From the beginning I have been an adventurer. I believe my parents even went hiking while Mom was pregnant with me. I’m sure my dad is proud of his accomplishment of hiking while pregnant!
As promised early on, I will sporadically spin yarns of past adventures, and you can’t accuse me of lying either – it will either be that’s how I remember it and you weren’t there, or poetic licence. That’s a thing, right?
Anyway, I think my first hiking trip was November 1987. I say November, because it seems like that’s when we always went camping. It was always freezing, and I would have to crawl into my Dad’s sleeping bag with him in the middle of the night because (as you may have known) a scrawny child can’t produce as much body heat as an adult. I don’t think the folks figured that one out. I was always cold!
See, Mom’s in a t-shirt, I’m in a sweatshirt. Always cold!
I’m not sure where this was taken, but I’m sure since I was a toddler, we didn’t go too far from home. Based on the rocks I’m guessing the Edwards Plateau area of Texas.
Our favorite place to go as a family was always Big Bend National Park. I never would have guessed that I would continue to go there as an adult, and even do my thesis research there.
To be honest, I don’t really remember these first trips very well, as you can imagine. I do remember though, one year in the early 1990s when we went to the Davis Mountains in November. See? It got down to 14 degrees one night. As previously referenced, I was forced to crawl into the sleeping bag with Dad because I couldn’t stop shivering. I’m sure he slept fine after that, right? Having a kid sticking their knees in your back is so much fun in a king-sized bed, I’m sure it was just as enjoyable on the ground. With rocks. And did I mention it was a bit chilly?
For years we would never want to go camping over Thanksgiving again.
We would say, “We survived being outside in 14 degree weather! We don’t need to do that again!”
And Dad would say, “We survived being outside in 14 degree weather! We can do anything!”
I’m sure about that time is when we switched our vacations to summer, but I can’t swear to it. I’m sure we out-voted Dad. That tends to happen when you are outnumbered *smirk* My parents, for some reason, had never taken us camping in the east. Every year we went further and further west, instead. You know what happens the further west you go? It turns into a desert. And deserts are hot in the summer. Again, not sure if the folks figured that out.
One year, I think we were in Utah or New Mexico, and it was unbelievably hot. Somehow Mom and Dad thought we were being weenies, and they managed to keep hiking. I have no idea how they did it. We had those cheap hiking fanny packs that hold 2 water bottles, and I remember pulling my water bottle out of the fanny pack and taking a drink – the water was so hot I couldn’t drink it. Not saying it burned my mouth, I’m saying it was disgusting! Luckily, Big Sister and I found some shade and told Mom and Dad to go off without us. And they did. I don’t even know what was so special about that trail – all I remember is laying on the cool shaded sandstone was the best feeling in the world.
I guess, based on these stories, you might wonder why I ever went outside again. But I was always trying to learn. I would pull leaves off shrubs and study them. I would see a bug and try to remember exactly what it looked like so I could look it up later. I looked for fossils in the rocks as we went down the trail. I was a born naturalist. I even remember seeing my first rattlesnake. I think it was on that same sweltering hot trip, and it was on the side of the trail. I wanted to watch it all day – I never had that fear that most children have of snakes. Or any animals for that matter…
When my parents thought we were old enough, they gave us pocket knives. Big Sis probably was, but I probably was not. As a child, I had to use my knife every waking moment. I was whittling. I was digging. I was cutting leaves off of plants. And I remember, VIVIDLY, attempting to cut a leaf off of a shrub and slicing my thumb open. There was a flap. Seriously. I grabbed my thumb and held it tight, and DID NOT tell my parents. Why? They had just given me a talk about how I was such a big girl, and they could trust me with this knife. I guess they didn’t realize how sharp it was! To this day, I have never been able to get a knife-tip that sharp in my life. I don’t know what they were thinking.
The good thing was, we were on our way back to the car. And on top of that, a tissue had fallen out of the car, so I reached down to pick it up and stop the bleeding. Mom’s response was to thank me for picking up litter. *tisk tisk tisk* if only she knew…As soon as we got back in the car, I was thinking about telling my parents, when Dad gave us another pep-talk. I think the conversation went a bit like this:
“You girls are the best thing in the world…*tear*…I can’t believe how blessed we are…*tear*…to think, we have 2 beautiful, smart, amazing girls…*tear*…to have the confidence to know that I never have to worry about my daughters, now or in the future….you make a father proud(breaks into inaudible sobbing and hugs Mom for giving him the two most important things in his life.)
Well – Not tellin’ em now!!!
(It took me about 5 years to work up the courage to tell Dad. And Mom might have read about this for the first time just now. No lie).
But I guess it turned out for the best – I can easily be self-sufficient in the wild and learned at an early age not to panic. Ahh, the young adventurer.
I would like to start passing on some health info that I have learned over the last couple years, because like most Americans, I thought I was eating right when in fact, I had no idea. I thought I knew how to work out, but I was wrong.
So first of all, I would like to give you a little bit of background, because I really don’t want to come off as a know-it-all. And I really just want to pass on good information.
From the “Beginning”
I think it was December 2010 when I was finally sick of myself. I had been steadily putting on weight through college, and although I stayed active, it kept creeping up on the scale.
Before December I avoided having my picture taken from the neck down, and even then I hated how I looked. So some time in December I decided enough was enough, and I needed to lose weight. I would do a comparison so you could see the difference, but even I don’t want to see that, so let’s move on.
I don’t remember the exact day, and I didn’t take “before” shots. Probably because I was worried that I wouldn’t have the discipline to actually make myself lose the weight and it would just be a constant reminder to me that I failed at something. Seriously.
Never be disappointed in your progress. It’s still progress.
Hubby has always been fit. Broad shouldered and strong, I always hated that he could eat the same things I was eating, and he still looked great. Stupid testosterone…..Anyway, so Hubby went to work, making me good food to eat (he’s the cook in our house), and we started running. Then we got a weight room in the house and he started helping me with weight training.
There have been several plateaus in my weight loss, but so far I have lost 34 pounds! I went from a snug size 12 to a loose-fitting size 8, and I think pretty soon I will be down to a size 6. It’s great to be able to see my progress every time I look in the mirror!
My first plateau hit when I had lost about 20 pounds. I still had a way to go, but nothing was changing. I was still working out and eating well, but I know I wasn’t running near as often as I should have been. It was hot! And I was BAD at running!
Except, I used to feel like the bottom picture, and I’m sure that’s what I looked like, too.
I attempted one of those diet pills that is supposed to give you energy and make you not want to eat. It was expensive and full of caffeine, so I couldn’t drink coffee or sodas because it made me feel sick. Not too bad, I needed to drink more water anyway, right? So I cut out additional caffeine. It did help curb my appetite, and I know I was eating WAY too much in one sitting, so it did really well making me feel full and making my portions smaller. But I didn’t notice the weight loss that they said would happen. Ya, I lost a couple more pounds, but nothing that convinced me that it wasn’t just my work-out routine that made me lose it. So I stopped taking that stuff.
I still try to drink a lot of water, and that’s tough for me, because to me when you say something tastes like water, that’s a bad thing. My solution? Add Sweet-N-Low! It makes the water taste good, so you want to drink more of it! I also started adding lemon juice to my water, so now it’s like I’m drinking lemonade all day long. Yum!
My original goal weight was 150. I have only 2 pounds to go, and I will hit my goal! Yay me!
However, I plan on having legs I’m proud of, and that means about 10 more pounds to lose (or 10 pounds of fat lost, and 5 pounds of muscle gained). As long as I’m proud of the hard work I have done over the past 1+ year, it’s totally worth it.
Now, I’m training with Hubby to run a half marathon. I’m hoping to do one this fall. The bad part about training in Southeast Texas is, humidity will kill you. Seriously. It’s hard to run far distances (or at all) in the summer heat and humidity. Which is why I’m hoping to run a Half in the fall, when it’s nice and cool again.
This weekend we will be running a 10K, and I can actually say that I think it will be a piece of cake! I’m not saying I’ll WIN by any means, but I have the confidence to say that I can run the entire thing without stopping! 2 years ago I was proud when I ran 2 miles without stopping.
So the lesson of today: there’s not just one thing you can do to lose weight. If you only try dieting, you will eventually fail. If you only try working out, you will fail. You have to be ready, mentally and physically, to crave foods you used to eat, and to be sore from a workout.
There is no magic bullet
But when you see your clothes are getting too big, you pick Subway of McDonald’s. And you pick running a mile over sitting on the couch.
The best thing in the world though, is when you try on clothes at the store, and tell the chick in the fitting room who has to stand there all day to try to make sure people aren’t stealing stuff, “No, I’m not going to get these. I need a smaller size.”
Shiner has never been what you would call a “gifted” dog. When I got him I was 17 years old and he was a stray puppy that someone had brought into the vet clinic I worked at.
He was adorable. And happy. And not real bright.
But why do I want a smart dog? I have a smart dog now, and all he does is get into trouble. I prefer stupid dogs over dogs that can think for themselves.
Years ago I got a picture of Shiner sleeping.
I thought this was the weirdest way I had ever seen a dog sleep. It might be a tie between Shiner and Hondo though. Hondo would sleep under the bed. It was hilarious because you could hear him on the wooden floor struggling to get out from under the bed to greet you at the door. And then struggling again to get back underneath. It was like his little cave. Granted, Shiner would sleep under the bed if he was small enough, but being a big dog he would just have to settle for sleeping with his head under the bed. I wish I had pictures.
When we got one of those platform-type beds from Wal-Mart (be nice, we were poor college students) there was no room for Hondo to sleep under it.
He was devastated. He didn’t know what to do. He would walk around, try to go behind the bed, walk around some more, and then he though, “if I just sidle up to the bed in the right way, maybe I can get under there,” so he would lay on his shoulder, and then realize he still couldn’t fit. Poor guy. I felt a little bad laughing at his pain.
Now that we have bought a house and have a real bed (i.e. not made out of particle board) Hondo doesn’t care about trying to get under it anymore. Now he has a cave made out of my night stand and dresser.
Shiner also has a cave.
Yep, Shiner sleeps under the canoe. And yes, we are a little bit redneck so my dogs chew deer antlers for fun. Now, the first time I saw Shiner sleeping under there he scared the ba-Jesus out of me, because it’s right next to the compost bin. I went out to put stuff into the compost, and heard movement behind me. I jumped out of my skin, turned around, and saw Shiner. I shouldn’t be surprised I guess. I’ve always known he liked “caves.” The same thing happened to Hubby though. He went out there and all of a sudden saw movement out of the corner of his eye. He may or may not have screamed like a little girl.
A few nights ago both of the dogs were sleeping oddly, so I was inclined to capture the moments.
I’m sure he sleeps in front of doors because there is a draft that he likes to lay by, but that doesn’t explain the position he’s in.
Hondo’s favorite sleeping spots:
my side of the bed (as soon as I get out of bed first thing in the morning, or even in the middle of the night)
between my night stand and my dresser
spooning with Hubby on the bed and taking up as much room as a person in an attempt to knock me off the bed
Shiner’s favorite sleeping spots:
under the canoe
against the front door on his back
in the mud
anywhere Hondo will generally leave him alone
So I guess it doesn’t matter if you have a smart dog or a stupid dog. They will always make you laugh about their sleeping choices.
Like I’ve mentioned before, one of the good things about my job is I get to travel. Not too much, and not too little. On Friday I had the opportunity to spend the day in Galveston and this time, I was prepared!
Binoculars and camera in hand, I was able to bird while working! And this time, I even remembered to keep a note pad with me so I could list out the species I saw. I’m getting better!
As soon as I got to my location, a group of Brown Pelicans flew right over me. ♥
I got out of the car to walk the area, and was attacked. By these.
Seriously. You would never have thought it was February, cold, and rainy based on the number of mosquitoes that surrounded me. It was like Jumanji. I got back into my car, and 5 of them followed me in. I sat there, swatting at them one by one until I was sure they were all dead. I looked out my window, and 3 more were trying to get in. I almost expected one of them to poke a hole through my window and try to stab me that way.
Luckily though, they were only bad in the tall grass, so I just avoided that as much as possible. When I knew I needed to go through the tall grass, I kept my mouth closed, squinted my eyes, and ran. Yes, I was running away from mosquitoes. I’m sorry, but something that tiny (ok, these weren’t TINY by the way) and easy to kill should not be able to bite through BLUE JEANS. My hips have been itching for days now because I got bit so many times!
When I was finally away from the tall grass I was walking through a wetland area in my mud boots. The entire area was sandy and was covered in little bird tracks, big bird tracks, house cat tracks, dog tracks, and these:
These are the holes and tracks of tiny little crabs! I’m not sure what species (I don’t know much about crustaceans), but I think these are the kind of crabs that come out of their hole as soon as the tide goes out and they clean the sand of any edible microscopic creatures before the next tide comes in. This is solely based on my combined limited observations and Discovery Channel, so if you know what species they are, please tell me!
After I finished up at my work location, I drove around the nearby neighborhood and did a little birding. I’m sure the people who lived there were wondering why a Prius was parked in front of their house, but I didn’t care- I was having fun!
I was able to identifyShort-billed Dowitchers and a Northern Shoveler in one pond area, and in the next there was a Snowy Egret and a male Mallard. He was quite photogenic!
After I finished up in town, I went to get some lunch at Fisherman’s Warf.
It’s a Landry’s restaurant, so it’s a little pricey if you don’t stick to the lunch menu, but it’s really good, you have a view of the water, and you get to sit right next to a replica Clipper Ship, called the Elissa. It’s such a pretty ship!
Last time Hubby and I went there, we took some friends who came to visit us over Thanksgiving in 2010. It was cold and windy, but they had never been to the beach before, so we took them down to Galveston to let their son (at the time 5 years old) feed seagulls and let them find seashells like every person int he world should do at least once in their lives! We sat outside on the dock at the restaurant, watching people load up the cruise ship that would be leaving soon, and watching dolphins jump in the port. It was perfect! This time I didn’t see any dolphins, but I had a great lunch and worked on reading Moby Dick. Very fitting, I think.
I couldn’t decide what kind of Po-Boy to get for lunch, so the waitor suggested that I combine two different items, like shrimp and oysters. I told him I had never had oysters before, so he thought that was a good choice.
The shrimp was amazing. The oysters tastes like Canola Oil. But hey, it’s good to know, right? I’ve been told fried oysters isn’t the best way to try them for your first time, but that was the only way they were offered (at least in my budget).
But check out their kitchen!
The whole time I was getting ready to go down to Galveston, my fear was that it was going to be nuts. Why? Because of Mardis Gras! I was convinced that the streets would be littered with tourists, it would be a hectic drive, and I would be miserable. As it turned out, I was there early enough in the day, that they were simply shutting down a few streets and setting up parking areas. Not too bad! In fact, the town was actually pretty dead, so I was able to drive around downtown and look at the beautiful architecture! Next time I go down there though, I will have a driver, so I can take pictures of all the beautiful old houses- some of them are from the 1860s!
Before I left, I was determined to get a really good picture of Pelicans in flight. Ok, it didn’t happen because I only saw them flying while I was driving. On the interstate. On a bridge. Couldn’t exactly pull over. But I did get a cute picture of these guys on a dock by a bait shop.
Bird List from February 17, 2012
Cormorants (not sure which species)
Boat-tailed Grackles (I don’t usually count these guys, but if I put them on this list, I never have to include them again!)
Eurasian collared doves (see Boat-tailed Grackles)
I have a lot of plans for our house, but of course with plans, comes spending money. Which is not something I’m always willing to do. As a new home-owner, I need to just get over the idea that “it’s probably not worth it,” because if it’s an improvement on the house, then it’s probably worth it.
I am a gardener. Or at least, while I was in college I was a gardener. I had a beautiful rose garden that I cared for every day. It was gorgeous, and I’m not being arrogant, either. I’m sure I’ve got pictures buried in the computer somewhere.
Since I’m now a full-time adult, and don’t usually see a lot of day light unless it’s on the weekend, my gardening has consisted of purchases cheap plants that might die, because I don’t have the time or energy to care for them right now anyway. So far, most of them have lived, but I was also successful in introducing disease to my roses from Houston Garden Center’s 70% Off Sale. Damn my eyes for seeing what I thought was a good deal!
Anyway, when we bought the house, the yard was STERILE. Seriously ( but not LITERALLY). The only things (not counting the trees, because I love the oak trees!) planted in the yard were boring. They don’t bloom. They just sit there and take up water and grow out of control because they haven’t been trimmed in probably 20 years.
I require flowers! Hydrangeas, and roses! Hibiscus! Azaleas, peonies…Anything that blooms. And like I said, the yard is the exact opposite of that. We bought our house during the Great Texas Drought of 2011 so planting things was pretty much out of the question. Plus, we JUST BOUGHT A HOUSE. We didn’t really have a lot of what you would call “liquid cash” after that, so the yard stares at me. Taunting me. But I stare right back. Planning. Scheming. Drawing landscaping plans in my sleep. Scoping out the yards of my neighbors for plant ideas and landscaping patterns.
First of all when we bought the house, there were already flowerbeds, but nothing really in them. You could see the skeletons of azaleas or something that didn’t survive, and there was some decorative grass, but that was about it in the front beds. Near the house however, were MASSIVE sago palms.
These things poke, they are toxic if eaten, and they are impossible to kill. And there were about 8 of them, all almost as tall as me. The front walkway was taken over, so Hubby took the walkway back. Did I mention that we moved in August in Southeast Texas? I’m very glad my job was to paint inside. But I brought him water when he looked hot! He ended up taking an axe to the palms to get them out of the ground.
Also in the backyard, there was this awful groundcover that was doing a great job growing up the garage and Live oak, collecting dead leaves, causing the garage to rot, and almost killing the tree. That also had to go. The yard isn’t very big, and 1/3 of it was being taken over by groundcover!
Bro-in-law went to work with a machete ripping the groundcover out. I brought him water when he looked hot!
One day while Hubby was out of town, I spent 2 hours ripping out more groundcover and ripping out several shrubs with my bare hands! Muahaha! Actually, they were those crappy shrubs that stay twiggy and never grow, so they were a piece of cake to rip out. But still. Bare hands. Boom.
At the moment, the backyard is still pretty sterile looking. Hubby has planted a couple fig trees near the fence, but that’s all we have planted back there. My goal this Spring is to rip out or cut out the remaining shrubs, and plant hydrangeas in their place.
Since the Rebel alliance has been smashed in the front walkway, I’m planning on planting either hosta or ferns. I like something that blooms like hosta, but I don’t know how big they get, and I don’t want a second death star of vegetation to take over the front.
This particular topic has come up has come up quite a lot in the recent past, so i thought I would share my opinion on it, and see if any of you (ok, Sister, mom, and maybe Mom-in-Law) have an opinion on this too:
Common sense has become less common. Ironic, I know, but it’s true. Maybe it’s from all the seatbelt laws and warning labels, but it seems as if no one has to learn from their mistakes or observations. Here are two examples from recent outings.
1. Scorpions live in water.
Looking back I can’t believe it was almost two years ago, but we went out to Brazos Bend State Park to walk to trails on a beautiful spring day. It was perfect-not too hot, not too humid, and there was wildlife everywhere. Turtles, birds, alligators, and apparently, scorpions….?
So, this little guy was hanging out on the edge of the water, and was apparently in his honey spot for hunting, so he didn’t care how many pesky humans were around-he wasn’t leaving.
There were several people standing around watching this Yellow-crowned night heron hunt, and yes, it was during the day. One man standing ont he shore with a baby backpack and corresponding toddler on his back, was trying to explain what was happening to his family. He said, and I quote,”He’s got a frog. No, wait, it’s a….it’s a scorpion!”
That’s right folks: Scorpions live in swamps. It’s a little known fact about them, actually. Many people think that they prefer drier climates and living under rocks, but let’s face it. When you’ve been educated in the US, you KNOW scorpions live in swamps. Right?
So as this night heron pulled up crawfish after crawfish (no, they aren’t REALLY scorpions), the man and his family looked on in amazement. His family. Meaning he had children. Meaning he passed on not only his genes, but he is now passing on his knowledge.
God save us.
2. A snake will hold onto its prey until it grows big enough to eat it.
Over the weekend, Hubby and I were in Hermann Park in Houston spending the day birding and feeding the super fat squirrels in the park. I didn’t have my camera because the battery was dead 😦 so you will just have to take my word on this. I mean, you read all this other drool, so I would expect you to take what I have to say as gospel.
While we were birding in the park, a massive group of Whistling ducks was congregated on a small island in the middle of the lake near the zoo, and there were a few others walking around on the other shore, where we were. In particular there were three that let us get fairly close. One of those poor ducks had something stuck to him, so I waited until he got closer to make out what it was. The poor thing had a 5 inch long rubber fishing worm (and presumably the hook attached to it) stuck in his neck. While the duck walked, he would step on the worm and it would tug out from under his foot. Every time he took a step. He also had fishing line wrapped around one of his feet. This duck wasn’t doing horribly, considering the circumstances. He was foraging for food, he just didn’t look very comfortable, and his neck was pretty swollen. But hooks are meant to rust away to nothing, so we can only hope that it will rust away before he gets an infection.
What does this have to do with common sense? Later while we were still walking through the park, we heard a group of high school aged kids talking about how a duck had something stuck to him. “It was like a snake or a leech” they said. Over and over, they repeated that a snake or leech was holding on for dear life to the neck of a duck. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, yes leeches are difficult to remove, but I would think that a duck would rather eat a leech than let it suck the life out of him. And as often as the duck was stepping on it, it would seem that the leech would eventually give up and find an easier meal, so he wasn’t getting stepped on constantly.
But a snake? A snake. A 5 inch-long snake on the neck of a duck? This just reminds me of the chicken hawk in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. He just doesn’t realize how small he is, but By God, he’s going to eat that duck!
So my lesson today is, use common sense. Think about your observations. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t make an assumption about something you know nothing about. Ask questions. Learn. Especially learn to think critically. You will need those skills when the apocalypse comes, anyway.
And because I like to leave you with something nice to look at:
Today I got to make mud pies! Do you know how long it’s been since I did that? It’s got to have been around 15 5 years!
See, for my job I get to (on rare occasions) test soil that is suspected of being contaminated with hazardous substances (i.e. toxic waste!)
This is actually what I think of as the fun part of my job. So of course, I don’t get to do it that often. But soon that should change! As I gain experience, hopefully soon I can do bigger and grosser projects! Yes, that is really what I hope for. Grossness.
I have never liked sitting in front of a computer all day. When I was in grad school I would go outside and study on the benches in the shade. And then take a nap. I loved my school. I could sleep out in the middle of campus and not worry about being violated or robbed! But I digress…
My job has some nice perks, but I’m in front of the computer all the time, and rarely get to see the sun. Seriously. Winter sucks, because it’s dark when I get to work, and dark when I leave. I can’t wait til the time change!
So on the few days I get to be outside, it’s much appreciated. And, did I mention, I got to make mud pies?
See, when we are checking the ground for toxic waste (ok, it’s not really called that in the “industry” but it’s more fun) we take soil samples. And have to jam dirt into jars, and take up as much space within the jar as possible, attempting to keep out all the air/free space. This sounds easy, until you get into areas like San Antonio, where I have seen the hardest clays imaginable. And you have to use your fingers. I must not be describing this very well, because even as I re-read it, it doesn’t sound that bad. But believe me, my thumb, forefinger, and middle finger are freakin’ sore! And I didn’t even hit that hard of clay today! But we did hit a very silty sand today that was soaking wet.
It was just like when you were a kid, and your dad (if he was like mine), ordered a truck load of fill dirt, and didn’t do anything with it until the Home Owners Association wrote you an angry letter about it looking “unappealing” on the driveway. And then he still didn’t do anything with it, because by that time it had rained, and the dirt was running down the driveway. But as a kid, you HAVE to make mud pies! You get a big handful of dirt/mud, put it on the driveway, and pat it into a perfect circular convex shape. (I’m sure my mom has pictures of me and Big Sis doing this, while it was still raining. And lightning.)
So this is how I felt today. (Not that dirty, but I was almost that excited!)
“Can I come inside and watch TV now?”
It was a beautiful morning to be outside, and I’m truly thankful that I have a job that lets me out of the cave every once in a while.
These are my silly travel stories where I use humor and sarcasm to explain other cultures and world events. I use this forum to be a voice for the Little Guy. Little Guys have tiny, squeaky voices and no one wants to hear them anyway.