What Are Your Core Values?

You just get to pick TWO!

I’ve been reading Dare to Lead, a book by my favorite self-help author, Brené Brown (it’s the book I reviewed the horrible workbook for back in March). It was my suggestion for our work book club at Planview. What’s annoying is that I keep leaving the book in Austin, so I hadn’t been able to keep up, but I finally remembered to bring the book back with me last time I went, so I was able to read the correct chapter for today’s meeting.

I sure am glad I did, too, because some of the things she has us thinking about in the “Living Our Values” section helped me focus on not only how to effectively deal with coworkers, but also how to deal with the people around us during this pandemic.

Brown stresses that it’s important to know what your personal core values are, because they will affect how you make decisions, work with others, and treat yourself. And you only get to have TWO of them (though she lets you pick sub-values, too). I already had a set of guiding principles I live by:

  • Treat others how you’d like to be treated
  • Assume good intentions
  • Love yourself

But, I’d never chosen a mere two words to be my core values. So, this was an interesting exercise to me. I ended up with these:

Kindness

Making a difference

Kindness was easy. I have always tried my best to be kind, and feel unsettled and weird if I realize I’m not being kind (usually it’s when I find myself being judgmental, and I have to snap out of it).

Here are the value choices I had to select from. Oops, no one can read this list on their phones. Here’s a link to the list on Brown’s website.

I had a little harder time figuring out that making a difference was the correct second value. I thought about my past career choices, both paid and volunteer, and I easily saw that what tied them all together was that I wanted to somehow make life easier for others and/or make a genuine contribution to society with what I did. I’ve helped build educational databases, taught college students, helped mothers breastfeed, gave organizations and individuals websites to spread their messages, written documentation and made e-learning for software companies, etc. In all of these, I’ve been wanting to make a difference to people.

When the time came to do our book club meeting, the three of us who’d made choices of values had all chosen kindness as one of them. I guess I’m not as original as I thought, or people who choose kindness tend to join book clubs! I really enjoyed talking to the other three women who were able to attend today, and am almost glad it was a small group, because we were able to share in meaningful ways. Thanks, Zoom meetings!

Other parts of the little chapter I read hit me very close to home, too. Brown included a discussion of keeping this in mind when you are providing feedback:

“…everyone is doing the best they can.”

p. 215

It helps me with the judgmentalism I need to worry about so much in myself. And it’s my core belief that I need to assume good intentions. And like Brown’s husband Steve pointed out, even if it’s not true, things sure work out better if you just go ahead and make that assumption.

Hmm, can you try to do that with people on the other side of the mask wearing issue? Of the other political party? I find that to be a very interesting exercise, and one that I wish I could share further. It’s not that, “Oh, why can’t everyone just get along,” plea. It’s more of a, “Where are the people I disagree with coming from, and can I use that information to better understand them, or to talk to them productively?”

The kindness art I have on my bulletin board.

I’d really like to talk with more people about these core values and how they inform our lives, and these really helpful attitudes toward other people. Feedback is welcome!

It’s Closing Time

One of the first houses Lee and I bought when we started investing in real estate was a cute little house in Pflugerville. That’s a town near Austin (now a suburb) founded by a family called the Pflugers. There are still people in town by that name. Anything that starts with an “f” sound in that town tends to be renamed to have a “Pf” at the beginning. Hilarious, right?

A perfectly reasonable house

Anyway, we didn’t talk about it much back in the Hermit Haus Redevelopment days, since we already had it. But, we spent a lot of time there at first, since young friends rented the house for a few years. After that, we had a series of really good renters.

It really has a cute floor plan and is in a nice neighborhood.

After these renters left, we decided to sell the Columbine house, and our friend Carol did a great job of marketing it. We got a cash offer immediately, but they backed out. Not a problem, our backup offer was a really nice family who did that thing where they wrote a letter and thanked us, and all those sweet things people do to try to get a house. I really enjoyed seeing how thankful they are to get it.

Part of real estate investing involves knowing when to hold on to an income property and when to let it go, so it took a lot of thought on Lee’s part to determine that this is when we can best realize the profit from letting this little house grow in value. I’m glad we took so many classes and know all the processes for figuring this stuff out!

Yesterday, Lee did his part of the closing, and today is my turn. It’s nice to be able to use a mobile notary and meet outdoors, where we can sanitize away and still get business done.

We’ll miss owning this house, but selling it will free up some capital and enable us to move forward with the exciting future projects we have lined up for Hearts Homes and Hands.

I hope you’re having a good day and getting the things done you need to do in your world.

Can I Be More Tired?

Oh, Probably

But I can’t hardly feel my legs, and my stomach muscles are yelling at me. Plus, my head is all fuzzy. It’s both physical and mental. But, I kicked butt and took names today. At least until I got home from work.

I had a couple of pretty intense work meetings today, and I had to work up some courage to take up space, I guess, to not get put down and belittled. So I put on makeup, a nice shirt, and a power necklace, just to feel the part.

Everything went just fine, and I enjoyed myself, even. Immediately after that I ran across the street to sand away on the bathtub. I changed my outfit, as you can see above. Made me feel strong and powerful in a different way.

Chris figuring out one sanding method.

The rest of the day I was in so many meetings that my ears hurt. Luckily I was only in charge of a few. It does hurt my brain, but I like learning stuff at work, too.

I appreciated the sanding stand. I don’t know how Tubby got up there, though.

Back to sanding I went. Between me and Chris, and three sanding methods, it’s as good as it’s going to get. I got the tub exterior all clean, so it’s ready to paint.

Believe it or not, this is an improvement.

Chris went at the interior of the tub with the CLR and got almost all the stain off. One more attack should do it.

The stain is almost a dim memory for Tubby.

Speaking of Sanding

Of course, Chris got a lot more sanding in than I did. He did ALL the stairs.

Sanded stairs

Then he applied stain. Maybe it will be dry enough to seal tomorrow. Then he does the trim and they’ll be ready for rails. Wow!

Stained stairs.

I heard that the new, smaller tub legs are on their way, so maybe Tubby will get installed soon and the rest of the plumbing will go in!

We’re still debating what to do with the floors. Lee doesn’t want to sand them. I do. Chris is stuck in the middle. I think I’ll lose this one. Oh well. I’ll buy rugs!

Bathtub Beauty Begins

This morning we decided it was time to work on the clawfoot tub for my bathroom. Chris didn’t seem too excited about the initial cleaning it needed, so I said I’d do it. We needed to check whether the giant feet we’d bought would work, anyway.

Here’s Tubby after the large debris had been removed. He’s pretty filthy.

So, we emptied the big stuff out of it (a sink and some lamp parts) and turned over. I didn’t do that part. Upon close examination, we determined that nope, those are totally the wrong legs for the tub. I’m headed off to Etsy to buy some that look more like the right thing, for a lot less money.

This is mighty unattractive, but shows the big damaged area Chris has already started to repair.

While ole Tubby was laying on its side, I emptied the dust and debris that had been filling it throughout the renovation. That was disgusting. Next, I got to work on the exterior.

Side of Tubby before I smoothed out the sides.

I next got down and dirty with the exterior, which apparently was covered, since it’s all rough. A lot of the original paint was peeling, so I smoothed it out with a scrubber pad. It’s not perfect by any means, but is smooth enough to be a base for primer and all the loose stuff is gone.

Some more spots of damage and peeling.

After that, I removed stains and globs of adhesive that were on the inside of the tub. That required more of the degreaser stuff and a lot of scraping. One thing I learned is that porcelain is tough! It wasn’t damaged one bit by my cleaning efforts.

After the scraping, it’s smoother and you can see some green primer that proves I did something.

Finally, I cleaned the inside of Tubby. Probably no one had cleaned the poor thing in decades. The inside is in pretty good shape, with just another couple of places we’ll have to put Bondo on to repair. There is a big rust stain where water probably dripped for years, but I discovered that it will come off, and there’s whiteness under it. We’re going to get some of that kind of cleaner that dissolves rust to work on that part more, and on some other rusty areas. There’s still quite a lot of work to do on this fellow.

Happy Tubby! All stains and drips are gone, other than that one in the front, which is substantially better, actually.

All in all, though, I am proud of the work I got done! It gave Chris time to stain more doors, which puts us that much closer to finishing out the door trim and hanging them permanently. We’re getting mighty close to being able to do the floors!

I guess I’ll add a couple of hours at the end of the day to my “real job,” but it was worth it to get this stuff done.

Bathroom Etiquette in a Small Office

This has just been making me chuckle, so I am sharing. To set the stage, at the Hermit Haus office, we currently have two bathrooms in the basement (someday there will be an upstairs bathroom). The church that occupied the building before us decorated the rooms in stereotypically masculine and feminine ways.

The scenic ladies’ room, complete with fake window.

But, when you look closer, each of them has a toilet, a sink, some towels, a lot of soap and hand sanitizer, etc. They function exactly the same.

The manly men’s room.

When we had Master Naturalist meetings in here, I noticed that people seemed aghast when I suggested that anyone could use either room. True, someone had stuck signs (two actually, one above the door and one on the door) on each room, hinting at the preferred users. But really, they are the SAME dang bathrooms!

Ah, there are options! You can be a lady OR a woman to use one of our restrooms.
Maybe we need THIS sign!

(Aside, they also get upset that “the toilet doesn’t work” when people repeatedly flush before the tank has refilled. I need to put up a sign saying “ancient 1930s plumbing; please be patient if you want a good flush.”)

As we’ve been working here all by ourselves (the Hearts Homes and Hands staff and me), I’ve noticed another pattern. Repeatedly, Lee decides he has to “go” and bursts in on Chris, who has closed (but not locked) the door to the men’s room as a sign that it’s occupied. When it was suggested that Lee use the other bathroom, he acted like that was not a possible option. Once again, there is the SAME equipment in each room, just one looks 1980s girly and one looks like some fancy gentleman’s dressing quarters.

This is an option, of course.

I THINK we have all come to an agreement that if a door is shut, it’s probably occupied, and you should at least knock. Preferably, just use the other one. Apparently once or twice someone closed the men’s room door after use and it confused Lee, but that hasn’t happened in months.

It just makes me laugh. At home, everyone uses whatever toilet is available. But when we get to work, the exact same group of people acts like one of the available options is poison.

Just go! Photo by @mylove4art via Twenty20.

We are so well trained! I can’t wait until there are more universal and family bathrooms around, so people will get used to it. As for me, when I gotta go, I gotta go. I can handle masculine decor, though I won’t use urinals. That’s my private business.

Zooming All Day: Pros and Cons

I didn’t have much time to write today, because this is one of those extra-busy times at work when I forget to take breaks, work through most of lunch, etc. But that’s good. It makes days go fast.

One thing that is different about my work, as it is with a lot of people who work in high tech companies, is all the video meetings. I dearly love getting to see my coworkers, and I enjoy meeting with friends online as well, but it’s hard to do more than a couple of hours a day, so I miss a lot of after-work gatherings.

It might be all the clashing colors that are causing me problems.

My eyes get tired and my ears get worn out both from wearing headphones for so long and from working to understand people with poor connections or who are talking over each other. I keep seeing how weird I look, like how my head is always turned, because my main monitor is to the right of the laptop with the camera. I keep trying to look people in the eye, but when I look at the camera, I can’t even see the person I am trying to look at! (I do find one-on-one meetings easier, especially when you are problem solving and can share screens and such.)

I’m looking at the camera, but I can’t see you.

I had been wondering why this was the case until I ran across this fine Slate article on Zoom call burnout this morning, by Christina Cauterucci. She feels my pain. The title, “I Will Not Be Attending Your Exhausting Zoom Gathering,” explains it all. Many of us can only interact virtually for so long. One reason we get so tired is that we miss a lot of subtle cures, so we end up staring at people trying to pick up when they want to speak, etc. Cauterucci notes:

“Even if you don’t think you miss locking eyes with your loved ones or colleagues, your brain might. Eye contact plays a documented role in successful human communication. One 2017 study from the University of Cambridge found that when infants and adults locked eyes, their brain waves were better able to “synchronize”; a 2019 study from the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan suggests that eye contact primes the brain for empathy. We’re also accustomed to picking up on messages our interlocutors send with their bodies, which give us clues about their comfort level, the direction and intensity of their focus, and whether they’re preparing to speak.”

Slate, May 12, 2020

Another issue she points out that I didn’t realize was an issue before: you don’t get any breaks. People can TELL if you start looking at your phone, reading your email, or otherwise losing focus. Believe me, they notice your fidgeting. I have a couple of people I Zoom with who are constantly throwing their arms in the air, moving around on their chair, and doing stuff. On the other hands, others just sit there, looking perfectly groomed and attentive the whole time. How do they do that?

At least you can still fire up your chat window and ask people, “What they heck are they talking about?” and “Why are they shouting?” I choose to believe people think I’m taking notes. HA HA. Or you can play Zoom Bingo, which got my coworker Karen upset:

I hear every one of these nearly every day. Dog barking is one I am guilty of if I’m at home. Check out my jowls, by the way. I do, over and over every day.

I guess we don’t have much choice. If we want to work virtually, we have to do this, even when a call would probably suffice. Or an email! Hey, let’s use the best tool for the task. That’s a good idea! We are very fortunate to be people who have all these tools, and I hereby acknowledge my privilege.

Honestly, I am grateful to be able to talk to friends, attend meetings for my nonprofit organizations, and see my coworkers. I’m sure it was harder on people during the flu epidemic in the early 20th century! I bet they complained a lot about the quality of their pens and paper, and how many stamps they had to lick!

That reminds me, I’m still writing those letters to people whose addresses I have. Most are just short notes, but it’s fun, especially when I hear back from people. I usually just manage one or two a day. At least hand writing uses different muscles than typing does. Many days my hands ache from typing, even when I use the lovely hemp cream I keep at my desk.

So, what are you doing to stay in touch? I blog. Oh, you noticed.

Can Your Words Hurt You?

Yes. I am sure of it. Why am I so sure? Well, things you say in public forums, such as Facebook groups and pages, Twitter, etc., can be read by anyone. “Anyone” includes potential employers, people doing background checks, etc.

I now commence to lecture people who probably won’t read this. Bear with me. It will make me feel better, and hey, it’s my forum.

I hereby mount my soapbox.

So, if you threaten to kill people who don’t agree with you, declare that every member of some other group is stupid or evil, or declare that everyone who does something for a living should suffer or die, all kinds of folks will read it and form opinions about you, not just your in-group members.

I’m seeing this more and more as people become increasingly frustrated these days. I see it a lot in people who currently aren’t working, but will want to be re-hired back at their old jobs or find new ones as soon as it’s possible or safe. I read a lot, because I’m interested in how other people think. So, I follow along on the adventures of some people so far left they make me look like Ronald Reagan and I read many things said by people so far right they make the current US President look like Jimmy Carter.

Are all these people entitled to their opinions (as am I)? Sure thing! And do they have every right to express it? Yes, indeed they do. Is it wise to share those opinions in ways that denigrate or threaten others, even if they “don’t really mean it?” I don’t think so.

You see (and I know most of you readers actually DO see, because I’m venting), we’re sorta stuck here in some weird capitalist oligarchy, which means that the people who hire us are probably business owners or people invested in the success of a business. So, if you think all businesses are evil, that might not go over well. Some business owners may well be of the opposite political party from yours, with advanced degrees, a long history of helping the less fortunate, and a strong desire to hire qualified people, even if they disagree with them personally. But, if you repeatedly insult them, call them stupid, and threaten people like them, guess what? They might think twice about hiring you. (And yes, indeed, I have specific individuals in mind.)

Now, if your opinions about the evils of capitalists, liberals (excuse, me, I mean libtards), MAGA fans, or Fox News viewers are more important than your ability to earn a living, feel free. Your devotion to your cause is, to be honest, sort of admirable in a self-destructive way.

I have some opinions of my own that I feel pretty strongly about., too. But you know what? I can tone it down publicly out of respect for people who graciously pay me a lot of money to write for them. I think it IS possible to express my opinions in a way that are true to my beliefs but not rude, insulting, or threatening to others. And in any case, I’m pretty sure I won’t convince anyone to come around to my point of view by repeatedly calling them stupid, no matter how good that might make me feel.

Let’s take a deep breath and enjoy some orange cactus flowers.

Oh well, people are like that. They love to divide themselves into us versus them, as I repeat endlessly. But remember, those in power know that, too, and they know that a divided populace is much easier to control than one that figures out who’s actually pulling the strings.

And it isn’t evil liberal capitalist me who pulls the strings, potential employees. I just want to give people jobs, but would prefer to hire people who don’t denigrate me in public. And, while en employer can’t discriminate against sex, age, disability status, they certainly CAN choose to hire people who are respectful, open minded, and non violent.

I feel better.

Your words CAN hurt you in the job market. They can also cause people to look at your entire family and set of friends with suspicion. In an ideal world, maybe disrespect and threatening behavior wouldn’t affect people’s impressions of others. But, they do. Right now a lot of us aren’t happy about how things are. We have every right to express that. But, maybe we can try to express it rationally?

Am I Falling Apart?

Hmm, haven’t whined about things that aren’t really earth-shattering lately. I’ll fix that. And I’ll share random photos, because I don’t have a theme.

Distraction! These darling little guys are Inca doves. They hang out near our carport at the Hermit Haus.

Generally, I’m a pretty healthy person. I have the occasional ache or pain, thanks to having been alive for so many trips around the sun, but really, I’m pretty good. Even the doctor said I was healthy “for someone your age.”

Unhappy left hand.

I’m wondering, though, if perhaps dealing with the undercurrent of stress for the past couple of months is starting to take its toll on my physically. It’s nothing major, but a lot of my former stress-related physical symptoms have been quietly manifesting themselves.

For example, I have started to get these very itchy little fluid-filled bumps all over my hands and arms. I used to get them a LOT when I was in college, especially during the summers when I spent 8 hours a day sanding pieces of fiberglass (printed circuit boards) by hand, or breathing chemicals that plated metal to said pieces of fiberglass. Guess who had no mask or gloves? Me.

Unhappy right hand. Also with dewberry scratches.

I thought it was bits of fiberglass getting under my skin, but as I got older, I realized I broke out when dealing with long-term stress (bad relationships, bad jobs, deaths in the family, divorces). Here they are today, itching like mad.

And I suddenly can’t walk right! Out of the blue, when I was walking home from feeding the horses, my left foot began to hurt with every step. It feels like I strained a tendon or something. I kept waiting for it to go away all evening, but nope, it’s still hurting. This is NOT the foot upon which the large light fixture landed earlier in the week. That bruise is not bad. But, what the heck, I didn’t trip, fall, drop something…nothing.

Perhaps it’s the non-matching shoe/sock combo? But these shoes are the kindest ones to my feet.

And then there’s the twitching. My eye has been twitching since February, so I guess it’s not a virus issue. I think it has been the underlying stress from starting a new company and worrying about the company I already work for (I was really worried my boss would lose his job, with good reason). Eye twitches are so annoying. It feels like everyone on earth can SEE them, even though as far as I can tell, they can’t.

Distraction! this cool lizard lives in the wildflower bed.

One symptom I’m not having, thanks to my friends the anti-anxiety meds, is what used to be constant for me, which was a really strong tingling going down the back of my neck. It used to be worse when dealing with certain friends and family members, but hardly went away at all during the 80s and early 90s. Yay, I’m cured. Now my neck just stays tense. I miss the chiropractor!

Look who’s fitting right into our household! Gracie Lou is not intimidated by Penney.

I guess I should be glad I don’t have the symptom so many of my family have had, which is horrible digestive issues. (I only have MILD ones, thanks to all my probiotics, I guess.) And I’m not getting bad headaches, which is good. And of course I’d rather have annoying stress symptoms than get put on a ventilator or have a stroke, like people with COVID-19 have.

Distraction! Light fixtures I sorta helped Chris put together while we wait for the electricians to show up.

What’s going on with you? Any weird symptoms out of nowhere? Do you also have dozens of mosquito bites on your feet, because you were helping someone put together light fixtures while wearing sandals? (That’s another reason why I am wearing shoes and socks: scratching prevention.)

TMI? Hey, that’s how I roll.

Can I Go Home Yet? It’s Organized There.

Darn it.

Just a quick hello between emails. Today is really a Monday, with issues piling in from every which way at work. I’ve only been at my desk an hour and I’m ready to go back to the ranch.

Speaking of which, while we were all taking a day off yesterday and I was making things out of dewberries, we also did a bunch of organizing.

Our neighbors at Wild Type Ranch just delivered a quarter of a cow’s worth of meat (and it was one of the fancy neighbor cows, mmm). That meant it was time to re-arrange the freezers. We dug into that with gusto.

Ground beef, sausage, and staples.

Now there are separate areas for beef, pork, chicken, veal, and venison (all from around here except chicken). We should be able to find things!

Meat and meat products. All veggies are in the freezer in the refrigerator or the garage.

Since she was already in organizational mode, Kathleen then turned to the spice rack, which now can be used much better. She put all the big things of spices, especially the “Aw Shit” series that the guys love to smother every piece of meat we eat with, in a different cabinet. All can be seen now.

The Shit series, and many, many spray cans of PAM. Lee loves it.

And THEN she went ahead and rearranged all the pantry items as well. We didn’t lose as much stuff to bugs as I thought. I hate pantry moths with a passion. They are one of the few things I can honestly say I cannot stand.

But, now we can see everything, some old stuff is gone, and we founds some things that we think my sister will be able to enjoy, so we can share some of our freezer bounty.

I am gonna label the tops of these jars.

Mostly there were a lot of dewberries. More of that is to come!

Why Is the Anticipation Always Worse than the Actual Thing?

Nightmares suck.

That’s today’s question. I’ve spent the entire weekend stewing about stuff at my job. It has given me nightmares (hey, a change from pandemic nightmares!), made my stomach upset, made me cranky, and generally took away from enjoying the family and holiday. Plus, there is a situation at the OTHER job that’s making us all cranky, and no one’s enjoying the thought of the hard conversations it’s going to require.

I guess I need a pep talk. This is me giving myself a pep talk. You don’t have to read it.

You’d think I’d do better. I’ve lived long enough to know perfectly well that usually anticipating big changes, hard conversations, transitions, and the like is worse than actually DOING the dreaded thing. But, my body is not listening to my mind one bit. My mind keeps saying, “Be a big girl, you’ll be fine and all will work out,” and my favorite, “When one door closes another door opens.”

Bodies make it hard to fake it until you make it sometimes, when they keep showing stuff.

My body says, “Here’s another fun nightmare to remind you how you REALLY feel,” and “Have some chest pains, why don’t you?”

I need to be there listening and being there for my colleagues in both my jobs, not wallowing around in my own self-pity and irritation at how things are. That’s easier said than done, when I’m sitting alone in my office, which happens to smell awful thanks to the kitchen drain pipes. (This coming after sleeping right next to Penney the Skunky Dog.) And it’s not helping that you can’t have any hugs, in-person private talks, or happy hours to let off some steam.

Hooray for people I work with!

Support helps, and no doubt my colleagues and I will help each other get through yet another round of challenges at both my workplaces. When you have to do a hard thing, it’s better with the help of others. You can remind each other that usually people think they’re doing the right thing and want the best for each other (even corporate executives?).

At least I’m not having to have a hard conversation with one other person, which happened with me and a family member last week. You have no backup in those cases! But of course, the anticipation was worse than the actual conversation. We all need to remember that mistakes and misunderstandings happen all the time, but having a foundation of trust and a belief that all parties are trying to do the right thing makes a really big difference.

And at least I have one dog who only stinks a LITTLE.

Assume good intent. That’s one of my biggest rules for life. This week, I am going to have to test that out many times. Sending YOU all my best!