Seeking Comfort and Seeing Red

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.

A candle for loving-kindness.

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.

We may feel confined and alone, but our support network is out there. If you don’t have one, I’m here!
Three of my friends, experiencing joy at our class reunion a few years ago.

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).

And I even smiled. Had to look perky for work meetings, ya know.
Sooo much red.

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?

World’s Hottest Socially Distant Photo Shoot

What? I had visitors? I was careful! My work friend, Heather, and her daughter, Emily, wanted to come see our ranch animals, especially Rip in his baby adorableness. We figured if we were mostly outdoors and wore masks, we could safely manage it.

So they drove up, and even brought me my mail from work AND a chocolate pound cake. Homemade. Yep. It’s divine.

Horses and donkeys are on the mantel at the moment.

I have them a tour of the new office, which was a lot of fun. All my animal stuff went over well with Emily, who rides hunter-jumper and volunteers at a very cute farm. And all the shiplap, metal, and brick!

After the tour.

Then it was off to the ranch! It’s good they used to have a Great Dane, because it made all the dogs palatable. Alfred LOVED them. Heather couldn’t get his picture, because he kept going back and forth between the two of them.

Since I got no dog pictures, here’s a leaf-footed bug Emily found.

We then headed to see the chickens. That was sort of sad, since we discovered Butternut had passed away. I think the others huddled on top of her and she overheated. I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I put her in the garage fridge. Sigh. the hottest day of the year is not a good day to get chickens.

Bye, little one. I’m am glad they’ll replace her, and maybe I can get another one.

Heather took a zillion pictures (actual total, 127). Many were of Fancy Pants, who let Emily carry her all over the place. It was really fun watching the chickens with Emily. Here are just a couple of my favorites of her chicken photos.

Off we went to see the cutest calf ever, Baby Rip. That was also a teen animal lover’s dream come true. Since I wasn’t holding a dead pullet, I could get a couple of pictures.

Calf love.

Of course, Heather got a real keeper with the good camera!

Beautiful baby! Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

Here are a couple more of my pictures. Rip is so curious and cute!

Rip wasn’t sure about Vlassic.
Look at my cuteness!

We saved the best for last, and headed over to the horses. Guess who they loved? Fiona! She and Apache were both on their best behavior.

It’s because I am cute and nice. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

We had a lot of fun trying to get glamour photos of them with Emily. Neither of them was real interested in getting in the good light, of course. After all, it was 104 degrees outside! But, we persevered. Here are some highlights (the last three are by me, the rest by Heather).

My favorite picture, maybe ever, of me and Apache was taken by Heather, and I am going to try to get a print of it.

Me and my buddy. Eight years ago today I learned to put his halter on.

Everyone was having a great time, so we rewarded Apache and Fiona with some grazing time over by the cabin, and went over to see the 18 cows. Guess who was front and center, as always? 18-1. A few of the others also came up to say hi.

Before we left, I asked Heather to take some pictures of R45, since she is getting way up there for a mama cow. She hasn’t had a calf in a couple of years, and is in her decline. But she sure produced some great calves! And she’s still built like a 1970s Buick. Big and wide.

We fed the horses and Big Red, then headed back to the house as the sun was going down. I had a lot of fun talking to Emily about all the supplements the horses get, and she told me a lot about the farm where she volunteers and the place where she rides giant warmbloods. I’m glad Heather is giving her these opportunities to work with animals.

And I’m glad to have given Heather some opportunities to take photos, because she’s taken some real beauties where Emily rides. Looking forward to more! You can see more photos on Facebook, since Heather tagged me on the ones she uploaded.

This makes the ranch look fancy!

My heart is full from getting to show off my animal friends, and I am so glad it was so breezy outside. If we had germs, they all got blown away! Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to getting replacement hens (Butternut2, perhaps?).

Rare Friend Sighting! Plus, More Hens

This will be a fun weekend! It’s already been great, because I got to go meet my friend Janet at Bird and Bee Farm, because she needed new hens. Her “ladies” are all retired. I’ve known Janet since soon after I moved to Austin, and we have had many adventures together. Many adventures. She now lives in Groesbeck with her partner and horses, just far enough away to make visiting not too easy. So, we haven’t seen each other in a while.

So, we were glad to see each other at the chicken farm. I showed Janet all the hard work our Master Naturalist team had done with the Wildscape project, and she really liked some of Catherine and Rosie’s great recycled decor ideas.

This chair fountain’s particularly cute.

I was all excited about some butterflies, and tried really hard to get good pictures, but these pipevine swallowtails are not the kind that sits still. My best picture had something weird in the background.

What’s that behind the butterfly?

It was one of the resident guinea fowl, just clucking away at me and peeping over the flowers.

Howdy!

Eventually we got in, after we convinced Gene I wasn’t here just for Master Naturalist stuff. Janet was after black hens, because apparently hawks don’t go after them, because they look like crows, and crows are mean to hawks. Huh. She got three young Jersey Giants and three australorps, all lovely and dusky beauties.

Native Rio Grande turkeys, since I didn’t get photos of Janet’s new pullets.

Well, I couldn’t exactly go there and come up empty handed, especially since our hen to rooster ratio is so low. I needed three hens. Conveniently, the oldest pullets they had were beautiful, as well. They are called Blue Star or Sapphire Gem, and apparently are a new heat-tolerant breed from Czech breeders. I got two of them, one of which has some gold in her neck feathers. She’s Star and the other is Sapphire. I am not creative today.

My favorite thing about them is that they are large. They won’t have to stay separated too long, though they need growth food another month or two. They have beautiful dark brown eyes, too.

The other pullet I got is a Welsummer, which I had one of before in my first batch, but didn’t last too long due to the owl. No owl will get Butternut, though! She’s safe with us in the cage. I love her buttery yellow legs, which gave her the name, and she has cool light brown eyes that match her body feathers. She’s a bit smaller than the other two, and pretty friendly.

Pretty baby.

I’ll need to re-hook the water hose, and maybe move one of the pipe feeders over to the baby area, but otherwise, they should be fine. Now if I can just figure out how to stop Clarence from crowing under Jim’s RV. That has to be loud!

Anyhow, it was wonderful to catch up with Janet, who I’m going to spend more time with not on a mission very soon. We just wish we could set and eat a meal together, but neither of us wants to chance the germs.

End of an Era

Today we said a fond farewell to one of our favorite buildings in Cameron, the old Trubee house. It’s where we first had our offices for our real estate business, and there were lots of good times in that place. I loved my little area, which had windows I could look out of, and I liked the beautiful dining room where our conference table was.

Back when we decorated a LOT for holidays. I guess this was for our big open house in 2017.

Mandi and I enjoyed having coffee on the porch and playing with the feral cats outside. And we got a lot of work done!

This sign always embarrassed me.

My dear friends from my old church, Mike and Martha, have been living there since we moved our office to the Hermit Haus/former church building. They finally decided to bite the bullet and buy the place. It has plenty of room for all the things they like to do, but is also cozy! The pecan trees are another big plus, too. Yum.

They’re very happy. You just can’t tell.

We’re very happy for them. I look forward to visiting the house often, soon as we are allowed to visit anyone again. It will be fun to see all the projects Mike comes up with now that there’s nothing stopping him.

It’s a little easier to tell Lee and I are happy.

We had a nice, simple closing over at our lawyer’s office, which meant a chance to see friends! Luckily, we recognized Liz and Hollis with their masks on, and we could even tell when we were smiling. We did the closing in the biggest room in the office, too, so we had as much space as possible.

This is our post-signing hug.

I’ll miss the old house, but am very happy for my friends. And, hey, the income is nice, too, right?

Can You Learn to Be Positive during a Pandemic?

Some people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and I am definitely an old[er]…person. I’ve always thought of myself as a realist, in that I see the beauty and good in the world, but I don’t deny the sadness, sorrow, injustice and pain that’s around me, either. Life is suffering, after all, says the Buddha.

Top that off with a healthy dose of empathy and sensitivity to the moods of others around me, and I end up not being the biggest little ray of sunshine in Central Texas. I have even railed about “toxic positivity” and “non-toxic positivity” right here in this blog, not that long ago.

For me, there’s room for each.

However, in the last few months, life has been conspiring to teach me new ways of walking through life, thanks to some people who just sorta showed up, or I just started paying closer attention to them. And it’s not just reading all those Buddhist articles that help you see that living in the moment is key.

You see, I used to avoid the relentlessly optimistic if at all possible. Always seeing the bright side of things, ugh. “Oh, no, I have the flu.” “That’s great! You can catch up on your reading!” I also got tired of the relentlessly negative, too. I know people who can suck the life out of any conversation by pointing out the negative consequences of anything: “It’s such a pretty day!” “Yeah, but you’ll get skin cancer if you stand in the sun.”

Depending on how you look at life, this may well be true.

I probably have mentioned before that I loathe being told to smile when I am, at the moment, not actually happy. Sure, I’ve read that forcing yourself to smile can make you happier, but sometimes there’s good reason to be unhappy, at least temporarily. Okay, fine.

Look at that happy face!

I’ve been watching the positive people in my life more closely, though. Here’s one you can watch yourself: go follow Emma G on Facebook. That is one positive woman. I happen to know that she’s faced some challenges in the year I’ve been reading her posts, but she never fails to find something good, some way a challenge has helped her grow, or a way something she’s learned can help others. I look forward to that smiling face every day, as she shares how she’s working on her musical career while minimizing danger from COVID-19.

Here, wine is helping us stay positive.

Living with Kathleen the past few months has also been a lesson at looking on the positive side of things. I have never seen anyone post so many cheerful memes in my entire life. Sometimes I’m like, geez, you have insomnia and are sick to your stomach, but you’re still posting “everything’s GREAT” all over Facebook. I see, though, that she’s trying to draw in the good stuff by sharing it (guessing it’s the power of attraction or something). Whatever it is, even when it irritates me a little, I can’t HELP but be reminded to look at what’s good in my own life, which is leading me toward a more positive outlook. She’s another person who’s had some real challenges to deal with in the past year but is finding ways to see the good. She’s never afraid to go talk to someone about our business and get some sort of positive outcome, too. Also, she’s one amazing idea generator. Now she wants me to have a donkey ranch.

This was taken just after Pam gave me a positive pep talk.

Another beacon of positivity is my friend Pam B. from the Breakfast Club here in Cameron. She’s another person who just radiates happiness and works hard to cultivate good in the world. Every time I talk to her, she says something about wanting to “elevate the good” or find joy or something to that effect. She is amazing at bringing people together for the betterment of this small but quite vital community (and is really fun to watch in community theater). Seeing how she works so hard to bring happiness to her friends, neighbors, and families is a real inspiration.

Here’s Eva with the sun behind her, making her even sunnier.

A final source of positive vibes is my coworker, Eva. I’ve known her since I started working at Planview, so I’ve had plenty of time to soak in her attitude. Especially in the past few years, she has provided a great example of how to take feedback that might upset someone or get them down, and turn it into an opportunity to learn more, find a new way to present information, or create a better product. She’s confident in the skills she has, and doesn’t take it personally when I mess with her grammar, because she knows perfectly well that the actual ideas are great. But it’s not just about work, but all aspects of her life that she brings along a sunny attitude and a lot of gratitude. It’s rubbing off, slowly but surely.

Here’s one of Kathleen’s memes.

People like this have been in my life before, some for many years, but I must be in a position to be more open to their input and to learning from them (thanks to those Enneagram books, I guess). I’ve been told that people come into your life for a reason, which is hard for someone like me, who has mostly been convinced that life is random. But, maybe there’s something to it, and something to the idea that if you surround yourself with positive people, you’ll be more positive, even if there’s a pandemic going on.

Another thoughtful meme that I have taken to heart. Some people may wish I hadn’t.

Do you know a relentlessly positive person? If you do, THANK them, and see if you can let a bit of that attitude rub off on you. Things in the world won’t change, but you may be better able to cope with it. I am, thanks to Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva (and all you others I didn’t mention).

Okay, let’s all be SUPER HAPPY! Be a ray of sunshine like Emma, Kathleen, Pam, and Eva!

A Visit Cut Short

I was about to start writing this, when I got more and more annoyed at a phoebe flying around me. It got SO loud. I looked up, and she was sitting right on the porch with me. Missed that photo op!

Speaking of photos, you might enjoy a visit to the Master Naturalist blog, where I posted some photos of yesterday’s field trip. I’ll have more later.

Not to worry about missed opportunities, though. I got plenty of photos today, since my dear former work friend, Mike Y, finally came to visit after quite an absence. I sure was happy to give him a hug and show him what’s going on around here.

Feed the birds…

Of course we visited the chickens, who have finally figured out how to climb up their ladder. See proof below.

Chicken butt!

We had lunch at Dutch Towne, where he fit right in with his VFW hat. Too bad he took it off to eat.

Hey.

I then showed him all around the Pope Residence and introduced him to the family. He really liked the upstairs bedroom, where he just had to try on the church lady hat.

He’s in heaven.

He also found a 3D Jesus, which we had not noticed before, which I gave him as a souvenir. We then ambled over to the Hermit Haus, where Lee tried to convince him to also take Buddy Jesus home. But, no. We still have him.

Two Jesuses are better than one.

I got a real treat when we went up to the sanctuary and Mike fired up the organ and played me a rusty version of the Marine Hymn. He even used proper pedal technique. I was impressed. He had me take many photos of himself preaching and worshiping, which I do hope he made into a photo montage!

Rock on, Mike!

On our way back to the ranch and a glimpse of the Nash house, his check engine light came on. Ugh. So, we cut the day short, and he headed to the auto parts store to see what error he got. It appeared safe to drive home, so off he went.

As fondly as he’s looking at this guy, I think he will return soon.

He WILL visit again soon! He missed Sunday dinner!

Do I Have a Right to Say Anything on This Subject?

Hey, Suna, what subject might that be, I hear the chorus asking. Well, that subject is sort of two things, but both ways of thinking about the world that sadden me, because they eliminate so much potential people AND they are self perpetuating: the poverty mindset and entitlement.

Mandi is celebrating a birthday. She looks like someone who’s doing good.

My friend Mandi has loads of personal experience in this area, and I’m happy to let her speak. She spent much of her life in a “poverty mindset” when it came to finances, especially, and she’s seen what people who feel they are entitled to a good living just because they exist. Check out these three posts she wrote over where she blogs, our Hermit Haus Redevelopment site:

In her first post, Mandi shared this:

As I have pointed out before, I am not super wealthy person. I am overcoming the poverty mindset myself. I read a great article, found here that states, “38% of American households making $40,000-$100,000 per year could not cover $400 for an emergency without going into debt.”

Hermit Haus Redevelopment blog, December 5, 2020

Scary, huh? She doesn’t want to be one of those people anymore.

Continue reading “Do I Have a Right to Say Anything on This Subject?”

Classism Today: Keeping the Good Folks Down

Caveat time: I am aware that classism is a fact all over the world. Today I focus on small towns and use Cameron as a specific example. This doesn’t mean I think less of its citizens. It’s a great place full of many kind, caring friends and with much warmth.

Yesterday I talked about how my father came up from poverty thanks to hard work and talent. Yet, you couldn’t take the Chattanooga out of the boy; he had a rather intense (and sometimes incomprehensible) accent, and his broken nose and funny ear testified to his past as a boxer. He didn’t always look middle class.

The moon was lovely last night. I’m grateful for its calming energy. All pictures in this post are designed to make me remember good things in my life.

But, he was allowed out of the shackles of his past by kind friends, coworkers and others who saw his kind heart, great humor, and intelligence. He was lucky. He also moved away from his hometown where the Kendall boys had quite a reputation for mischief, from that I hear.

What If You Aren’t So Lucky?

While I’m noticing many newcomers to down, Cameron is a place where many of the families have been there long, long time. There are surnames in this town that I see in the newspapers from the early 1900s (by the way, this includes Mexican names whose families were here before this was the United States and long-time black residents). Some families have done well, and are the scions of the community, populating all the right churches, the right organizations, the country club, etc. Others are respected business owners known for their charity and work for the community. Many are successful ranchers and farmers who live outside of town behind gates proclaiming their ranch names and fencing that costs more than many homes.

Ah, trees shining in the winter sun. I love going for walks on brisk meteorological winter days.

The children of these families are beloved by their school teachers, who come from the elite families or are their friends. These children dress well, participate in the important clubs, win dozens of 4-H ribbons, are in the prom court, play on the football team, are cheerleaders, etc. Nice kids. They also enjoy some leniency at school, since everyone knows they are good kids from good families. Sound familiar? Sound like where you came from? Sure! This is the norm in the US, especially in small towns.

What about the others? Some of the surnames in town have different reputations. They are assumed (because of how their parents, grandparents, or distant relatives were troublemakers, lived in the “bad” part of town (literally on the wrong side of the tracks in Cameron), or had other nefarious connections) to be the kind of folks you don’t want to associate with. These kids may not have parents who can afford all the activities. They are the ones who get picked on because they smell funny, live in an ugly house, have parents with drug or alcohol problems (or their relatives do). They go to the churches who dare to accept everyone, no matter what their family history. This, too, is not surprising.

Continue reading “Classism Today: Keeping the Good Folks Down”

Ghosts from the Past (good ones)

I’m not sure why this is the case, but when I was younger, I never looked back. When I left a place or an institution, I was really bad at maintaining ties. For example, I didn’t remain in touch with any friends from high school (other than my boyfriend, since he was with me in college and most of grad school) until the last few years. Facebook helped with that. And while I do have a couple of grad school friends, such as my favorite fellow student (that’s Steve H) and favorite professor (that’s Georgia M), I’ve lost touch with most people other than a random hello.

I lived here for four years, Murphree Hall. The room with the balcony was really cool. The Rathskeller was right across the road. Handy.

What about my four years of growth and learning at the University of Florida (where I never managed to see any of my high school friends who were there at the same time)? I have one, count ’em one, friend from my undergrad years. That’s Liz from Japanese class. Someone has to share those Swann-sensei memories with me.

That was true until this week, when I finally got back in touch with the only undergrad teacher I’d considered a friend. I’d thought about him often, through the years, and always had held him up as an example of how you really get educated in important things like social skills and political dialogue (that was drinking extremely cheap beer at the Rathskeller every week for three or four years). But, I hadn’t been in touch with him for a very long time, though I’d looked off and on.

Continue reading “Ghosts from the Past (good ones)”

Working on Community

When we first moved to the ranch, I was worried that it would be isolating living so far out here. That’s what Lee, the hermit, wanted. I wanted to have a community to enjoy life with, as well as some peace and quiet. I’m happy to report we are well on our way to a real community out here.

We missed the storms that hit Austin last night, but got cool clouds.

We were relieved to find a place near our friends Sara and Ralph, who warmly welcomed us when we first got here and really helped us set things up. And what would I do without my horse riding companion? Life would not be the same without these folks. We’ve also been lucky to make friends with Cathy, who lived at the cabin when we first arrived, and Tyler, who lives there now and does my snake handling.

When we added Mandi and her family over at Rattlesnake, wow, we could have been happier. They are so helpful in so many ways. One son cares for the horses and hens when I’m in Austin, and another has been helping Ralph with his mowing. Grateful for them.

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