Laughing at Ourselves

After all the stress of the last week or so, it feels good to be able to find humor in life again. I must admit that, at a certain point yesterday, I had lost all humor. But, hooray! It’s back now, and I am happily laughing at myself, my animals, and my friends…and of course myself. Here we go.

Yesterday, as it was thawing out like crazy, Sara asked me to come help her and Ralph with some water-related chores. The water in the big, blue barrel where the horses all were, had gotten quite low. Since it was sitting crookedly and was quite full of algae and other yuckiness, it was declared to be a good day to clean it out and stabilize it.

This was not a neat and tidy job. We were in huge mud puddles that had horse/donkey poop in them and were very slick. Sara did a great job making a fairly level spot in the mud where the barrel goes, while Ralph worked on the water supply. Major oops, a water pipe had burst in a very dramatic way, so there will be no using the barn toilet until that can be fixed! That made everything even muddier, and cause cursing and such.

My job was to clean out the barrel itself. I am not the tallest of humans, so I could not reach my hand in and get to the bottom of the barrel. I had to climb in and scrub it with handfulls of hay. I felt ridiculous. Little did I know, I also looked ridiculous, and Ralph got this photo to prove it. I laughed my substantial rear end off when I got this picture!

Now, that’s dignified! You can see the mud that Sara was trying to shovel through, too.

With the trickle of water that was coming out of the hose, we managed to finish cleaning it and get it set up, then we took our muddy selves over and replenished the hay. We actually had fun in between banging on things and getting frustrated!

The barrel filled up eventually and looks pretty good.

My intention is to never have to do that again, so next time I am in Temple, I am going to get some goldfish to put in here! I am pleased to report that our little goldfish made it through the freeze AND the cow pooping in their home and are swimming around happily, with their trough topped off, too.

The tiny orange spot is one of the fish. Note how clear the water is (this was before it refilled, when I had put a few gallons in by hand).

Today was a lot easier in the horse department. Spice and Lakota got moved back to their pasture, and Lakota is still standing, mostly. Fiona and Apache are happy as can be, now that it’s all warm again, and Fiona is still curious about everything. Here she is fascinated by one of the dead birds we keep finding (at least this cowbird isn’t eaten up).

Is that food?

Fiona is a very patient donkey, even when Sara and I got a case of the giggles and put the bird on her head (bird will become falcon food for the neighboring falconers).

I didn’t ask for a crown! Grow up, humans!

Other things to laugh at are the chickens. They are back to hanging out in the garage, and I thought this picture of Bruce and Bertie Lee was cute. I think you can see where poor Bruce’s comb is worse for wear. On the other hand, they all made it!

We like it up here.

It appears that Vlassic found yet another dead bird, a dove, and messed with it. When I came out to see the chickens, they were fighting over it. That seems strange until you remember that chickens are omnivores. At least nothing is going to waste around here…I guess.

A Bertie feather

The chickens got some new food, Grubbly, which has some sort of grubs in it. They didn’t like the plain grubs at first, but now they do. Yesterday I opened the bag of that brand of food and put some in their dishes. It disappeared very quickly, so I think I’ll switch them over. I’m so glad all the animals made it through the challenging time and that all of us still have our senses of humor, even if they are weird.

What’s in the willow tree?

One more piece of cheerful news. Not only is the ice all gone in the trees, but I heard a familiar sound yesterday afternoon and followed it. Sure enough, the male redwing blackbirds have arrived! Maybe it WILL stay warm! (The females were already here.)

Sometimes I Get Frustrated. I Suck at It.

ACK. Here I am again to share with the world that I am fine just the way I am, and all that, but could still manage to tweak a few things. I think we all have situations or feelings we don’t have to deal with or express often and just get rusty. Expressing frustration/disappointment in groups is one of those things. Ugh. I am getting more practice lately, but darn, I would probably prefer less practice. It makes my eye twitch, and with the way my eyelids are sagging, I don’t need even less eyeball real estate.

Ole twitchy-eye

Generally, when I am frustrated with people, I go take one of my long and rather violent walks, where I physically get the majority of it out of my system, and I plan how to rationally and calmly talk about things. Sometimes, I am told, I am too calm and subtle, and so careful not to hurt people’s feelings, so people can’t tell I am actually trying to get them to do something. That’s one of those things I can’t quite get rid of from how I was brought up, and actually something I like, since I prefer to get feedback and direction in a helpful and calm way.

At least I get to smile when a cow suddenly appears above all my work screens.

It doesn’t help things that I know I come across pretty intense when I finally do try to say something firmly, and that it has cost me friends and upset colleagues. Still, I do get frustrated sometimes. I usually ask myself if telling people about it will do anything to improve the situation or change behavior. If it won’t, it’s back to the violent walks and not causing unnecessary strife.

In the past month or two I’ve received feedback that I need to “stand up for myself” more and let people know very clearly how they haven’t lived up to my expectations, when it’s important. I’ve also been letting some issues in the workplace get under my skin to where I’ve become irritable and I could see that the issues were affecting other colleagues. I really needed to say something and get things back on track, because I was pretty sure that bringing the issues up might actually have a positive effect in the long run, even if people got upset in the short term.

CAW, Says the Texas Fish Crow. Suna rocks! Photo by @eric_urquhart via Twenty20

Since I don’t do this stuff very often, I was not as eloquent as I could have been, and of course, one person thought I was directing it all at them, but at least I made it clear that some things really do need to change.

And I had a good talk with the person who was upset, and came out with some helpful steps to making things better for all. I’m going to give myself a hearty CAW CAW and put this in the Celebrate All Wins category.

All the Venting

I was totally knackered, as they say in places outside the US, after all my meetings and chats yesterday. I was not the only frustrated one, so I engaged in a lot of active listening, reflecting, and venting of my own. Luckily, the venting led to productive ideas, plans for dealing with the various situations, and best of all, some humor. Thank goodness we can all still laugh! I’m also grateful that the colleagues I work most closely with and trust the most have the same goals I do, which is to produce good stuff that helps our customers succeed. Dealing with people who are focused on making themselves look good or getting a promotion would be sooo draining, so I’m glad I engage in a minimum of that.

Even our cats and dogs, who kept visiting our Zoom meetings, laughed. Image by @davidcharouz via Twenty20

Thanks for listening, and thanks to my Master Naturalist and Friends of LLL buddies for bringing some fun into meetings, too!

Not an Easy Time to Be an Empath

Oh no, not another post where someone, specifically Suna, whines about how horrible the past year’s been on those poor pitiful empaths. Not to worry, I, Suna, am also tired of that, especially when I hear it coming from the mouths of some of the least empathic human beings I know. But, who am I to argue about how others self identify? So, go right ahead and say you’re one. Maybe really most of us ARE empaths after all.

Hey, this jasmine plant is blooming already, even after being severely trimmed. Life WILL return to something better after struggle!

So, I’m not whining. I’m just noticing, like one of those intrusive thoughts that come up in meditation that you notice and then let float away while you enjoy the breath moving in and out, if you can (not all folks can!). I notice that I am not alone in experiencing a greater-than-usual amount of death and loss during the past week or two. I notice that, when you combine that with a LOT of change in areas we can’t control (work, politics, family), stress, anxiety, and worry starts running high. I notice imbalance.

In everyone.

I have not spoken to or texted a single person today who is not at just about their limit of 2021-generated agita. I am one of those people. This makes for an uncomfortable circuit of communication in which people share their issue, I share my issue, they share another issue, I share an issue, and in the end, we realize rather than helping each other, we’ve just ramped each other up into sniveling balls of angst. There has been sniveling and sniffling in my life today, none of it unjustified. I feel their pain, and then, because I’m not exactly at my peak of highest self, send pain back, rather than being a good, supportive listener.

I’d like to stop that, now.

  • One choice I have is to remain comfortably numb. If I stop typing, researching, creating, etc., I just stare forward, like I was this morning, with a thick buzzing in my brain, like I’m still asleep. This doesn’t sound like the picture of good mental health, to me.
  • Another thing I tried was to go learn something. That always helps me. So, today, because I was asked to, I did a whole bunch of research on bullet journals and the full focus journals that Lee uses. The women’s group at work is interested in journaling methods for improving their work efficiency. And I made a PowerPoint NOT with the corporate template. That was a treat that perked me up for at least twenty minutes.
  • My best choice I can come up with right now is to talk to someone who doesn’t feel like I do, so I can vent and not have to receive jittery vibes back. Oh good, I’m home, and Anita’s doing fine. I’ll try that.
Read my socks, 2021.

So, if you’re having one of those days where empaths are trying to be empathetic to empaths, go find someone who will just listen and say, “Tut tut, there there, that’s a LOT on your plate, my friend.” And then go read, knit, color in your coloring book, or find another creative outlet. Feel free to ignore the news unless it’s something like transgender rights to serve in the military or getting rid of private prisons (those pleased me yesterday).

I hope to soon notice more of a balance between positive and negative life events, if this works.

If it doesn’t work, what ideas do you have for dragging on through more of the unending negativity and working back toward a more balanced life?

There’s Always Some Gallows Humor

Well, kids, I had a panic attack and came home from work this afternoon. On my way, I said to myself, “Oh, in case there’s chaos on the streets, I better fill the car with gas.” I also washed it (Lee’s car was filthy). Just because your society is collapsing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep a clean vehicle.

Wait, here’s the humorous thing that came up this afternoon. My coworker and I were Zooming, attempting to do a work meeting. We stopped to watch Joe Biden give a good talk about how our country is about decency and the common good. I moved my laptop to where she could watch and listen to it with me. It felt good to not be alone.

In a split screen, the people occupying and vandalizing the US Capitol building were wandering around. A bunch of them had these yellow flags:

Hmm, that phrase sounds familiar.

This is a thing I don’t think about often. But, that phrase rang a bell. Oh yes, my friend Donna in Master Naturalists wrote a little blog post about an encounter she had with a non-venomous water snake recently. It was, as always, sweet, because she is so kind to all natural life.

She did, though, title it Don’t Tread on Me. You know, a wry commentary on those historical flags and slogans, but applied to an actual snake.

Well, let me tell you that posts on that blog usually get between 10-20 hits. Imagine my surprise when I saw 189 hits to that post the day it was published and 42 the next day. I hadn’t figured out what caused that, though I had some idea that someone shared it for some obscure reason.

I’m an innocent snake!

But, when I saw those flags, I realized that there were people out there searching for that phrase. I have a feeling they were disappointed.

I’m disappointed in a lot of people today. What a world, what a world.

What’s All This Fuss about Butts (Bums)?

Yes, this is not my normal topic, but it’s something I’ve been noticing lately: there are a lot more depictions of, advice about, and media coverage about people’s rear ends these days. Is anyone in the US (don’t know if these are everywhere) tired of looking at that family of bears who are obsessed with having clean hineys?

Apparently, I am not alone in my opinions of these guys.

Then there are all the advertisements about products to make your poop less stinky, like “Poo-Pourri“- they are all into the poop puns, too. I’m mighty impressed with the Yule Log. They also have hilarious commercials, where some lady in a fancy blue dress sits in bathroom stalls and talks about when you GO, nudge nudge, wink wink.

Ha ha, I get it.
Dookie

I almost forgot the Squatty Potty, for those of you with poor poop posture. You know, it’s the “#1 way to #2” and it’s email list sign-up asks you to “join the movement.” I do believe it works, according to people I know, but I own a stool if I need to assume the position. I found an article in AdWeek about a war with Squatty Potty and Poo-Pourri, but I’m not subscribing to learn more. Oh hell, I have now found that you can buy toys of…get this…Dookie the Pooping Unicorn, the Squatty Potty mascot. ARGH. This is not something I’d put an order in for, or for which I would put in an order (grammar).

Not that kind of stool, Suna.

You know, when I was younger, people didn’t have many conversations about poop, unless they were dealing with babies or were close elderly friends talking about their going too much or too little. You didn’t hear it mentioned, even in Metamucil or Pepto-Bismol commercials. You had to sorta know what they were for. I can remember wondering why stools needed softening; shouldn’t they be hard? Somehow in the last year or two, that social taboo has been blasted away.

However, poop humor is universal, I guess. Even I find some of the ad copy groan-worthy but funny.

Continue reading “What’s All This Fuss about Butts (Bums)?”

No One Can Take a Joke These Days: The Dark Ages Beckon

Starting to wonder here, have we all turned into assholes? It used to be that humor was the tool used in times of stress to break the tension. Nowadays, any time I, or any of my other friends who hasn’t deleted every person who votes for the “other” US party, simply can’t make jokes. There’s no such thing as laughing at ourselves, gently ribbing another group, or having a chuckle over our cognitive dissonance. Nothing’s allowed to be funny now, according to the humor police.

No wonder I needed a drink at lunch (old fashioned!). I did not order one of the giant milkshakes on the menu, though. I’ll have one with Anita when she gets here. Ah, nice rant break, right?

Nope, if I dare post something on Facebook that I find funny, but happens to be vaguely political, a predictable group of people will take me to task. I find that sort of funny in itself, because my strategy has been to let stuff like that slide, or even see the humor in some of the things people post. In many cases, I’ve simply scrolled on by things they say, because I think they have every right to say them, whether I agree or not.

I think this restaurant wasn’t too hazardous. And the food was great. Garlic butter fries. Drool. Back to my rant.

One person, we will call them “M,” always chides me for my rare political posts, and virtuously points out that they NEVER say anything political on their own page. That’s absolutely true. Instead they insult and put others down in comments on their statuses. I take a little consolation in the fact that I’m not the only target. I have always apologized for any perceived insult, but M always needs to have the last word, or more accurately, jab. I always let them get that satisfaction, since it doesn’t matter to me and I’m not keeping score.

I’m not kidding. I really just thought this was funny and poking fun at liberals and Marie Kondo or whatever that lady’s name is. Apparently I was being horrible by posting this. I had no idea!

I share that example, not to get back at people outside of Facebook, but to genuinely wonder why we have to be this way? What does trolling do for the troll? What accolades do online bullies get? Does their fearless leader send them a gold star?

When folks I disagree with post rational responses, I always learn something and go look up more on the information behind their comments. That’s how I’ve gotten to get a better perspective on both sides, and why I have NOT removed friends and family with whom I disagree. But, dang, how much passive aggressive jabbing is too much?

Now this one, I SWEAR, is poking fun at me. I’d be yelling, “I love you, even if you voted for the other guy! Because you’re human!”

I hate to lose touch with people I care about or need to work with. No one’s all bad (even me, M). I feel really badly for my friends who can no longer interact with family and lifelong friends because they’re wired differently (like I was saying yesterday). Please, folks, let up on others.

Funny, not funny? Keep on scrolling? This one is sorta mean. So I did not share it, other than here, where there is a much smaller audience.

Sure, some humor is really mean, cruel, or ugly. But a lot of humor isn’t. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’re going to be stuck in an even longer, more humorless period than we’re already in. It really does feel like a new Dark Ages, doesn’t it? Plagues, civil wars, being attacked for saying or believing the wrong thing.

Another sign of the Dark Ages, there are magpies everywhere! EEEK.

Book Report: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The book I’m talking about today is next month’s topic for the cul-de-sac book club in Austin. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was Joanna Cannon’s first novel, which came out in 2015. Since I wasn’t reading novels five years ago, I’d never heard of it, but dutifully ordered it when it was decided upon by the group.

I even read a paperback. Wow!

I got it on Monday, and finished it last night. It was a nice respite from the more solemn reading I’ve been doing lately, but it doesn’t mean that Cannon didn’t sneak in some messages, some of which are quite current today.

I’d say almost anyone would enjoy reading this, though it helps a LOT to be familiar with the everyday items in England in 1976. I know what Fairy Liquid is, thanks to spending so much time in Ireland, but do you? (It’s dish washing soap.) And candies are very important, at least to the main characters, so it would help to Google those as they come up.

The fun thing about the book is that it’s about a cul-de-sac and the varied characters who inhabit it, which of course reminds me and my neighbors of OUR little Bob Cat Run, with its fascinating cast of characters. We will have to decide who is the “Walter Bishop” of our street (he’s the one everyone has a bad opinion of). Oh wait, I think I already know, ha ha. It’s not me or Anita, either!

Much of the story revolves around two young girls who are best friends, Grace and Tilly. They are the junior detectives in the mystery aspect of the book, who, after one neighbor disappears suddenly, decide to find God in the neighborhood. Eventually Jesus shows up, which is a fun twist (I won’t tell you how that happens). All the neighbors get their chance to shine, too, and you eventually learn all their secrets. That’s the fun of the book.

You’ll love the woman who wears a bikini and tans in her front garden every day, the couple with the very nervous wife, Grace’s parents (and her very odd mother), the guy who lives with his elderly mother well into his forties, the friendly widow, the refreshingly rational gardening guy, the exotic new family, etc.

What really makes the book special, though, is how gently Cannon weaves lessons about honesty and lies, ignorance and enlightenment, and most important to me, about how each and every one of us has secrets we think will be ruinous if revealed, but are probably worse being hidden. It’s a fun read with interesting characters, but it also makes you think about morality and judgment. That’s what elevates The Trouble with Goats and Sheep from a pleasant escape to a book that will live with me for a long time.

By the way, it’s also really funny. I had to read passages aloud to Lee. I think I laughed the hardest when Grace’s father tries to convince the new neighbor he’s a worldly, tolerant guy by repeating racist stereotype after racist stereotype. I was happy to see the two of them actually ending up talking to each other from the heart and becoming friends. That’s what we all need to do when confronted with “the other,” I think.

I have a nice stack of books on my shelf, so I’ll start another one while patiently reading a chapter a day in Caste.

Book Report: The Madwoman and the Roomba

So, this book, The Madwoman and the Roomba: My Year of Domestic Mayhem, by Sandra Tsing Loh, was this month’s Austin neighborhood book club selection. I think we were all looking forward to a nice, lightweight comedy book to get us through yet another month of being unable to hang out together and hug.

The flaming waffle says it all.

Indeed, Ms Loh is a really gifted teller of tales, and her slice of middle-aged life in California stories are very funny. I laughed a lot. People in my age bracket who are a little hippie-dippy like me will see a lot of themselves in her desires to live in her Costco massage chair (we ALSO got the big discount), her honest assessments of her mothering skills, her ambivalence about having divorced her kids’ dad, and such.

I was really enjoying this trip through a recent year in her life. Then it hit me. This was a trip through 2018 or 2019, and certainly not 2020. I’d be reading along and suddenly think, “Ah, meeting friends at a coffee shop, I miss that,” or, “Look at her enjoying a relaxing trip to Costco, I remember just browsing and taking my time.”

dog in massage chair
Our massage chair from Costco does get used pretty often, but in between times, it’s one of Carlton’s beds.

In the end, the funny book about a woman’s quirky family and friends (I love her domestic partner, especially, and just about spit out my beverage when he was revealed to be a disciple of the hugging saint Amma *and a bunch of her entourage appeared) turned out to be a little time capsule of the past. I ended up doing as much sighing as I did laughing as I pretty much devoured every page of Loh’s writing.

I’ll probably read some more of her stuff when I need a humor break, though it might be more funny next year.

sunset in Texas
Look at all those clouds! It may rain today or tomorrow.

By the way, each chapter in the book suspiciously reminded me of a blog entry. I wish I were as funny as Loh, because I’d have a book ready to go. Mine would be rather more whiny and angsty, and totally devoid of other characters, because hardly anyone I know would want to be in a book. Well, I’ve talked myself out of THAT idea pretty quickly.

I hope you have a good book, television show (I recommend Star Trek: Picard), or project to fill your weekend with fun!


*I wondered how all the Amma followers are doing now that hugging is not such a great idea, so I looked it up. It turns out they are donating a lot of money to coronavirus research, and interacting online, like the rest of us. Keep spreading that love!

Make Big Bucks from Your Blog?

I just read that WordPress has come up with a method whereby you can have “premium content” in your blog. The idea is that people sign up to be a supporter of a particular blog, and for X dollars a month (or year) you get access to blog content that those poor regular readers can’t see.

Examples that I read about included recipes, photos, art, etc. Maybe a poet would write a poem just for the paid customers.

Perhaps adorable dog photos would entice followers to pay up. Hmm.

This reminds me a lot of the Patreon site, where you pledge some number of dollars in support of an artist, musician, crafter, or writer, just so that they can have some time to work on their artistic avocation and not have to hustle so much for cash to pay the rent. It worked for Michaelangelo, sort of.

Bouquet of the day? Well, I bought this for Kathleen, so mine would not look so nice.

The people I support on Patreon send out an occasional postcard, or share a drawing/cartoon just with their supporters. I’m guessing most artists get a little money each month, while ones who are very popular may get a good amount. I would assume you wouldn’t want so many patrons to please that you once again have no time to be creative.

Anyway, it got me thinking. What on earth would I do for “premium content” that anyone would actually want? Photos of the animals? Tarot card of the day? Identify a bug or snake? Honest, I am grasping at straws here. I think my little introspective creations are fine for myself and for others to read for free, but it’s not the kind of thing people pay for.

Art! That’s it! I call this “Giant peach and laptop background,” by SA Kendall

So, I’m asking: If Suna were to offer “premium content,” what would you like it to be?

Answer in the comments (or on Facebook, or in person). If the answer is “nothing,” don’t worry. I agree with you!

Are We Moving into the Pope House?

It’s beginning to look a lot like an office! Because Kathleen has a lot of stuff happening in the next couple of weeks, and because she was tired of looking at piles of stuff that didn’t fit into her Hermit Haus office sitting in the meeting area, she decided to get her new office set up this week, as I briefly mentioned a couple of days ago.

What a nice desk setup!

She spent a lot of sweat equity (especially so, considering that the air conditioning isn’t hooked up yet) putting together her beautiful office furniture selections over the past few days. Wow, she picked some wonderful things, and the color scheme is so restful and rustic!

The blue corner chair ties in with the door.

There’s enough seating in her office to hold our management meetings, too, so we will be all comfy and cozy. What a great job she did! Later it will have all her art and accessories, and it will look even more amazing.

Love the lamp and cow chair.

Seeing her office looking so nice has all of us excited for when it’s our turn (Lee’s office is full of trim for the other two areas, and we still need to do the floors in my office and the main office…coming soon).

Getting Ready for Glass and Cabinetry

Another thing we are looking forward to is getting the glass for our interior windows and my office desk. Before they can install it, they need a template for the big arched window between Lee and Kathleen’s offices and they need the frame set up for the window in my office that looks out into the hallway.

The wood that sticks out is the frame for my office interior window. Also featured are nails that refused to go into the hard old wood. Time for plan B.

I am pretty darned impressed with this frame that Chris has made for the arch, which they will use to make the piece of glass. Curves are hard.

It’s nearly done now, but it’s in progress here.
It’s blurry, but there are two little open mouths in the picture.

It’s especially hard to work when there is a family of barn swallows right above you who are feeding their extra cute little babies. Who wouldn’t be distracted by that? We’re really enjoying them.

Anyhow, the cabinets are all painted and put together, so this morning Chris and I debated exactly where they are going to go. There’s a low electrical outlet that we have to take into consideration, and we need to leave the right amount of space for the refrigerator.

We hope to have a slanted end counter at the end here, if we can figure out how to cut it and put an edge on it.

But, I think we finally have a good plan and are ready to get the counter tops. Whew.

From the other side. The fridge goes in the gap.

I looked at the in-stock laminate counters, and I think there are some that will look just fine in here. It will be just fine.

We’ve even got a plan for when to get the big sander for the floors, and the bits of glass for the inserts are smashed to pieces. SOON!