Friday, December 22, 2006

breakfast of champions...

it was 430pm and i realized i hadn't had anything more than a cup of coffee. so i grabbed a handful of chocolate-covered espresso beans and went for a run. breakfast of champions!

I've been crazily researching 50 wildlife species i'm writing about for a big project, and interviewing scientists in tasmania... it's crazy making! but i really enjoy it. i love the work - learning and writing about all these cool wildlife species, and trying to bring some awareness into their plights.

i have taken one hour break for 2 nights now and watched prerecorded tv (I never watched tv for years and years but this dvr is great... bad bad bad i mean). i mainly watch the daily show with jon stewart which is such a hoot, friends and sex and the city.

ok anyway back to work for me! and i did have a nice healthy dinner.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

koala orphans

HOW CUTE IS THIS?!!! This is baby Reme, raised by Deidre de Villiers, a biologist and volunteer wildlife rescue person. She raises the baby "joey" koalas from when they are tiny and then releases them back into the wild.

Another photo of baby Reme, Copyright and printed with permission of Deidre de Villiers.

OK I gotta admit they're kinda ugly at this stage. But this is often the size they are when they are rescued if mom gets killed by a car. This is not Reme, but the photo was taken by Deidre de Villiers also.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Galapagos here i come

I am now definitely sure I'm going to the Galapagos Islands (off the coast of Ecuador) in late January-early Feb. I am so stoked! I have to start researching it a bit and see what kinds of stories I can pitch on the wildlife. I have one assignment, but there are always others. I'm going with the photo editor of the magazine so it should be really fun. It's a 7-day cruise, the first carbon-neutral cruise in South America. Now other companies are following suit.

A friend asked, what is a carbon-neutral cruise? See my post a few days ago on global warming, but essentially the company offsets the carbon emissions from the cruise's burning of gas/fossil fuels and use of energy by contributing to projects that offset the emissions, like tree planting and methane capture technology for dumps, etc.

But I'm really excited about seeing my awesome friend Jen when I go through Florida!! I've blogged about her before, I met her at the Conservation Genetics workshop a couple years ago and she studies shark forensics (identifying shark species from their DNA from the often illegal shark fin trade). We may head down to the Keys. It will just be fun to spend some time with her. She was MY blog mama, she blogged through her husband's cancer and grief after he died Oct 2003. And she is my super athlete woman inspiration, having run and won triathlons!

Oh! Speaking of which, yesterday I ran 8.5 miles - the furthest ever - at a pace of about 8:30 min mile. I am trying to train for a half marathon along with our church's student pastor, Chris. Here is his blog: - check out the video linked there on Nov 21, 2006 entry. Pretty cool stuff!

Monday, December 04, 2006

rescuing australian wildlife

Sam feeding a wallaby at the (Steve) Irwin family Australia Zoo.

I just wrote an article that related to Steve Irwin's Australia Wildlife Hospital and interviewed "Dr Jon" Hanger, and was so impressed by the passion he has for the animals he works on, and what they're doing there. In Queensland, they have wildlife ambulances, and wildlife hospitals and are working to expand the AWH where they'll have viewing windows and such so the public can see what is going on with their surgery and recovery efforts. The coolest thing to me is that they're making the connection between land clearing and roadkill or road strikes of animals... and at least in Australia, animals that are hit by cars can be rescued because the infrastructure exists - unlike in the US.

Did you know that many wildlife will just lay injured on the road for minutes and hours being run over multiple times before they die? So sad. At least there they have phone #s to call to have them rescued. And with marsupials, a lot of times the joeys will still be alive in the pouch even if mom dies.

I was thinking what a cool TV show that would make if they followed the stories of these koalas or kangaroos or things hit by cars, as they perform surgery and rescue the orphans. The koala orphans are sooooooooooo cute!!!! I went out in the field with a biologist who studies them and she also rehabilitates the orphans as a volunteer. What an awesome thing that would be to do.

When dedicating the hospital to his mum Lyn Irwin, his tribute just breaks my heart in reading it:
"You come to me in my dreams; your spirit is with every Wedge-tailed Eagle; I feel your breath in the westerly wind, but most of all I see your genes in my princess Bindi and my baby boy Bob…Oh gosh! I miss you, Mum. I miss you every minute of every day, and the pain of losing you tears my heart out. But I'll stay strong; I promise you I'll stay strong - for it was you who taught me to be a Wildlife Warrior."
I saw an article in People mag on Terri, Bindi and Bob and my gosh they are such a beautiful family and my heart goes out to them. It was a summary of an article that was in the Australia Women's Weekly because it's linked from the Australia Zoo website (or was, can't find it now). Terri is actually from Eugene, OR which is where I spent the early years of my life also. I lived there from age 2 through 9 in a cool house on Hill Street next to a cemetery where I spent a lot of time. Wonder if she and I ever crossed paths when I was a kid? After that I moved to my dad's log cabin in the OR woods further north, by the Columbia River.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

more thanksgiving

These are some photos my stepdad Skip took during Thanksgiving.
We are doing a puzzle on this table in our cabin made from a ginormous oak tree that fell down during Katrina and they salvaged it and made it into a beautiful table. I look a bit like a goober because I'm talking but it's kind of funny.
Another silly photo - Savannah playing with my hair.
This is the little fire we made. Notice S & S holding hands. They get along really well now, after a bout of a bit of bickering with one another last year! I'm so happy about them getting along well and hope and pray that bond continues throughout their lives.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


We had an awesome time at the Chain O Lakes resort in east TX- with my mom and stepdad. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at the resort's awesome Hilltop Herb Farm restaurant which is just truly delicious. The kids thought it was great b/c on the restaurant patio, it overlooks a lake which had a ginormous alligator snapping turtle (the size of a large sea turtle) and a couple other smaller ones plus a gator.

We stayed in a log cabin suite and after nightfall, Sam and Savi and I laid on our backs in a clearing near our cabin, and looked at the stars. I showed them the constellations I learned the other week when I was at the McDonald Observatory Star party (Casseiopeia, Cepheus, Northern Cross, etc and also the Milky Way) and later I even showed mom and Skip. Thanks to my friend Damian who I met at the Observatory for sending me a new planesphere because it came in handy!! The kids and I made a little fire, and threw pine needles in it and watched it shoot up in flames.

Today we went horseback riding a bit and then went on a short hike in the Big Thicket National Preserve which was right up the road and then we came home! Sam didn't want to go at first but he said "this was one of the coolest things I have ever done!" (I had to remind him about Australia - ha ha). He really LOVED looking at the constellations!

Savannah on a paint pony she rode today, named Sassy.
Savannah giving Sam a hug while being goofballs!

Sam climbing down a log toward the Trinity River on Birdwatchers Trail
in the Big Thicket National Preserve.

Grandpa Skip and the kids outside our cabin. The inside paneling and a really neat table were constructed from logs salvaged from Hurricane Rita.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

a grateful people

A Grateful People
by Watermark

Have we waited far too long to surrender
Forgive us Oh God the years
We failed to seek your face
Oh Lord, your mercy turns us into
Grateful people
We can’t seem to find the words
So take our lives that there might be enough
To tell you how grateful
Lord, we are grateful

The lyrics and the song are one of the most beautiful, powerful, moving songs I've heard and it is my Thanksgiving sentiment to everyone. You can listen here.

It is on the Watermark CD "a grateful people".

Off to spend the day with family! Love and gratitude to all who love with genuine hearts, all my friends and family. Thanks to God for all the beauty in the natural world, for wildlife, for children, for laughter, for the ability to make a difference in the world and for all those who fight the good fight despite seemingly overwhelming odds sometimes. Peace!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

watermelon, watermelon!

i was listening to the radio a minute ago and they're doing this contest where people call in and have to sing a christmas carol on air to win passes, and the radio dj started singing along with the lady saying "watermelon!" which is of course what you sing when you don't know the words.

however i had never heard anyone else in my life say this except my best friend daline. we used to go across texas a&m university campus singing beatles songs at the tops of our lungs (nowhere man, etc) and when we'd forget the words we'd sing "WATERMELON! WATERMELON!" and then bust out laughing. of course half the time we'd sing watermelon, watermelon just because it made us crack up. we didn't care what anyone thought, we were having the time of our life, and those memories i'll cherish forever.

i remember when i was going through a stressful time in my marriage, daline came to visit me when she was home visiting family as she always did over the holidays and she said something like "you were so much fun" and it was partially that statement that made me realize just how deadened i'd become... and post-divorce now, i am so much more alive and happy but it's still a process of reawakening and rebirth i'm going through. (nor would i say it was necessarily the marriage that caused it, but more of losing myself within the circumstances).

it is close to daline's birthday, and my life is so enriched by her friendship. god how i long for those days when we used to be so carefree. i was not carefree, mind you, i had a lot of angst from my childhood, but together in our joy and silliness we could let the world and the past and all its troubles slip away because we were only present in that moment. ok maybe we'd had a few too many to drink...but i rather think it is the deep and true friendships that saved me from any life of drug or alcohol addiction - and perhaps same for daline. with troubled lives and pasts, one can easily live a whole life addicted to some substance. i am very grateful that i'm not.

if anything i am addicted to work! and stress! and when i am stressed, i do tend to get grumpy and take it out on others (random phone salespeople - lol - and sometimes my kids, or others). a bad flaw, and one i am very thankful for grace... and i continue to work on it. the key is creating a stress-free environment, but also putting the yoke on jesus not myself, "for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

speaking of stress, earlier i filled up a bowl full of frozen cool whip topped with a packet of hot cocoa mix, and it was just delightful. this was my stress relief sundae. a confection my kids call creamy crap delite. and then we danced our fool heads off to "shackles" on the radio by mary mary.

and then i got grumpy again.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

global warming conference

I just read an article at on a climate conference in Nairobi, Kenya,
" Climate Conference Agrees on Next Steps" but I'm not sure the title captures the end product. In essence, "poor but fast-growing" countries like China and India did not want mandatory emissions cutbacks until the US was forced to also.

I understand that the US is considered by some as a "global leader" but this is just a copout. I'm sorry, but if the US is NOT acting as a role model or a positive leader, countries should not wimp out on setting a positive example because the US doesn't. Every country should stand by their own behavior and understand the consequences they inflict on others who played no part in causing the problems.

As Kenyan environmentalist, Sharon Looremetta, from the nomadic Maasai people was quoted in the article, "We don't drive 4x4 cars, we don't go on vacation by airplane, but we do suffer from climate change." Their country suffers a severe drought that has killed many of the Maasai people's cattle.

In this era of corporate and political resistance, what it comes down to for the short-term is what you and I can do. You may not feel like changing a single light-bulb makes a difference, but it's like that parable about the boy walking on the shore tossing dying starfish back in the ocean and someone telling him he can't possibly save all the starfish and he responds "yes but it makes a difference for this life" as he tosses an individual starfish back, and so on.

Taking personal action makes synergistically more impact than merely the small amount of emissions reduced from that one light bulb, or even from the collective impact of your environmentally sensitive lifestyle as you change certain behaviors (reducing energy use, choosing green energy, etc.). Each person's choices also influences their neighbors, as well as reinforcing your own beliefs, starting a slow revolution in thought. I find the more I do, the more keen I am for doing increasingly more for the environment. I've been a lifelong environmentalist, but I've really started doing more and more the past couple years (buying bulk, trying to buy organic food and body care products etc), and I keep trying to see where I can do yet more.

For global warming, there's more to be done than just using fluorescent light bulbs (I've started to change mine!). You can choose local products more often (less transport emissions), voluntarily offset your airplane and travel emissions to make travel carbon-neutral by donating to organizations like Climate Care or Carbon Neutral, and convincing your local leaders and politicians through letters - or voting - that you care about global warming and demand that politicians quit appeasing corporate interests at the expense of the global common good.

Now go get some fluorescent light bulbs!

Friday, November 17, 2006

wild heart

Maybe some women aren't meant to be tamed.
Maybe they need to run free until they find someone just as wild to run with.
-- Carrie on Sex & the City.

I heard this quote on a Sex & The City rerun I watched last night and it really resonated with me. I have always been so restless in relationships, and life. Wanderlust, unrest, always searching. The context of this quote is that her lifelong love whom she'd dated ("Big") and broken up with, who had said he would never marry, ended up marrying someone else, and of course Carrie was devastated. She told her friends, "I broke him, and someone else gets to ride him!"

But then she started relating to this classic movie The Way We Were, where Barbara Streisand was a complex woman and she and Robert Redford had a complex love affair, and he ended up with a "simple" woman. That is the message there- some women are just too complex for some men - they just don't want the hassle of it all. And the funny thing is my friend Bill - in his inimitable Bill manner- was just saying that same thing to me in a different way: "some men just don't want to work that hard for the *****." LOL. But I think it's really true.

I love the song of Sheryl Crow "Are you Strong Enough to Be My Man" because after all, every strong woman I know has difficulty finding a man strong enough to be up for the challenge. And this is why it comes back to my statement that "It takes a damn good man to be better than no man at all."

"My soul is restless until it rests in Thee."
- St Augustine's Confessions

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

i love my friends!

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
- Anais Nin

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.
- Rachel Carson

I've had awesome talks with several friends over the past couple days, and it has been really a great blessing. I feel so grateful to have these good people in my life who I can share things with, ask for advice, and who will listen and share their own lives with me. The Rachel Carson quote reminded me of how Celeta - my dad's girlfriend when I was growing up - worked in my life. She is one of the people I spoke with recently. I'm so glad to be back in touch with her after something like a 10 year absence! New friends, old friends, it is all really good to have people to share life with and darnit if I don't wish there were more of my good friends all right here when i live!! One thing that has been hard for me is that last year Daline and I spoke nearly every week, and sometimes several times a week. Now that she is in a monastery she leads a very busy life sans phone and we connect less frequently. I miss that woman! She is an inspiration to me. Anyway, rambling, just wishing I could bring all my friends here...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Faxon yucca in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

I'm reading this book "Boundaries" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend that my pastor recommended to me and it's really about codependency in a Christian vocabulary. I learned about codependency back in 2000 when I first went into marriage counseling and started figuring out all the craziness of my childhood and how it had affected me. I have grown in many of those areas, but many still remain of course. The book has some interesting new insights though.

All these books talk about setting boundaries, when to say yes, when to say no etc, but the thing that no one ever talks about (and maybe it will in this book - I'm not that far into it) is that the people who grew up being able to push over people's boundaries (their parents did not set good limits probably) do not like being told no. These are often people in charge, in power. And when you set your limits, they react. The hardest part for me is knowing how to set the limits in a way that is respectful. In most situations I've been in, when I set a boundary, it does not move to a more respectful place. In business I have found you pretty much have to do what they want if you want to work for them. I mean there is some room for polite negotiation, to be sure. And the good thing: you can choose who you work for.

One of my favorite quotes I've heard is paraphrased that you have in your life exactly what you put up with. It's very, very true. The key is figuring out how to create your life and relationships around you to be positive and healthy without just pissing everybody off. We either give in too much and resent it, or speak up too much and make people mad. Where is the in-between?? I guess that depends on having relationships and friendships with mature people who care enough to listen, respect, and even dare to disagree! To say what they feel and think! I tend to assume everyone thinks like this, so I speak my mind more than I probably should, and I'm learning it is not always the best idea. However I am blessed to be able to have friends that are like this.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

be kind

"Be kind to one another, because everyone you know is facing a great battle."
Philo of Alexandria

Atop Mount Locke at the McDonald Observatory, Davis mountains.

I'm listening to Kathleen Norris' memoir The Virgin of Bennington on CD and there is a part that spoke to me about the writing life - about how her mentor helped her understand "the sense of balance required for life in the arts; between living in the practical realm and honoring that which transcends it; between the freedom and selfishness that is required for creating work and the discipline required to complete that work in the context of a full life in which relationships with other people matter."

These photos are on a private nature reserve of some 30,000 acres in West TX - the Red Rock Ranch. It reminds me of Utah. It's permian rock, and geologists and archaeologists come out to study various things like petroglyphs and other things. It's just an amazing remarkable place!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wendee Holtcamp EXPOSED!!

It all started with a discussion of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. On the climb up Guadalupe Peak–the tallest peak in Texas at 8,749 feet – my friend Laurie and I huffed and puffed our way up the steep first part of the trail along a rocky footpath. The discussion rapidly spun off into all manner of very personal things - relationships, sex, kids, childhood traumas, date rape. We had been talking - loudly - for over an hour, climbing, panting, sweating up the strenuous steep first third of the hike, when I said, “I am glad we have the trail to ourselves.” Not two seconds later, we turned a bend, and atop a rock ledge, two guys had stopped to catch their breath. (photo above: prehike, self-portrait, Laurie and I laughing it up!)

I am not too much one to hide my personal issues, but this discussion was pretty graphic! As Laurie said, it was like therapy on the mountain. We got a good laugh out of it, softened our voices, and changed the subject.

We stopped for a minute to chat with the guys. One asked if I had any extra camera batteries because his died. I said no, different camera, but he could check out my blog photos or whatever, and they had asked us what we do for a living, etc., and I mentioned that I was writing an article for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, which he thought was cool. One guy – who sat smoking a cigarette of all things - was silent, the other talkative.

We climbed and climbed, pausing to take photos and rest for corn nuts and peppermint patties. What an absolutely amazing, stunning, drop-dead gorgeous hike. The lower elevation had agave, faxon yucca (with huge spikes towering to the sky), and sotol (deep green, long serrated edge leaves that were used by the Apache-Mescalero Indians from the region), while upper elevation gave rise to ponderosa pines and other higher elevation species. The view just blew me away, over and again. It was 8.4 miles round trip and a 3,000 foot elevation gain. Toward the top you could see for miles, with wild land all around. The only human mark below us was the road in the distance, but at some points along the trail you could only see wilderness for miles around us – high desert mountains, and salt flats, valleys, canyons below. Carlsbad Caverns lies to the north in New Mexico, but many square miles of Guadalupe Mountains National Park Wilderness lie in between.

About 2/3 of the way to the peak, I told Laurie, “I need to use the ‘facilities.’” Mind you, at this elevation all the junipers were short and squatty and besides that there were just grasses and poky plants for cover. So I snuck behind a juniper, though I was truly exposed all around. I called out to Laurie, “don’t look!” and a few moments later I finished, Laurie turns around and her face shows shock, “Oh my God! Those guys are right there!”

I look around, “Where? I don’t see them!” But then I spotted them, perched on a rock ahead, staring right at us.

“It’s going to be headline news in the paper, ‘Writer Wendee Holtcamp EXPOSED!’” Laurie declares. “I hope your ass wasn’t facing them!” We got good laugh. The guy had a camera too, but thank God his battery had died. Or so he said.

We made it all the way to the top, took photos, and exchanged high fives. This was actually the first mountain I’ve ever climbed. Really a strenuous hike not a climb per se, but the trail is steep and the guys who hiked all through Big Bend said it was far tougher a hike than any they’ve ever done and it surprised them. I had a lot of energy all the way until the end on the way down, when my legs were literally shaking in their boots. It was exhilarating, truly. I need to do more of this. I loved it.

I can’t wait to upload my photos – some have turned out awesome! We got a before and after photo that cracks me up! We hiked McKittrick Canyon two days ago, which is a low canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

The macro photos shown above I took on the hike - they are: agave, fir cones, Texas madrone berries, and sotol.

Left: View as you hike up Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Right: A bridge across a narrow cliff ledge which we crossed on the trek to the top.

Left: El Capitan, the cliff face just barely lower than the peak. Right: This was from the hike the previous day, a luminescent orange-colored maple in McKittrick Canyon - also in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Who said only the east has brilliant fall foliage?! When we went beyond the end of where most people stop walking, and at the beginning of the Wilderness area a mule deer stood right on the trail.

Laurie hiking along on the trek to the top of Texas!

Faxon yucca stalks rise over the mountain view.

This was a photo taken from the roadside on the drive up toward the trailhead, and this is El Capitan from afar, but I just like the juxtaposition of the yuccas.

Gorgeous fall color in the drive from Fort Davis toward McDonald Observatory. It blew me away!

A cholla cactus flower.

Autumn grass from a ground view. I love the pale colors and the natural beauty and artistry of the grass flowers.

Pronghorn antelope, roadside, on the way toward Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.

Moon rise over the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the McDonald Observatory, the 4th most powerful telescope in the world. After going to a "Star Party" at the Visitor's center we got to look inside the very cool 107-inch telescope where an astronomer postdoc was doing research.

This reminded me of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting - it is a thistle flower with a bee in it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

our greatest fear

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

- Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love

Two things happened yesterday that really helped center me, which came at a good a time since I've been fairly stressed. First, I watched the movie Akeelah and the Bee with Matt and the kids. What an inspiring movie. It included the above quote, which I'd heard before. I love it though, and it really speaks to me, as I often struggle with alternating feelings of insecurity and powerlessness with feelings of being "too much" and and do not want to convey that to others. How can I be proud of my accomplishments, and the knowledge of how far I've come in my life, without it coming across as if I am haughty, especially when I do not feel that way in my heart?

I am my own fiercest critic, both professionally and personally. That said, it is incredibly common for me to internalize the perceived (and real) negative messages and vibes that come across from others, and allow that negativity to rule my thoughts rather than the more loving truth of grace - that I am ok exactly as I am on this lifelong journey toward becoming more whole, more real, more loving, more kind, more forgiving, more gentle - with myself and others. And it helped remind me that it is ok to admit my strengths and not be ashamed, as if acknowledging my strengths somehow makes me un-humble.

The other thing is a moment I will treasure in my heart for years to come. Around 10pm I picked up my best friend Daline from her sister's wedding - and back at my house, she sang me a song she had written and it was one of those moments that filled me with a truly centering uplifting grace. She has spent the last 9 mo or so in a Buddhist monastery, and when we left Peru there were some tensions, but we'd gotten past them before she got here though we talk less because of her schedule. But she was in such a beautiful gentle place, and when she sang this song, it brought tears to my eyes, and as she sang it she was smiling the whole time. You could feel the presence of God. It was very moving and powerful. I recorded it on my phone, and she has a beautiful voice (I've never heard her sing!) and an incredibly moving spirit. I am so blessed to have shared her genuine friendship for the past 15 years.

This to me is what life is all about, and I want to surround myself with people like her, people that forgive, and that strive to accept and to love even when we have bumps in the relationship. Here are some of the lyrics though it is most powerful radiating from her voice...

here are a few verses, starting about halfway through:

When I see we all do the best we can
When I seek first to understand
When what I have is more than plenty
When I reach out to lend a hand
When I can see you in every bird and bee
Every river every tree
When I’m connected to that place inside
When I can see you in all of humankind
I know I’ll never be alone

You’re in my heart, You’re in my touch
You’re in my laugh, You’re in my eyes
You’re in my words, You’re in my silence
You’re in my joyful cries
Your warmth within me radiates
A smile is on my lips
Your energy it fills my sail
I have the strength to steer my ship

Sometimes I can’t hear you
My thoughts they drown you out
I get overwhelmed and fearful
I want to cry and scream and shout

(silent pause)

But when I stop when I listen
I can hear you loud and clear
When I stop when I quiet
I can feel you oh so near

- (c) Daline Limbaugh

Sunday, October 29, 2006

back from the east

i just got in a bit ago from vermont and the society of environmental journalists (SEJ) conference. it snowed on the field trip day to camel's hump (a mountain with two humps...) and it was so neat. the field excursion was on acid rain, which you never hear about in the media but apparently it is still a problem though more nitric acids than sulfuric acids. and i asked why do we not have this in houston, where we have lots of air pollution? the answer is that our soils are limestone and basic so they neutralize the acidic rain. the question i still would like to answer is whether the rain itself is more acidic because of pollutants, whether or not it causes death of trees etc. it seems it could lend itself to a quick and easy analysis with some ph paper if one had some historic data, or looked at different regions like up or downwind of some of the plants (need knowledge of how the winds go).

anyway just some food for thought. i asked the guy leading one of the talks if it was ok for me to eat the snow, because after all, you can't go see snow and not eat it (as long as it is not yellow). :) and he said yes, his kids eat the icicles all the time, but if you were to test the snow it would probably show elevated mercury levels. mmm, just a little madness with your snow, no worries. so i ate some snow. then i asked him, would you get mad if i pegged you with a snowball? lol. and he said no, so i did. that made the trip. my kids are jealous... they told me before i left i had to bring them some snow back. i was like, how exactly do you expect me to do that?!

anyway, my highlight was hearing ben cohen talk, the founder of ben & jerry's ice cream ( and it was very interesting indeed. he discussed how our government is spending their money using plastic oreo cookies... he runs a nonprofit group 'true majority' which i was unaware of before. he also told about the company history, and some of the interesting concepts about running a business in a way that helps rather than detracts from the community and the environment, and how he made positive change in vermont and in business due to this. i had no idea!

i also really enjoyed the blog session by amy gahran and adam glenn ( i'm going to try some of their techniques and see how it goes... one of the things mentioned was to comment on other people's blogs which i rarely do because of time constraints -- too busy. but i'm going to see how it goes, and try to. i also enjoyed catching up with many friends and got to give a 60-second pitch to a panel of 6 editors - from smithsonian, audubon, sierra, national geographic, scientific american and orion. i was so nervous (which i normally am not when giving a talk, but as one editor rightly said it was like the christians in the coloseum with the lions! lol). fortunately they were all very respectful and kind in their feedback to all. i got one editor who told me right away there to send it in (the query) so that was great. lots and lots of writers came up to me and told me I did really well and they liked my pitch, and more than anything that made me feel good about that session.

A creek at Camel's Hump, Vermont

Monday, October 23, 2006

the free agent

I love this... this is me!

"The Organization Man is history. Taking his place is America's new economic icon: the Free Agent: the job-hopping, tech-savvy, fulfillment-seeking, self-reliant, independent worker. Already 30 million strong, these new "dis-organization" men & women are transforming America in ways both profound & exhilarating."

--Daniel H. Pink

Sunday, October 22, 2006


i haven't posted because i've been just utterly swamped. life isn't meant to be this way, but i'm scrambling to make ends meet a bit, and trying to finish some major projects. i have one article on top of another due, plus one trip after another. i love to travel but i'm honestly ready to slow down for a while. trying to figure out a way to make that happen a bit better.

so, just to update - i finished a website i'm very proud of - the spring creek greenway - - (screen shot to right of the main page, and below of the subpages - the fawn photo and the lizardtail are my images and some others on the site). i helped montgomery county get a grant from the texas forest service earlier and then got the gig to create the website, a brochure and - get this - a video! i wrote the script and produced my first video.

i really enjoyed doing it. i put on the site a 1974 booklet called Papa Stahl's Wild Stuff Cookbook there (go to The Creek tab, then you'll see the link) and it has recipes for all these native edible plants, most are found throughout the nation.

i really respect and like the author Carmine Stahl - you'll see his photo there with his wife of 56 years!!!! he is 80 i think and is sharp as a tack and so kind and i really appreciate his life experiences. at around age 56, i think, he retired as a methodist minister, and then worked for another 20-some years as a naturalist at our local harris county jesse jones park - a beautiful forested preserve along spring creek (hence the website). however i had done some biological surveys with him before, and recently completed an article profiling him as a conservation legend for texas parks & wildlife magazine. he said recently i must get exhuasted with all i do, and i was like, uh huh, yep that is exactly the word!! absolutely buggered, as they say in australia. so i'm trying to just slog through a bit and hopefully i'll get to a bright spot again.

wednesday i fly to burlington, vt for the society of environmental journalists (sej) conference, and i'm really excited about that. i made some good friends last year and it will be good to see them, and also to network with some editors from magazines i write for, and want to write for like national geographic!! it is also my first ever trip to the NE, and i hope there is some remnant fall color.

when i get back, two days later i jet off to west texas with my girlfriends. i'm so excited! i'm writing an article and will need to climb the tallest peak in texas, guadalupe peak! we'll also get out to see the mcdonald observatory in the davis mountains. i've never been to either of these places. should be very cool. but i'm really excited that my dear friends paige (who i just visited in LA) and laurie who i roomed with for a 3-week program at texas a&m a few years back (and who makes me laugh so much) are probably flying out to go on the trip with me!! good friends close by make so much difference. i need my girls right now, been soooo stressed. i hate stress!

i'll post some more later. gotta get back to work!

Friday, October 13, 2006

big thicket

A lake at Chain O'Lakes Resort in the Big Thicket outside of Romayor, TX.

I'm heading to the Big Thicket today for a couple stories I'm working on, which is a National Preserve about 2 hours east of Houston - the "biological crossroads" of North America where southwest deserts, southeastern swamps, northeast forests and western plains meet. It has a very diverse flora. I don't have time to write, but wanted to post a brief update! Will be back with photos next week!

These 3 photos I took on this trip to the Big Thicket. I stayed at Chain O'Lakes Resort and the owners Jimmy and Helena showed me around and were so gracious. Jimmy showed me one of the lakes by boat, and we drove around to the various parts of the resort. I was impressed by his love of the forest and land, and how much conservation ethic he has. When Hurricane Rita downed a bunch of old trees, he and his son salvaged them and created beautiful tables and slabs to help build walls in some new lodges, rather than let them go to waste.

Friday, October 06, 2006

the carrot tip of texas

I spent last weekend in the carrot tip of deep south Texas visiting the new Estero Llano Grande State Park and Resaca de la Palma State Park for an article- and here are a couple photos from the trip - both actually were taken at nearby Laguna Atascosa NWR. I have been so busy, no time to ramble on in my blog! I'm trying to do my writing in my backyard during these nice fall days, because my office is not a very inspirational place to write.

This is a Texas tortoise, a state threatened species, due to the pet trade. They are so adorable! We actually saw this at Laguna Atascosa NWR which I also visited, home of Texas' ocelot population (though I did not see any of those).

A Sabal Palm and I believe that us purple sage in the foreground - overlooking Laguna Madre.

This was actually taken in DC at the National Zoo but it's so cute I had to put it on here!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

washington dc

Savannah (right) and some classmates at the Arlington National Cemetery.
The amazingly powerful FDR memorial which we saw on a night tour of the memorials. this is the "I HATE WAR" wall. Quoting from his 1936 speech in Chataqua NY (I would love to have time to just sit and listen to the waterfalls and think and pray here).

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping exhausted men come out of line-the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives.

This is a photo of the Vietnam Wall Memorial -- notice the name MICHAEL H BAIRD. This was the brother of someone very dear to me, who was like a 2nd mom, Celeta Baird. It's a tragic story really, her mom and dad had both died previously, and with her brother's death she lost what she told me, when I was a child, her last family member. There is an award-winning photo where she is crying over his grave - I saw it when i was a kid, i think i recall an American flag and her long 60s hair.

Lest anyone think i am the only nutty one in the family... savie and i about to go to the 3-d IMAX on landing on the moon at the air & space museum, the 3d imax was soooo cool!!!

Savie Rules! (as she would say). This is outside Union Station.

Panda at the National Zoo in DC. They sure are cute!