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…

Achieving Nature Goals

Okay, I have a little something to say. After all that iNaturalist work last weekend, it was this weekend where I met some goals, or desires, or whatever.

While walking around, I remembered to open up a balloon flower to find the seed. My friend Linda Jo was right! They look like little yin-yang symbols!

Balloon vine seed, and my fingerprints.

While we were walking the horses, Sara very patiently let me try to get photos of all the butterflies and moths swarming in the pasture, even when her horse stepped in fire ants.

Waiting for Suna to take pictures.

Everyone’s patience was rewarded, though. I saw a butterfly on the fence. It sat still. I got its picture! It was an American snout, the ones we saw so many of last week! Finally one stood still.

No, not a great photo, but you can see the snout!

After achieving that goal, I felt fine. Then, on my way home, one of the dragonflies I’d been seeing all summer finally stood still. I was really curious what they were called, but they are very dart-y ones.

Hello, black saddlebags!

These always look like two mating to me. I was happy to see what they actually look like. Cool insects, and another goal met.

I looked at my iNaturalist totals and was happy to see I hit 1800 observations today. I’d been disappointed not to get there last week. Luckily, there are lots of interesting things to see on the Wild Type Ranch, where we walked!

Most recent observations. Over 1800!

I think that’s good for someone who has jobs and stuff. Still, I look forward to lots more in the future. We hope to visit neighboring counties with few observations and see what’s there!

Here I am looking for bugs with my “helper.”

Glad I found my voice. Sometimes I just need to shut up. Hee hee.

Healing Accomplishments

If you know me well, you’re sick of hearing about it, but if you’re an acquaintance or random reader, you might not know that I have had some pretty rough career times, crowned by the last year or two when I was working for a nonprofit breastfeeding support organization, one where I’d met most of my friends, one where I’d learned my web design skills, and one that I had planned to be a member of my whole life, good ole La Leche League.

I became a victim of the “flavor of the moment” in organizational management, and it was painful, very painful. No wonder I have always been suspicious of the latest managerial trends, six sigma, lean, agile…they all seem to try to pigeonhole organizations into their format, even when it doesn’t work.

The Board from last year

But I digress, surprise surprise. You probably do know that a while back (that would be 2018, it appears) I agreed to join the Board of Directors of the little organization for people who used to be in the big organization. I’ve had a lot of fun, got to hang out with people who have grown and changed, just like I have, and come to terms with a lot of “stuff.”

I’ve been making their newsletter since early last year, and it was a challenge to convert it to an online thing, but along with some supportive helpers on the Board and kind contributors, I think I did it, and the little newsletter is turning out pretty good (though I can always use more submissions!). And I lived through issues with the Board. Yay.

A sign I am not a great graphic designer

Sadly, though, membership had been dropping, so fewer and fewer people have been getting the newsletter, even though it’s gotten good reviews (far as I know). Part of that has been that our poor old website had gotten pretty broken, and our attempt at replacing it went SPLAT. It’s hard to join an organization whose e-commerce is not working.

But, I’m so happy now! My friend Susan (who’s visited the ranch) agreed to make us a site on WordPress, so I actually understand it. And she did a great job making it look good AND work well. I feel like my little world of Friends of LLL is all good, at last. Now we just have to tell people, so here I am telling YOU that if you used to be in La Leche League, even if you were hurt, like me, you are very welcome to check out Friends of LLL and come join us. We want to do stuff, but we need people to do it!

This is the new site homepage. WHEEEE

We have been giving “mini-grants” to groups who are trying to help parents and babies in their communities, we still want to plan another nice trip…someday, and we want to find new ways to support each other as we age, and as younger friends join us.

We need YOU! That will help us be US! I’ll be able to share news with all my old and new friends around the world, we’ll stay in touch on Facebook and such, and we will not forget those of us who have passed. As my friend Marian said after looking at the new website, “Now I just have to manage to stay alive as long as possible!”

Join me from November of last year and my happy friends, please!

I’m with her! We all need something healing and fun to keep us going. I’d love for any of my readers who feel like it would join or rejoin Friends of LLL. We ARE friends.

Oh Well

Ya can’t do your daily blogging if you’re in meetings from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm. So here I am finally resting and watching Anita’s old movie channel. Mmm. Dr. Kildare.

That young whippersnapper doctor.

It’s funny. I’m exhausted but enthusiastic about things. I guess that’s good. Work is moving along.

Me at work. With filters. Lots of filters. I’m making that face because I’m biting my tongue.

But what’s great is that I enjoyed my Board meeting with Friends of La Leche League so much. The group will soon have a new website and be able to do so much good work and connect so many people.

The Board and committee chairs are so enthusiastic and full of ideas. If you’re one of my friends from LLL, keep your eyes open and consider joining us! It’s more than just trips and that newsletter I happen to edit.

Let’s just see what’s next!

And happy Autumn! I’m ready for new adventures.

The Hermit Haus Hosts the Master Naturalists Again

Finally, we are daring to have a meeting at the Hermit Haus again. Our Master Naturalist class wanted to finish its sessions, so we figured out a way. Only the students who have Zoom trouble and 3 staff are in the building. Each audience member is at a separate table.

People wear masks unless eating.

The rest of the class, as well as anyone else who wanted to attend dialed into the Zoom meeting.

That took a lot of planning and figuring out our needs. I am proud of our Master Naturalist board members for hashing it all out.

Our tech guy, Don, spent a lot of time getting us a good setup for the mix of online and in person attendees. He got us some nice speakers and microphones so people can ask questions. We tested it all earlier today and it worked great.

Now I know.

There was a weird glitch with our speaker being unable to join the meeting, but I got it working by signing him into our organization account. Yes!

And the talk is going great! Sound is good. Speaker is Hilary in a Dad joke kinda way. Whew. I’m so pleased to be able to give to our community by hosting events again, while still being careful.

Loamy sand and sandy loam.

And I now know a LOT about soil. And saw some of my friends. Everyone seemed so pleased. And I got to wear my cool new mask.

Look! It has a raven and a feather.

Thanks to Robyn at Coffee and Cotton for the high quality products

How Many Invasive Species Did I Find?

Last week I had a lot of Master Naturalist fun participating in the Texas Invasive Species BioBlitz 2020 that got set up by Texas Nature Trackers. You may remember I talked about it a bit last week. The idea was to see how many observations you could get from a list of invasive species found throughout the state. I knew I had easy access to a few, so I figured I’d try.

Here’s the main page for the event.

I got a good number of invasives pretty quickly, since I knew right where there was some Arundo donax (river cane), Johnson grass, and a lot of nandina on my own properties. I must have spent 3 hours the first weekend looking for invasives (and observing lots of other things, too).

By the time I went to Austin on Tuesday, I was doing okay on the leaderboard. Just a few walks around the neighborhood of Bobcat Run produced more “goodies” like Japanese honeysuckle and privets.

My final list of plants.

By the time the week was over, I was proud to be in the top twenty of number of species observed, and doing okay with number of observations as well.

Here I am, number 17, and Linda Jo number 2 (I couldn’t fit number 1 on the screen, darn it.)

Of course, my fellow Chapter member Linda Jo Conn was in second place in number of observations and first place for species. Some other guy had way more observations, because he had multiple photos of some of the species. I did a few, like things I saw both in Austin and Cameron, or ones in distinct locations. However, I could have ROCKED the numbers by just walking across the lawn and taking pictures of Bermuda grass (I would NOT do such a thing, of course).

Regrets

Darn the luck! The day after the bioblitz was over, I drove down a street I don’t usually go by, and there were a whole bunch of mimosa trees taunting me with their fluffy pinkness. Argh!

Beautiful invasive mimosa tree, just one block off of where I usually drive every day.

Then, yesterday I walked to the horse barn (I’d been driving our utility vehicle because I have a sore tendon), and right on the side of the driveway was a cheerful annual bastard cabbage/ wild mustard plant. I’d been looking and looking for one, because I knew they were there! So, that’s two more I could have found if I’d been a bit more diligent.

What Did I Learn?

I think the project did what it was intended to do: it got me much more aware of invasive species wherever I saw them, and because I kept talking about it to friends and family, I raised awareness as well. That’s exactly the kind of thing I want to be doing as a Master Naturalist.

Oh, and also, I had fun. What have been your fun projects while we’ve been not gathering in large groups and such?

Who's Struggling?

That’s a relief. Image by @wanaktek via Twenty20.

If you’re not struggling, at least a little bit right now, I salute you! Tell me your secrets, on this Monday of isolation. For once, the UU Lent word of the day, struggle, seems mighty appropriate.

I like being at home, and I like being in my little basement office full of cheerful colors and numerous little things designed to keep me in a good mood (see below). They usually help, but geez, listening to the news, being unable to go to Austin to see Anita, and worrying about the health and safety of people I care about is weighing me down.

I ate goldfish crackers and cottage cheese for dinner. That’s a sign of someone struggling.

This is NOT our worst nightmare, really!
Image by @Boris79 via Twenty20.

Life’s always been about struggle, though. Every so often some kind of malady shows up and wipes out a lot of people, disregarding their wealth, social status, or degree of universal belovedness. That’s part of humanity (and other life forms as well). That doesn’t mean it’s not hard right now. I just wanted to get some perspective.

So yeah, life’s a gift, and let’s all enjoy it while we have it. That doesn’t sound cliched at all, does it? But that’s the best I’ve got right now.

My yellowish office and my newsletter, as seen on Instagram.

Still, I’m getting stuff done, and actually got my newsletter draft finished over the weekend, so there’s actually time to proofread it and get it reviewed. My entire family spent all their time in their offices, so I figured it was better to hang around in the office than go home and stare at the animals (which I did a lot of, anyway).

Gratitude

Me and Mike’s family.

There’s always something to be grateful for, and just because I don’t share it every day doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. I’m very grateful to the companies that made all the social media software we’re all relying so heavily on. Last night much hilarity ensued when I joined with my friend Mike’s family in an extremely goofy Facebook messenger filter festival. Now, that’s family fun. So, thank you, programmers of filters.

And I’m extra grateful for the creators of Zoom, who allow me to attend meetings online and actually SEE my coworkers. I’ve also enjoyed a couple of Zoom sessions with women I’ve been in an email/FB group for 25, that’s right, 25 years. Shout out to the Sislist!

Me, Zooming solo.

Heck, I’m even grateful to the post office for letting me send letters to my family and friends to cheer them up. Are you doing that? A woman I admire in Minnesota (who founded the email list mentioned above) is sending letters to anyone whose address you send her. She calls it Sunshine Mail. It’s keeping her busy and brightening so many days. Knowing about it brightens mine.

There! I’ve cheered myself up just by pointing out these ways we have to cope, while we struggle along. Send me more ideas!

Should I Be Committed?

Hmm, I don’t think I’m referring to being institutionalized. I’ll let you know if I get to that point, though I sure hope I don’t. I know that is hard on everyone involved.

One commitment is to my precious little circle of a doggie.

No, today’s UULent word was “commitment,” and I surprised myself at where my mind went when I read that. At first, I just thought of things I had a strong commitment to, like meditating, walking (i.e., making the Darned Watch happy), my spouse and family, and me.

The Darned Watch. Remnider of so many things I’m committed to. And grackles. Not committed to them.

Then I thought about how very serious I am about commitments. If I say I am going to do something and really commit internally, I go to a lot of lengths to meet those commitments. That’s good, right? I know some non-profit organizations and a boss who are glad I made commitments to them. I once beat myself up if I missed any meeting of anything (wow, I went to a LOT of La Leche League meetings when my kids were little). I’m doing better with that.

Traditional wedding ring. It’s not very me-like, but it reminds me I have committed to a partnership with Lee. He ain’t perfect. Neither am I. Suna ring! What does it spell backwards! Ha ha!

And that’s the thing. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to over-commit myself. Oh look, here’s another link. It does fill my days up so I can’t ruminate or dwell on things I can’t do anything about, but I do need to rest and recover. As my Suna ring* is supposed to remind me, I am also committed to myself (my physical health, my mental health, my needs).

Sometimes, too, commitments need to be broken, because they aren’t good for you. I know I have held on to more than one relationship too long, because I didn’t want to break a commitment. (A conversation with friends I had last night reminded me vividly that I stuck with people who were not good for my mental health to my detriment.)

Two other examples leap to mind: I broke my commitment to my church when I realized it was not a source of inspiration for me, but a reminder of what’s negative about institutions. I ended my commitment to La Leche League when I realized that the bickering and in-fighting was not going to end and we were never going o be able to just concentrate on our mission. These things were draining me. I’m better now where I can admire these institutions’ admirable qualities, but not be deeply involved in the parts that aren’t good for me.

I’m committed to trying to get 700 minutes of watch-approved exercise this month.

Plus, some of my “commitments” have devolved into habits. I finally stopped subscribing to knitting magazines when I realized I was never going to actually knit anything from them, and I could buy individual patterns when I need them. I was just in the habit of buying things to support a hobby that was no longer bringing me joy. I realized I was knitting because I thought I was supposed to be, not because I enjoyed it. Now I ONLY do it when I feel a real desire.

I guess what I’m trying to convince myself of here is that, while it is good to be committed to a practice, a cause, a person, it’s not necessarily a character flaw to de-commit. I think the result of this UU Lent prompt has reminded me at just the right time that I need to periodically re-evaluate my commitments of all kinds to be sure they are still benefiting me, my family, my community, and my world.

I will not give up the commitment to healthy eating. Thank you, volunteer kale.

Do you have commitments that you may want to move away from? What kind? Why?


*The Suna ring was hand made, and purchased at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, a place I thought I’d hate but ended up providing a wonderful vacation and a happy time for my sons and me right after that commitment to their dad broke. I still miss the people we went with every day, though I lost them when the La Leche League commitment went bad, big time. It’s hard when your best friends fire you. But, I’ve been wearing that ring nearly 20 years now.