Rainy Day? OK!

Today’s UU Lent word is rain. Let’s see if it’s as unpopular as “reach” was (yesterday was my lowest number of blog visitors in a LONG time). It’s all good, though, that’s the least of my worried! As for rain…

Rainy morning this morning in a strangely empty Round Rock, Texas. Photo by Amy Mathews-Muttwill, whose husband Thomas has a birthday today, so she was going to get donuts.

It’s been raining a lot for the past month or so. Here in the middle of Texas, we hope that happens every spring, so the tanks (ponds) fill up and the creeks flow for a while. The trees get their yearly long drink of water, and everything gets ready for two or three months of no rain come summer.

I spotted all these raindrops yesterday. I like them as much as “old greenbeans” (who is really Elaine) does.

Last year was the wettest year Lee ever recorded in our gauge, until the rain totally stopped for quite a while. We’ve learned to enjoy the intense green and all the wildflowers in March and April, then to have a different kind of enjoyment as it gets all brown and crispy later.

When it rains this much, I’m okay with it stopping. This is Walker’s Creek by the ranch doing its imitation of a river, April 11 2018 (the day I started this blog). Waterfront living at its finest.

I Like Rain

Lee and I used to always say, “I like rain,” to each other, after we said it at the same time early in our courtship. It was a bonding moment. I have one of those personalities that would be fine living in a damp environment, like Seattle or Ireland. Back when I had Irish inlaws, they’d apologize for the rain there, but it was mostly a light drizzle that made all the roses grow and kept the fields green. I loved it.

Rainbow in Northern Ireland. This is the kind of sight I remember from further south. Image by @joemelendez via Twenty20

And when it rains a lot, there’s always a chance of a beautiful rainbow! When the kids were little and we’d drive all over Ireland, we saw some doozies in places like the Dingle Peninsula. Good memories!

When I was a kid in Gainesville, Florida, we’d love it after tropical storms came through. We would have really big puddles and lots of water in the ditches in front of our yards. We’d get pieces of plywood and spend hours skimming in the water. Our parents would repeatedly tell us there were bad things in the water, but hey, a little ringworm was a small price to pay for all that fun.

Nope, none of these ever wandered up the ditches in Gainesville. We had a canal behind our house in south Florida, though, and it featured gators and water moccasins and such.

In high school, I lived in south Florida (Plantation, yeah I know it’s a dumb name for a town). There it also rained a lot. The typical pattern was to be all nice and sunny until later afternoon, when thunderstorms would come through for an hour or two. That always coincided with the time that 70s teen girls wanted to lay out in their bikinis and get their suntans. Probably it was Nature’s way of trying to prevent our future wrinkles and skin cancers. That rain was always warm, and if it wasn’t thundering, we’d often stay in the pool and enjoy the rain there (almost everyone had a pool back then, even the lower-middle class families like us).

A familiar sight from when I was a teen. You’d watch the rain coming down the street. Image by @cr819081 via Twenty20

No wonder I like rain. I have no idea where all those memories came from, but since I typed them, I’ll leave them here. It’s nice to think about good times in the past, anyway. It’s a good distraction.

Penney loves her little pond, which is all full thanks to the rain for the past few weeks.

So, go ahead! Share your memories about rain. Are you like Pickle, Anita’s dog, who truly loathes rain and wetness? Or are you more like Penney, who is grateful rain makes her swimming hole bigger?

Reaching Out/Reaching Up

I was surprised to see reach as the UU Lent word of the day, but then I realized it’s really appropriate for me, and probably for many of us right now.

Reaching Out

For me “reach out” is most important. It’s no longer optional to reach out to friends and family, but mandatory. With so many people living alone or dealing with challenges (like schooling children…or heck, just feeding and entertaining them), it’s important to be in contact with your peeps.

Don’t do as the cattle do! Isolate!

Goodness knows, I am not a great correspondent (other than blogging), but I’m doing my part. I write a couple of letters every day and make sure to say hi to someone I don’t often talk to, especially those who live alone. Today a friend reached out to ME on the day I was going to reach out to HER, which made me smile.

Gratuitous chicken picture. They are reaching up and grabbing at clover I picked for them.

Some of the things people have been doing for each other have really warmed my heart. People who have surpluses share them (we got some bread products that way just yesterday). Restaurants are selling supplies they don’t need due to not being open to the public. And there’s all that mask sewing going on! Way to go, sewing people!

I hope that when this is all settled down we remember all the kind and good things people have done for each other, and let the memories of people who aren’t considerate, run around in public, and hoard stuff fade away.

Reaching Up

My Instagram of the day featured Spice the paint quarter horse in a quest for delicious hackberry leaves, which she deserved after going for a ride and surviving being barked at by my dogs. It’s nice that Sara and I can still ride, as long as we take some reasonable precautions (we no longer share grooming tools, and only one person at a time can be in the tack room, which I keep forgetting).

Spice stretches out while being groomed after a nice ride.

I did a lot of reaching up (and down) yesterday while painting trim. But, now that much of it has multiple coats of creamy white, it looks great.

Nicole paints away on the trim yesterday.

Today, Chris is really reaching up as he works on painting the wall behind the new stairs. He has most of the priming done and is hopeful that there will be two colorful bathrooms very soon!

Looking down from the front door. Lots of white trim, new subfloor, and a primed wall, ready to be a cheerful color.

Peace within Reach

Other than being a mirror image, this shows me all dazed in a meeting, sharing the sight I get every time I drive down County Road 140 to my house. It’s lots nicer with that field of flowers to enjoy.

Many of my coworkers are doing their meetings on their patios or porches. It’s a great way to get outdoors a bit and enjoy some peace, while still getting stuff done.

I’m stuck in the basement for meetings. But never fear, I took a couple of photos of hos beautiful it is on the road leading to the ranch, so I use it as my Zoom backdrop. A little bit of peace for all!

The view without my head in it, and not mirror image. Not bad, is it? You can see my house around the bend.

I hope you can get out in nature, reach up and touch something not made by humans, and find a little inner peace. Let me know how you’re doing!

I’ve Had a Rough Relationship with Love

Oh, who hasn’t had a rough relationship with love? (Not a surprising UU Lent word, is it?) If you haven’t, count yourself as fortunate and give yourself a big hug. Wait, everyone else, also give yourselves big hugs. And now for some brutal honesty.

My issue, like so many of us, has been with romantic love. I was always a big fan. And boy oh boy was I full of it. Those happy hormones it kept pumping into me were my drug of choice. I kept seeking it out, even when I had perfectly good relationships. This here was my biggest failing, because I repeatedly did really inappropriate things in my quest for my love drug.

No, I do not blame my parents for how I came out. They did their best.

And, what did that do to me? It made me love myself less. And that led to the feeling that I was worthless if nobody loved me, so I did more unhelpful things to try to get the people I loved to love me or continue to love me. I worked way too hard for my Dad’s love, which spilled out to romantic relationships.

That led me to like myself less and less. My inner monologue consisted of, “No one likes you…you have no friends…you are so fat…you are a failure…” I’m surprised I could get up every morning and go to work, take care of my kids, or volunteer constantly.

Do you see a downward spiral looming? I sure do, in retrospect. I ended up with the pathetic tendency to do just about anything to get love, romantic or otherwise. I was one of those people you read about who change themselves to try to be the person their object of affection wanted.

Note: That does not work.

It never occurred to me that it’s very hard to love someone who doesn’t love themselves, and I certainly didn’t love myself. I needed to learn about other types of love than romantic love, obsession, and sex hormones.

I did it! Was it easy? Nope. I had to admit a lot of icky things about myself (see above) but thanks to a good therapist, I was able to figure out what led me to end up the way I was, and forgive my past self. I was able to see that all those past actions were leading me to current wisdom and peace.

Loving myself just as I am. Pink hair is all faded, too.

Learning to love myself has let me love others in so many ways without having to have all that hormonal stuff mess with my mind (I still have hormones; I just recognize them for what they are).

What I Can Do Now

I can love my family without expecting anything in return (thank goodness, since one of them seems to not love me back at the moment). And I can appreciate their love without basing my self esteem on it.

Shine on, Suna.

I can love my friends and be okay if they go away or have a problem with me. If they want to work it out, I’m there to do so. If not, I’ll love them from a distance.

I can love people I don’t know. For all I know, my loving vibes may be helping in some way I can’t be consciously aware of.

I can love all my animal companions and enjoy their love back.

I can love my planet.

Will I have bad moments? Will I get jealous or envious of someone else’s relationship, or hurt when things don’t work out? Yep. But I’ll pick myself back up and keep going.

Gratitude

I’m grateful to everyone I’ve ever loved and hope you got some good out of it. And I’m sorry for those I hurt.

My favorite picture of my spouse. Thank goodness for his love.

I’m grateful for my spouse, his patience, and his ability to love me as I am.

I’m grateful to Victoria.

I’m grateful to Brené Brown. Even if I generally find self-help books annoying, her conversational style and repetition of the same point in different ways helped me break through and shut my inner voice up. Go read a Brené Brown book.

“I know something about love.”

Surrender? Who, Me?

I ordered a bookcase for only $250. I must be confident things will improve.

BAH. I’m not surrendering to defeat and negativity. In only two days my self-imposed extra-carefulness after coming home from our vacation will be over, and I’ll feel a lot better to know I didn’t get sick or make anyone else sick when we traveled.

Rather than surrender (word of the day for UU Lent) in a “giving up” kind of way, I chose to surrender my expectations of how things should be. Getting rid of that will let me enjoy things the way they are now.

Actually, I think rattlesnakes are at the end of the path. I’ll wear boots if I go out there.

I have bluebonnets to look at. I saw whistling ducks at the ranch. The trees and grass are so darned green that it makes my eyes hurt. My chickens make me laugh every day. It’s thundering big time outside while Kathleen plays “Amazing Grace” on her phone. I’ll surrender to that beauty and wonder of the day.

There are always sweet surprises out there, even when we feel imprisoned by our lack of choices right now. (Baby blue eyes just on the other side of the fence)

If this is my last spring, by gosh I’ll enjoy every moment. And if it isn’t, I know I’ll appreciate all the future springs even more. It’s a privilege to be here now. Since I can’t change what others do or what happens to the rest of society, I surrender to the lessons I’m learning and the love around me.

I am part of the love around you. And I lost weight.

Peace to you all in these “interesting” times.

Who Supports Whom?

I was thinking about support even before I saw that it was the UU Lent word for today. Right now pretty much everyone needs support, right? Times are so confusing for everybody. Still, many of us are called on to support others. And sometimes the people we support need us to support them, too.

Yesterday, when I blew on this dandelion, I imagined each seed was flying off to touch someone in need of care and support. Cheesy, but what the heck.

My boss at my software job made this point yesterday in our Zoom meeting, when he said he’d probably be needing to reach out to us sometimes, too. We’re all glad we have jobs that we can do virtually and that we haven’t been laid off yet, but it’s still challenging. Remember, it may not be all that great for your boss, if you start to feel gripey.

I am really glad that I can be there to listen to the people I manage, because it’s hard enough to work from your personal cell (mine is even in a basement, and at the moment a bee is trying to attack my monitor), but it’s even harder when your work gets frustrating. A couple of my team are dealing with that, and they NEED to have someone to vent to and to tell them to just do their best, because none of us is at our peak of efficiency right now.

This wonderful friend curls up to me, sighs, and sends calming vibes. Well, he does that when he’s not running around like a goofball and barking for attention.

The concern I have right now is for the people I know or work with who are isolating all by themselves. It’s easy for me to immerse myself in my tasks, but I’m hereby reminding myself to check in on people like my sister, my stepmom, my coworkers, etc. We have all these fine ways to keep in touch, so don’t think, oh, their other friends/family members are supporting them. Your support is also important!

Suna’s Support Team

Hello Zoom, my old buddy.

As for me, I’ve got my precious dogs to help. Carlton has been especially good, since Vlassic is hanging out with Lee’s brother, who’s mostly alone in his RV. I do treasure my daily walk to see the horses and Fiona with him! (Fiona is healing, I think.)

I have to say, though, that the Zoom company, whoever they are, is my biggest support system. I’m sure they are getting rich, but I don’t care. It is so great to be able to talk to my coworkers, my friends in my nonprofits, and groups of online friends. I am so grateful for the technology that some of us lucky and privileged people have for keeping in touch.

He has no fat, because he is on the go all the time.

And of course, there’s the Hermits’ Rest commune. It’s so helpful to have the family around to support each other. I just wish I had ALL my family with me. I guess I better go send those supportive texts, letters, and emails now!

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.

Who Do YOU Trust? Or What?

This one’s just sad.

The cynicism I’m developing from watching national government representatives continue in-fighting and saying really horrifying things (I am now expendable, oh boy!) has just heightened my mistrust of all of them. Let’s work together, everybody.

Oh my. When I started thinking about trust, today’s word for UU Lent, my first thought was “trust no one,” then I came up with “trust but verify.” I think usually, I lean toward the latter. I have issues, I guess. I give people and institutions a chance, but it takes a long time for me to build up enough trust in anything that I don’t want to verify.

And for goodness’ sake, do not go look up memes about “trust no one,” unless you want to look at a lot of guns and implications of ideologies I personally don’t trust.

Trust Is Tricky

Even without pandemics, trust has been an issue with me. I certainly could not trust my parents, since they came from a society where lying to children was an accepted thing. I found out all sorts of stuff about what happened to my pets, what was really going on when Mom disappeared periodically, what really happened in relationships…etc.

I finally found a meme I could go with.

Later on I learned that I should have been much more careful in trusting friends and coworkers. So, I’m a lot more careful and do a lot more verifying, which I thought was pretty darned healthy, to be honest. But, then I went and read how it’s a relationship killer. Here’s what Nan S. Russell said:

Here’s the simple answer: when the outcome is essential and matters more than the relationship, use “trust, but verify.” When the relationship matters more than any single outcome, don’t use it.

“The Problem with a Trust-But-Verify Approach”

Who to Trust

I’ll tell you who I trust! My animals. The dogs are just so sweet and obviously trust US, so I trust them. And a relationship with a horse just isn’t worth trying for without trust. Apache and I have done a lot of trust work, and even though we misunderstand each other sometimes, we trust each other. I am SO glad for animals.

Today’s Instagram features Fiona, who still has one icky leg.

There are people I trust completely. It’s a risk, but to live with people, you have to trust them. It would be hard to shake my trust for the people I live with in both my houses and the people I work most closely with. They have all earned it.

Sigh, it’s time to stop. I’m getting upset about how we can’t trust our fellow humans to take care of each other. Instead, I’ll end with these nice keywords to live with. They are perfect right now.

This sounds like a great motto for today and for the future.

FIRE Brings Hope

It’s the SUN! It makes the earth shiny! It kills germs!

The UU Lent word for today is fire. It came on a good day, because a fiery ball of light appeared in the sky for the first time in a LONG time, or at least it seems.

Seeing the sun this morning made me hopeful. I have read that it’s harder for some viruses to thrive when the sun is out, baking away. I keep hoping the coronavirus is one that will be slowed by sun and heat. It’s supposed to get to 90F today, after many days of cold and damp here in the middle of Texas. (I also hope it helps Fiona’s legs heal up.)

While I’m mostly a watery Pisces kind of person, fire has always meant a lot to me. Like my favorite goddess, Brighid, the goddess of the hearth, the forge, and poetry, I like to make things from fire (pottery, bread) and I like to use my words to ignite a spark of recognition, passion, or learning in others.

Notice how different each brick is.

I took the picture of the bricks a few days ago. I love how every one of these hand-made bricks is different. And that they’ve required some repair to the mortar holding them together. But they still stand, because they work together. WHOA! A METAPHOR FOR OUR TIMES! We need to be this way.

Alfred’s still guarding the fort. We all need an Alfred from time to time.

We may be just “another brick in the wall,” but in reality, we have our own jobs to do right now. And so what if we’re cracked or a little broken, we can still do it! I’m thinking of all my family and friends who are trying hard to hold themselves together. That means YOU!

Cheers. Who needs to brush your hair in a pandemic?
I do still wear a bra, but it’s a comfy one.

I’ve actually lit a fire (sticking to my theme) under myself and am getting lots of work done for all the jobs. I guess I’m getting used to the new normal.

I recently read that Texans are drinking the most alcohol during this time. I did my part yesterday with some proseco.

But, here’s a weird thing. I took off all the dip polish and cut my nails. I am hoping that Tina, my nail technician, is able to take some time off to take care of her family, so I spend some time bonding with the smell of acetone and made my nails naked.

They are pretty thin anyway, so even when I go back to the nail place, I’ll probably just get polish for a little while, so they can grow out.

Now I look like Granny Kendall, who had little short, fat fingers and bit her nails to the quick.

I don’t recognize my hands. They are very clean. I’m having to use so much hand lotion that I took off all the big rings. That’s a new normal for me, too.

What’s your new normal?

Who's Struggling?

That’s a relief. Image by @wanaktek via Twenty20.

If you’re not struggling, at least a little bit right now, I salute you! Tell me your secrets, on this Monday of isolation. For once, the UU Lent word of the day, struggle, seems mighty appropriate.

I like being at home, and I like being in my little basement office full of cheerful colors and numerous little things designed to keep me in a good mood (see below). They usually help, but geez, listening to the news, being unable to go to Austin to see Anita, and worrying about the health and safety of people I care about is weighing me down.

I ate goldfish crackers and cottage cheese for dinner. That’s a sign of someone struggling.

This is NOT our worst nightmare, really!
Image by @Boris79 via Twenty20.

Life’s always been about struggle, though. Every so often some kind of malady shows up and wipes out a lot of people, disregarding their wealth, social status, or degree of universal belovedness. That’s part of humanity (and other life forms as well). That doesn’t mean it’s not hard right now. I just wanted to get some perspective.

So yeah, life’s a gift, and let’s all enjoy it while we have it. That doesn’t sound cliched at all, does it? But that’s the best I’ve got right now.

My yellowish office and my newsletter, as seen on Instagram.

Still, I’m getting stuff done, and actually got my newsletter draft finished over the weekend, so there’s actually time to proofread it and get it reviewed. My entire family spent all their time in their offices, so I figured it was better to hang around in the office than go home and stare at the animals (which I did a lot of, anyway).

Gratitude

Me and Mike’s family.

There’s always something to be grateful for, and just because I don’t share it every day doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. I’m very grateful to the companies that made all the social media software we’re all relying so heavily on. Last night much hilarity ensued when I joined with my friend Mike’s family in an extremely goofy Facebook messenger filter festival. Now, that’s family fun. So, thank you, programmers of filters.

And I’m extra grateful for the creators of Zoom, who allow me to attend meetings online and actually SEE my coworkers. I’ve also enjoyed a couple of Zoom sessions with women I’ve been in an email/FB group for 25, that’s right, 25 years. Shout out to the Sislist!

Me, Zooming solo.

Heck, I’m even grateful to the post office for letting me send letters to my family and friends to cheer them up. Are you doing that? A woman I admire in Minnesota (who founded the email list mentioned above) is sending letters to anyone whose address you send her. She calls it Sunshine Mail. It’s keeping her busy and brightening so many days. Knowing about it brightens mine.

There! I’ve cheered myself up just by pointing out these ways we have to cope, while we struggle along. Send me more ideas!

I Don't Want to Write about Justice

Nope. Don’t want to write about the next extra-PC concept the UU Lent folks brought forth, justice. My Instagram says it all. I got a rock.

Rocks are grounding, though. This is my grounding rock.

I’ve never seen a lot of justice out in the world. Luckily I do see small amounts of mercy, which I find more important, anyway. Creepy people do well. Good people fail and suffer. The wrong people get punished. Whatever. Just keep moving forward one day at a time and see what you learn, but don’t expect to learn a lot about justice.

Ugh

One of my friends on Facebook said it best yesterday:

Today I hit a wall.

FB Friend

I did, too. I was trying to work on my perky email newsletter for friends of LLL, and I just didn’t have any perky in me. I read too many articles on predicted deaths, people doing unsafe things, and tragedies. I always wondered how I’d cope with one of these weird times. I guess, like many, I’ll have good and bad days.

Folks, we are allowed to have bad days, to be sad, to miss things from our previous life, and to worry like crazy about people we care about (and people we don’t know who have it worse off than us). Let’s be gentle with each other and support the people who have a hard time, even while doing our best to keep our own spirits up.

Where I spent yesterday. My ridiculous bedroom would make a great isolation area.

So yep, I spent a lot of time in bed with the dogs, reading a book. It helped. The rest of the family all worked until late in the evening. I’m worried about them, too. But, we are all doing our best and trying to do self care!

We’re entertaining.

I’m glad I have the horses and chickens, who make me go outside even when the weather is awful (we have flooding today, which means the chicken food is a mess). I’m glad the dogs can run around and play, even when it’s raining.

Playing in the wildflowers.
I like the stripe colors, anyway.

I’m glad other people are finding stuff to do. I looked on Amazon just to see what books are popular right now. Best sellers were all preschool math, for some reason, I guess homeschooling. I looked in the crafts section. I had to chuckle, because I never saw so many adult coloring books in my life. My favorite was the obscene one. Maybe I’ll get it.

I shall try to be cheered by the basement office’s art and fake flowers.

Keep in touch with me, and with those you care about. I like hearing from everyone. It helps. Now to go be perky.

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