Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 things about me

The outhouse at my dad's Oregon log cabin. Yep, 25 years later he still has an outhouse.
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

The 25 Things About Me is all the rage at the moment on Facebook. So I thought I'd put a copy of my own one here on my blog too!

1. Most of my friends know this but I lived for part of my childhood with my hippie dad in a pioneer-style log cabin in Oregon with no running water, no electricity, wood stoves, outhouse, kerosene lanterns. We gathered rainwater in 5-gallon drums and grew all our own food!

2. I want to turn a modified version of my blog into a book and maybe TV series. Tentative Title- Wild Life: Ordinary suburban mom. Extraordinary bohemian adventures. The cover would be a Harold's purple crayon type drawing of houses, and then a photo of me holding an alligator (as on my blog) popping out of the roof of one of the houses. It will be about both my home suburban life as a single mom peppered with my adventures around the world!

3. I never wanted to be a writer as a teenager or in college.

4. However, when I was 8 years old I liked to say, when people asked, that I wanted to be an "Artist, Acrobat, or Author." So maybe that counts.

5. I sold so many Girl Scout cookies that I earned the ATARI on TOP of the sales pyramid - and got all the other prizes as well. Snap! (Or... I'm a dork, and proud of it).

6. When I was in 5th grade, I had "head gear" along with my braces. Yes, I was a total dork. I had like seriously buck teeth!

7. My dad used to raise his own chickens but I refused to eat the chickens he raised, only storebought, despite his arguments about how much healthier his chickens were. I could not eat chickens I had names for! Meat should come from stores! :) Ha!

8. I often get the urge to just get away and explore. Like, thousands of miles from home! I think when the kids are grown I'm going to be far more spontaneous and just take off sometimes!

9. I have a lifelong dream to see the mountain gorillas in Africa (Rwanda or Uganda). I must do this before I die!

10. I want to do something big enough that I would win the Nobel Prize, or write something good enough to win a Pulitzer. OK I know, how the heck will that ever happen? But it's a dream in my heart and soul.

11. If I were President, my platform would be to eliminate world poverty.

12. I used to be an atheist.

13. I love hugs!

14. Sometimes I like to jump up and down just for fun. I call it the kangaroo. :)

15. I love inspirational "quotes" and always have, since I was a kid.

16. My favorite animals are mountain gorillas (see #9 above) and sloths.

17. When I was in 8th grade my nickname in cross country was "Wendy Whiner" (like in the Saturday Night Live skit).

18. The name on my birth certificate is Wendy. I changed it to Wendee in 8th grade because I wanted to be "different." Never changed my birth certificate, but my SSN card, drivers license and every other formal document says Wendee.

19. When I was growing up, my dad didn't have a camera, so there are few pictures of that hippie log cabin era. But one day, I won one in Rolling Stone magazine from a scratch off insert!

20. I had a homebirth with my 2nd child, and both children without any medication. I am a big advocate of natural childbirth, home birth and breastfeeding.

21. I love the ocean. It calls to me.

22. I typically write poetry only when I'm falling in love, or depressed. It comes in bursts, with many years in between!

23. I would love to play guitars or drums. I tried learning guitar 3 times already but gave up... fingers too small. Drumming is so primal. I think I could do that. Someday I will.

24. I definitely feel like if I die, I'm ok with that. When it's time for the Lord to call me home, I'm ready. I have had a wonderful life, so many adventures, amazing kids, true love. Mind you I don't have any desire to die, I'm just saying, it's not a tragedy if you've lived a full life.

25. I chase joy like a butterfly. I’m learning to sit still and let it come to me.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

stages of faith

Lots of potato varieties at a market in a small town in Peru. Peru is basically the birthplace of the potato and is known for its abundant varieties of potatoes!

"Human nature is to go to the bathroom in your pants." - Scott Peck in Further Along The Road Less Traveled. The man's a genius, I swear to God.

This blog may be somewhat rambling. I have to keep it short as I am trying to get work done on my book chapter "What is Truth." Profound aye? It talks about spiritual truth versus scientific truths, and in some of my book-reading-research, I stumbled back upon that genius quote by Scott Peck today, which cracked me up. It was in the chapter that probably had the biggest influence on my conversion from atheism to Christianity, Spirituality and Human Nature, in which he talks about the stages of spiritual growth. I swear that every human being should read these pages of that book, p. 119-126. They changed my life. In my book, I talk both about my conversion from atheism to Christianity, how that book played a very important role, and I also talk about Peck's stages of spiritual growth. I could talk about them here, but it would take too much time, and I need to write them up in my book not on my blog! But in short...

Peck took the 6 stages Theology professor and Methodist minister James Fowler had outlined in the book Stages of Faith, and simplified into 4 stages. Fowler's book relied on the work of classic psychology experts Piaget, Erikson, and others. And in my estimation the stages perfectly explain the culture war between science and faith. I mean, it is earth-shatteringly to a T a perfect explanation of why science and religion have battled for so long! And that is part of my book. So you'll just have to read it :)

Rereading the stages, I had a HUGE eureka about my personal life, today, actually. This may not make sense to anyone but me, but if I don't write it down I'm afraid I may forget it, and by putting this here now I can come back to it. I realized that one can be at a later stage of spiritual growth in most areas of their life, but still have a toehold (or more) in an earlier stage. In other words a person may have most of their life together, but there may be one particular habit or hangup or area of life in which you still just do not have control over - and hence are regressed in an earlier stage. The chapter AFTER the chapter on spiritual growth actually is about addictions, which was kind of interesting because I think that all put it all together. Peck talks about regressing, but he does not talk about how one person can have a toehold in another stage (except in the case of borderline personality disorder). But I think that one can be basically in a later stage of spiritual development, but still need to be "told what to do" (which is a characteristic of stage 2) in order to have control over the chaos (stage 1) of a particular stronghold, while in all other areas of their life they can be independent thinkers. I don't know if that makes any sense whatsoever, but... anyway. It makes sense to me, and is enough to remind me of my thoughts when I come back to it!

Another thing I have been pondering is to create little tributes to my friends. I love my friends so much. I have had a rough few days, and I can not tell you how much it means to me to have the friends there to talk to and listen to me, and this is the best part: they don't just agree with me but they argue the other perspective. You know your friends are true when they support you and love you and listen, but they also gently encourage you to see the other side. I have thought about how to do tribute to my friends for years. Over the years, I've thought about creating photo collages, or something written. And I thought the other day that I may create some blog entries with some thoughts and pictures here and there, as a tribute to some of my closest friends.

I was going to do one tonight but don't have time but I do want to leave you with a link to one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and it is played by my best friend Daline! I've actually posted some of the lyrics here before, back when she played it live for men as she sat here with her guitar in my living room. She blogged the full lyrics at her new blog Pixie Dust World Tour. The song is Loud and Clear, and you can listen to it by downloading the file here.

One last thing, I am quoted in this article, Don't Feed the Beast! Ending the cycle of consumerism, credit and crisis, so wanted to link to it! The author T.M. Elkins actually didn't interview me, but took quotes from one of my favorite articles I've written, My 30 Days on Consumer Celibacy (OnEarth Magazine, Summer 2007). I'm quoted toward the end of the first page of Elkin's article, and then at the beginning of the 2nd page also.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

finishing strong

I have had a rough couple of days, and I don't have anything to share except this video. My mom actually sent me the link. I've seen videos of this guy, Nick Vujicic, before. Nick has no arms and legs and goes around giving inspiring - and funny - speeches to people. This one is only less than 2 minutes long but left me in tears. What a message I needed to hear today. Here's his website also, Life without Limbs.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

love, dignity, and judging

The snowman we made at the outskirts of Yosemite National Park, California
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I composed a blog post in my mind earlier this morning and now I think I've forgotten everything I was going to say. Seriously. Crap.

Oh yea! Now I remember. (I sat here for like 5 minutes drawing a blank! See maybe I did have a cerebral infarction after all...) Anyhoo... After my divorce, I had to take off my wedding ring and I wanted to replace it with a ring that would remind me of my commitment to God. When I was browsing the Portland Saturday Market back in 2004 I think, I bought myself a simple ring that has three intertwined bands of silver. It reminded me of the trinity - how three things can be both three and yet one. And so I wear it on my right hand, ring finger.

When I was in a grace group session last fall at my church (a 12-week group that is part of the Open Hearts Ministry, helping men and women rise above the various forms of abuse we've faced in our pasts - covering shame with grace) one of the lessons changed the way I view that ring. Our leader was talking about how no matter what has happened to us in the past, or what we have done in our own lives, that God gives us a ring of dignity. She was speaking metaphorically but it really hit home, that every time I look at that ring, it's not about my commitment to God, because that just leaves me feeling dismayed at the ways I fail and fall short. But that ring tells me that I am a woman of dignity regardless of my sin and my mistakes and my human failings, because God is on my side - that God is FOR me, that God will never leave me, that God is good, and God is love and God is truth. All these things came back to me because I'd taken my ring off and set it on the table, because it was bothering my hand. When I saw it sitting there later, all these thoughts flooded me.

Sometimes I fear making decisions or being myself because of the way others judge me, especially other Christians (though to counter this fear, I tend to boldly be myself anyway just to make a point!). But I believe we should not judge others because you have not walked in their shoes or seen the world through their culture and experience and life. You see only a slice of their life - this moment in time. Only God sees the whole show, and knows the heart inside and out from beginning to end. I don't know why these thoughts came to me as I was looking at my ring, but they did and I felt I needed to blog them. Someone out there needs to read them. I often make one mistake after another in relating to people and in my own life, but one thing is for sure, I am loved by God always, always, always (and the same goes for you!). And we should love each other in their imperfection as beloved perfect children of God also. Hate the sin, love the sinner! And another thing is sure, I'm committed to learning how to love God in response, and that means how to love people better.

With that in mind, this quote came back into my life yesterday. I had shared it with a friend a while back and now she shared it with me - in a random sort of way. I think I'm going to print it out and put it on my mirror (I have a collection of a few quotes and Bible verses there).

It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than it is to relieve the pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.
- Mother Teresa

And the other quote that came to mind I have included on this blog before, but I will do so again: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." - Philo of Alexandria

Last, I have been thinking again about one of my favorite positive influences, SARK or Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy. She writes wonderful inspiring books using color markers! Her posters are often on pediatrician's walls. Check out her website, Planet Sark. I don't know why but I started thinking about her today and grabbed her book Succulent Wild Woman: Dancing with your wonder-full self off my bookshelf and started thumbing through. I subscribed to her free e-newsletter. I could use some of her positivity. Also check out her online journal - Sark Journal. It's a lot of fun! I'm adding it to my blogroll. Below is one of her posters, appropos right now with the stress over my hospital bills, and the economy in general. I keep hearing of friends losing their jobs. Things can be scary, but somehow so far I'm trying to not let it become a primary focus. I may gripe about it but I don't think about it constantly. Like Trish said to me, water the things you want to grow! I need to plant some money and water it! :)

You are safe!

Savie and Sam about to go to homecoming dance. This was to their private school homecoming for basketball. So grown up!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Green Gigs, and my online writing class!

Daydream Island, Australia
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

Just wanted to give a plug to the cool blog, Green Gigs, which highlights jobs, courses, workshops, grants, and other opportunities in the green industry - defined broadly! Specifically the site says:

The purpose of this site is to provide job listings for those looking for home-based work that is environmentally focused. Most recent jobs are listed in the posts and select jobs are also listed by industry in the left column.

They recently highlighted my online writing course in the post, Wendee Holtcamp Online Nature Writing Course. I have a new class starting up Feb 21, registration deadline Feb 14 - so if you know anyone interested you can also refer them and if they sign up you get a 1-year free subscription to E/The Environmental Magazine! (US addresses only). You can find out more info at the course page! Or email me at bohemian(AT)! Follow your dreams!

Friday, January 23, 2009

back home

Sam and Savannah climbing a giant sand hill on Fraser Island, Australia.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

I got home from the hospital last night. I came home to a very messy house, and I just started crying. It reminded me of how alone I was, and how lonely I feel sometimes. I honestly normally do not think of myself as lonely. I am pretty independent, and yet, when something like this hits, all those feelings come home to nest. I think they are especially heightened because I have become close to Doug, and now he's offshore for 3 months, and that is a darn long time. I got so much love and support from friends and family on my facebook page, in email and from phone calls, and a few visitors at the hospital but most of the time I sat in my hospital bed alone, with my laptop. Most patients had people there in their rooms 24/7. It was just a very lonely and scary time. Made worse by the fact that not one single doctor or nurse really seemed to care at all what was wrong with me, or in finding out!

I guess I'm feeling sorry for myself, but the truth is I have never been hospitalized in my life. I've never been sick. I'm really healthy and when something so weird like this happens, it is very scary and it would be nice to have someone in my life who could be there with me. Doug once described our relationship as a young sprout that needs to be nurtured, and I agree, but can a young sprout of a relationship survive this kind of distance for this long? I don't have the answers. I wish I knew, and all I can do is hope and pray because I believe it is worth it. There's nothing I would like more than to have someone godly to share life with again, long term. I have so many questions for God, and just wish answers were more easily found.

I am working on my positive attitude thing, I have to remind myself, and count my blessings. In fact I think I need to restart up my gratitude journal. I have let that go by the wayside. I think I'll also start morning pages again. I have recommitted to praying and reading the Bible every morning which I usually do, but sometimes things get in the way like hospital stays.... they did not have Bibles there. Can you believe that?

So despite no real diagnosis as to why the right side of my body went numb, and a huge bill looming, and missing the heck out of Doug and feeling lonely and a bit scared, I am going to focus on the positive - the many wonderful friends I have, the roof over my head, the safety of my community, the career I love and the book I'm writing that I very much believe in the importance of, and the new President who gives me hope for a better tomorrow, a wonderful man who loves and adores me, and last but not least the hope and faith in my God, Jesus, who is amazing and radical... I will put one foot in front of the other and trust that He has plans for me, plans to prosper me and give me hope and a future.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

the saga continues

I miss this man! Two months is gonna be a loooong time! But he's worth it!

Here I am in the hospital, day 2. The saga has taken an interesting turn. This time last night the docs thought that I "may have had a stroke" (a small stroke, but still very scary!). Today, I am now less sure of my diagnosis - which is good if it's not a stroke, but bad cuz I like to know what the heck is going on! I had a brain MRI today and the neurologist thinks that it did not indicate a recent stroke. So that is good news, but neither he nor my primary doc had any suggestions then for what might cause the numbness. The numbness actually seems to be getting better. It still remains numb on my shoulder but it seems like it is reversing course... I'm not really numb on my leg anymore. So that's good.

Yesterday at about 11pm, I was moved to a shared overflow room with another woman who stayed up all night with the TV on, and during the day had her grandson (a baby who liked to cry a lot) with her. So needless to say I got about 4 hours of sleep last night and then could not really nap today. This afternoon they moved me to a normal patient room where I talked to my primary doc who didn't have any answers for me. So I'm staying another night and they did an MRI of my neck and middle spine. I thought I'd be doing that tomorrow but lo and behold they wheeled me down there about 6pm. I should add that about 2pm I started to feel kinda yukky, achy, fluey. I had a headache and they refused to give me Motrin because they were giving me aspirin for blood thinning (ONE per 24 hours!!).

I'm sorry but I'm on ASPIRIN and that is the only meds I'm taking and they won't give me Motrin? For crying out loud! And then get this, to get a heating pad they have to get DOCTORS ORDERS!! So they have to call the doc and get his permission. All I have to say is that this place is not run so efficiently... At one point, I asked for a 2nd pillow and it took 3 hours to get it, and that was with me asking 3 times. I would ask for water saying I was really dehydrated feeling and the nurse would say she'd be right there, and 20 min I'd go out in the hall and she'd be sitting there typing info into her computer. I know nurses are busy and there's lots to do, but I would think putting people first would be an important part of customer service...

OK enough whining. I am so blessed by all the friends who have sent me messages of support and love, and come by to visit and help out! Oh wait how could I forget the most important part? Stop reading if you are squeemish! When I was in the spinal MRI for 45 min and hearing all kinds of super louds pings and crashes (I swear it said badonkadonk at one point!! If you don't know what it is, google it! And I heard it on the Chapelle Show, which by the way, is hilarious!) Anyway so I was there feeling so close to vomiting that I was just telling myself don't move, don't move... suck it up, you can make it. I did have my little throw-up pouch in there with me, case I was gonna hurl, but the honest truth is I have an iron stomach and I RARELY throw up! So the tech finished up, and as soon as I stood up I was like, ooh I'm going to throw up where's a bathroom. Fast! So I ran in there and blehhhh three times I spewed great chunks of the food I'd eaten earlier. Don't you love when vomit comes out the nose? NOT!

So anyway am now even more confused. I have a fever now too. I do know a couple people who work and work out at the same gym I do have come down with serious illnesses, possibly viral, and have been admitted to hospitals in the last two days. They also have experienced some sort of muscular problems, numbness and inability to move limbs (a problem I have not had, gratefully).

So that's the scoop. Thanks for all the love and if you're inclined to visit, you should probably stay away so you don't catch it if it's contagious!! I hope to get out tomorrow... but I may not have any answers. Oh! Lullabies are playing - a baby was just born in the hospital!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

hospital adventures

Short-eared owl in the Galapagos Islands
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

Well this is an interesting adventure. I'm at the hospital with a numb right side of my body. I came to the ER after realizing this is just not normal... I drove myself here. I waited for 5 hours. First I got through triage on the "fast track" (meaning faster then the dozens of other people, but it still took me 1 and a half hours of waiting). Then once in the back I sat in a room with 3 others for a few hours, during which time they took blood, and did a cat scan, all the while I kept having to remind people of my existence. The cat scan was interesting. You lie on this machine and they put your head inside this thing you've probably seen in the movies. It made a weird wooshie sound like the ocean.

So around 530pm, the ER nurse read my bloodwork and the cat scan and said oh it's probably nothing but then the ER doc looked at my work and said this isn't normal, it might be a stroke (there's something on my brain) and you need to be admitted. So I've been alone all day but I start updating my facebook page and then all of a sudden a bunch of people showed up! Only one person is allowed at a time in the ER though, so first Matt and the kids stopped in and - thank God - brought my cell phone charger (my lifeline to the world via text and facebook mobile - thank God for it!) and laptop and a book and food! At first the ER doc said no food, and then later another one said "regular diet" so I was like, "Quick bring me food before they change their mind!"

Then a few other friends came up and visited. They did this ultrasound scan thing of my neck arteries, and they ordered an MRI of my brain but apparently everyone's gone home for the night and no one is gonna take time to look at me or do the MRI until morning. I'm not hooked up to any monitoring machines, so how the heck do they know if I get worse? Sheesh. I am already a skeptic of the medical-pharmaceutical-industrial-complex!

Oh, so they moved me into a holdover area of the main hospital in a room shared with someone else, and it's midnight so I am going to bed. Everyone's said their prayers and there ain't nothin I can do. I'm feeling ok at the moment. Was a bit scared earlier but I just feel tired now. And yes my body is still numb on the right side. It has actually gotten worse all day - was first only on my shoulder/back then spread down my arm and now down my leg to my toes. It's a very odd sensation. I don't feel any pain though. I feel a bit loopy and like my brain isn't quite functioning properly. I'm alone now - that's the sad part. I need a bulldog advocate for my health! I wish Doug was here but he's offshore! :(

Sunday, January 18, 2009

life's mini-adventures

Sunset in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.
- Swedish proverb

It's Sunday afternoon and this morning I said my goodbyes to my boyfriend Doug who works offshore as a commercial diver working on offshore oil platforms... He'll be gone either 2 or 3 months, so it will be a while before there are more silly pics of us (I'm sure you won't have to wait long for silly pics of me and my girlfriends!). The diving stuff is pretty interesting. Instead of diving with tanks, they have a tube of oxygen feeding directly to the surface (that is, to the tanks of oxygen on the boat on the surface)! They have hot water running through their wetsuits, so it's like "diving in a hot tub" as he put it, and one more thing I didn't know: they can stay under for up to 8 hours. Yes, you read that right. Holy cow! Crazy isn't it?! It can be dangerous work, so prayers for his safety are always appreciated.

We spent a great low-key weekend hanging out together. Life's a series of little mini-adventures isn't it? My heart feels so full of love and joy, and I feel very blessed. Not every day is easy or perfect, because in close relationships we start to see our own flaws more clearly as we learn to relate and communicate about deep and sensitive issues. On that note, one thing that I did this weekend was a New Year's resolution of sorts. The Christian radio station I listen to, KSBJ, is asking listeners to pick out one thing to focus on. I hadn't planned on doing that, but yesterday, when one of the DJs said that it just came to me that I wanted to be more positive. And that is my one thing.

It's funny because I used to be (and still am, I believe, to my students, and in leadership positions, and to friends) very enthusiastic, positive, encouraging. But I can be very hard on myself, and sometimes on those I love most. I had been talking to my friend Trish about some of these things and she mentioned a saying of Thich Nhat Hanh that was about watering the things you want to grow. This also reminded me of something I'd heard Stedman Graham - Oprah's long-term partner/boyfriend say - "Those things you focus on expand." And it's really similar to the Bible verse I have taped to my bathroom door:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

The kids are I are going to go see a movie today, but I'm not sure which one yet. They're off school tomorrow, and then I have to head to Austin Tuesday since I have to testify before the Texas State Board of Education on Wednesday morning regarding the science standards. I have to write my testimony! So I'll leave you with a few pics.

I got this in email and thought it was funny:

Have you ever wondered how a woman's brain works?'s finally explained here in one, easy-to-understand illustration:

I found a sparrow that had been hit by a car, but was not dead, in the middle of the road in my subdivision. I saw it, and stopped the car and went back and saw it was alive so of course I had to rescue it, in case he would survive. We got a little box, and put him in a towel in the box. I then made the possibly fatal mistake of getting him some water in a dish. The poor thing couldn't even walk or fly, though he'd sort of seem to come to attention now and then. We left him in the box while we went to the grocery store, but when we came back, the poor birdie was face down... in the water. :( I am really hoping that it did not drown when it went to get a drink of water because then I feel really really awful!! But I tried... We said a prayer over the bird before we left, so hopefully it is in birdie heaven. Doug also loves animals very much!
Doug loves to play his Myspace apps... and World of Warcraft. Funny thing, we made this hilarious video on my webcam, where I was him (wearing his hat) and we was me, and we were making fun of each other. I go, "Dude I want to play WOW!" and he goes "I want to talk about emotions!" and then pretends to cry... ha ha! It's pretty freaking hilarious!!! At least we can laugh at each other :)
This is what Doug calls my "eeek!" face. :)
I made this awesome pasta dish I made up from scratch that pairs rigatoni with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and chicken pieces, with a sauce made of butter, parmesan, salt & pepper. This is the 2nd time I've made it and I bought this totally cool new product where the Parmesan cheese has its own built-in grater! I love this because when you buy the whole chunks (as opposed to pre-grated) not only is it fresher, it also does not have all the preservatives needed for pre-grated cheese. But we had so much fun grating the cheese - lol - we were cracking up! And it was yummy! Run out and buy one of these next time you need Parmesan!!
This photo absolutely cracks me up. I was feeding Doug the long strings of cheese that come out of the grater and notice how I opened my mouth when I was feeding HIM?! Ha ha! I don't know why I did that but I think I was acting like I was showing a baby how to eat! :) Here, open your mouth like thiiiissss...
A cute pic of Doug with his Colorado hat on. :)
I made some pumpkin pie this weekend, using the pumpkin puree I made from the pumpkins Sam used for the smashing pumpkins contest at his birthday party back in Oct last year! And there's still more pumpkin! It's good. :) Pie rocks!
Doug is so sweet - he got me a Valentine's gift and card since he'll be offshore then! This picture didn't turn out but here's me in the dress he got me. :)
This is the back of my head with the little alien antennae things that say "cutie." I'll have to get some pics from the front with it on, but this will do for now! We got it at HEB. :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Firefox article and my book!

Red panda in the Himalayan foothills of eastern Nepal, near the India border
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I know, I know, all my blog posts lately just talk about recent articles but several have come out recently, and this one I'm really excited about! I've actually been checking the National Wildlife magazine website nearly every day in anticipation of this piece, which I knew was in the Feb/March 2009 issue which I knew came out some time in January. Hence, the obsessive checking. And here it is! As you all probably know, I traveled to Nepal last November, wait that would be November of 2007, trekking through the Himalayan foothills in search of the endangered red panda. The article is called Fighting for the Firefox: .

The first paragraph starts out...

IT’S AFTERNOON in eastern Nepal, near the India border, and a fine mist fingers its way over the broadleaf temperate forest. We’ve pitched camp near a giant mossy stone, carved all over with the words Om Mani Padme Hum, the ancient Buddhist mantra of compassion. I’ve flown halfway around the world, trekked on treacherously steep paths for days, endured squatting toilets and camped in freezing weather just for a chance to get a rare firsthand look at efforts to save one of the world’s most endangered mammals: the red panda.

In other news, I've been working hard on my book, writing new content, and rearranging my first few chapters into a cohesive story. I can write a feature article like it's nothing, since I've been doing it for nearly a decade and a half, but this is my first book and wrapping my head around the overall structure is challenging - but I'm actually having a lot of fun with it. I've cleared my plate of other tasks and made it my only focus for the time being. The first chapter in the book, The Making of a Christian Evolutionist, talks about how I came to be a Christian who accepts evolution. It takes the reader from me as a naive but faithful young child, through some challenging life situations and to the point where I became an atheist in high school and college, then ultimately back to the Christian faith. But of course during college, I became educated as an evolutionary biologist/ecologist. The chapter tells the story of my life, in a nutshell.

The next chapter is titled - as it stands now - The Fish Wars. This introduces the whole debate over evolution and creationism from the perspective of me teaching biology at the community college where I worked for several years, and the interactions with my students. This chapter gives a good, simple overview of what evolution actually is - and what it isn't. The next chapter is In Search of the Holy Grail of Truth (Or, I Don’t Quite Understand Your Question) - and it's in progress, but covers my experience testifying at the Texas State Board of Education in 2003 and this year (well late 2008 - and there's another hearing next week!), conflicting views on "truth" and how and why people come to believe what we believe.

The next chapter, There is a Striking Resemblance Between You and a Monkey, is about my travels to Colorado to spend Easter with the Epperson family, who were involved in the landmark 1968 Supreme Court case Epperson v. Arkansas that essentially overturned the infamous 1929 Scopes Monkey Trial which confirmed that it was ok to make teaching (human) evolution illegal. I love the title of this chapter! It's actually what someone said in a letter to Susan Epperson during the time of the Supreme Court battle back in the 1960s. The things people say! Yes, as a matter of fact there is a striking resemblance between you (and me) and a monkey!

So that's where I'm at now, completing and organizing and writing these first few chapters - the first half of the book. I've already done the excursions and such for the rest of the chapters too (which include narrative chapters on young earth creationism, and one on intelligfent design, among others). I'm having a lot of fun with it all, and am very excited about my progress! Prayers are much appreciated!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Attwater's prairie chickens

This is actually a photo of a t-shirt sold in the TNC Texas City Prairie Preserve office, and it depicts the tail feathers of the Attwater's prairie chicken!
Copyright (c) 2004 Wendee Holtcamp

I forgot to mention that I have a 2nd article in the same issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, with a funny name -- Chicken of the Sea (World): Though it's known mainly for acrobatic marine life, SeaWorld also breeds Attwater's prairie-chickens. I wrote this article after going on a Behind the Scenes Tour at Seaworld this summer with the kids, which was really cool! It was the first year they had that tour. The article talks not just about the (endangered) Attwater's prairie chicken breeding program, but also about other conservation work Seaworld does that people may not be aware of.

I also wrote an article for Smithsonian magazine's April 2008 issue about Attwater's prairie chickens called Boom Time in their Points of Interest section (scroll down it's the second article down).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Snake Underground

A Louisiana pine snake tries to make its escape into some pine straw on the forest floor. This is one of the photos of mine that the magazine published alongside my article. Coolio
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

My latest article is out! No matter how many years I've been writing and publishing, I still get excited to see my name in print!! I think it's cool to document my field excursions, including photos, and then a few months later see the final product in a magazine. Remember back in September when I went out in the piney woods of East Texas snake trapping? I blogged about it in the entry, snake charmer, and included photos, in snake trapping in Angelina NF (National Forest). Well that article is now out! It's been on the news stands for a couple weeks, but it's now online. The Snake Underground: The Louisiana pine snake, like its longleaf pine habitat, may be running out of time.

The print magazine version also includes a couple of my photos, which is exciting also! In fact, one of my goals over the next few years is to market more of my photos. I have some I think are pretty decent, but except for those I send in with an article I have not spent much time trying to market to various magazines. That is going to change, but my main priority this year is to finish my book on making peace between evolution and Christianity (and I'm under contract, so no fooling around there!). Here are the first couple of paragraphs (for some reason they have a mistake on the website and they repeated the 1st paragraph twice, so just ignore that!)

Craig Rudolph's white hair and bushy white beard are a common sight in the longleaf pine savannah of East Texas. A U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station biologist, Rudolph has been researching the Louisiana pine snake - one of North America's rarest reptiles - for more than 15 years. He and his colleagues regularly check dozens of 4 by 4 foot square wood box traps in locales throughout the snake's historic range, and with over 350,000 "trap-days" under their belt, they catch a lot of snake species. But unfortunately, as the years pass, they're catching fewer and fewer Louisiana pine snakes.

Rudolph's research has revealed previously unknown secrets about the snake's natural history - including that they live underground in mature longleaf pine forests, they prey on pocket gophers and they depend on gopher burrows for much of their life cycle. He also discovered the snakes remain in only three small isolated populations in East Texas, in addition to three slightly larger populations in western Louisiana. "My gut tells me they're in a world of hurt," says Rudolph, who has more experience studying the snake than anyone. But justifying formal protection requires extensive scientific research - and that is what Rudolph has spent the last several years doing.

This article idea emerged from another article I wrote about species in the national forests of East Texas - frogs. That article, It's Not Easy Being Green: A Tale of Texas Frogs, was published in 2004, and is now online (the magazine is putting more and more back issues online). I wrote that one about the research of biologist Dan Saenz, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, along with Craig Rudolph who is the main researcher I highlighted in the Louisiana pine snake piece. Dan has been studying various frog species for years, and I actually began to work with him on a project for my Ph.D. research before I left that program. Dan had told me how rare the Louisiana pine snake was, and thought it would make a great article subject, but it wasn't until last year I finally got the chance to write about the fascinating snake! Let me know what you think of the article if you get a chance to check it out.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The art of happiness

A daisy against the sky. Katy Prairie Preserve, Texas.
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp

I'm reading, or more technically listening to, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler. I've never really read much about the Dalai Lama, so I was curious. Cutler interviewed the Dalai Lama extensively about happiness, after meeting him and hearing that he said, "I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness." Cutler was curious what this would look like in practical terms in a modern 21st century world. What do you think about that idea? I think it is interesting. He says that although it may initially seem like a selfish endeavor to seek happiness, that research shows that happy people who tend to give more to others, to uplift others, to be more healthy and generous. On the other hand, depressed people can drain others and be more self-centered as they focus on their problems.

There were some other interesting tidbits but to be honest I can't remember right now! I took some notes, and will post about it again in the future. I just thought the bit about happiness being the purpose of life was interesting. He also says that happiness is not just pleasure, but that with everything that causes happiness you have to look not just at the immediate feelings, but the long-term consequences. He says that some things may cause temporary pleasure but have horrible long-term consequences that take away from the pursuit of your happiness.

Seeking happiness - or perhaps joy is a better word - has been something I have sought after for a long time. I'm not sure it's the ultimate purpose of life, but I do believe it is one of them. Even Jesus said he came so we could have life, and have it to the full.

On another note, this has always been one of my favorite Bible passages, but I usually read the New International Version (NIV). When I read this in The Message Bible, I liked it even more! I thought I'd share:

John 4:22-24 (The Message)

But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. "It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."

I am the walrus! goo goo g'joob! This was at East Cafe in Humble when my best friend Daline came into town!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Scientific American piece

A dead Kemp's ridley sea turtle - a critically endangered species - washed ashore at Texas' Padre Island National Seashore, probably a drowning victim to net entanglement from shrimping boats offshore.
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

This piece in Scientific American I wrote came out a few weeks back and I forgot to include a link! The article is called, Fury Over Conservationists Taking Fees from Developers: A proposed megaport and a sea-turtle nesting beach collide within the group that maintains the endangered species list (IUCN). This was a crazy piece to write. It is an extremely complex and controversial issue, and I had to research and write it very quickly and cover a LOT of info in a relatively small space. Here's a link to the PDF that has the full magazine layout with a cool pic of mating sea turtles, and here's a link to the article on Scientific American's website.

It starts with these two paragraphs:
Every winter and spring, tens of thousands of endangered olive ridley sea turtles clamber onto the shores of Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, along India’s northeastern coast, to lay eggs in one of the world’s most spectacular phenomena—the arribada, or mass nesting, which occurs only in India, Costa Rica and Mexico. This past season, however, the arribada did not happen at Gahirmatha.

Although turtles have occasionally failed to mass-nest in previous years, conservationists fear this time the cause is dredging for a new seaport. Indian scientists and conservation groups place some blame on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), among the world’s most respected conservation organizations. The union has taken corporate money to consult on the port, effectively giving it a green stamp of approval even though it may spell the end for this nesting site....

Read more here

Monday, January 05, 2009

"Meet the Kids!"

Ranger Donna releasing Kemp's Ridley sea turtles in Corpus Christi at Padre Island National Seashore.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

"Meet the Kids" could be a great new movie, starring Ben Stiller - LOL. Instead of "Meet the Parents," it's a single dad introducing his kids to his new girlfriend (or in my case, a single mom introducing kids to the new boyfriend). Seriously though, it went much better than that. :) There were a few burps, giggle fits, kids wrestling and not listening to me in their silliness, threats of poning, etc. But all in all, a great evening. It was funny before Doug came over, I was talking to him on the phone and I'd told Sam Doug likes to play video games and he was good and Sam says, "No adult can beat me in video games" LOL. He says, "I'm gonna pone him." Huh?

Now mind you, I was one of the first people to have an Atari and was quite good at Pacman, Frogger, Asteroids, and all those classics (and I'm very proud to say, although this shows my complete and utter geekiness - that I sold SO many Girl Scout cookies I won the freaking Atari on TOP of the sales pyramid... I think I sold like a thousand boxes or more...) but I must admit I'm not into video games anymore... so I had no idea what "pone" meant. But apparently it means, essentially, "kick one's butt." But Doug held his own! Sam did still win, but for his first time playing that game on the Wii he did pretty good. I, on the other hand, completely sucked ass (pardon the French). :) Of course I didn't even know what buttons did what, and I"m using this little steering wheel thing and apparently pushing the wrong button to release the super mushrooms and rockets and all that jazz...Anyway we had fun. We also played Cranium kids edition which is pretty fun too.

The kids had been gone for a while (2 weeks) and that allowed Doug and I to have a lot of uninterrupted time together which was really special too. It's great to have the kids back home though, I missed their hugs and laughter! The kids had seen pictures of Doug but had not met him yet. I was going to wait until after he returned from offshore this next time, but yesterday Savannah said she wanted to meet him.... so I invited him over and made lasagna. The whole meet the kids thing is really big for me, because it's been over 5 years since my divorce and although the kids know I've dated a few people here and there, they've never met anyone I've dated. I've been hesitant to introduce anyone into our life. But I feel that this one is different, and we were ready. I've even brought him to my church which is another big deal for me. I don't introduce people into my life casually. I think it's why I always dated people long distance! Ha! (Doug lives here, yay!).

My kids have been in Mississippi with their dad and grandparents for the last couple weeks. I used to love going there. I love the relationship that they have with their grandparents, who run a cattle ranch. And they have lots of cousins who just moved there in the past year too. I like that they have that type of country life to take part in - driving tractors, shooting guns, hunting, baking, playing with cousins, fishing in the ponds, digging up dinosaur bones and archaeological artifacts. It's the kind of childhood wonderland every child should have to build their character and imagination. For 13 years of my life, we spent nearly every Thanksgiving, Christmas and at least a week or more of summer there. We didn't spend much time with my family; M's family became my family.

And in my divorce I lost them too, which was very hard for me. They basically disowned me after it and stopped talking to me. I became the scapegoat for the divorce even though in my mind there's no simple reason it ended, and there were two parties involved in the dissolution and falling apart of the marriage. These days, my kids sometimes get upset because his parents can talk negatively or make faces when my name comes up, which is not healthy for anyone. In fact it quite ticks me off! I used to call and ask to talk to my kids and they would not even say, "Sure, just a minute let me go get them," but would simply set the phone down without saying a word. They'd go get the kids but would not even say hello. I find it very ironic that I can be good friends with my ex (their son) but they are not able to be civil to me, or even talk respectfully about me to my kids. But such is life.

Sam shot his first deer this year! It's funny, when I first met Matt I was a vegetarian and sort of anti-hunting and anti-gun but as we got to know one another we moderated one another's views by learning about the other perspective. He became a bit more progressive and I became a bit more understanding of hunting and guns and other more conservative issues. I'm not at all opposed to hunting now. I don't think I could ever kill an animal... but I know that it's necessary for moderating deer populations given that we've wiped out all the top predators... and so long as the meat is being eaten I don't find any problem whatsoever with it. And M is a very conscientious hunter. I even learned to shoot a gun during my marriage.

Oh and I promised to tell the Bangkok Emergen-C story. So Emergen-C is a packet of vitamins and Vitamin C you put in water and it's fizzy and boosts your immune system. I always take it when I start to come down with a cold or a tickle in the back of my throat and it reduces the severity and intensity. It's also great when you fly, since all those nasty germs are circulating! So on the way back from Nepal, I had "one night in Bangkok" & I started to get a sore throat, so I stopped in a pharmacy, which just sells medicines, on Khao San Road where we were staying (and the whole street is out and awake, with people selling food and wares, like 24/7). So I ask the guy, in English of course, if he has Emergen-C. He says, "You pregnant?" Taken aback I was like, "No.....why?" to giggles from Jon and Tim, the guys from the film crew who were also in the pharmacy. I try to explain what it is, a packet of vitamins but he didn't seem to get it. Finally we figured the guy was trying to sell me the "morning after pill" which is legal in Thailand (I think...) and thought when I said "Emergen-C" I meant "Emergency." LOL. Not!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Years!

I came down with a cold a few days ago, but loaded up on Emergen-C (remind me to tell you a funny story about Emergen-C and Bangkok sometime!!) and so my cold fortunately only lasted a couple days. I had a very runny, sneezy nose! I feel much better now.

On New Years Eve (yesterday) Doug and I got some fireworks and then took them over to Georgia's and shot them off in the cul de sac. It was fun! Then Doug and I left her house to go to Baker Street Pub in Rice Village, which had no cover charge and live music and a balloon drop and champagne toast at midnight. Only we got all the way down there to discover I did not have my ID! And they would not let me in! I was like, Come ON, I have neck wrinkles! I'm almost double the drinking age people! :) But no matter, they wouldn't budge. I never leave my ID but the other night when we went line dancing, I'd put my ID in my pants pocket, and it stayed there, apparently. So we had to go all the way back home, and toasted to the new years without the balloon drop and champagne toast. But we had fun anyway!!! Today, we went to the Museum of Natural Science! Here are some pics. Can you tell we both love to take pics?

Did I ever mention that I'm a part time vampire? Like the ones in Twilight I'm a "vegetarian" (I eat only animals) :) Though every time I get close to Doug, I get soooooo tempted....

I am going to make no excuses for us. We are just weird! Note the presence of the super double schnerple. We like to wear it and watch people's reactions. he he.

The schnerple makes you do crazy things!
Look out! An anklyosaurus is about to eat my boyfriend's hand!
And now it is about to get me!
Riding the giant worm. :)
We are on the giant worm together here... Damn we are cute!
This is in the Cockrell butterfly exhibit. Doug is trying to "make like a tree" (and leave...? ha ha) so the butterflies will land on him.
Did you know Marge Simpson had a brother??
I love this man!! He gives me butterflies - he he :)
This would have been a really good picture if it weren't for the random person in the background!
Doug made me breakfast when I was sick. What a total sweetheart he is!
You did not just say that to me!
Pretty please.... :)
Snuggling on New Year's Eve watching (making?) fireworks
See the fireworks we made! :)
And more fireworks!
I really love my sparkler!!
Sparklers are fun!
Sparklers make me jump for joy!
Madelyn loves sparklers too!!
Doug is going to make an awesome dad some day!!