A Fruitful Visit to the County Courthouse and Horse Lesson

Hello, and happy Tuesday, I think. It’s been a full day for me already and it’s not even 4 pm. I’m losing track of days and times right now, but that’s okay, I’m going with the flow.

The day started off right, when six members of the local Master Naturalist chapter and Master Gardener chapter came together at the Milam County Courthouse to meet with the County Judge. We wanted to talk to Judge Young about whether there could be any meeting space for us in the new county office building complex that’s being created out of our old hospital.

Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists preparing for the meeting.

Judge Young showed us a map of how the buildings will be organized, and it was obvious the planners had put a lot of thought into it, like how to keep the people doing parole meetings separate from citizens coming to pay their taxes or seniors getting their meals. There was also a good security plan and a good parking plan.

Wish you could see his cool boots.

Then he showed us where there will be meeting rooms we could use. There are a couple of large ones around Bea’s Kitchen that will be free after 3 pm on weekdays, plus another couple of shared ones with other agencies. When someone asked if we could use any of them, Judge Young said:

“Not only can you use it; I want you to use it.”

We talked about helping out with landscaping the inner courtyards as a way to pay back, and that went over well. He even offered us storage space in the old nuns’ quarters they are renovating for a storage building.

No one could read the map, but we got the general idea.

This will all be available sometime after March 1. It’s so great that the county got a large grant to fix the buildings up nicely for all the citizens of the county. I couldn’t stay to go on a tour of the progress on the buildings (I’d been in them before, when the space was for sale), but I hope everyone else had fun. It’s good to see positive things happening in the community.

Next Activity

I had to run home and get ready to go to my second horse and rider training with Apache. I got my timing off and ended up slamming him in the trailer with no warning, but he eventually got settled down when we got there and we started working on things. I’m learning leadership skills up the wazoo and Apache is figuring things out really well. I even got great advice for walking appropriately and that turned into how I can control his urges to wander off and trot.

He enjoyed getting braided, but they didn’t hold up well. I’ll try something else next time.

I even managed to trot him in circles while remaining centered and in charge. A first for me! We also started figure 8 circles. All of it was very educational in subtle ways, though it looked like I was just going around and around to anyone watching me. This trainer is a very, very good teacher. But whoa, is noon a hot time to try to learn anything outdoors in August.

And Then…

I was taking today off, because I had these obviously non-work things to do, but I ended up working anyway, and was very good at projecting a positive attitude in one of those meetings where that kind of thing matters. I just pretended everyone was my friend and tried to be helpful. I even passed on the Mary Poppins tactic, if you can believe that.

Now that I’m feeling all empowered for the moment, I can go call my insurance company and ask them why the same medication I’ve been on for years that usually costs around $5 was over $90 today. Don’t get me started on health care in the US!

What’s the Most Embarrassing Thing YOU Did Today?

Sometimes, when there’s a perceived need, you do something spontaneously that you later look back on and say to yourself, “Well, THAT was an embarrassing moment!” And that happened to me today.

Image from  @agus_et_al via Twenty20

It was one of those intense days at work. I’d gotten tired of waiting for help on a couple of diversity and equity volunteer things and just dove in to do them myself, which included direct-messaging a C-suite member to get a project going and having a minor hissy fit at accounts payable to get a payment made. I’m glad I got the fit of energy, and truly understood that people are extra busy and have stuff going on in their own lives that may make MY priorities not theirs! But my adrenaline was up.

Then some other work stuff went on that entailed me getting news about more changes coming up (hey, we’re Agile!) and then having to pass said news on to my team in a good change-management fashion, looking at the positive (always a challenge for someone with a personality quirk of immediately seeing the worst in something and uttering the F-word). And of course, the coworker for whom this news would be most unwelcome had to be the first one I ended up talking to.

Here’s my news, coworker! Take notes! Image by @mcirillo1961 via Twenty20

I was telling the news to my colleague, who I’d been on-ramping for a little over a month and been working really closely with, and she was expressing her doubts as to whether she’d be great at her new thing or whether she’d enjoy it. Out of the blue, I went into Mary Poppins mode and, yes, I, who’ve lost my voice, launched vigorously into one of the first songs I ever learned in my whole life:

In every job that must be done there is an element of fun.
You find the fun and -snap- the job’s a game.
Then every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake
A lark, a spree, it’s very clear to see…
That a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!

Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman.

Yes. In a Zoom meeting, I sang a Julie Andrews song to someone whose parents weren’t even born when I toddled into a darkened theater and saw my very first movie, Disney’s Mary Poppins. With hand gestures. Oy. Potential career-limiting moment! (Here’s a link to the original; a version that I can share is below.)

To my coworker’s credit, she lit up, agreed, and said I should blog that. So, I did. I probably actually made a good point, because one of the things I’ve been telling new hires and people new to being members of an Agile team is that, in the planning meetings for each quarter, you need to find something that not only fits in with what your team’s been asked to do, but that you and the team can have fun doing. Make it educational, where you learn a new skill! Make it fun, because you’re collaborating with interesting people! Make it fulfilling, because you’re creating something that will be useful!

We just hold each other up like a big ole umbrella – good tactic for coworkers, friends, family, and community members at large! Image by @holypunkface via Twenty20

Yeah, just call me the team’s personal Mary Poppins. And by the way, I am grateful that while I work to keep my team’s spirits up, they do such a great job at keeping mine up as well. Everyone should be so lucky!

Mentoring Is Scary

I’ve had more than one conversation on the topic of mentoring in the past couple of weeks, starting with the Lisa Eggerton talk they had at work. The general consensus is that “mentor” is rather off-putting for lots of people. When someone asks to be your mentor, you start to imagine having to have regular meetings on top of your already busy day, think of ways to build up this other person, and scariest of all, be wise at all costs! After all, you’re a mentor!

Penney is my mentor in reminding me I need to rest a LOT.

No one’s ever asked me to be a mentor, which makes sense, because I’m not a high-powered executive and haven’t been for a long time. In fact, my career path is headed in a pretty downward direction right now. But, does that mean I don’t mentor people? Nope, not at all.

The consensus among the women I’ve been talking to about mentoring is that it actually works better on an informal basis. When someone comes to you and tells you they’ve got a thorny problem to deal with and asks your advice, you’re mentoring them. And when a colleague gives you an insight into how you can do something better, that was being mentored. Not so scary. No one was under any (imagined) pressure to be wise and pithy, just to be helpful.

I guess the older chickens finally mentored the young ones about roosting, because they finally all sleep together.

Thinking back, most of my mentors didn’t set out to mentor me at all; they just lived their lives ethically, kindly, and insightfully. I just watched, listened, learned, and asked a few questions. I didn’t formally ask, “Will you be my mentor?” like we were going to go steady (or however they put it now). (Thanks to Doc, Georgia, Steve, Roberta, Hedy, Mike, and Craig, to name a few who may have no idea they were mentors.)

And now, I do find colleagues asking me questions, often in my managerial role, where I give them pointers and ideas for doing their jobs better. I think that’s the most important role of a people manager: to help people grow in their jobs, find work they enjoy, and be productive. So, yay, I’m a mentor, too.

Nothing to do with mentoring; I just liked this beetle’s antennae and how big an Alfred hair looks next to it. It’s a Southern Masked Chafer, a type of scarab beetle.

Sure, formal mentorship programs have their place, and there are some good ones where I work and in other workplaces. But, don’t think that you can’t serve as a mentor if you’re not a manager or if you’re “just” a friend. When we talk to each other, ask good questions, and really listen, we’ll find mentors everywhere we look!

Take advantage of your opportunities to both learn and teach others. It’s a good plan. Thanks to the coworkers who helped me think about this!

When You’re Irritated, Go Outside

No matter how many times I try to convince myself not to care to much about my work, I keep doing it, and the way things are set up now, I really need to just roll with the changes. But, I’ll try to do that again, next time.

Goldie is rolling with the changes. Keep on rolling, keep on rolling, as REO Speedwagon advised.

So, today I made a point of going outside and enjoying a relatively cool August day with the animals. I did some excellent breathing, then went out to see how the horses were doing.

What, I’m supposed to be rolling? Usually you make me stop!

I got Drew out and tried to groom him. Oh my gosh, he, too, had been rolling. In the sand. While sweating. He was now an orange horse. He had clay-like clods in his mane that would not brush out. I got my exercise in!

I don’t know what she’s talking about. I look just fine…from a distance, backlit.

We went for a walk, which was fine until Harvey took off after him and he bolted away. Drew is very pretty when running. And he waited for me. I took a deep breath and we finished our walk. Then we went in the round pen, and Drew totally made up for running off. He has improved so much! At least I feel like I’ve taught him something. He slows down, stops, turns, and comes to me when asked.

I’m not so bad. Also, Fiona’s empty dish tastes better than mine.

Then I fetched Apache, who was much less filthy but more bothered by flies. I see why Drew was rolling in the sand. Both got fly spray, so they will be better for a few days. I put Apache in the round pen to see if he’d move better after some pain killer the night before.

Yep. He’s trotting.

He acted like normal Apache. He trotted around and around until I asked him to stop. He turned around when asked. He just kept going. I think maybe it’s just he abscess growing out.

Look, you can almost see my ribs!

We had a good walk, and when he started wanting to eat every time I stopped, I practiced starting and stopping after different numbers of steps. That made him think, and his head stayed up.

My head is up, geez.

Sara has me reading a depressing article on sugar in grass. It makes me feel doomed at slimming him down again until winter. I can’t let him out only between 9 pm and 3 am. Sigh.

I can’t help it. I was born this way. Or mismanagement. Or something. This is my bad angle!

By the time I did all this, I felt better. Keeping myself centered to work with the horses helped a lot! Animal therapy. I’d say it’s free, but horses are not cheap.

Donkeys are cute and cheap!

What I Learned at Work Today

There was a speaker at work today, part of our women’s employee resource group. She was a very interesting woman named Lisa Eggerton, who has made a name of herself by being a leader in the software industry (she’s CMO of BigCommerce). Her talk was really just a chat with the two women with the most authority in the company, which is a wonderful thing right there.

Eggerton gave a lot of good advice, such as not over-volunteering and assuming positive intent, both things of which I am very fond. But one point she made was that when she wanted to make a change in her career path that wasn’t an obvious one, she had to let someone know about it. That made so much sense!

It occurs to me that I am doing a lot with diversity and inclusion at my Austin job, but I never went out and told any company leaders where my interests lie. So, thanks to the prompt in the talk today, I did mention it, aloud, to the two company leaders who led the discussion, and made an appointment to talk to another leader about it.

I’m apparently not the only one making hay while the sun shines

What can it hurt? Nothing happens all that quickly in the corporate world, so I have plenty of time to keep doing what I’m doing (currently making great content and ramping up new folks). Maybe I can get some additional volunteer DNI work, or maybe they’ll consider me if they develop a position like so many other companies have. At least I will have offered to contribute in whatever way I can.

Why do all this brave stuff? So my family can thrive along with me.

Still trying to have some fun, be brave, and do good work. That’s pretty much a recipe for a satisfying life. I think focusing on what I can do rather than what I’m unable to do is helpful, too.

It’s time to shine like a mottled tortoise beetle! Isn’t that thing cool?

Family Business Meeting

This is just cute. We had our monthly Hearts Homes and Hands board meeting this morning, which we hold in Lee’s office/our bedroom every time. What was cute was that we had to have so many supervisors

Fascinating business plan.

Right as we started, the upstairs dogs started barking. Why? Goldie was coming upstairs for the first time! She wanted to contribute!

I was lonely.

Or, actually, I think she wanted to be with her people. I particularly enjoyed it, because she sat with me, and I like having a big ole lapdog with me.

My lapdog from earlier this morning.

Our meeting went long, so eventually the dogs started their own meeting.

I move we adjourn.

Even Vlassic was in the house, and he came up until Penney growled. That’s at least progressing! In any case, the dogs made the people meeting much more fun. Now, off to mess with livestock some more.

Corporate Life. Not for Wimps. So, Sweat It Out.

Today was by far the hardest day in the almost 10 years I’ve been at my corporate job. I know perfectly well that reorganization and layoffs are part of the standard operating procedure, especially in a company that’s growing and acquiring companies. But it’s people who are involved.

Work is exhausting

So you just hurt when it happens to people on your team who you’ve worked with a really long time. That made today hard. We’re supposed to be agile and pivot and embrace change, and I do. It’s what I signed up for and why I get paid.

At least I made someone happy today. Apache got to play under the hose spray.

But, today I was sad for the two team members/friends who moved on today. They know it’s “just business,” but it’s always a shock. So, I’m sending everyone love and get a good new job vibes. At least jobs are out there!

I’ve been dealing with the situation, which includes rearranging teams, too, by going outside and sweating. I’ve been leveling out dirt, lifting heavy objects, and helping with simple tasks on the horse pens.

Ta da. Trough.

It’s really helped me deal with my frustration and feelings of powerlessness. Of course, I hold no illusions of power. I just want to good work and support my team, whoever it happens to be.

Stalls have rails

I’ll have my horses and livestock to get me working and exercising and feeling like a contributor to the planning of an enterprise.

Other trough. Mmm.

All will be well. Opportunities abound and we will all adapt just fine. Just, today was hard. So I sweated it out.

Joy and Affirmation

This will be a quick one, but I can’t help but share how happy I am with the work we’re doing at the Pride Employee Resource Group I help run at work. We just sponsored a Q&A session with a trans woman who’s been a legislative activist for trans rights, and also works in the high tech industry. I was a little concerned, because the speaker has been a friend of mine for almost as long as I’ve lived in Texas. I didn’t want her to have a bad experience or feel unwelcome.

I’ll just share some lovely plants from around the office to separate my gushing pargraphs. Hydrangea.

Far from it! My heart is full of joy, and I feel like at least one little part of the world is becoming a better place every day. I served as moderator and asked my friend questions that we’d come up with, plus some of the 75+ attendees also asked really thoughtful questions, from which we all learned a lot, including the speaker.

Rock rose

People shared their thoughts and experiences respectfully, but we also laughed a lot as we enjoyed just being people getting to know each other. I really feel affirmed, welcome in my workplace, and and genuinely pleased at the kindness I could feel coming from all those square black Zoom boxes.

Japanese maple

My friend re-iterated what I always say, and what certainly shone through during today’s discussion, which is once you get to know someone as a person and you find things you have in common with them, things like gender expression fade into the background.

Beautyberry

Yep. The world is not all bad and people are not all afraid of anyone who’s different. I will try to keep remembering moments like this.

My companion on my stroll. He or she did not move as I walked right under the tree three times.

Who Hates Changing Email Addresses?

Um, that would be everyone, right? I’ve known I’ve needed to do it for quite a while, since we downsized our real estate work and parted (as good friends) from our Hermit Haus Redevelopment partners. Eventually all that internet stuff will get retired, though I need to figure out a way to archive our blog and photos of our work.

My reward for boring as heck work.

I’ve never liked using Gmail but it’s the best option for right now. My presence at Hearts Homes and Hands is very minimal, since I’m not beloved in all parts of our community. I’m no longer too concerned about it. Life at the ranch is good, and that’s what counts! Anyway, I’d only use that email account for business.

Speaking of the ranch, this will grow up to be the arch going over our cattle guard or second gate. It’s happening!

Still, it has boggled my mind when I realize how many logins, sign-ins and account names are tied to your email address! I spent hours this morning changing things, and I’m nowhere near finished. But, it had to be done, and I certainly don’t have many expanses of unbooked time at home!

After I at least got my major accounts and lists switched over, I tediously went through my Gmail account and deleted spam and ads from 2015 until today. 20,000 plus emails. Fun times. I didn’t want to delete them all, since there might be personal email in there. Yep, my sister, my friend Pamela, and two others had been sending me things I never saw.

I’d rather have been at the pool!

Actually, that’s what prompted moving at this exact time. My sister, who is the latest person to say they are going to the Farm in Yorktown for a weekend and not returned, texted me to “check email.” Nothing like a cryptic text to get me concerned, you know? But I couldn’t find anything on my work or personal accounts. Was something wrong? Did I mess something else up? Finally I looked at Gmail. Whew. There was a message there. I’d forgotten to send some money in our confusing travel stuff.

All, right, I said, it’s time to start using that account and phasing the other one out. Once I figured out how to delete everything from a particular sender, it was only slightly unbearable. And at least I could look out at the ocean while deleting. It was fun mass deleting email from presidential candidates who won one and l0st another election. Quite a trip through time.

I’d rather have been in the ocean. Yes I went in. No jellyfish got me.

Now I have that account organized and set up to store email right. Still, I have to figure out what stuff I get on Hermithaus I want to keep getting. And I have to figure out why the new signature I made refuses to show up. This is why I didn’t want to embark on this task. Ugh

But, I’m at the beach, in the shade, and drinking a drink out of a bucket. And my ranch family is busy planning a swimming pool.

Everyone is saying my obligations can wait, so today is just Beach Day. Hope you’re doing well and handling what can be a hard weekend for some of us.

Evening Exploration

It was a long day of “working from beach” today, but it was fun doing my individual meetings on the balcony. I still have things to do, but I’m plowing through them, and some of the stuff is getting interesting.

I guess I’m relaxed

We had to leave for a while in the early afternoon, because they were going to turn the power off in the building for some test. We took that opportunity to visit the new and trendy Market Commons area, which is sort of like the Domain in Austin, but a bit prettier.

Dining spot.

Lee was not impressed, but I’d have a lot of fun with Kathleen or Anita there. The shopping looked excellent, and there were many nice places to eat. We had sushi, and it was fresh and interesting. My lemon roll was divine, and I also had a yellowtail ceviche in a ponzu sauce. The air was just right for outdoor dining, too.

Lemon roll.

Of course, Lee found numerous plants to be allergic to, especially the gorgeous plantings of jasmine. But hey, he’s not allergic to azaleas! He says if he lived a hundred years ago none of this would be bothering him, since he’d have died from some allergy in childhood. Cheery!

Lee wasn’t allergic to this palm flower.

When I finished working at 6, Lee wanted to go see small towns, so we drove on the inland road to Georgetown, SC. We passed many beautiful forests with hardwoods, Wild magnolias, and pines.

Speeding by woods

Much of it looked exactly like northern Florida from my childhood, including the many plantings of pines for harvest. All the big rivers and swamps we passed also made me feel at home.

Pine forest, thinned

As we approached Georgetown, Lee wondered if we were near the sewage plant. Nope, another memory from childhood blasted in and told me what I soon confirmed: there’s a large paper mill just outside of town. You can’t miss that smell.

Stinky but cool.

Other than that, though, Georgetown is beautiful, one of the oldest cities in South Carolina. It currently has a scary looking old steel mill as another industry.

Steel mill

But, as I read one of the information signs around the boardwalk, I recalled where I’d heard of this place. Not only was it a center for growing rice (as evidenced by the rice museum in town), but it was also an early indigo growing center! I’d read about it in the book on indigo I read last year.

And there are boats!

I must say, this is a gorgeous town, with a fixed-up downtown harbor area, a boardwalk, and many places to shop and eat. We had another outdoor meal, with a bonus of watching a Great Dane sit on a kid’s lap.

Both of these families own Great Danes, so the kid was fine with him. He just kept scratching the dog, and the dog kept smiling.

We are glad we will come back later for one of our boat rides (assuming I book them), so we can see more of the beautiful old homes and such.

This old house is a museum.

Lee and I both are excited about our upcoming adventures! We wish we had folks with us, but wow, there’s a lot going on!

Sunset in the rear-view mirror and reflected on our vehicle. Artsy.

Once again, I’m thinking of all my friends and family who have been undergoing treatments and surgeries and such. Healing wishes to you all.