and sharing that their parents are very sick, or that they lost a friend, or that they’ve been exposed and are worried. People tell of losing multiple loved ones or friends in a short time (I’m one of them). A neighbor at socially distanced book group got visibly shaken telling us that she won’t be able to see her frail and elderly mother this year, because she’d reluctantly canceled her flight to Texas.

At one point, the same neighbor looked at us all, and plaintively asked, “When can we hug?” Whew, we miss hugs.

At the end of the Friends of LLL Board meeting on Tuesday, we had some time left over, and people were talking about the challenges we all had been dealing with, a friend who lost her husband recently, etc. At one point, we all seemed to have our heads in our hands, or blank stares, as we just silently sat there. It felt like a virtual hug was really needed.

A work meeting yesterday was similar. It was hard to get started with the latest project’s progress after we’d been sharing about lockdowns in England, a mutual Swedish friend who got sick…all that. But, work is a thing I am lucky enough to have, because it lets me think about other things beside germs, the degrading environment, and the government.

Yes, we are weary. We know we have to keep up what we’ve been doing, and that it’s important. But people, at least in my circles, are feeling helpless to do anything for themselves or others. The separation we’re experiencing is important, but as it drags toward a year, it’s hard to keep our spirits and resolve up, isn’t it?

What Can We Do?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are decorating the heck out of their houses. I’ve seen a lot of holiday extravaganzas out there! Anita and I have even made a winter wonderland out of our year-round tree and our mantel. Other people are crafting like crazy (my current knitting project is now too long to be even a maxi-skirt on me).

We always have nature to help out. At the book club meeting, the sun shining through these grass seed heads brought me comfort.

Mostly, though, let’s talk. Let’s listen to each other’s stories and hold those who are having a hard time in our hearts. We’re all having challenges, to one extent or another, right now. If we all send comfort out, we’ll all get some. I feel like by honoring the stories of my friends and colleagues, I’m sending good energy out. I’m appreciating theirs, too. I’d really like to see my husband and my animals.

Online Conferences: Better than Nothing

I’m off work this week, sitting at the same old desk (nice desk) but attending the Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting. Online. First, I must praise the conference organizers, because what a HARD thing it was to get it all set up! And they stay so cheerful. Bless those women.

My happy conference-attending seat! And this blog post getting written.

I enjoyed my sessions yesterday, and I did indeed learn some useful things, like there is an overpass in Houston that’s bigger than the city of Sienna, Italy (or some famous city). Houston is big (surprise!) – but only ONE drop-off for mail-in ballots. Digression.

I didn’t get a lot of pictures, because, well, it was online, so all I could get were screenshots of people’s presentations. And there’s the thing.

I liked this information about how nature can help with stress. Interesting stuff in that second bullet.

Yep, I did learn a lot, but I really missed interacting with people. You can only ask questions in their format by typing them in. And you can’t turn on your camera so people can see you, nor can you tell who’s attending with you. The only way I knew one of my fellow Chapter members was in a session with me was when he asked a question.

The conference Planview, where I work in Austin, did last month had more bells and whistles and more ways to communicate with others. Of course, I do believe they had a much higher budget, as well as a professional designer to make it LOOK like you were attending a conference. So, there’s more than one way to do an online conference.

This information I found handy for my colleagues at Hearts, Homes and Hands!

I’m ready for my second day, though, and am happy I figured out a way I don’t have to wear my headphones all the time (my ears get tired). I need to do a couple of work meetings, so I am very glad they are recording all the sessions, so I can come back and see what I missed.

Next year, the plan is to do both online and in-person sessions, sort of like how I hope we can do our monthly meetings. It’s GREAT for people who can’t travel or have to work during conferences, but it’s also really good to have other options. Let’s hope the pandemic is settled down by then, though the way things are going, I wonder…