My friend Louise, who is a frequent commenter here, sent me this book after I’d commented that a short film based on it looked sweet. Sweet. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (2019), by Charlie Mackesy, is way more than sweet.
Everyone with a tender heart, even one hidden deep under layers of armor, should read this book. You deserve to spend time in the world these characters reside in. You need to hear the reminders that love and kindness are what truly matter and that we all are worthy of these things.
The book is gorgeous, too. It’s printed on beautiful, thick paper. The text and images are all hand drawn in the minimalist pen and ink of the author/artist. Your eye just wants to linger on the images, many of which say volumes with no words.
Louise knew I’d treasure the book, and I’m so grateful she sent it. Lee read it, too, and he also laughed at the mole’s love of cake. I cried at one of the few things the fox said. He treasures friendship as much as I do.
I’m passing the book around the family, then I’ll leave it in the tack room for guests to find and enjoy. I encourage you to buy it and share it. Give it as a gift to a friend you treasure. I know I’m gonna drag my local friends into the tack room to sit with a few of these poetic pages and remember the world we want to create.
I have some, but most are online friends. I have some local ones, but the only one I’ve seen for the past month is Tarrin, and she got paid to show up. Just kidding. It’s my fault as much as anyone else’s!
My car has had a flat tire since before we left for California. At least it got me home. There’s been just too much going on to get the tire off and take it in to get fixed or replaced. So I have gone nowhere except to the hospital to see Kathleen.
Yeah. I’m also working my butt off. No time to galavant around Cameron. Work is good though. I feel appreciated!
You know who is no longer my friend? The UPS driver. She’s stopped dropping off by the garage and now dumps heavy boxes buy the road. Today I had to wrangle a 45-pound bag of coconut stuff for the horses. I was glad I had a wagon!
I have no idea what’s up with UPS but I’ll just deal with it. No time to fume and fuss. I’ll just be grateful for good things, like Kathleen being back again and looking better.
The day started with an ouch and ended with a painful long-term one.
I was planning to go ride with Sara this morning and ran late, but I had Apache clean and saddled in time. We were walking to the mounting block, which is in the portable round pen. As we entered, the stirrup in the right somehow caught in a panel and started following us. That rightfully scared him and he jumped. Jump number 2 landed on my foot. Ouch.
He got free, though, and said “oof” then stood still. I got up and went over to him and hugged him. He was fine! I got on him and went over to Sara, apologizing for not making it to the gate so Aragorn wouldn’t have to walk near our horses.
We regrouped and had a nice calm ride, since Aragorn is working on a hoof issue. I was really proud of my horse and me. In fact, my foot felt fine in my good shoes. It only started hurting when I took the shoe off.
The other hurt is one I won’t go into detail on, but I found out I’d lost a friend through misunderstandings. For the second time in recent experience, someone got very angry with me due to associating me with someone else. Assumptions were made and even when it turned out they were wrong, I was guilty by association.
The good news is at least this time I know what happened, how it came about, and that there’s not a thing I can do but apologize for things that came across wrong. Sigh. I hate losing friends I really cared about.
On the other hand, I’m no longer in the middle of something I don’t understand and can move on. I’ll just hang out with people who know I’m me, not anyone I’m associated with.
These lessons are always painful, even when you’ve made progress on your desire to be liked by people who matter to you.
I’d arranged with Sarah the Bartender to go try our hand at Painting with a Twist, because I’d never been invited to go when I lived in Austin and never thought to arrange to go myself.
Sara’s girlfriend Kara came along with us as we endeavored to create paintings of turtles. With minimal instruction from Kayla, the teacher, who focused most on making a taco with your paper towel after cleaning brushes, we had a lot of fun.
I learned back roads to get places, too. At least they were impressed I knew where some stuff was. Mostly I listened to them be cute young adults my kids’ age.
I enjoyed painting, but was way better at the background than the actual turtles. We got to draw freehand, so it was an advanced class, I guess. It’s fun mixing colors.
The time and wine flowed quickly. Thus my turtles could use some work. But it was sure fun. Maybe I can do this again, like putt putt! I won’t do it here, because the place is closing. But apparently the fancy Lowe’s grocery store with a bar in it will soon host wine nights. Kayla is going there, she hopes.
Now I just have to get the thing home. Hmm.
Yesterday I also met with Tom the super sales guy to learn how to set up to rent out one of our timeshare weeks on Vrbo or some such stuff. If he’s telling the truth, that would pay my maintenance fees. I feel like such a capitalist elite, even if I am a second-class piece of chattel to so many.
It isn’t summer yet, but Drew went off to Camp Wild Type yesterday, like a little man.
Really, what’s happening is that I’m going out of town later this week, and Sara offered to take care of him most of the time I’m gone, since she has a really healthy pasture someone needs to nosh on while Aragorn deals with some issues. It’s like going to camp!
We walked over to Sara’s property, and Drew was such a gentleman. I never had to pull on his lead, he never bumped into me, and he walked with me. That boy has learned. Even when he neighed, he paid attention to me. I was so proud. Once we got there he went to meet Lakota, the older palomino gelding who she’s taking care of in his retirement years.
We were a little worried, as you are when two strange horses meet. But these guys just sniffed faces, sniffed shoulders, and sniffed butts.
It was sweet to watch them immediately start hanging out together. Drew hasn’t made any good friends in our herd, so that pleased me so much.
I hope they are going to have a nice time together. The beautiful Sully is also going to be there. She’s probably going be a boss mare, so introducing her is going to take a while. Sara is on it! It’s so good to have a trusted friend who cares as much as I do about our horses.
I’ve mentioned the snake that was in the henhouse last week and the snapping turtle that visited. The reptiles and their ilk have not stopped coming, though.
This morning my son was mowing the back yard when I went out to feed the horses. He said to go get my camera, because he’d just seen a different kind of snake.
He was right. That wasn’t another rat snake, it was a thick ole water snake. Like everything else, it seemed to be moving from one body of water to another.
The bad thing was that it went over to the swimming pool equipment, where there is already a garden hose that looks just like a water snake. Now we are very careful over there.
Only an hour or later I went to put something in the tack room and spotted a movement that looked familiar. Nope, not a snapping turtle, but one of the native cooters. It didn’t stick its head out enough to ID it, and it’s shell was covered in algae. A fine little specimen.
These guys are breeding right now. I know for sure, because my friend Jeremy, who does all his ranching at night, saw one laying eggs and burying them last night! I’ve never seen that, since I do NOT ride a tractor at night.
We are still getting rat snake visitors, too. There was one in the henhouse last evening, another full-grown one, who had already gotten an egg. I got the other ones out, and just left the snake, since I was on my way to a Master Naturalist party for our graduating class. I did post it on Facebook.
Apparently my photo startled the aforementioned Jeremy when he saw it. Then only a little while later, he nearly stumbled across one doing his yard work! It looked exactly the same, which gave him another start! Like me, he’s a snake fan, but they still can startle you! I love having interesting friends who share stories.
By the way, I had a blast at the party last night, which was held in one of Milam County’s numerous Mexican restaurants. This was in Rockdale. The folks I sat with were so much fun and told great stories about the area and it’s history. I’m sure everyone noticed how much we were laughing.
Of course, we talked about reptiles, too. I heard that last year, Gene Rek, the guy who sells us our chickens, had over twenty rat snakes in his turkey pens. Yow. That’s more reptile visitors than even I would want.
We all realized it had been a long time since we’d had the chance to just relax over a meal and get to know interesting people better. It felt good to laugh and share.
While MY day was full of meetings, driving, and barreling through whatever life threw at me, Drew’s was full of making new friends and going new places. Lucky little guy!
My son is learning about horses, and so he groomed Drew for me so I could get straight to horse activities after work. He said, “I like this horse,” and Drew likes him, too. Drew likes everyone.
After his beauty and bonding, I tried to show my son what Drew could do walking and trotting together but we got our feet tangled and I fell. Oops.
After work, Drew was a VERY brave boy and walked with me over to Sara’s house. He did perfect until he saw the young cattle dog. Not bad. Was great with the cattle!
There, he was very patient as we tried to do the obstacles in the test he has to do. That was not great, but good for a boy who had no idea where he was.
We had fun, nonetheless. He’s at least tried the activities once. I’m sure he will do better tomorrow at the training arena. He was real good with the mailbox but I whacked him with the pole. I’m going to need help doing that from the ground!
I’m proud of him. He did great walking back, but since a huge truck came down the driveway, Drew was glad to be home. He saw Apache and galloped FAST as soon as he was free. He made me eat his dust!
Little does he know he has more learning Saturday!
Right on schedule, the yearly winter weather event has arrived. Here at the Hermits’ Rest, we are having a sleet fest. Elsewhere, it’s snowing or a wintry mix. We are safe, sound, and snug, thanks to all the winterizing the ranch community has done (I am so grateful to all). The cabin residents are stocked with water, since theirs has to be turned off, and all the animals’ water is taken care of, too. So yes, it’s a bit nippy out, and sleet sure can hurt when it’s blowing in your face, but who cares? Not me!
Yesterday, the wonderful men of my household set off for the environs of scenic Cleveland, Texas to investigate a trailer for sale there. The resident nephew had been looking and looking for a two-horse bumper-pull trailer that I could eventually haul on my own to all these lessons and shows I intend to go to in the future. They all were either scams (like the dealership in Oregon pretending to sell a trailer in Texas), big messes, or gone very quickly.
But, this one seemed real, and the guy selling the trailer was apparently a real hoot on the phone. So, the guys and their funds set off, hoping to make a quick trip before the weather turned bad. Well, it was NOT a quick trip, but that was fine and dandy with them, because they had a blast with the older couple who was selling the trailer and some other stuff. They were both a real hoot, though they were bummed that they need to shut down their horse operation due to unforeseen circumstances.
By the time the conversation-filled visit was over, the trailer had been procured for an excellent price, along with numerous gas or diesel saws and other tools (the people are moving to a place with an HOA that only allows electric ones), a lot of useful other equipment, and an incredible amount of horse tack and other supplies, some of it in original packaging. HOLY COW! Lee says it’s my birthday present for the next many years, but I will note that the money from selling the Austin house is also MY money, so I helped buy it!
I’m guessing I can worm a LOT of horses now, and if I need to, they can all be snug in blankets (other than Drew). And I will no longer worry about my “carrot stick” (the thing that looks like a whip, but you don’t actually whip the horse with it) that is falling apart. There is an entire tube of brand-new ones in a tube, plus more loose ones.
I’m told there were so many poop scooper rakes at this place that we’d never run out if we got them all. There is also every kind of horse tack in the world except saddles. Those were already sold. That is okay. I’ll be fine with what I have.
This is MOST exciting. I feel like that little girl on the commercial who got the pony all gift wrapped. But, I’m so frustrated that the weather is awful and I can’t climb in the back of the trailer and see what’s in there.
Now here is what’s amazing. This trailer has barely been used, though it’s a couple of years old. And it has been kept in a garage (the folks had garages for every one of their many vehicles and trailers). So it’s in amazing shape. It has all the things I dream of, like tie-down things, windows that open and close, padding on the stalls, and a smooth floor that I can easily clean. Hooray.
It has LED lights! They are very bright. It’s aluminum, so quite light. It theoretically could hold three horses, but we would need to use a larger vehicle than the Tahoe to pull that much weight. I think it will be great for all seasons and keep the dust off the horses. It will also keep the dust off my saddle, which will be able to ride in glory in the little tack room with the saddle racks.
So, what’s the catch? There is always a catch, right? It’s a funny one. We have no place to put all the “stuff” the guys bought, so I can’t use the trailer yet! (Good thing I have no lessons this weekend.) But wait, there’s another good thing!
The current plan (it changes daily) is to bring the really cute storage building we’d set up at the church over here and put it where one of the shipping containers is. It will be converted into a tack and feed room, which will make life just grand when it comes to feeding, grooming, and storing horse stuff! I think they may even make a covered grooming area and a spot to wash horses. Now, it won’t have a water heater like the fancy ones at the stable I visited last weekend, but this will be SO nice. The shipping container can be moved and be our hay storage area, which will mean a lot less hauling of hay from over by the cabin.
There’s a lot to look forward to on a wintry day so I’m feeling rather warm and fuzzy inside. I’m so glad we got a good deal on all this stuff, that the guys got to make some new friends, and that the new friends know their old stuff is going to someone who appreciates it. I’m still sort of in shock and SO grateful to Lee and the nephew. I just expected them to come home with a basic, useful, older trailer. This thing should last the rest of my life!
I sure hope to make GOOD use of the things we now have and share with others. I can’t wait for Kathleen to get back so she can squeal over it and for it to warm enough for Sara and Mandy to look around. It feels good to recycle/re-use all this equipment rather than buy new things.
It’s yet another transition time in my life, as a lot of Anita’s stuff got loaded into a trailer and headed out to Cameron. We’re both very grateful to the guys who did all the heavy lifting, which combined with all the stairs makes for a long hot day. We’re getting ready to put the Bobcat Lair house on the market, because houses are selling so well in Austin these days.
One thing is for sure, neither Anita nor I want to leave. The neighborhood women are all such good friends and so kind to each other. That won’t be easy to reproduce. Having a supportive community that can listen to each other and support each other, even when we disagree is priceless. At the end of last night’s book club I realized that such a community is what I’ve always needed for staying happy and centered. A lot of my unsuccessful attempts at making friends or joining groups have come because I have that need (and reinforced that just because you like some people doesn’t mean they’ll like YOU!).
I’ll be sure to stay close to the Austin neighborhood friends as I move on, just as I’ve tried to stay close to my close-knit La Leche League friends.
As we prepare to leave our Austin sanctuary, I realize that another thing I really need is a place where I can just be my own raw self. The nice thing about having known Anita since we were so young is that we know each other’s personalities so well that we can pretty much say and do whatever the heck we want to around each other and there aren’t hard feelings, misunderstandings to straighten out, or topics to avoid bringing into conversations. If we disagree, we talk about it. That’s rare, very rare, at least in my experience! (I can only think of two other people who fall into that category right now.) It’s just so great to be able to relax and not self censor for a while. It’s been great to have the Austin house to be a place of respite where we can simply be.
I’ll still have Anita in the future, and I hope spending time with her at her new house will be a good break from the fun and adventures of home and work (which also have their great points and are important to me)!
That’s important, because the third thing I really need is that mythical “place of one’s own” where you can surround yourself with what YOU like. My Austin living room and bedroom were that for me, as was the beautiful office I made at the Pope Residence, which needed to be used by others for business reasons. I only got to use it a few months, at most, but wow, I loved having my desk, my window of glass objects, my pretend fireplace, and my beautiful chandelier surrounding me while I dealt with job issues, did volunteer work, and thought my own quiet thoughts.
My office at the ranch house isn’t quite that, and I’m not sure why. Probably because there are so many dogs, interruptions, and things I don’t like in the room. I’ll bring in things I DO like and make it better, though. Whining about it won’t help get me where I feel comfortable, productive, and at peace, now, will it? I’ll just get stuff from my Bobcat house, my beautiful Cameron office, and elsewhere, and fix things up. And shut the door, even if it inconveniences the dogs.
So, what do you feel like you NEED to live your best, most comfortable, and most productive life? I was surprised that the things I talked about today were what came up for me. But, at least I know, now, and I can keep working on enjoying what I do have (my amazing family, friends in Cameron, and ranch of wonders) while tweaking my environment to best meet my needs, but not interfering with others who are meeting THEIR needs. Because, yep, other people’s stuff is also important, right?
Today’s topic is something I’ve been mulling over for a long time, and I think I finally have come up with a way to present my thoughts coherently. I think it explains why I have close to zero tolerance for bullying in volunteer organizations and presents an alternative way to make valid points and open people’s minds to new and different ideas.
When I was a new mother, my lawyer and one of my mentors, Roberta Bishop Johnson, encouraged me to attend meetings of the mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group, La Leche League (and if talking about breastfeeding gets you all giggly, you can try to remember you’re a mammal and make an effort to be mature). I didn’t know any other new mothers, since I was older than most of my friends and the first to reproduce.
So, I bravely went into the home of a stranger and sat down on the couch next to a woman who seemed nice. And I listened. At these meetings, only one of the people was speaking for the organization, an accredited La Leche League Leader. But, when people asked questions, all the other mothers were very welcome to chime in and share their experiences with their own babies. One thing that got repeated often in these meetings was to please share information, not give advice. Not even the Leader told women what they should do. The mothers were considered smart enough to make their own decisions based on their experiences and to use the experiences of others to help them. That led to the second thing I heard a lot, which was to take what works for you and leave the rest.
By getting to know all these different mothers with all their different babies it became very obvious that the best answer for one of us would not work at all for another one, and that was OK! We had lots of areas where we differed. There was cloth versus plastic diapers. There was jarred baby food versus “whole foods” only. There was the “family bed” versus having a crib for babies. There were vaccinators and non-vaccinators. Some mothers weaned promptly at one year (or earlier), while others kept a-goin’ until the child didn’t want to anymore.
The thing is, those of us who learned the LLL philosophy (which is a list of ways to be a good parent) mostly got the point that there’s more than one right way to parent AND that for some folks, ways other than ours make more sense to them. If a mother asked for help, we gave it and helped her work out a solution that made HER happy, not us.
I eventually became a Leader and learned a lot from the women I was friends with then. It was a lot of fun and such a great way to give to my community. But, when they started begging Leaders to become administrators (there was quite a hierarchy back then), my Leader, Sharon, took me aside and warned me that things weren’t always so warm and fuzzy at the State, National, and International levels. Oh, how I wish I’d listened to Sharon.
But, no, I like leading things, and because I’d made a little website for our group (before there were images on the world wide web) my mentor, Roberta, begged me to help them get on the fledgling Internet, so I went to a conference in Chicago, met the Executive Director, and suddenly I was the webmaster and co-owner of the first email list for Leaders, where we got to meet fellow mothers from all over.
Time marched on, and I had a lot of fun and met most of the people who read my blog. But, it turned out Sharon had a point. Once I started going to meetings and conferences outside my little bubble, and once I started reading the email lists, I began to see how La Leche League got its reputation as a bunch of breastfeeding…shall we say…”tyrants” (because I prefer not to use pejorative word word other people used). You could tell that there were members who we called “More League Than League” who looked down on you if your choices happened to come on the less radical attachment parenting side of things. Woe unto the parent who used a stroller and not a sling to carry babies (even outside conferences, where strollers were hazardous). You get the drift, I’m sure.
A lot of the time I spent as an administrator, web person, and eventually as a director in the organization was trying to keep portraying La Leche League (LLL) as an organization open to all who were interested in breastfeeding and parenting, not just a few people of a certain demographic (that would be white, Catholic, home birthing, stay-at-home mothers). It was never true that this group was even a majority, but it’s the reputation that came out. And the reputation that we told people to do this and that, and such. This all got to be quite exhausting, especially when we were wanting to help mothers succeed by their own standards and meet them where they were, not make them into other people!
There were, indeed, people in the organization with agendas that were at best peripheral to the core purpose of supporting breastfeeding in the communities where we lived. The diapers, the slings, the boycotts, the sleeping arrangements…subtly pressuring people to make certain choices or they weren’t “cool” led to a lot of sadness. I always thought either they should come out and say they’re an organization for a small group of people with certain beliefs and principles, rather than claiming to be for everyone, but alienating people whose cultures and ways of life preferred to do things differently.
Indeed, as the years went by, it came to pass that things got weirder and weirder at the higher levels, and we came under a lot of pressure, no I’ll say bullying, to only organize in certain ways, and only meet in certain ways, and…after a couple of years of trying to keep my team going through all this, I ended up being asked to leave. If your job, whether paid or volunteer, isn’t fulfilling and rewarding, it’s time to find a new job. And when my closest friends started in on me…it was time to go.
I did keep what I learned, though. I’ve always found it much easier to change someone’s mind or teach them something new by offering a wide range of information and suggestions and trusting them to figure out what works best for them. I’m so grateful for that lesson. There was and still is so much good in LLL. Honestly, this is a loving critique.
Now, today, a whole lot of years have passed, but it makes me chuckle a bit to learn that there are still factions battling it out to be the “right” kind of organization. The causes have shifted from Nestle boycotts and “Ferberizing” to trying to cancel members who aren’t deemed sufficiently on board with chestfeeding and racial/cultural issues.
All of that just isn’t the helpful kind of support parents, members, administrators, and former members need. And confronting, bullying, canceling, and lobbying against people you have a problem with has never, as far as I can see, solved the underlying issue, which is education. You know, perhaps we WANT to listen, but just being called names and treated like we aren’t even worth engaging in dialog with won’t help us learn a darn thing.
I can only suggest that people with strong feelings to convey consider this information I’m sharing, just as one option. By listening to the viewpoints of others, seeing where they are coming from, finding areas of commonality, and sharing our experiences as if they are all worthy of respect, I’m pretty sure some of the newer versions of the people I left behind in 2006 might be more successful at attaining their goals. I think they want more people to be welcome and included in LLL. I think that is a worthy goal that may not require tearing down others to achieve.
Breastfeeding is a great thing, and I applaud everyone who wants to do it, in whatever way works for their culture, religious practice, or social group. Sometimes having lived as long as I and some of my long-time LLL friends have, you learn that a little bit of listening and respect go a long way. We don’t all have to do things the exact same way, and we all will learn from our mistakes and new experiences.
Please, let’s be gentle with each other. I’m simply not going to let myself be put down for being who I am, and I don’t think any of you, my friends, should, either. And I do NOT want to put down others who have perfectly legitimate complaints, issues, or ideas! We should all have a chance to grow and learn, even us old white fogies.