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.