Spousal Pride

Yesterday I hinted that my spouse, Lee, was going to be surprised last night. We were hanging out watching television, when we got a phone call from the folks at our company who were attending the annual Cameron Chamber of Commerce Banquet. We put on speaker, and enjoyed our friend Melanie announce some nice awards. Then, she started in on the Chamber Member of the Year biography. I said, “Wow, that’s well written” and at that point, Lee realized it was him.

Who, me?

It was nice to see him recognized for all the stuff he’s been doing. I know it’s really helped understaffed Melanie! Both Lee and Kathleen have stepped up to serve on committees and do work to improve little old Cameron. I’m glad Melanie has such great other volunteers, too. And somehow, this helps us feel part of a larger community.

A fine award, too.

It must have been a fun night, because Kathleen won a lot of wine at the raffle. We can use that, if I ever stop pivoting and make it home.

Woo hoo!

I’m proud of Lee for lots of reasons other than his civic pride. For one thing, we’ve been together practically 24/7 for two weeks and we’re really getting along fine! Now, that’s a sign of a stable marriage!

Beach umbrellas sure look cheerful.

We’ve each been compromising, dealing with what comes up, and enjoying whatever we do. It’s taken us a while to get vacations down, because neither of us has really done many, but I’m no longer rushing him to get out in the morning, and he’s not been forced to go shopping, so he’s happier.

Sunny pelicans.

I get to go on boat rides and nature walks. So I’m happy! Plus the beach view really helps. I’ve had a nice week off.

And more pelicans

Time to read and knit and look at waves. I’m lucky in so many ways to be stranded at a lovely place with a fine human.

Exciting New Uses for Tongs and Other Items

This morning, I was emptying the dishwasher of items used in last night’s holiday meal. I kept picking up tongs. Tongs and more tongs.

Hmm. Tongs.

I’m a person who never uses tongs. I’m not sure why. I just use other kitchen tools. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally bought tongs. So, how did we get EIGHT pairs of tongs?

Tongs for every possible tonging need.

Anita and I were baffled. With such an extensive collection, we could do so much! We could open a store called “Just Tongs.” When my cousin, Jan, called she suggested a Tong Monster Halloween costume. Hmm.

You could play a game where you try to grab people’s heads with tongs.

My best idea, though, was to form a tong band. With so many sizes and materials, you can get a lot of sound out of the tongs, I think. And they are easy to use as a rhythm instrument.

You could poke an eye out!

The pictures here are me trying out the bass tong and the baritone. They made a cheerful sound! I need to get a couple of other people to help me out and create a composition for tong orchestra.

Another Creative Use

So, at Christmas I gave Lee a lovely silver box with turquoise stones on it, which I found in Utah. He seemed to like it. I had thought he could store some of his nice pens in there, but naturally, he has a set pen storage system that no gift can interfere with.

That’s Lee looking pleased.

Meanwhile, Kathleen gave him a series of joke gifts to help him deal with the woman in the next office (her). There was aspirin, a funny calendar, etc. Lee realized that one of her gifts could be beautifully stored in the silver box.

Yep. That’s hemorrhoid cream.

So, whenever Kathleen is a pain in his butt, he can reach into the silver box on his desk and find relief.

We are quite a creative family, huh?

Did you experience any gift creativity at your COVID Christmas celebrations?

Okay, Let’s Spread Some Cheer

One of the things I like about the way Hearts, Homes and Hands does its business is that they do lots of nice things for the clients and staff. Every year, goodie bags and flowers show up out of thin air to give out to everyone.

Just kidding. Many hours are spent making those goodies. Last night, after a long day of work, Kathleen, Meghan, and CC showed up at the Hermits’ Rest to go into goody overdrive. I got to help, and even Lee measured some cocoa for fudge! (I picked and shelled a small bunch of pecans from the tree outside our office, but Lee ate most of them.)

Ready to make treats.

Meghan and I made many, many pretzels dipped in almond bark and sprinkled with sugar. We got better as we went along. Everyone laughed at how I wanted to be sure every treat bag had the same number of treats. Well, MAYBE I enjoy divvying them up! (Hey, I spelled divvying right the first time!)

The pretzels are hiding in here.

The other half of the crew made Kathleen’s special fudge recipe, which contains cheese product (you’d never guess). The microwave was going nonstop between melting fudge ingredients and almond bark. Good thing we have a big kitchen.

Fudge, not solidifying.

After the fudge was done, Kathleen made “trash,” which is her version of Chex Mix. It’s spicy! That’s mostly for the caregivers, since we don’t want to shock the systems of the clients.

Trash. And remnants of the pretzel operation.

We had so much fun making a mess, enjoying adult beverages (some of us), and telling stories to each other. I’d say the management team put a LOT of love into our gifts.

This morning, they discovered our fridge wasn’t quite cold enough, and the fudge hadn’t solidified. It got re-melted and put in the freezer for a while. Our poor saucepan was traumatized, but everything worked out, and after a good soak, that saucepan can cook Christmas foods.

Ready to deliver the goodies.

Eventually, everything was all packed up and ready to be delivered by Kathleen and Meghan at some point today.

Personal Note

I’m really proud of them. They work SO danged hard, taking phone calls at all hours, filling out paperwork, supervising…trying to help team members better themselves…etc.

A personal assistance service is not an easy business to be in, since you tend to be surrounded by sick people, hurting people, grumpy people (and FUN people, too, don’t get me wrong) and doing your best to make their lives easier. Luckily, the great people on our team and the truly wonderful and appreciative clients make up for it. I’ve always felt that work that helps others is the best, and I think the Hearts, Homes and Hands team will agree.

Escape from Park City

Anita and I were trying to decide what to do today when there was a knock at the door. I wondered if the housekeepers came back, but no, it was someone else. She was all bundled up, but then I realized it was Kathleen! They’d surprised me!

Not Park City!

Much happiness ensued. Eventually we went on a ride in the car they rented. Whee! We went to Heber City and to Midway, both cute towns. Midway was extremely cute in an Alpine way. We had lunch and shopped at a very quaint shop.

Scenery

Then we drove around and looked at mountains and valleys and much beauty.

We sorta like snow.

There are lots of horses in this area of Utah. It was almost like being in Kentucky, only snowier. There were so many small ranches and pretty horses.

Hello, we’re horses.

The drive was beautiful. We saw so many hills, valleys, rivers, dams, and lakes. Anita, Kathleen and I ran around and squealed a lot when we made our stops.

It’s a lake! I’m huge!

Just gotta say surprise visits are good, and we are so grateful to our family got joining us for a few days. Now, enjoy some pictures!

Family Kudos

I just wanted to say how happy I am with the amazing job our little family team has been doing as we work together to build our Hearts, Homes and Hands (HHH) business over the past year plus. We each have contributed time, effort, and sweat to the endeavor. And it’s been quite a learning process! No doubt it will continue to be.

I rarely get to share decorative plants, so here are some I saw walking around our Austin neighborhood.

I encourage all the readers of this blog to also follow the HHH blog, which features lots of writing on elder care and health issues, along with business updates. That’s where you hear more from our chief hermit, Lee, too.

My contribution is helpful, but minimal, since I have another full-time job at the moment. I do the blog, maintain the Facebook page and LinkedIn, and write some newspaper articles. And I help with renovating our buildings by selecting materials and such.

On the other hand, Kathleen, Lee, and Chris have been working so, so hard that it’s been hard on their mental and physical health. Still they’ve kept going, and it shows by how much the business has grown!

Lee has become quite the financial analyst for a writer, or for anyone. He helps us see where we’ve been and where we’re going. His attention to detail awes me.

I’ve mentioned Chris and his work many times here, since I enjoy sharing rehab updates. His ability to design structures and then build them has been amazing to watch. The stairs! The crown molding! My bathroom! The ceilings! I can’t wait until he can have a team helping him, which will be a lot easier when the office is done. I’m really grateful for his patience and willingness to do this work.

And wow, Kathleen has done a yeoman’s job of getting us set up, keeping state-required records, training the initial staff, and recruiting customers. It’s really a job for more than one person, and it’s been hard on her! Many days she just comes home and goes to bed, unable to deal with anything else! I don’t blame her one bit.

I’m glad she’s got enough staff trained to help with the day-to-day operations of our business, because I know she will really be an amazing marketer when her time is less booked. Well, and when the pandemic makes doing things in person a challenge.

That’s the thing, we’ve done darned well to be still going after the past few months. I’m so grateful for all our talented family members, and for the great staff that is providing the much-needed personal assistance service to this county. Kudos to all.

Happiness Is a Brown Calf

I was sitting in my office when I got a text from Chris. It had a photo. I was confused.

Why is Kathleen feeding a tiny calf? Where is she? Why is there a yellow sticker on it?

I asked questions. Like what kind of cow is it? A bull. Where does it live? The back yard. Does it like dogs? We’ll see. Thanks, Chris, I thought. What the heck?

Vlassic was also confused.

Well. Chris went to the sale barn and bought a bottle calf, to cheer Kathleen up. She likes to hand-raise calves. How about that?

Yes, he made Kathleen happy.

So, he borrowed Ralph’s trailer and brought baby Rip home. Well, first they got a halter, a food dish, calf formula (isn’t that just cow milk?), and such. And Chris used our horse panels for a temporary fence. Okay.

Gracie and I were also happy to meet Rip.

I came home and enjoyed all the bonding and stuff. Kathleen is an expert. She held him and cuddled him, and he took a nice nap.

Nap time.

To get him to drink more, she had to make him stand up. He’s a little drowsy. Tomorrow we will get him electrolytes.

He really needed to stand up to eat. They get pneumonia otherwise.

I enjoyed feeding him. I’d never fed a calf before. I fed a little kitten a bottle once, and that’s it. Happy World Breastfeeding Month to me!

Mmm. Milk.

I sure hope baby Rip makes it. Kathleen and Chris say they’ve nursed calves in worse shape before. The guess is that he was a twin or lost his mom. Poor fellow. He will have fun with our crew, I hope. The dogs love his poop, which was not a thing I expected.

In any case, that livened up the day. Oh, so did this. It was still soft when they found it, near where Rip’s crib is.

That’s a healthy snake.

He should do fine, according to the professional family bottle calf raisers. The dogs like him, and Alfred and Clarence the guard rooster will take care of him.

I’m a scrawny baby.

Ross Is Ours! Kathleen Is Overjoyed

Today is the first day of the next phase of our Hearts Homes and Hands project. We closed on a pretty big piece of property in Cameron, the Ross house we’ve showed you a couple of times.

It’s ours! Let’s get that tree out of the entry.

Now Hermits’ Rest Enterprises owns the cute house, the land around it, and a lot across the street.

Look! It’s a lot!

After the closing, which was nice and smooth, we met the heirs of the previous owner. Then Lee, Kathleen, and I ran to the house and gleefully pulled up ALL the many For Sale signs around the property.

It felt good. If Kathleen wasn’t recovering from some medical stuff, she’d have turned cartwheels. Her dream house is ready for her to have a wonderful future in it…well, as soon as it has a functioning kitchen and bathroom. Details, details.

Kathleen is trying not to run in the house and start moving stuff around.

We’re all enjoying dreaming of Victorian decor, that is when we aren’t working on the current project! the end is near!

One Day at a Time

That’s how I’m getting by right now. How about you? I celebrated finishing that 40-day project by not writing anything yesterday. I was blissfully involved in a work project that takes all my concentration and passes time quickly, which was a real relief, but left no time for blogging here. Everyone needs an occasional break.

I’ll just keep fiddling while the boat goes down. At least the sunset’s pretty.

As if the days didn’t blur together badly enough these days, I’m in a holding pattern on lots of things right now. Just taking one step at a time is not only all I’m able to do, but the right thing to do right now. I’ll get back to figuring out the future plans and options later, when my head’s clearer (all my stuff is just related to various jobs and their various stresses, nothing horrible).

Randomness and Birds

It’s been nice to have Kathleen doing “stress cooking.” I like it when someone cooks to take their mind off things. She made me the best baked chicken on a bed of collard greens last night. I truly love collard greens (weird southern girl thing), and these may be the best I ever ate. I’m so grateful that she and Chris are here helping me and Lee out right now.

The spring air is making everyone sniffly here, but it’s really been nice to see what kinds of creatures are doing their regular things. My friend Donna, who is not a tech person, wrote a little blog on this topic, if you want some more nice photos. I’m really happy to see her getting out of her comfort zone.

I’m not sure what kind of moth this little guy will grow up to be, but wow, what a pretty caterpillar!

In fact, just this morning I was thrilled to see that bluebirds are nesting in the dead tree by the road again this year. There used to be woodpeckers in there, so I guess they made a nice house. The phoebes are nesting in our garage and spend most of their days screeching PHOEBE at each other and eating bugs. They are a lot of fun to watch.

The phoebes ate dozens of bugs while I was on the phone at my ranch office last evening.

The bug population is doomed around the Hermits’ Rest, or at least less awful than it could be, thanks to the handy birds. The scissortails are back at work, and there’s nothing prettier than watching a male go after a bug. The swallows are in full force, as well as those phoebes. I watch the little sparrows go after bugs every afternoon when I go feed the horses. Just think how many mosquitoes and other bugs we’d have after all this rain if we didn’t have our avian buddies!

Producing pollen this week is the prickly ash. Go tree, go!

Today I’ll head out and see what new is blooming. I’ve seen a couple of winecups, and we have our eyes on the dewberries. Yum. Back to basics. It’s good for you.

Share your coping mechanisms if you wish!

Need Inspiration? Here’s Some!

Now, here’s a thing. Hard times bring out the best and worst of people, right? It seems like a lot of folks are concentrating on the stuff that makes you just shake your head. The economy is more important than the lives of the elderly, having a lifetime supply of paper products is more important than other people having it, the world is just going to fall apart if you don’t have bread NOW. Wipe those thoughts away, right this second!

The UU word for today is inspiration, and that sent me right off into a wonderful frame of mind, where I realize that I am inspired by people near and far, ever single day of the Great Isolation.

Be inspired by our revamped shiplap wall. Lee and Chris worked so hard on it. I later cleaned all those bits of wallpaper off.

My family come first when I think of inspiration. We’re all sticking it out as best as we can. I wish I could be with my kids, but I’m impressed by how well they are handling themselves. I drive by my sister’s house every day and wave, knowing it’s safer to stay distant, but proud of how she’s coping.

Look how light and bright it is in Lee’s office with new window trim.

And then there’s the family I live with. Kathleen has been working herself so hard to get our business going in these hard times, and by golly, she’s succeeding! We have so much business that we have more staff and had to buy a bunch of scrubs for everyone to wear. And all the safety and health precautions keep adding up, but she keeps everyone on track. And I think I’d explode if I had to print as many forms and information as she does. She’s a real inspiration to me and to the rest of us. You just deal with what you get!

Kathleen says I can have these lovely, huge scrubs.

I’m also inspired by Chris, who is keeping our renovation project going with just occasional help from Easton (because Easton is also working for our business). He has so many great ideas and the skills to make them come to life. It’s really awesome to see someone find creativity in physical things and get as much joy out of it as I do with writing and making help systems.

Chris surveying his domain.

In the rest of the world, I see so many ministers out there helping people in new and innovative ways. They inspire me to keep in touch and support the folks who depend on me, as well (shout-out to the Live Oak UU team and so many others). People need spiritual support, and these folks are figuring out ways to provide it.

Bluebonnets on the sidewalk. Inspirational beauty.

And, well, you know this was coming. Every day I’m inspired by Mother Nature, as spring keeps on springing, butterflies and birds are mating, and the grass is so green it hurts my eyes. That’s inspiration to keep on keeping on: just the chance to enjoy one more spring.

I Am So Proud of Our Friends and Family on This Renovation

Wow, the amount of work that’s gone into our office renovation project is immense. Anything to do with money can get my poor spouse upset, and things were getting to him. I am so grateful to Kathleen and Chris, who were also dealing with their own stressful “stuff,” for helping Lee and the team figure out a good way to move forward on our project to bring a very old house back to life. I feel like I owe them something!

This brick has been cleaned so you can see all its colors. Looks so good. What’s that on top? The air conditioning/heating unit!

Now our family and friends are part of the team, and getting stuff DONE. Chris and Cody are supporting each other and leading the charge, while they brought in Easton (Kathleen’s daughter’s boyfriend) and Randy (neighbor at the ranch). These guys are cleaning bricks like crazy , making the walls prettier every day.

Here’s the unit in my office, and one of the doors that we’re going to use for a desk.

This lets Cody concentrate on bringing in specialists, such as our friend Felix, whose team swooped in today and installed a new HVAC system that’s both energy efficient and minimally intrusive. Wow, that’s going to literally be cool!

Working on the tiny hole that goes from the outside unit to the inside one.

Interior decoration helps me get my balance back. I told you earlier how Kathleen and I spent a happy hour or two last night dreaming of rustic chandeliers for our offices (mine with bling, hers without). We also have been figuring out ways to re-use the doors we’ll have to replace by making them our new desks. She’s looking for something cool to set hers on. I’ll probably get something with drawers from IKEA. I need drawers.

Another crazy light fixture. Antlers and bling. I have no idea which of the possibilities I’ll actually get.

We found a giant mirror in the bathroom by my office, which we already know a place for in Lee’s office. When we get it cleaned a bit, we’ll show it to you.

Look at all the pretty shiplap in the empty bathroom. That’s way better than a lot of really dirty stuff.

Most important, though, is that our family, our friends, and the people we are working with are back to having FUN on this project, which is how it should be. I am so grateful to everyone who is pitching in and helping me and Lee.

Lee actually having fun with air conditioning stuff. Felix said to get his hands off his noodle. We laughed so much.

PS: I have some additional photos of the renovation over on the Hermit Haus Redevelopment blog, if you want to see more.