Wednesday, May 27, 2009

balance~life is good

El Capitan in West Texas ~
A view of Guadalupe Mts National Park from the outside looking in.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

Life is good. That's a thought that went through my head several times today, and it's been a while since I've really felt that. I feel like I'm starting to get to a new balance. You know how when you start a new relationship, everything is new, and your schedule and your life changes.? You spend a lot of time learning and growing and discovering. Sometimes it's scary. Sometimes you're mad. Sometimes you're ecstatic. I know that the past year has been a crazy one for me. The past 6 months have been a joy. And yet relationships take work. I also remember my brother once tell me that they can zap the creativity from you. In some respects I can see that. They consume a lot of your creative soul and energy. And after the beginning of something new, when you start to feel the confidence that this thing just may stick around for a while, maybe for good, even, then you start to return the balance to other parts of your life, to readjust back to not the same old, but to a new normal. And so, it feels like I'm beginning to restore the balance in my life after the inevitable change the start of something new brings.

I've been back to the gym that I've been neglecting for the past few months. Spent more time with old friends. Started reinvigorating my self-introspective life. Reopened the gratitude journal. And tomorrow, I will once again start a master cleanse, the all liquid (all lemonade) cleanse that is so invigorating to the body and soul. Last year, I did the cleanse several times. Since I met Doug I haven't at all. I credit that to the fact that he loves my cooking, and social get togethers often involve food, and I've been hesitant to take that back out of the equation, because 10 days without food means 10 days without social gatherings - or at least ones involving food (though I plan to only do it for 7 days this time, maybe even take a break in between - we shall see).

But it feels like the balance is returning. It finally feels ok to do so, like the gatherings don't have to revolve around food right now, and that I can get back to my regular normal. I feel happy. Several very good things have transpired, not big things to share but just small things that I treasure in my heart. Mostly I feel blessed by this relationship, by my friends, by the amazing church that I have and all the resources they have available and the people who go out of their way to generously give of their time and love, and my wonderful kids.

Today Doug and I went to see Sharks 3D at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and got to stop by and say hi to my friend Dan, the Curator of Vertebrate Zoology there (he writes the Beyond Bones blog for the museum too). We also went to see the Burke Baker Planetarium show Black Holes. That wasn't the best Planetarium show I've seen, but it was cool to do a couple things. In between we walked to Cafe Express at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts around the corner. That is one of my favorite resturants, and it didn't disappoint. Doug is now a convert too! The food is delish!

I love that I can play by day, and work by night. I love that my schedule is so flexible. And so many times today and the past few days I've felt so very blessed by this relationship and specifically by the man Doug is. No one knows the future, but we have been through some bumps and are the stronger for it. He is truly a good man, generous, loving, kind, and I care deeply for him as a person. I love so much about "us" and it makes me smile. I've never been good at day by day, but that's where I'm at and it's now finally working well for me.

So anyway, after a good day out, I came home and wrote a couple upcoming posts for the Animal Planet blog, and caught up on some email stuff, and then got super sleeeeeeppppyyy.... but I had to update my blog since I am feeling so at peace and knowing me, an extremely emotionally voluble person, that may change in 10 minutes - ha! So tomorrow I have to take my trusty Subaru down to get some maintenance - she's got nearly 170,000 miles on her...prayers for her health are much appreciated! I have to make her last a while longer!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

miscellany stuffage

Silhouette of trekkers and porters on a rest stop in eastern Nepal
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I'm going to do one of those quick bulleted lists again. I'm not sure why I'm not blogging as much. I'm also not on Facebook and Twitter quite as much as I was, and I'm getting way behind on emails (though I spent yesterday catching up some). I wish I could say I've been writing like mad, but it is more like just juggling a hundred balls at once. I'm sure you probably know the feeling. Kids, my new blog, my book, household chores, and spending some time with Doug.

So the latest...

  • I'm particularly liking the blog post I just wrote for today for the Animal Planet blog, so check it out if you can! Ancient primate ancestor - Holy Grail or hype? I talk about the misuse of the hype and PR these folks are doing to promote their new finding, which may just do a disservice to science and the public understanding of it.

  • I watched Star Trek with Doug, and thought it was really good! I watched Benjamin Button with the kids last night and it was good but not as good as I thought it would be. Then again, I was multi-tasking, going through my email and probably didn't pay good enough attention. I have now watched the first DVD of the first season of LOST, which Doug also introduced me too (like HEROES), and I'm liking it. We have a ways to go, with 6 seasons or so...

  • I have a new online writing class starting up Jun 6th, so if you're interested please check out the writing class website, or email me for more info ( - change the _AT_ to@ of course!)! I believe it's a great class, a fantastic value for your money (some other writing classes online are double the price!), and as one of my recent former students, Hans Tammeragi, just emailed me to say, "Your nature-writing course was excellent technically and also very motivational ... the best writing course I've taken. I particularly appreciated your help with my essays. It obviously helped because I've had two essays accepted since then (one in Canadian Wildlife mag)."

  • I have to go run some errands so that is all the exciting (not) news for now! <:)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I'm famous! :)

View approaching Daydream Island in the Whitsunday Islands, otherwise known as paradise... I miss Australia! Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

I have some quick news to report, then it's back to the Powerpoint and talk I'm working on for Sam's school, some sort of still semi-amorphous topic on critical thinking, the reliablity of information, and objectivity in journalism. It's my last and final one since their private school gets out the following week. You heard that right - holy cow! It's almost summer vacation!!

I'm completely tickled and honored that Dr. Isis printed my essay "On Being a Woman in Science" as the third in her "Letters to our Daughters Project" on her blog, On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess. She's a pseudonymous professor of physiology at a major research university. I tried to get this essay published in many outlets, but no one bit. So it's gratifying to finally see it somewhere other than my own blog, where I think I posted it a while back. And it's gotten some cool feedback in the comments; finally, others who undersatnd the dilemmas of being a woman in science! I love her blog. It's very witty and smart, and she writes about stuff that is very much relevant for any woman professional, not just scientists, but definitely these issues come out more in science because well, maybe you just have to go through a science graduate degree to understand that.

Dr. Isis introduces my letter with the very kind paragraph:

Today's letter comes from science journalist and biologist Wendee Holtcamp. Wendee is a freelance science writer published in Scientific American, Audubon, Smithsonian and others. She is Animal Planet's news blogger and a contributing writer for Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. She was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at Rice University, achieved Ph.D. candidacy, but left the program after a divorce. Her blogspot blog is here. What I adore about her is that Wendee embarks on amazing adventures, swimmming with sharks and climbing in Nepal, while also being a single mother to two teenagers.

The first letter, by Pascale Lane, MD, I emailed to Savannah! It was fantastic and hilarious. It said in part:

Why does this 5 letter word have such power over women? We are raised to be "nice." Malicious, unpleasant, and selfish are the opposite of this goal; however, this means that demanding equality may appear bitchy! At so many gatherings I have heard women ask how they can get their needs met without being called a bitch (generally these women spell the word rather than say it). The short answer? You cannot! Anytime you assert your needs and put yourself ahead of someone else, others may call you a "female dog."

When my daughter was starting middle school, I explained the world to her in my own warped way. I give my students the same advice. If you have a voice that gets heard in the world, someone will call you a bitch. If you perform acts of kindness and charity, someone will say that the bitch is showing off! If you show more spine than a jelly fish, someone eventually will brand you a bitch. Accept it. If someone calls you a bitch, you are probably doing something right.

I also wanted to mention that Jill Mueller in her Barefoot Badger blog wrote about her time traipsing around the rainforest in search of cassowaries with me, In Search of the Cassowary., while I was researching my Wildlife Conservation Magazine article, Saving Big Bird. She was an intern at the School for Field Studies Center for Rainforest Studies in Australia, where I'd given a talk in May, after my shark expedition. Jill is interested in doing science/environment writing also and I said that she could "shadow" me, so to speak, as I write my story on cassowaries when I returned in August. It was a fun time!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Random things

Central Park, New York City. I love New York!
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

I don't have the energy to write a real blog post, but I feel I'm getting behind on keeping everyone up on the latest. So taking the lead from my daughter, who did this on her blog, I am going to do a bulleted list!

  • I took Sam to see the Disney/BBC movie earth with his 7th grade class today and it was phenomenal!! The footage is just gorgeous and seeing it on the big screen was incredible. I had watched almost all of the Planet Earth shows on Discovery Channel (in fact, if you didn't know, I wrote half of the animal profiles in the online animal guide!), but this had about half new footage and a great storyline. It takes you all through the earth's major biomes, following the lives of several wildlife species. It includes some funny footage, and some dramatic and breathtaking. Two thumbs up! (OK and that was a very extensive bullet, I get it).

  • I am learning how very fast I can write! Penning five blog posts a week (on the Animal Planet Animals in the News blog) is quite a feat for me! I am a slow writer, or so I always thought. Writing can be like pulling teeth at times. I sit and stare at my computer screen. But this is different. Research, write, fact check. I've been cranking out stories at double speed because I want to get a backlog of some stories in case I get sick, and also because my book draft is due in a month, and I need a bit of breathing room to get the bloody thing done!

  • I have written about all manner of cool topics on the blog! They include fluorescent puppies, the Great turtle race, cloning the woolly mammoth, resurrection spiders, and the fact that birds, it turns out, can get down to James Brown (that is, they can dance to a synchronous beat). Upcoming topics include newsy stuff on chimps, worms, Galapagos penguins, cassowaries and more.

  • I am listening to The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner on audio CD. He's an NPR correspondent and he wrote a book about traveling to the countries that research has shown to be the happiest. So far he's gone to the Netherlands, Switzerland and Bhutan. am enjoying his wry sense of humor. He even invented a word I love - conjoyment which is a cross between joy and content.

  • In an attempt to reverse my "feeling down" of late (though it has lifted mostly for the time being) I did two things which bring me joy and which I used to do and haven't in a while! I went to Zumba again, th eone taught by my awesome friend Trish who is so full of energy and love and joie de vivre someone in the class deadpanned (I don't know about Trish. I think they need to do a drug test). The sceond thing is I got together with my girlfriends! Charlotte was in town visiting froim Colorado and she had an informal get together at Wazabi Sushi bar and it was so great to see everyone. Most of my time these days is spent writing, writing and writing some more. I spend any free time with Doug, and/or my kids.

Trish, Me, Georgia, Charlotte and Kate (Amy had left just before)!

So there you have it!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

birds do the weirdest things

Nazca boobies on Espanola Island, Galapagos Archipelago
Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

Birds do the strangest things. For the past four or five days, every morning at the wee hours of the morning I've been rudely awoken by a whacking on my bedroom window. The first morning, I was like, what the heck is that?! I woke with a start, then heard it again. Something was flying into my bedroom window. Over. And. Over.

And did I mention over again?

I opened the blinds, and it abated for a short time. I fell back asleep for about 15 minutes, only to be awoken by the same noise. Whack! Thrash! A bird was just smacking its beak and body againt my window. "What is its problem?!" I thought. I got my butt out of bed, and walked out my backdoor in my underwear and a shirt I was sleeping in, grabbed the broom by the back door, and started whacking the broom at the bush. I realized the bird was nowhere in sight. I realized I could see my neighbors windows, and that meant they probably could see me from the right angle, so I went back inside. Probably would make a great viral Youtube video - Animal Planet news blogger goes crazy in underwear trying to off a cardinal with a broom! Ha!

I went back to bed, hoping I'd deterred it. Made it choose another home to haunt. I like my beauty rest!

Fifteen minutes later - whack. Whack. Whack.

I gave up, and got up for the day. The first couple days I thought it was just a morning thing, but then I realized that anytime during the day when I went back in my bedroom for various things, every single time that dang bird was doing this same thing!! I think it has seriously lost its marbles. Or if it hasn't it will after all that head-whacking! I finally saw that it was a bright red cardinal, so likely a male is seeing its reflection in the mirror. But that does not make it any less annoying and maddening when you're trying to sleep. On various mornings, I have whacked back at the window, opened the window blinds, thrown my teddy bear at the window, and ran outside to scare it off. It's a persistent little bugger. It always comes back. I thought about getting my son's BB gun...

But seriously, I couldn't hurt it. I felt bad when I stepped on a garter snake's little head while running on the greenbelts the other day. I rescue spiders and bugs from certain demise inside my house (cockroaches are an exception!) I don't like hurting anything. So I came up with my brilliant idea this morning - and it worked! I got my ladder out, took an old sarong I'd gotten in the Bahamas, and thumbtacked it over the crescent window that the cardinal had been hurling itself at. I also had a backup. I took my son's stuffed owl and placed it in the window sill.

Problem solved. I put this up at about 7am and got to sleep soundly until 9am. Hallelujah!