To Travel or Not to Travel

I’ve been thinking about traveling lately. Getting out and seeing different parts of the world is really good for my soul. It reminds me, at the same time, of how much similarity there is in all these places, as well as how different places can be. For example, on my field trip last weekend, I saw many of the same kinds of trees I do here (post oaks, live oaks, cedar elms, eastern red cedar), but I also saw many kinds of plants that were very different, like the rattleboxes (repeated from yesterday, but they are so cool!

These make all sorts of sound when it’s windy out by Edwards Lake!

Now that we are mostly working from home, it seems to me that I could travel and work at the same time. As long as I have the laptop and Wi-Fi, I’m set! Zoom is only a click away!

So, I have booked some travel that’s not vacation, just living in a different place. I’ll just have to be really careful getting where I’m going, but that’s not impossible. Once I’m there, I can get all cozy in my rental accommodations, look out the windows at different scenery, and pretend I’m someone else, in a less awful time. At least I’ll be somewhere else!

London, January 26, 2020. People wearing a face masks to protecting themself because of epidemic in China. Selective Focus. Concept of coronavirus quarantine. MERS-Cov, middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

I don’t want to get sick, which means, boo hoo, my shopping habit won’t be indulged in. But I can certainly take walks on paths and trails that are not crowded, enjoy parks, and order fun food delivered to my room, right? I’m hoping that this “middle way” of not acting foolish, but not sacrificing the few years of being able to travel that I have left, will get me through the rest of this year and next year.

So many people I know think the risk of getting COVID isn’t real. They aren’t taking precautions, and that’s their right, I guess.

Knowing people who’ve had it, I can’t say that nothing will happen to travelers. But I also think the reasonable solution to the problem is avoiding crowds and keeping clean. That, I can do. And I won’t go anywhere that doesn’t have a lot of safety measures in place. (I’ll tell you where I’m going when I get there!)

I’m not going here, though I’d like to. Image by @omom via Twenty20.

Feedback? Am I being foolish? Do you have any fun ideas for out-of-town activities one can do?

Trim and Tidy and Safe

The work on my future office is progressing. The bathroom just needs the sink picked up and installed, and some paint touch up. Then I can add my plants and wall stuff.

Now the edges of the tin won’t attack people. It looks so good.

The office trim is getting painted for both rooms on this side of the house. It will get installed as soon as it is dry.

Shiny.

The same is true for my beautiful mantel. We revised it a bit and really like its shape. Creative use of leftover trim makes a huge difference!

Side view of mantel shelf. I’m gonna have a baby fireplace!

Also, because the State has requested more precautions in businesses, we added places right inside the doorways of both the current and future offices so anyone who goes in can spray their shoes with sanitizer and clean their hands.

We canceled a lot of upcoming activities, too. Until the virus spike in Milam County calms down, our little ranch community will keep doing our best to entertain ourselves. So glad for our pets, livestock, and weather.

Peace to my friends, family, and the community.

Ups, Downs, and In-Betweens

Life is rolling along here in scenically rural Milam County, Texas. And its population is getting sicker. There are only 25,000-ish people in this county, so our ten COVID-19 cases are a lot. It was NOT good news to find out yesterday that one person who got sick worked at the local Dairy Queen. We’ve gotten take-out from there during our confinement.

Our lovely Dairy Queen

Oops. This has led Kathleen to declare that we bring lunches from home from now on. No one has disagreed.

Now, an important point to make here is that we have the best Dairy Queen possible here. It’s in a modern, new building. It’s clean. They pay well above minimum wage and have employees who’ve been there many years. The staff have all been briefed on precautions to take. And the owner, Robert Mayfield, immediately closed the store so that they can disinfect it from top to bottom and be sure that it’s safe (and that the workers there have a chance to quarantine and stay safe, themselves).

An example of Judge Young’s weekly newspaper articles.

Our County Judge, Steve Young, has been doing a heroic job going on the radio, doing Facebook Live, and otherwise staying in touch with the people here, urging them to not gather in large groups, wear masks if working with the public or out in public, and to stay the heck home. We’re all really proud of the work he and our Health Department are doing.

But, it takes actual cooperation to prevent the spread of disease. No one at the hardware store, serving the public, was wearing a mask this morning. No one at the gas station where I got fuel this morning was wearing a mask or gloves other than me. I am NOT gonna touch a credit card machine with my hands! I also have a very clean credit card now.

It’s good to have your own company hand sanitizers spread everywhere you go, so you can clean your credit cards and such.

I know Cameron is not alone. There are people everywhere who believe themselves immortal or invulnerable or just don’t give a shit who are wandering around like nothing has changed. Now, I’m not referring to people who have no access to masks or gloves and have to be out so their families don’t starve; I know isolation and protection is a privilege. I’m talking about people who feel perfectly comfortable putting other people’s lives in danger by their choices. Who knows how many innocent folks with underlying conditions that predispose them to having a bad case of the virus these people will kill in the name of their personal freedom?

Happy thoughts, yeah.

I Said There Would Be Some “Ups” in This Post

Look at all those freckles.

Yes, I did. I was looking at myself on Zoom yesterday (it’s hard NOT to look at yourself) and realized I looked as bad as I felt. So, last night I re-colored my hair for the first time since early March. It’s now orange with some pink highlights. (My next hair appointment isn’t for another month, at least, so plenty of time to wash out color by then.)

I put on makeup and lipstick today, added my sparkly yellow shoes, and I donned my new Hearts Homes and Hands lab coat. I look all professional and up-beat, and I’m hoping that will spread to my mood and attitude. So far, it’s helped. If I have to take things one step at a time, at least they will be sparkly steps!

Here you can see my lab coat. It reminds me of the one I had in grad school to keep chalk off my clothes, just like my mentor, Georgia, wore.

A Little Pope News That’s In-Between

Chris is really close to getting the first two offices completely done, other than installing the barn door between them. He has been working on trim all week. There is a LOT involved in doing trim, which is sorta sad, since when it’s well done, it blends into the background.

Trim in progress.

The doorway between the two rooms will NOT blend into the background. It’s darned bright and cheerful, especially on Lee’s side!

Trim, trim, trim.

Another thing that is taking a while is that they have to make dozens and dozens of shims to go behind the metal to trim windows on the tin walls. And, well, the house isn’t all level, so many shims are needed elsewhere. Easton spent an entire day cutting shims. Now, that sounds fun. Or does it?

Without shims, this trim would stick out from the wall, because the metal has bump-outs.

The plan is to get the remaining two rooms all cleaned up and move the supplies needed to finish the rest of the downstairs over there. We can’t paint the ceilings or refinish the floors if there are wood and tools all over the place!

So…even though we remain sort of dazed and confused, my plan is to dazzle with my shiny hair, shoes, watch band…anything cheerful!

Shine on.

Getting Supplies Safely and Helping the Unemployed

We’re still working on the Pope Residence project, even though we are down a couple helpers, temporarily. Yesterday, Chris made a trip to the Lowe’s in Temple for the supplies needed to do the trim. How did he keep himself safe, you ask?

He felt really good about the precautions the store was taking, which let contractors and others get supplies they needed but not spread germs. Each cart got sanitized before a customer used it. And all the staff stayed 6 feet from customers. When Chris needed to look at a staff member’s screen, he moved away. Chris was impressed with how customers all kept their distances, too.

Chris ordered some doors. They look just like this, apparently.

Chris got our sink for the break room and a lot of interesting trim to finish off the sides of the windows and around the doors, where there are gaps between the brick and the frames. It will look pretty spiffy. Wow we have a LOT of trim to paint, though! He’s thinking of ways to automate it.

A very deep sink. Perfect for the break room.

Next, though, is texturing the few drywall areas. It has not stopped raining for three days, though, and he really wants to do it on a dry day. It’s also cold, ugh.

All taped up and ready to texture.

Helping Out

As you probably know, a lot of businesses around here have closed down due to the state of emergency, curfews and such. One was the local car detailing shop. So, we have brought on Marcus, who works there, to help out on our project. It’s good today, since Randy is out and Easton is taking care of stuff back at the farm.

Chris is adding boards here, so it will match the upper part of the stairway. We will paint this the ceiling’s color.

He is really meticulous (duh, he works at the car detailing place), and is doing an amazing job taking layers of gunk of the door trim. I almost cried when I saw how beautiful the trim around the stained glass above the door came out. Wow.

Just glorious.

I’m glad we can help out people who’d otherwise be unable to contribute to their families or their own needs. It’s only a few people, but it feels good to be doing something positive.

When it is stripped, you can really see the trim details better.

Bummed

Like many of us, I’m having a bit of trouble being positive right now. We have daily meetings of the Hearts Homes and Hands staff, in which we go over in excruciating detail what we need to do to protect ourselves and our clients. And I think I’ve read too many articles on disease progress projections. And I miss Anita and my other house. All normal stuff everybody is dealing with right now.

Here’s the trim o go around the windows and doors. That is a nice distraction.

Sure, we’re all lucky in some ways, and we’re all inconvenienced. It’s okay to be sad and miss the old world, even as we are grateful that precautions we take may save lives. I think I’ll take the rest of the day off. Tomorrow, volunteer work and more work. And I’m glad I can do it.

Where Do You Find Sanctuary?

Ah, the word for today is sanctuary on the UU Lent calendar. As I am sitting inside one of my personal sanctuaries as I type this, I didn’t have a hard time coming up with things to photograph for this concept.

My office at the ranch, with my favorite chair ever, my favorite couch, art I love, a stool my dad made, and much safety.

What I realized soon after starting to think about sanctuaries is that I truly crave them. I make myself a sanctuary wherever I go. In Austin, it’s my bedroom, where again, I have things I care about and a cozy place to sit and read or knit. I’ve turned my office at the Hermit Haus into a sanctuary with all my colors and all my nature stuff. Even in the horrible “open office” thing at work in Austin, I’ve tried to create a place of calm.

This is when it was in use as a church. They took that nice lighted thing in the back.

Heck, I even OWN a sanctuary, but not in the same meaning of the word. The old church sanctuary still gives me a bit of a chill, so it won’t be a haven for peace and reflection for me for a while yet.

I feel like a wealthy person when I realize how many places I can retreat to when I need to. I need to retreat a lot, which is how I keep as even-tempered as I manage to do (though Chris said I had a negativity attack yesterday).

To help with office negativity, I went and made myself a sanctuary at the Pope Residence. I drug a chair and a bench out on the balcony, where I can look at the big magnolia tree and survey the churches of Cameron. I spent a nice time listening to the many grackles, four woodpeckers, and a loud mockingbird. Triumph in the sanctuary department!

Thanks, tree. You bring peace.

Of course, Lee and I built our very own sanctuary here at the ranch. The Hermits’ Rest is most definitely his safe place, and I’m not far behind (I just have more places). My Instagram post for today shows me enjoying coffee in the only side of the house not dealing with hurricane-style winds.

I had pretty much everything I needed here!

It’s a real privilege to have your own physical areas of sanctuary like I do. I think of people in Syria, people in abusive situations in the US, so many others in crisis who don’t have anywhere to go where they feel safe. No wonder so many people just retreat inside themselves; they have nowhere else to go.

I feel safe here. So grateful for the Hermits’ Rest.

Everyone deserves to be able to escape and refresh and renew their souls. Those of us who have the chance to should cultivate and care for our sanctuaries, because we are lucky to have them. One way to do good in the world is to help bring peace and safety to others.

How would you do this? Where is your sanctuary? Is it physical or mental?

Is This Safe? No. Remodeling Scare.

We are moving right along in remodeling the Pope Residence. You may remember that we removed a staircase that was in the entry hall, because it was dangerous (in more than one way). After it was removed, we put a temporary piece of wood over the resulting hole, so no one would fall to their death on our first floor.

See that big board, just hanging there? Oops. Two more have been repaired.

Yesterday, the crew was planning to make a permanent repair to the floor on the second floor, in anticipation of being able to put in the new tin ceiling. When Chris and Easton looked at it, their hearts skipped a beat. The previous remodeler had simply sawn through the floor joists to insert the stairs. That meant nothing was holding the floor up in that space. It’s a miracle no one ever had the floor collapse beneath them. Scary.

Just to show that we fixed it, here’s a fixed picture! It should be darned sturdy now.

Aah, safety. It’s all sealed up now!

Chris has been busily supporting things in the house, anyway. He’s reinforcing the floor in the main downstairs bathroom, which is probably a good idea. And all those sinking places are doubly reinforced. Our floors will stay!

Ready to replace damaged floors with safe and strong subflooring.

And We Can See!

In breaking news, the electric folks just came by and switched on our new, safe, and inspected electrical service! The temporary lighting works just fine. I turned on all the lights, just because I could. Now we can work all night!

Other Renovation Stuff

We’re all excited about the stuff Chris and I bought on a whirlwind trip to Lowe’s yesterday. There are the two windows to go in my bathroom and in the stairwell. They will match just fine.

Yep, those are windows, all right.

And we got all the outside lights, which will make it much safer for all of us and keep the perimeter of the building visible at all times. I think they are pretty, even if they’re just the kind everyone has. That doesn’t mean they are ugly!

Large and medium sized outdoor lights. They should get installed any day now.

The shiny red tiles for my office and bathroom came in, as did the vanity for the main bathroom downstairs, but the vanity was too big to fit in the giant SUV (it was raining, so no pickup and trailer). We did get a LOT of decking for replacing old floors, though. And while we were there, we chose a nice deep sink for the breakroom, as well as a faucet.

Stay tuned next time, when I hope to have stairway progress to share.