Getting Your Car Serviced — Worse Than the Doctor

Ugh, I screwed up. I made an appointment to get my car serviced, which it needs yearly. I assumed it would be like previous years. You drive up, a dude asks you if there’s anything wrong, you get a fancy rental car, and you leave.

Of course, I could buy some fancy wheels for the holidays.

I had stuff I was going to do. But nope. Everyone acted like I was interrupting whatever they had planned for the day. They had no idea who I was. Now, it’s true that the car is owned by our real estate business, for taxes I guess. But every other time they remembered me. No familiar employees.

Ah, there’s where they keep the hospitality.

They grudgingly led me to the lobby. Every single person I spoke to was wearing their mask incorrectly. Cute noses, folks. No wait, the young man who finally noticed I was there had his on right.

To top it off, I got all sad. They are building a giant condo between Donn’s Depot and El Arroyo, two of my favorite Austin places. Dang. They really ARE erasing the town.

I eventually got helped. But I was grumpy. I’m gonna make that rental car haul stuff from Lowe’s. So there.

Follower Update!

I just saw that We have 400 WordPress followers on this blog! Sure, pro bloggers have more, but I’m pleased! It sure makes me feel less isolated. Thanks to those of you who read in email, on Facebook, or any other way, too! And a Merry Blogmas (inserted later, for SEO).

I visited Snapchat to make a video.

It’s been another weird day, COVID-wise. That’s all I can say, I guess. What’s good is I have no symptoms since I traveled, so I’m able to see my family soon. Lee’s quarantine ends Monday, so yay!

Celebrate friendship and love where you can find it!

Love to all of YOU!

More Yoj and Christmas Decoration Confusion

Yes, I have now broken down and begun turning my Austin house into a winter wonderland, even after saying how much I loved the autumn décor. It got cold. That did the trick. Thus, I’ve been wandering into all our secret storage areas and getting out items. And thanks to those crazy people at JoAnn Fabric and Crafts, with their 80% off (with coupon) sale and curbside delivery, I got more.

I didn’t have to buy anything to create my thematic table setting. I just combined stuff I had around. I don’t have silver candles, so the pop of red is on purpose, yeah.

But, there’s another Yule mystery going on! It all has to do with our YOJ sign. I shared the story of it back in 2018, but I bet you weren’t reading the blog in 2018. In brief, I bought this light-up sign that said “JOY” at Target back when we lived at the tiny casita house in north Austin, when Anita first moved here. I proudly set it up in my bedroom window, which was the only window in the house visible from the street. I went outside to view it in its glory, only to realize that I’d set it up backwards, and the sign said “YOJ” (with the J backwards).

Back in the glory days when YOJ lit up.

This struck Anita and me as totally hilarious. It really felt just right to us, with our contrarian bent and strong dislike of the commercialization of the season. So, we left it that way. A few neighbors pointed it out and enjoyed the story. So, we’ve put up YOJ ever since.

Here’s how I improved the mantel. Garland and little pine-cone picks really make it look like a frosty forest, to me, at least.

The sign fell in the garage and lost a light, so now it doesn’t shine with, um, joy anymore. But it lives in our current living room year around, along with our tree for all seasons, etc. We had a second YOJ in 2008, but I don’t recall it returning last year (which was not our best year for decorating).

Where did this go? I’m confused!

This year, though, we spotted some stocking holders in a catalog, so Anita got them. Now we have matching signs in our living room windows, which makes up for the other one, which is probably hiding in the garage, where we haven’t looked yet.

Joy to our windows!

Sadly, we can’t light them up, because they don’t go on and off automatically, and we will not be climbing up there every evening to turn them on to save batteries. Maybe the last week I’m in Austin before Christmas, we’ll light them up.

One of my Christmas cactuses is doing its best to provide decorations, as well!

I’m not sure if the neighbors can see the signs in our windows, but I like the idea of bringing in some joy to our lives so much that I got a couple of smaller signs to go in the windows. They also look like they are knitted, which endears them to me more.

Here’s where the second YOJ is. The decorations around my ancient gingerbread house light up at night.

As you look around my decorations, you will see a lot of large, white branches with bells and snowflakes. I thought they were much smaller, and was going to put them on the mantel. Instead, even the sad cactus that got messed up last year looks happy again, thanks to those branches. And the little palm tree. Whatever, I made it all cheery and like a woodland snow scene around the house.

Now, that’s a happy cactus.

We will drag out the Christmas tree from the garage tomorrow, I guess. I hate to admit it, but that cheers me up. As for the ranch, we’ll see if I can come up with anything dog-proof. Maybe we will get a new branch or something. And I can look forward to doing something in my office next week! There, I have a reason to live!

Semi-happy palm tree, with weird broom I made.

Just kidding. What are YOU doing to keep your spirits up? Suggestions are welcome!

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.

When Is a Conspiracy Theory Not a Theory?

You may have read my post earlier in the week, about what to do as we move forward. In it, I talked about an article I’d read about some of the less credible conspiracy theories that are going on around the world right now. In response, my friend Marian asked me: “Your blog brings up this question for me. How were you able to determine that the conspiracies were false?”

loch ness
Where IS that Loch Ness monster, anyway? Photo by @dancing_on_rainbows_ via Twenty20.
drawing of V Putin
Only free Putin image I found. Image from @dancing_on_rainbows_ via Twenty20

Well, isn’t THAT a good question? Maybe something’s only a conspiracy theory to those who think there’s no way it could be true (based on no firm evidence), and that same thing could be just a theory to people who think it’s plausible (with the same amount of firm evidence). Take, for example, the theory that Vladimir Putin has a series of body doubles who pretend to be him on some occasions. The evidence for it is that he keeps looking younger and younger in photos. The people who discount it point out that one of his nicknames is Man of Botox (or something like that). So, either he’s conspiring to trick people, or he’s just a fan of cosmetic surgery. Who knows?

Of course, there are much darker, scarier and less provable conspiracies, like QAnon (not linking to that!), who killed JFK, whether there are dead aliens in Area 51, if the moon landing was a hoax, etc. Here’s a handy list of some popular ones. Some seem silly, some seem plausible, and some may forever be theories. It’s the “conspiracy” part that concerns me. I’m fine not knowing stuff. I don’t know a lot of stuff, and one of my firmest beliefs is that there are many things we humans haven’t figured out yet that might make confusing things more comprehensible.

area 51
I can’t believe I didn’t drop in when I was in the area. Image by @lovnjeeps via Twenty20.

A conspiracy implies that there are forces out there hiding things from others, or even that certain in-groups are privy to information that is hidden on purpose from everyone else. At least QAnon is nice enough to leave breadcrumbs for their minions, right? Neither the Illuminati nor the Liberal Media Conspiracy have sent me their clues, though, and I am bummed.

Turning back to Marian’s question, I think it’s easier to prove something is a conspiracy than it is to prove the theory’s veracity. I think we’re just not going to know until they trot out that alien, or whatever. That’s fine. People can choose not to believe things they don’t have good evidence for, or they can choose to do so, if it makes them happy.

It may not matter one bit. It’s what people DO.

The important thing is that we differentiate false claims with evidence to prove their falsehood from unproven theories. That seems to be a real issue in the US right now, where you say something enough times that it’s declared true, or lies don’t matter if you say them with enough conviction.

What I’m trying to get at here, as I type as I think, is that conspiracy theories that aren’t harming anyone really aren’t a problem. When enough people believe there are conspiracies going on, even with no evidence, and they take action that harms others…that’s why I’m worried. I’m afraid I see that as a possibility in the near future. Just because you can’t prove a conspiracy theory is right or wrong doesn’t mean it can’t be very dangerous.

We’ll see. Did this make any sense at all? Do you have any comments to steer me toward making more sense? I’m open!

Dangerous Memories of Middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma

I’m glad I kept looking for all those wedding photos, because next I found photographic evidence of MOST of a very memorable trip I had in the late 1990s. It’s one of my favorite stories, so those of you who know me in person probably have heard it. But I have PHOTOS to prove I’m not making it up! (I have way more photos, but didn’t want to break the Internet.)

Just Another La Leche League Conference

Back in the olden days, when La Leche League was a volunteer-staffed breastfeeding support organization headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois, the US part was organized into Areas. Some Areas were one state, some a group of states, and some part of a state. But it had something to do with geographic location. How quaint.

I knew I was in Oklahoma by the themed clothing and the hay.

I lived in Texas, which was its own Area. Up north from us was AR/OK, which was Arkansas and Oklahoma combined, due to their lower population. Many of my friends lived there, and I was working on my online projects with them. Since I’d recently become the webmaster for the parent organization (making this probably be 1998), they invited me to give a talk, my first in that capacity where I was invited out of state…ooh. It sounded fun to me!

It Gets Interesting

I had a hard time finding the place, even though I think I followed my friends from Little Rock. It was in an old 4H camp (or something like that) either in or near a reservation.

Here is the place. I think that’s Sandy, followed by Barbara looking in her purse.
Kris, in a calmer moment.

The minute I got unpacked and hugged my friends who were sharing something like a dorm room with me, I got in touch with my artsy friend from Oklahoma, Kris, who I had yet to meet (I had a LOT of online friends back then). She had her own cabin off from the main building. We met, which involved much squealing and hugging (oh, how I miss squealing and hugging).

Immediately we decided we MUST go on a hike. There were trails! A lake! Rocks! Plants! There was a reason I liked Kris; she was also a nature gal. So, we went on a fabulous hike. The woods were beautiful.

That is soooo pretty.

We found all sorts of cool rocks, plants we didn’t recognize, and bugs. Kris also likes bugs.

Finding something fascinating

We even managed to see a deer, which made us so happy. We gabbed and gabbed about our children, our spouses (hers was way more annoying than mine and still is, as an ex), our LLL stuff, our friends, and so on.

A deer. Aww, we liked deer. At that moment.

We were happy and tired when we arrived back at her little cabin. Then, I felt an itch. And another. I pulled down my socks. Kris had no socks, so she just pulled up her pants. Oh, crap. There were tiny, tiny things on our legs. There were tiny, tiny things ALL OVER us. Almost at once we screeched, “Ticks!” and immediately began throwing our clothing off. Now, only a couple of hours ago, Kris and I had never laid eyes on each other. Here we were basically naked, picking ticks off each other. Tiny, tiny deer ticks.

No photos of this are available. Lucky for all.

At last, we got most of the ticks off, leaving an interesting pattern all over us. We de-ticked our clothing and headed to the main building. We found our friend Barbara. She had gone on a hike. Oops. Luckily hers was shorter and she wasn’t totally infested. Everyone else avoided those trails!

The rest of the conference, we had to keep showing people our bit-up extremities. Now you know why I do NOT get close to deer.

The Rest of the Conference

Things went uphill, and as far as I remember, the rest of the conference was fine. I met a lot of “high-ranking” LLL women, which was fun. I gave my talk, learned to dance the two-step with a very handsome actual cowboy (little did I know that would become nothing special to me eventually), and cemented life-long friendships.

I also did the limbo. It’s not my best skill. The children behind me were much better at it, and are all adults now.

We also got a lot of work done, which always amazed me. My team back then were so good at multi-tasking, since they all had young children, led lots of mother-to-mother support meetings, AND did extra things, like our new email lists, websites, and online communities. I’ve always been very proud of those women.

The other thing I remember about this weekend was that I made a lot of purchases at the sales area, where groups brought things they made, and such, to raise funds. I also bought a LOT of raffle tickets. I was trying to help out an Area that had less money than mine. Plus, they gave me a free trip.

I ended up with so much stuff that I had to take an extra suitcase home, but I had no idea how much I would treasure the things I brought. A lot of the stuff was made by Rudy, the husband of the woman in charge of the area (Wista). He was a talented Native American artist who did scrimshaw on mammoth bones (he was allowed to), did paintings and drawings, and a whole bunch of other art stuff. He was also fascinating to talk to and very patient with all my nature questions.

This is Rudy, Wista, me, and one of the two Ednas who I worked with in the Texas LLL.

Among many other wonderful items, I got a picture of a wolf by Rudy for my son that he probably still has. I also won dozens of wooden symbols of the West, like buffalo, cacti, howling coyotes, etc., which were I think made by Wista’s brother. My kids loved them. They sat in the windows in my house for years and years. They bring back such great memories (and yes, some are still around in boxes somewhere).

You just never knew who you’d meet at one of these conferences, but I soon learned that you would always come away with lifelong friends and lifelong stories to tell. Yep, it wasn’t all bad.

PS: If you were there, correct or add to my memories! I am not the best remember-er on earth.

Moving Forward

First, thanks for your interest in my stories about my past adventures. I expected to get about twelve people to read yesterday’s post, not the actual number! It’s a Blogmas miracle! This makes me think that I may want to write up some memories every week or so. First I have to go plow through some photo albums, half of which appear to be in Austin and half in Cameron (oh the problems of having two houses, lol).

Here, to show you how happy I am, enjoy a photo of me from…a long time ago? I have no idea when this was taken.

While I do have more memories to share, my thoughts this morning got all derailed by reading a couple of posts on conspiracy theories and code words. First I read a cautionary piece on Facebook by Jim Rigby, my favorite Christian minister. He talked about the importance of not thinking that the issues the US is dealing with will just go away with a change in the presidency.

He also provided a handy kind of “dictionary” that helps in understanding what you’ll hear certain groups (conservative subgroups) of people saying they believe in, versus what the underlying implications are. Here are a few juicy ones:

“Elites” is a term of derision. It is not generally applied to the plutocrats who pillage our nation, but is reserved for stigmatizing and marginalizing anyone with expertise.

“Family values” is a term of reverence for the patriarchal hierarchy.

“Religious liberty” is a term referring to the “right” of Christians to impose their religion on non-Christians. If Muslims try to have influence in the public sphere they are accused of trying to bring about shariah law, and Jewish activists are smeared with tropes going back to the Spanish Inquisition

“Christian persecution” is a term often using actual persecution against Christians in other countries to pretend that Christians are being persecuted when not allowed to rule THIS land.

Jim Rigby, link below

You can read the whole thing below.

I’ve gone on and on about how vital it is to take into account the facts (yes, that means things that have really happened) about race relations here, like Jim Crow laws, lynchings, jerrymandered voting districts, educational inequities, housing inequities, yadda yadda. There’s a boatload of it. What I liked about Rigby’s piece is that he spelled it all out so succinctly (considering it’s a boatload).

Oh look, some flowers. Let’s breathe and enjoy them.

Then, I happened upon a great article from The Economist that you can’t read unless you sign up (grr). It talked about conspiracy theories around the world. Whoa, I had no idea how widespread and crazy some are. Did you know Putin has numerous body doubles, so he can live forever? On the other hand, apparently gays are trying to take over his government, even though they have no power. And there were weird ideas from Japan and other places, too.

Conspiracy theories are just fine, until enough people are convinced they are true and start harming others. I’m keeping an eye on them!

Sorry to be such a downer today. I just want to say that it behooves all of us, no matter what “team” we are on, to make sure we are basing our opinions on what it actually happening, and to not hide in our safe little circles. Everyone needs checks and balances, so let’s be responsible.

More flowers, the last of my autumn decorations. I got one bouquet to last well over a week and become multiple smaller ones. Happy December!

Back to cute stories later. At least I shared some fun photos.