A Gift from the Heart

This repetition may be getting tiresome, but I’ll say it again. No matter what stress and strain life presents, there are always bits of happiness that help you get through. Yesterday was one of those times!

My husband, Lee, followed through on a promise he made to me a few years ago, and made me a headboard for our bed out of recycled materials. The headboard was originally a set of double doors that led from the living room to the dining room in one of the houses we owned on Travis Avenue in Cameron. We had taken that wall and another one down to make the living area of the house larger.

Lee held on to those doors all this time, hoping to be able to do something to recycle them. He also knew I’d been asking for a headboard for our bed at the Hermits’ Rest house.

The doors right after painting.

He decided to do it this year, and figured out a plan. It sounds like it was a lot of fun to work on, hiding in the garage room. He and his nephew apparently had a lot of fun asking at the hardware store for a brownish kind of red color to paint it. They ended up with a lovely color called Red Ochre. That reminds me of all my reading on the color red! Ochre is the first paint the people used in caves, other than charcoal!

At last the weather cooperated enough that he could paint the doors. They called me in to take a look, and I was so touched to see it the red doors. Lee was trying to make them look rustic, and did a great job not making it look perfect.

You can see bits of the original wood stain, and the brush strokes. It’s intentionally rustic.

Once he scraped off the paint on the panes of glass, it was quite lovely.

Here you can see the supports behind the headboard. Also, you can see an electrical outlet. Luckily, there was a broken pane of glass RIGHT where the outlet for the cord that keeps the bed pumped up is!

Last night, Lee installed it, all by himself (tiny help from me and the nephew, but mostly him).

It’s up. Great picture of Lee’s bed that raises up and down, too.

There’s a ledge of trim that connects the two doors and turns them into one piece.

Here you can see how the headboard sits on something sturdy. The piece of trim does a great job connecting the doors. We left the holes for the handle, for authenticity.

There are also many screws, and such, including an invented kind of attachment that holds the bed to the headboard, courtesy of our resident mechanical genius. I’m just amazed!

The dogs were relieved to have their bed back. They did not like it moved to the middle of the room.
Happy headboard user.

I don’t have a picture of everything completely set up, but you can get the idea.

I slept well last night, thanks to my new bed. I felt loved and appreciated. I’ll think of Lee every time I walk into the bedroom now (as if I didn’t, anyway).

What treasured objects remind you of someone you love every time you look at them?

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?

Rainy Saturday of Love

Hooray! It’s actually REALLY raining today. This is what we need to refill the ponds and help all the plants over the winter. That said, I don’t look forward to going out in it!

Someday we will pave that giant puddle.

Meanwhile, I’ve enjoyed a morning with Lee. I even gave him his anniversary card (note that the anniversary was November 29). I’d left it in Austin. But, there’s rarely a bad time to remind your partner in life that you love them!

Lee wants to keep the wooden part. Good card.

It’s nice to spend a morning enjoy your loved ones. Harvey’s giant belly has been rubbed a lot! Carlton is under the bed, because it thundered.

I’m watching it rain.

I’m especially grateful to be home and warm, since the rest of the household had to go out and do some hard work. I love their dedication. The personal assistance service is not an easy thing to run!

A Question

I was thinking about how much I love our former Christmas tree that’s now a tribute to nature, peace, and our pets. The poor thing no longer lights and has gotten droopy. I think I need to find another tree with mostly bare limbs to put my ornaments on.

It used to be really gorgeous, if non-traditional.

If any of you see a tree that’s at least 6 feet tall and mostly bare (on sale!) that I could order, send me a link in the comments or on other social media! I’m on a quest!

Twelve Years Ago Today

Twelve years ago today was a day much like today, although a little warmer. It was cloudy and a bit gloomy. I was, as usual, a little bit stressed. But much of it was GOOD stress, because I was looking forward to the wedding of my (quirky) dreams to the quirky man of my dreams, Lee.

Aww, we are so quirky.

While the setting was great, what was most important was that I was surrounded by the people I loved the most in the world. My beloved father and my sister had both joined us, and my two sons were there, pitching in and helping. I had some of the best friends I could ask for participating in the wedding, ranging from my church family to my dear knitting friends. And when you threw in the people who came, including kids from the band bus, a high school friend, and Chris, who I met that day…wow, what happiness.

As long as Lee and I were publicly declaring our intentions to be a family for the rest of our lives, I didn’t care about the rest. I’m just so glad to have him at my side (figuratively right now) as we experience the joys and sorrows, fun times and challenges of the latter part of our lives. Better late than never!

Sitting here, separated by two counties and 80 miles away from my husband, and with yet ANOTHER exposure to deal with and keep me away, I’m getting a lot of comfort from remembering how our wedding came out so well.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This

People who’ve known me since 2008 will know this, but I’d like to share anyway. What else is a blog for? We got married just before sunset on the labyrinth at Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church. That was special to me, because I helped build the labyrinth.

We had two wonderful officiants, a long-time pagan UU friend (Linda) and one of the ministers at our church (Kathleen). We had beautiful vows that Linda helped us write.

Linda and Kathleen

My attendants each dressed in an appropriate color and carried a symbol for earth, air, fire, and water. They were good sports, especially the LDS and evangelical ones.

Carolyn (fire), Suzanne (water), me, Deana (earth – she’s carrying a crystal), and Susan (air)

My sons escorted me down the aisle, wearing neckties with the tartan of their father’s ancestral land in Ireland.

Dad and my boys. Lights of my life.

My dad gave “approval” in the ceremony.

Dad covered up his nametag.

We had great music. My friend Jeff, who’d lived with us for a long time, played my favorite instrumental piece that he wrote as we walked around the labyrinth (shortened so it wouldn’t be interminable). And Bill, from my folk trio, sang “My Beautiful Mystery Companion,” by Jackson Browne. All the music was great.

Jeff at the music station.

As the ceremony went on I looked around and saw my entire community. I never felt so supported in my life. There were my neighbors, old friends, new friends, young people and elderly folks, all in a circle, surrounding us with love.

I see so many friends.

Even the decorations and the reception were done by friends. My dress was incredible, a “real” wedding dress, just red, that my friend Katy helped me order in San Marcos, where she’d gotten her dress. The flowers came from Costco, and we just arranged them in vases we already had (except the one BIG arrangement).

We ran out of red and gold, so we put the pink ones in a separate area.

My friend Tina was there to help with decorating and all the logistics, while Elizabeth baked the beautiful cake with the topper that looked just like us.

I found this wedding topper on Ebay. I couldn’t believe I found a bride wearing a red dress, and both with the right hair colors.
Elizabeth making the cake. I can’t find a photo of the finished product, but I know there were some!

The days before the wedding were hectic, but fun, as all these folks, plus my dad and sister, were helping set up.

You can see how tired I was the day before the wedding. Tina was holding me up.

We had a fun reception, where my friends played music and everyone got to eat barbecue from our favorite resturant (and were glad to be indoors, since it really cooled off once the sun went down).

Pre-wedding photo of me and Parker (who is now Kate) making the signs directing people to the wedding. I miss the pansy wallpaper, still, but not the decorative fly swatter.

I was glad to have my wedding shawl, which was made from wool I picked out and was spun by my friend Jody. I knitted it to be filled with beads, so it made great noises, and laid perfectly against the dress.

Here’s a good view of my shawl. Linda is beaming at us from an altar with a cloth from my friends Gregory and Ravi’s wedding, which had the same colors. That’s Martha in the black shawl.

Memories like this help you get through hard times. Knowing that I’m still friends with nearly everyone who attended warms my heart. Following all these people over the past twelve years has brought so many changes. Birth, deaths, marriages, divorces, new names, new careers, moves to distant places, and so much more. Community. A varied and colorful community. And someone to enjoy it all with. That makes life great.

So many people helped! Canova arranged the peacock feathers, which came from Lee’s niece’s birds.

Thank you, Lee, for sticking with me as these darned quarantines keep getting expanded and expanded. Thanks for listening to me and making me think. Together, I hope we get to enjoy many more years. I’m glad we found each other, at last.

We’re older and our hair is different colors, but it’s still us!

Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane for me. It sure made another quarantined Sunday happier for me.

Lee’s Got an Office, Too

Yesterday, my spousal unit, also got a lot of his office furniture moved in. He has a massive and beautiful desk and credenza that we’re quite the doozy to get over here. Thank goodness Chris was able to help with the desk. They had to rest afterwards!

It’s a good thing Lee got one of the larger offices, because that desk takes up quite a bit of real estate! I love how the green leather on it picks up the green in the shiplap wall. It makes it all look on purpose!

The carving on the desk is really nice. He got the set used. I guess some company decided dark wood was not modern.

Lee plans to get seating in the room that’s comfy for his Hermits’ Rest Enterprises visitors, who will be able to enter through his private door and not interfere with operations at Hearts Homes and Hands.

These chairs will do for now! (The blinds make it hard to get the lighting right.)

He also decided that his old desk lamp won’t work in this office, so he has ordered a stained glass one. It will be nice to have a touch of color, I think.

He’s still bringing in art and such, but it’s just about ready to function.

It’s a crazy time for all of us, but now we have non-dungeon offices to work in. I know that’s made my morning good. Off to face the afternoon, with hopes that all of you readers have something to look forward to, as well.

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.

Sure, I Relax

It was nice to get home from work and think about what’s eternal.

One thing is learning. I’m loving the book I’m reading, perhaps too much. The person who wrote How to Be an Antiracist has managed to clarify all sorts of muddy questions and gut feelings I have about race, class, and political systems. Perhaps this is not the most relaxing book ever, but it makes so much sense that my brain feels tidier or something. More on this when I’m done!

The other eternal thing is life going on about its cycles. I’m surrounded by birth, death, old age, and metamorphosis every day. The new calf, Nicole’s son who will arrive in a month, the lady in Cameron who died in the fire and had cooked all those burgers, Lee and me, a butterfly. I treasure all of it!

Now to stop writing so much and share photos of what relaxes me.

Tomorrow will be Rip’s week-a-versary.
He liked head rubs.
Gulf fritillary.
Happy to enjoy our golden years (ha ha) at the Hermits’ Rest.

What Have You Made Better?

One thing you can always count on me and my spouse, Lee, for is that we are looking to do better in the world, do better for each other, and do better for ourselves. Lately, Lee has been listening to dozens and dozens of podcasts, and is especially fond of the Daily Stoic. It applies ancient philosophy to today’s world, and has been really useful for Lee. There are books and such, too, which you can find on their website.

Simulated coffee drinking.

Most mornings while we are drinking coffee, Lee asks me some question he found in one of his podcasts, which helps me be more conversational (I’m not a morning person and neither is he, really). One of his questions is where I got the recent topic of saying “I get to” rather than “I’ve got to.”

Today he asked me what I’d done to make something better. He said it could be big or small, for myself or someone else. His answer was that he’d improved a QuickBooks process (which makes things much better for Mr. QuickBooks).

I fumbled around a bit, but then realized I’d posted a status on my public Facebook page last night that asked people what made them smile that day.

I think 65 comments is pretty good engagement!

The answers cheered me up, cheered other readers up, and no doubt helped people who maybe didn’t smile much that day remember something good that had happened. It was a simple thing, just asking a question, but it encouraged conversation and made people’s day better.

I got the idea from Joanna Fontaine Crawford, the minister at Live Oak UU Church, who very often asks questions like this and gets a lot of conversation going. I like it, because the questions come across as genuine, and not like it’s some meme that you are supposed to be guilted into copying and pasted. Asking a REAL question gets real answers!

Let’s see how this one goes over…

So, think about it, what have you made better so far today (or yesterday)? Ask yourself this every day, and your mindset can’t help but shift to a more positive direction. I plan to keep up both the practice of asking good questions and checking on what I did to make something better each day.

We’re a team!

Thanks, Lee!

Pee at Last! With Stereo!

We have running water at the Pope house! and I got to be the first to use the toilet in my new bathroom! Now THAT is progress, my friends.

Ooh, aah. It works.

Note that the toilet was re-used, and was at the house when we got it. It was pretty new, so Ms Erma must have replaced it recently before she moved out.

One, um, interesting detail is that since the window we installed had to be low, due to the stairs, you get to enjoy the entire neighborhood and traffic (such as it is) on College Avenue as you sit on the throne. That makes me glad we got blinds to install.

You actually see more of the road out the window. And obviously it couldn’t be any higher!

Other plumbing also got done. The other bathroom is now fully functional.

That mirror is tiny. It’s hung now, but useless to tall people.

As I mentioned yesterday, Chris has requested we never get a faucet like this very cute one again. It took many hours to finish it today.

El chingaso

We also lost the pedestal sink we’d wanted to re-use. It broke as Chris tried to work on it. That means I get to pick a new one. It has to be small!

Tubby is looking forward to this new faucet. It didn’t come in black.

Lee’s Office Improvements

Lee spent most of yesterday on his most important office feature, the sound system. He re-did his mother’s old stereo cabinet to have modern insides (removing a rat nest from inside, mmm).

Nest was at left. Nice.

He put in a new tuner and speakers and will add a modern turntable.

He was proud of the finished product, which also needs new cloth in front of the speakers.

A man and his stereo.

As far as he’s concerned, with the added chair, he’s done. It sounds great, by the way.

The listening station.

Next up is the water heater. Our dream of hot water will finally come true. It will have to wait until Monday, though. There’s ranch and Ross stuff to do today.

There’s Always Something to Be Grateful For

Yes, today’s word is gratitude. You knew that one was coming, right. Those of us working on our attitudes are told by all our self-help books, tapes to keep gratitude journals, because it actually makes us feel better at a brain chemistry level. I know my spouse does it every day and it’s been really good for him.

I don’t write a gratitude journal, but I’ve been practicing just “noticing” where I am and what is going on, often through the day. This just leads to gratitude welling up in me. Corny as it may seem, I’m often just grateful for the privilege of being here on this earth, able to live and continue to learn every day.

Just noticing where I was. Grateful for the ever-entertaining ducks of Cameron.

Today, I awoke from the first decent sleep I’ve had in a while, looked out at my chickens, who got through a pretty bad storm last night, and was glad to see that my sadness of the past few days had moved on to a new phase. The first song I heard this morning said it well:

Let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day

Raglan Road, Irish folk song

I’m practicing being grateful even for the stumbling blocks and unexpected changes life brings, which I’ll talk about more in the next post. Right now, I just want to share how grateful I am for my support system, including these precious beings, who have really improved their behavior lately.

Two good doggies.
Lee is ready for when we are allowed to open our office and need to wear scrubs!

And I’m grateful for my family and close friends (thanks Anita and Mike) for listening to my vents yesterday. I feel very well cared for, with Chris sharing his stories of similar things in his life, and Lee jumping right into lists for planning our future. With this network of support, I’ll get by.

We all deserve a support network when things get weird, and by gosh, things are weird for everyone right now, and lots of us have other things piling on top of the isolation. If I can EVER be a listening ear for YOU, I’m here. I want to pay forward the kindnesses for which I am so grateful.

Your thoughts are always welcome, friends.