I just got home from a genuinely fun and satisfying evening out in our little town. It’s so great to have options for hanging out with your friends and neighbors in downtown!
I don’t get into town much, but Anita invited me to join her for coffee, so I headed over to the Farmers to Market Coffee Shop for some of their delicious coffee and cozy decor (plus friendly staff and friends to chat with). I’m thrilled we have TWO coffee shops to choose from. It’s getting better here!
Then we took the opportunity to see how the work Railfan is doing on downtown buildings is coming along. The Venue is getting even more beautiful. The mezzanine now has a beautiful wood wall and the floor is so shiny. What great work!
Next we wandered across the street to the old JC Penney building and its neighbors, where my son was painting walls and sealing bricks. It fascinates me to see the bones that were hiding in the former bland county offices.
Next we checked out the Penney building, which I’d seen before, but not cleaned out. Wow. I’d love to live in a loft on the third floor! Being able to look out the windows was a fun surprise. And the old elevator is something that needs to somehow be preserved. Being able to watch these renovations gives me a real sense of the hard work and creativity it takes to achieve a downtown revitalization.
Enough with the old buildings! Anita and I next went over to another building that was vacated when the county offices moved, the former tax office. Now it’s the Cameron Beer Market, with pizza, beer, pool, and so many fun people.
There were opening night glitches, like the credit card machine not working, so we had to pay cash. I never have cash. Still, we had fun conversation with so many folks we know, plus I got to enjoy Lee, Anita, and Declan talking about music. That’s always interesting.
Dang! Another fun night here, and soon we can do stuff like this all the time. And hey, some of the people were planning to go to another downtown spot, our beloved Central Avenue Bistro, after their beer, so wow, options!
Thanks to everyone who supports local businesses here, including the established ones, so I’m not forgetting Ginno’s Italian and the great Mexican restaurants here. Or further out, Bob’s! There’s stuff to do in our little town.
When you live in a small town, things affect the whole community. We lost a friend yesterday. I’ll skip the gory details and just say it was a real shock to lose Christi.
I have Christi to thank for Fiona. If she hadn’t remembered I wanted a little donkey, Fiona might not have gotten rescued from the sale barn. Thanks to this kindness, I’ve had five years of donkey love.
We had many horse adventures and shared an interest in essential oils. In fact, it’s thanks to Christi and oils the I became a Master Naturalist. I went to a class she held at our beloved Dutch Towne Deli. Dorothy (not normal dot in the comments) was there and told me about the next class. Thank goodness for that bit of fortune!
Sigh. Our political differences split up our friendship, and I really miss lunches with her and her mom. But I still cared about Christi. She had a kind heart. She did not deserve to be taken from her friends and family this way.
I’m sending much sympathy to her grieving family, friends, and community. It’s hard to believe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twelve years ago today was a day much like today, although a little warmer. It was cloudy and a bit gloomy. I was, as usual, a little bit stressed. But much of it was GOOD stress, because I was looking forward to the wedding of my (quirky) dreams to the quirky man of my dreams, Lee.
While the setting was great, what was most important was that I was surrounded by the people I loved the most in the world. My beloved father and my sister had both joined us, and my two sons were there, pitching in and helping. I had some of the best friends I could ask for participating in the wedding, ranging from my church family to my dear knitting friends. And when you threw in the people who came, including kids from the band bus, a high school friend, and Chris, who I met that day…wow, what happiness.
As long as Lee and I were publicly declaring our intentions to be a family for the rest of our lives, I didn’t care about the rest. I’m just so glad to have him at my side (figuratively right now) as we experience the joys and sorrows, fun times and challenges of the latter part of our lives. Better late than never!
Sitting here, separated by two counties and 80 miles away from my husband, and with yet ANOTHER exposure to deal with and keep me away, I’m getting a lot of comfort from remembering how our wedding came out so well.
We had two wonderful officiants, a long-time pagan UU friend (Linda) and one of the ministers at our church (Kathleen). We had beautiful vows that Linda helped us write.
My attendants each dressed in an appropriate color and carried a symbol for earth, air, fire, and water. They were good sports, especially the LDS and evangelical ones.
My sons escorted me down the aisle, wearing neckties with the tartan of their father’s ancestral land in Ireland.
My dad gave “approval” in the ceremony.
We had great music. My friend Jeff, who’d lived with us for a long time, played my favorite instrumental piece that he wrote as we walked around the labyrinth (shortened so it wouldn’t be interminable). And Bill, from my folk trio, sang “My Beautiful Mystery Companion,” by Jackson Browne. All the music was great.
As the ceremony went on I looked around and saw my entire community. I never felt so supported in my life. There were my neighbors, old friends, new friends, young people and elderly folks, all in a circle, surrounding us with love.
Even the decorations and the reception were done by friends. My dress was incredible, a “real” wedding dress, just red, that my friend Katy helped me order in San Marcos, where she’d gotten her dress. The flowers came from Costco, and we just arranged them in vases we already had (except the one BIG arrangement).
My friend Tina was there to help with decorating and all the logistics, while Elizabeth baked the beautiful cake with the topper that looked just like us.
The days before the wedding were hectic, but fun, as all these folks, plus my dad and sister, were helping set up.
We had a fun reception, where my friends played music and everyone got to eat barbecue from our favorite resturant (and were glad to be indoors, since it really cooled off once the sun went down).
I was glad to have my wedding shawl, which was made from wool I picked out and was spun by my friend Jody. I knitted it to be filled with beads, so it made great noises, and laid perfectly against the dress.
Memories like this help you get through hard times. Knowing that I’m still friends with nearly everyone who attended warms my heart. Following all these people over the past twelve years has brought so many changes. Birth, deaths, marriages, divorces, new names, new careers, moves to distant places, and so much more. Community. A varied and colorful community. And someone to enjoy it all with. That makes life great.
Thank you, Lee, for sticking with me as these darned quarantines keep getting expanded and expanded. Thanks for listening to me and making me think. Together, I hope we get to enjoy many more years. I’m glad we found each other, at last.
Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane for me. It sure made another quarantined Sunday happier for me.
This morning I’ve been thinking so hard about what the families of my friends and acquaintances are going through, losing loved ones and dealing with the COVID-19 thing in their families. You can’t rally around people as easily as you normally would in situations like this. And you know these people could use some comfort, along with the wider circle of loved ones. Lighting my candle and sending loving-kindness out counts for something, I guess.
But what’s good is that today we do have ways to reach out and comfort people. Kind words in chat, video calls, and social media posts can reach hurting people immediately (while sending a card is also good, just takes longer). I’m seeing this unfold as groups rally around to support each other. One group has scrapped an organizational meeting, just to be there for someone who lost their best friend. Another group is right there in their Facebook group when someone gets a new wave of grief. It’s so comforting to see this love manifest.
Yesterday, when I asked that people reach out to those they care about, my little group of friends I’ve had since my early teens jumped right in to remind each other how much we care, even if many of us are far apart. I can always count on these women if anything happens to me. And one of my favorite bloggers even checked up on me. The world is our community! Thank you ALL.
That, along with some kind check-ins from my local friends and family who noticed I was down, really helped me remember that death is a part of life and we all have connections that will go beyond artificial boundaries like life, death, space, and time (or at least I can hope that!).
(Note that me being down is small change compared to what the close friends and family of my friends who passed on are dealing with; it’s certainly NOT all about me, but it is my dream that similar outpourings are happening for them.)
The Comfort of Red
Today, though, I decided to comfort my own self. I did this by surrounding myself with what has become my favorite color in my later years, red. I even dragged out my old red glasses (I can see okay in them still).
I looked around my office (you know, the red, pink, and orange explosion of colors and objects), and all the red things comforted me. My red lamps, my little leather notebook, ah. Redness.
Then the mail arrived. It reminded me that red’s been on my mind since that Master Naturalist talk on cochineal! Two books on the color red showed up (plus two other colors, and a book for work book club). I’m definitely needing some red in my life.
So, yeah, I’m really grateful for so many supporting people in my life who are holding me up yet not telling me not to be sad. I passionately believe it’s important to tell them how grateful I am, often and sincerely. I’m feeling surrounded by invisible arms right now, with a red glow. What brings YOU comfort when there is much to be sad about?
One of the things that has been making life easier for me the past few months has been keeping in touch with people I care about. I’ve been writing letters back and forth to my unofficial daughter-in-law, Rollie, which has been a great way to talk about things we don’t put on social media. I’ve been writing lots of letters (for me) to other people, too, just to remind them that I care and value my relationship with them.
One funny thing that’s resulted from the letter writing is that I get a lot of return phone calls rather than letters. I know I can count on my stepmom to call after a letter arrives, for example. That’s fine, too. I really am AWFUL about making phone calls (probably wore out my ear as a teenager), so people need to call ME. I will talk once people call! (That also explains why I blog a lot and post so much on social media; my preferred communication mode is writing.)
Trying Something New
Last night, I was reading my current book (oh boy, another book report to come) and I started thinking about how I’d just love to hear from more people in my life. Well, I thought, maybe I should do something to make that happen that could get people talking, and maybe even help them feel better.
So, I just posted a simple question on Facebook:
“Have you done anything fun today?”
The idea was to help people remember that most days have a little bit of fun in them. That’s the non-toxic positivity part. Also, I wanted to let them feel encouraged by reading what others are doing. That’s the community building part.
Did It Work?
Yes, and it has been so much fun to read about everyone else’s fun! I’ve gotten to read about gardening, walking dogs, trips to get supplies (exciting right now), talking to family members, creating art and craft projects, and installing an alternator in a car TWICE. People have been interacting with each other, too, which is an added bonus.
Of course, no one has a fun day every day. I was gratified to learn that a few of my Facebook friends were brave enough to admit that they didn’t really have any fun yesterday. Some of us are having some hard days right now, and sometimes it’s just hard to find ANY fun in your day. That is just fine with me. I’ve had a couple of days like that myself. If I had fun, I didn’t see it, because the other stuff overwhelmed it. My intent wasn’t to pressure people to have fun, just to encourage friends to relish and share any fun they did have.
What I hope for all of us is that we still keep plugging away and do our best to see even the little things that are fun, like seeing a rare bird at your feeder, soaking in a bathtub, or spending a few minutes relaxing in a hammock during a busy day.
Look, I realize that those of us who are able to find fun in this time of huge unemployment, concern about health and safety, and frustration at our in abilities to do what we want to when we want to are privileged. I feel extra privileged, because I still have work and a supportive community.
Our privilege and ability to find fun in our lives provides an opportunity, though. What can we do to make the lives of people who are truly struggling right now a little better? Can it be fun and rewarding? I think so.
Even small things like the letters I’m writing can let people know someone cares. Letters don’t have to be long. Or you can send a personal email. Those are rare these days, too.
Those of you making masks can find fun in the creativity in your fabrics and help people who desperately need personal protection equipment.
I heard of someone who got a surprise grocery delivery. Putting one of those together for someone you know who’s having financial trouble could be a lot of fun.
Parents of young children are a group who are struggling. Wouldn’t it be fun to volunteer to read to kids, work on a project with them, teach a new skill, or otherwise occupy them and give their worn-out parents a little break. There’s a lot you can do on video!
That’s just a few ideas. Do you have more? I can share them with others here and on Facebook. By choosing to do things that are both fun to us AND help bring some positive energy to others, we can build our communities and help each other navigate the world we find ourselves in today.
Honestly and truly, I have been doing my best to be a good citizen (or sheep, depending on who’s perspective you’re taking) about this whole COVID-19 issue. I really haven’t gone anywhere other than back and forth from the ranch to the office, I’ve Zoomed with people I want to talk to, I’ve dutifully sat on the porch and enjoyed nature…all that stuff. And I’m truly grateful for the family and friends who care for us all.
You can’t logic away feelings, nor should you. We have to just live with complexity. Relief that the government is doing the right thing to protect lives. And sadness for the loss of the ordinary dumb things that before we could just take for granted.
You Can Be Sad With Decisions You Agree With, Boots and Blessings, April 20, 2020
So right this minute I want to declare to the world that I’m really, really sad to see more and more of my favorite Austin restaurants closing forever. Sure, it’s all for the best that we can’t eat out (and in my case can’t even be in Austin), but damn, I will miss the Threadgills Old Number One where so many of my friends have played, the Magnolia Cafe in the beautiful (but expensive) location, etc. I’m very sad for all the people who worked there, their suppliers, and the people who owned the place.
I’m sad that oil futures went negative. Income from wells was the source of income that let Lee retire to focus on doing good in the community. Everything’s closing down. Whether I agree or not that fossil fuels are great, I know many people who earn their livings in that business, and who will not be bringing home paychecks for their families. (I am relieved that our nephew, Chris, has many skills that are useful outside of oil fields and can start his business renovating old houses soon.)
I’m pissed off that because people are unable to pay their rents (Lee’s second source of income), we’ve had to lay off Mandi (who is fine; she’ll make more on unemployment than we pay her, and we do plan to bring her back). Laying off your friend is never the highlight of one’s day. Speaking of layoffs, I’m also pissed that my boss in Austin, you know, the best boss I ever had, got laid off, leaving a big hole in my team.
And darn it, I miss seeing my friends and my family. I miss Anita and Declan and Rollie and my Austin neighbors and coworkers. I miss my Cameron friends and my sister.
While we’re at it, I want to GO SOMEWHERE. ANYWHERE. I think I’m gonna get in my car and just drive down dirt roads for a while, just to see some other scenery than FM 485 and Travis Avenue in Cameron.
Yeppers, I still have many wonderful small things to be grateful for, and I am glad I am able to keep myself relatively safe (many don’t have that chance; have you read about how the Navajo Nation is overwhelmed by the virus?). But:
It is absolutely okay to mourn the many small things you’ve lost.
I’m not gonna dwell on this stuff. Just putting it out there to help me let it go, take a deep breath and get back to that one step at a time thing. Hoping the same for you.
Today’s will be a short blog, if you can imagine that. Things have sort of taken a downward turn in my non-pandemic life, so I will need to deal with that. I have lots of support, and I was really moved yesterday when the support I needed came from so many parts of my life, and there’s where the UU Lent word for the day, transcend, comes in.
I realized that I have support that transcends all boundaries, if I only remember it’s out there and reach out. Those 128 likes and 93 commenters include people I’ve known since I was a child, people I’ve never met, elders, youth, people I disagree and agree with, and people from:
My first job outside school
All my previous and current jobs: Akibia, Dell, Planview
Friends from when my kids were in school
La Leche League
FortuneBuilder friends (real estate)
Email lists founded long before Facebook
Knitters and crocheters
Neighbors from Austin, Round Rock, and Cameron
I am sure we all have a varied network, even when we feel alone. I am imagining them lifting me up in support, so that I can transcend these mundane roadblocks, personal issues, and unwise decisions made that we have no control over. Community support is vital right now.
I know blog readers are also here to support me. And we are here to support each other. I’ve been sending out so much empathy to people I know who have lost loved ones during this time when we can’t gather together. I’ve been sending strength to those of us for whom this new world is scary and brings out their anxieties and depression. I’m sending calm out to all the people I know who are trying to work and school their worried children. And of course, super duper vibes are going out to people who can’t work right now and need to keep their lives together.
This too, shall pass (I think that’s the message my t-shirt is trying to convey).
Let’s all send out what love and light we have to spare, while taking in what others are sending us. Maybe that will keep us all able to move forward.
Thank you all. Supportive messages for me and all the rest of us blog readers and their circles are welcome.
What a coincidence that the UU Lent word for today is community, when it’s the day every year that I’m reminded of how far my extended community goes and how close my intimate community is. As much as people complain about Facebook, it’s great for reminding you that people are thinking of you, so Facebook birthdays are always fun.
Community is something I think about a lot, because as the years go by, I’ve come to realize that so much of what I do is to try to create community. I crave being part of a group of people who care for each other and support each other. Perhaps most of us do (with my spouse as an exception, maybe).
At last, after making a lot of attempts at joining communities and trying to become a part of them, I’ve come to realize that it works way better when communities join YOU. I often mistook being part of an organization or other group of people formed because of a shared mission or passion as being part of a community. Sometimes it is, but sometimes you can mistake people working together as people who care about each other. I found this out the hard way with La Leche League, my old church, my knitting group, and others. I did make good friends doing this work, but the community of caring wasn’t really there after all, or if it was, I wasn’t in it. Too much struggle for power and in-group formation.
To me, a real community consists of a group of people who all are equal and accept each other as they are, warts and all, and work together for the benefit of all. So, my old groups had sub-communities, for sure, and I truly appreciate them and the friendships they created that have lasted many years.
Now I really do feel part of a community in both of the places where I live. I feel safe and cared for in my little Austin cul-de-sac (warts and all, oh yes), and I certainly feel that way among the community that’s building up around me in Cameron. No wonder I am happier and more at “home” than I’ve ever been in my life.
Here in Blogland, one of my friends has had an upsetting experience. She has a frequent commenter who leaves unusual comments, which she always reads and accepts. We all know some “nonstandard” people we care for deeply, or are nonstandard people who are glad people care for us. And we are all challenged by life from time to time, if not often.
Today, out of the blue, the frequent commenter on my friend’s blog posted that they were going to commit suicide. Wow, that cry for help went to someone who didn’t know who or where it originated. What to do?
My fellow blogger is pretty smart, and she also contacted WordPress for advice. Then, she gave the commenter the number for the national suicide hotline and the URL to hotlines outside the US:
All of us fans of the blog also reached out to let the commenter know that we do care. I think we have all been touched by suicide and feel empathy and love for people in crisis. We all hope this blog reader has found help.
These are hard times for many of us. But we need each other. If you need help, use these resources, reach out to a real-life friend by phone, text, or in person, and remember you are valuable, just as you are.