Saturday, December 29, 2012

suicidal tendencies... how to help

A love letter from God on Christmas Eve
Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Nicole

This is so sad... Just read a blog post (Today and Forever) by The Bloggess (my favorite blogger, really, since I have never laughed so hard as when I read her Knock Knock Motherfucker aka Giant metal Chicken story), and a friend of theirs committed suicide last week.

I have a soft spot in my heart for those with suicidal tendencies as I have been there - have the scars on my wrist from when I was 15 to remind me of where I came from, & how hard it is for people in the world to understand the demons we face, and what to say/do. All I can say is: TELL THOSE PEOPLE - the ones you worry about - that you love them, that you care, that you want them in your life, that you don't want them to die. It's amazing how powerful that can be just to know that a single person cares, and amazing how many people with seeming hundreds (or dozens) of friends have no one who actually reaches out (and a few who actively tell them the absolute wrong things). Running away, hiding, trying to argue/philosophize them out of it, thinking (or calling) them selfish - all the wrong things. When someone is drowning, you don't fucking argue with them. You yank them out of the water, despite their inexplicable fighting against you in panic-mode. Just help!

The saddest line... "One of the hardest things to accept about this tragedy is that Dan did ask for help. When things got bad he went to the VA but was told that he couldn’t get the specific help that he needed because he didn’t serve during wartime."

God help our country and its healthcare!

I had a wonderful week in Los Angeles for Christmas with my friend Paige, and will post an update about that soon!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

unspeakable tragedy

Beautiful kids this young should not be gunned down at the hands of a madman. A photo of my young son. I thank God today and every day that he is still with me. And I pray for and weep with those who have lost their loved ones in Connecticut. Photo Copyright (c) Wendee Nicole

"At Sandy Hook yesterday morning, teachers and librarians tucked children behind bookcases, secreted them in closets, and locked them in bathrooms to hide them from the gunman. Elementary school will never be quite the same again, the way college, after Virginia Tech, was never quite the same, the way high school, after Columbine, was never quite the same. Children—barely older than toddlers—will be drilled, will be taught what to do when the shooting starts. Duck, hide under your desk, and be still. “Shh,” we will whisper to them as they huddle and tremble. “Be as quiet as a bunny.” ~ Jill Lepore (The New Yorker)

God that really hits home. When I was a kid, we had hide-under-your-desk drills for tornadoes, and before that, for attacks from nuclear bombs. Now, kids are more at risk from being gunned down by our own fellow countrymen. What does that say?

I myself am a victim (or survivor) of a violent gun crime, and could have died when someone - a teenager who took his parents' gun - pointed it at me and my best friend at an outside party. He yelled at me, "Do you want to die?!" I stood transfixed, terrified. My friend told him to cut that out and he pointed it at my head, and pulled the trigger. Then he laughed and walked away.

The gun wasnt loaded, obviously, and the asshole thought it was funny. But maybe doing that to me and my friend - and who knows who else that night - and perhaps seeing the power led to him being violent in other places. Maybe he killed someone - I have no idea who he was or what became of him. He obviously enjoyed seeing me transfixed and terrified. I think it's about power in the hands of people who - for whatever reason - lack a sense of control in their lives.

During all the postings on Facebook, two memes stood out to me on Facebook. One was that a similar school tragedy happened in China, in which a deranged man knifed 22 kids. However, the difference is that it takes a lot longer to hurt people with a knife than a semiautomatic pistol, and the result is that none of the kids got killed in that situation.

The second meme I saw is on a similar vein. Someone named Bill Spring posted an image of an early rifle, and said:

"This is what 'arms' looked like when the second amendment was written. It takes nearly a minute to load with a single shot. If the CT shooter had used one of these, he might have been able to murder one child before a teacher hit him over the head with a chair while he was trying to reload. The Founding Fathers had no knowledge of semi-automatic rifles, high-capacity ammo clips, plastic explosives, or atomic bombs. If they had, I'm certain they would have included exceptions as to what private citizens could posses. Even now, there are few who would argue that the right to bear arms includes *all* arms. So if we can ban nerve gas and land mines, why not other things? A line must be drawn somewhere. I say we draw it a little closer to the side that protects my personal safety from maniacs and murderers, and a little farther from the side that protects someone's right to own more firepower than an entire army regiment had in 1787."

Gun violence is a complex problem with no simple solution. It is not just one thing. It's not violent videogames or bad parenting or a lack of adequate mental health care or a need for gun control. It's all those things wrapped together in a complex medley that is going to require people with different opinions to sit down and actually talk and not be ideologues and to try to solve a real problem. In this political climate, I'm not that hopeful. One thing I feel strongly about, and that is that parents who own guns need to keep them locked up away from kids, and they need to teach kids that guns are used to hunt animals and to kill people. They are not toys. They are murderous weapons that wound, maim, and kill. I'm not against guns. My son hunts, and he was never ever given a toy gun as a young child, other than a super colorful Nerf gun. He was taught how to hold, clean, store, and shoot a gun. And he knows how to use one. Gun ownership means responsibility and that is sadly lacking in too many cases, or these kids and young men would not even have access to the guns of their parents.

And finally, even though it is so hard to not get wrapped up in this tragedy for an empathic person like myself, I have to remind myself: this is not my personal life. This is not my personal tragedy. There may be those days ahead, & there are some behind me, but today in my life I have many blessings, peace (if not of mind), health & safe children. The human heart did not evolve to handle the worlds many heartbreaks & tragedies via network news... I return to one of my favorite Scriptures, one I have posted on my bathroom door, that reminds us to focus our minds not on the tragedy and terror and fear, but on the positive forces of good that can lift our society from the depths of despair. "Finally, brothers and sisters, 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

And I leave you with these touching words from - who else - Mister Rogers.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

And on that note, here's a link to a story that can restore some hope in humanity, because day in and out there are far more positive moments - many of which we take for granted - than there are tragic violent crimes. 26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving: a month of gratitude

Starry starry night! Moody Gardens Festival of Lights the day after Thanksgiving. Copyright (c) Wendee Nicole 2012

Happy post-Thanksgiving and now onto Advent season - time is flying! I had a really beautiful Thanksgiving with my mom, stepdad and son. For Thanksgiving month, I posted daily gratitude to Facebook, and I thought I'd share the ones I have done thus far in the month of November with you all - and one of them from Thanksgiving day details what made Thanksgiving so special, so I won't repeat that here.

I actually keep a daily gratitude journal in which I write down 5 things I am grateful for before going to sleep. Sometimes it's actually hard to come up with them... on an off day. But they don't have to be related to that particular day, so sometimes it's as simple as "I love my bed!" I have found, over the years, my gratitude list often relates to a phone call or a visit with a friend at Starbuck's. The second most common are when I get or complete a writing assignment! What about you? Do you have a gratitude journal, or notice particular things showing up over and over?

Here is my November special gratitude list, in reverse order.

11/27 Today I give gratitude for the struggles that I face and have faced in my past and for the life lessons I have learned from them. I just emerged (am emerging) from an extremely difficult year in my life, mostly due to a struggle with my teen daughter (who I also am very grateful for). It has been heartbreaking and nearly tore me in two, and I still don't know the outcome of this situation. I was worried for my very life for a few months, but thankfully have emerged from the deepest depths of despair I faced a year ago. I seem to have lost a couple of friends in the darkest of times even when I needed them most. I still give thanks because in the darkest times, the Lord spoke this verse to me, "[W]e also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts..." Romans 5:3-5. And I would repeat that, and sometimes write it in my gratitude journal, "I am thankful for my suffering, because it brings hope." Sometimes, even now, I have nothing left but hope. And I do cling to that hope in bringing a positive outcome to the painful events of the recent year.

11/26 I am grateful for my amazing dad, Thomas Finlay, and all the life lessons he imparted through his love of the land, nature, progressive thought, intellectualism, and so much more. I am so grateful to have lived like a "Little House in the Big Woods" pioneer in the 1970s like so few others in the US have lived - outhouse, woodstoves for cooking and heating, raising our own chickens and veggies, and so much more. I'm grateful that he fought for custody of me when I was just 8, and the life lesson I learned that I could affect the direction of my own life, and that my opinion was worth listening to. ♥ you dad!

11/25 I am thankful for my writing career! I have gotten to do so many cool things (dive with sharks:, trek through Nepal in search of red pandas:, search for cassowaries in the Australian jungle: (, & explore the Amazon Rainforest ( just to name a few! I love writing about science, the environment and my biggest passion: wildlife!

11/24 I am grateful for being able to run, and that I started running when I was in 9th grade and never stopped… exercise is a joy to me and always has been.

11/23 Yesterday's gratitude: I am thankful for all God's creatures. I love love love wildlife and most of the items on my bucket list involve seeing animals in the wild :) I also love my kitty cats!

11/22 Today I am thankful for a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with my mom, my stepdad and my son. My mom and I took a bike ride to Starbuck's and the weather was delicious - sunny and yet cool with a slight wind - tantalizingly perfect. I loved the sound of my bike tires crunching the sycamore leaves on the path, and the five brown pelican perched on a log in the San Jacinto River we rode across. And how I love the San Jacinto River, my river... with the trees all changing color... and I'm so appreciative and thankful for my mom, and all she and my stepdad have done for me in my life, much of which I didn't appreciate until well far longer than it should have taken me. I'm thankful they paid for my college and college wasn't even an option -- I was going (well my stepdad did want me to pay my way, like he did, but my mom would have none of it. She'd never been to college, and I was going). I'm thankful for the forgiveness and love she has always shown me even when I have treated her badly, and that she will always love me with a mother's love. ♥

11/21 Today: I am deeply thankful for the peace – lack of war - I experience in my city, in my nation and in the places I have traveled. Even so, I am always cognizant of those experiencing war and violence abroad – let us never grow complacent of what others suffer. (And I am thankful for the cease fire in Gaza...)

11/20 Today I’m thankful for the golden hour, and the way the world looks in these beautiful moments of dusk. Tonight on my run, the golden sun illuminated the palmettos, sweet gums, and hickory trees on my favorite part of the path, and it was just lovely.

11/19 Today I'm thankful for love. In the words of Alfred Tennyson: "I hold it true, whate'er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all."

11/18 I am thankful for the writers and thinkers who have most influenced my thinking, my faith, my outlook, and who have inspired me (in no particular order - though Scott Peck is definitely #1 on the list for a reason): M. Scott Peck, Anne Lamott, Alanis Morissette, Beth Moore, Christy Nockels, Liz Gilbert, Henri Nouwen, John Lennon, Jesus, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Debbie Ford, Bill Moyers, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Paul Cox, Helen Keller, George Orwell, Philip Yancey, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Martin Luther, Harville Hendrix, Byron Katie. Saint Augustine, Melody Beattie, Rob Bell, Miguel Ángel Ruiz.

11/17 I forgot my gratitude yesterday - oops! So here's yesterdays: I am grateful for my sweet son Sam, who is kind, gentle-spirited, funny, smart and a gift from God to my life! ♥

11/16 Today I am thankful for a strong and healthy body! I am grateful I can work out, walk, ride bikes, run, hang upside down from the monkey bars :) I am thankful I have excellent health as do my children! A very big blessing I never take for granted, especially since as I age I know that things will start to hurt, ache, and become more difficult. Today, I live in the moment and appreciate what is!

11/15 Today I'm thankful for these beaded coasters because they represent a pivotal moment in my life when I realized I didn't need to wait for my husband (at the time) to make me happy by doing what I wanted. The responsibility for my happiness resided with me & so I went out & bought my own Xmas gift that I wanted. A small insignificant thing but truly groundbreaking in its implications.

11/14 Today I am thankful for my house, my home. I love it. It's been an awesome place to live for the past several years: safe neighborhood, spacious, colors on the walls, comfortable and I have loved having my own home as a single mom, and I'm proud of it! It's a great place to raise kids, and I will miss it when I move on from here in 2 years (the house, and my friends, but not Texas!) :)

11/13 Today I am thankful for my sweet kitten Pippin, who has given me much needed cuddles and sweetness in this phase of my life when I so need it!

11/12 Today I am thankful for sunshine! I love love love the sunshine!!!!

11/11 Today I am thankful for my friends around the world. You have no idea how much you mean to me, how you are all my dearest family and have touched my life beyond measure. Whether we are close now or were once, I will always love you all and be here for you, as you have been there for me, You are all the best people in the world and my life was forever changed by knowing you!

11/10 Today I am thankful for the gift of sight. What would the world be without it? As a fan of Helen Keller from a young age, I have always been aware and grateful for this amazing gift!

11/9 Today I am thankful for the awesome variety of fruits and vegetables and foods that are available to me, and relatively inexpensive! What a blessing!

11/8 Today I am thankful for freedom of speech -- that I live in a country where I am free to speak my mind. This right is one of the world's most precious.

11/7 Today, I am so so thankful that Obama was re-elected. It feels like a huge weight lifted off of me. I am grateful that he can fight for the concerns that I have as a citizen: global climate change, equality for all, sound science, continuing to improve the economy. I am so proud of people for getting out the vote, and though our country is in many ways divided, I am grateful for this amazing democracy. I put up with 4 extra years of Bush and survived, and now it's time for those who feel as I did then to suck it up and deal. Maybe, even, give him a chance. Bush, after all, is the one who gave us this massive deficit. So there ya go! It feels like a brand new day!

11/6 Today I am thankful for: butterscotch. Yum.

11/5 Today I'm thankful for these crisp fall mornings when I can wake leisurely, cuddled under my down comforter, read & drink tea (or, I was until my annoying cat started clawing at the carpet under the door... but I digress). Im thankful that I can work from home & set my own hours like this :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Poverty isn't what you think

My dad's log cabin. Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Nicole

"If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, 'The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,' and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you. You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.” Deuteronomy 15: 7-11

During election season, there was a lot of stereotyping of Democrats as people who - in the hilarious sardonic humor of The Daily Show's Jon Stewart - are "thing stuff takers." He was making fun of how Bill O'Reilly had posited, post-election, that Obama won because people on the left wanted things, and stuff. It was a thinly veiled insult of people of color, morphing them with people of poverty without really saying that. It's a sentiment echoed by the likes of Mitt Romney a couple days later, when he came out of hiding, and said Obama won the election because of the "gifts" he gave to specific interest groups. During all the immediate post-election Facebook rambling, a friend of mine posted something that led me to post the following, which I'll post below almost verbatim.

But poverty isn't always what you think it is. I am someone who has directly benefitted from the use of food stamps and welfare. Let me tell you the story of my childhood. I am the first in my extended family to ever go to college. EVER. Neither my parents or grandparents had more than a high school education. My dad didn't graduate from h.s. (but got a GED), yet he is the most intelligent, articulate, and intellectual man I know. After his divorce from my mom he moved to Oregon and built a very simple log cabin on 24 acres, grew his food, totally back to the land. It was an awesome pioneer way to live, and to grow up that way was extremely influential to who I became as an adult.

Dad had a biz making log cabins for others and at one point his partner took off with the businesses money, leaving him a heavy burden financially. So during a period of my youth we had food stamps and at one point he was on welfare. He overcame that, and went on to work for many years for the Oregon food bank, doing social work and giving back. He was and is an incredibly hard working man - both when he was on welfare and after - and at his retirement last year was granted the very award that he established for those at the Oregon Food Bank who had a lifetime of service. (I am getting tears in my eyes writing this - I love and am so proud of my dad!). I also, as mentioned in my recent blog post "freelancing does not suck" that I had applied for food stamps during ~09 when times were incredibly hard for me, and I thought I might have to sell my house.

I'm a single mom and I work incredibly hard, and I sure as hell was not getting an "entitlement" or a handout. I never ended up getting on food stamps - long story - but I would have gladly taken them, and I have no qualms or shame about it. It's damn hard to be a single mom and support oneself, even when you get some child support (I got - and still get - a fraction of what I'm legally entitled to). Anyway... social welfare is there to help people when times get tough. I hope that you never have to know what it is to be poor and genuinely need help. There are people who really do need help, and who use it and get off of it, and are not just "lazy" as the Right often characterizes people on welfare. My dear precious daughter, a brilliant young woman who is a National Merit Scholar Semifinalist and in the Top 10 of a class of more than 700, and an amazing human being is a product of welfare. As am I - I earned a M.S. and am a PhD candidate (on leave of absence...) and have built an incredibly successful freelance writing career. So there you go. That's what welfare gets you.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Proud to be an American!

I woke up this morning so proud to be an American. I am welling up with pride for our country. I am so proud of African Americans turning out the vote in the same numbers they did in 2008. And I'm proud to be an American in this really transitional time in our country. I am confident history will look back at Barack Obama as one of the best presidents our nation has ever had. He represents the people of America's tomorrow - equal rights for all people, a safety net for people in crisis, health care for all, and yes higher taxes for people who can afford to pay. Romney had the ridiculous "binders full of women" while Obama had the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as his first piece of legislation as President. No comparison.

And yes, Obama has helped turn the economy around from the Bush years, even though these things take time. If Romney had won - as Robert Creamer pointed out in a smart HuffPo commentary - it would have been described as a "Romney miracle." Now the Obama administration can show once and for all that the President's methods of turning around the crappy policies of the Bush era can and do work -- and let us never forget the clear fact that Clinton had a surplus and Bush created the deficit, not Obama. You can't just scrap everything a previous president did overnight. America is a big ship and it takes time to turn her, to avoid hitting the iceberg. We have done so, and God willing, can now continue to thrive and move into safer waters.

On election night, I was at a friend's house watching the election results, playing an election drinking game - though we could barely hear the newscasters over the din of our own laughter and chatter. We were convinced Diane Sawyer was on something as she slurred her speech and slouched in her seat - bless her heart - and we threw our hands up in the air wondering how networks call a state for a candidate with confidence with less than 1% of precincts reporting (I still am mostly at a loss on that one). My friend Stef made me laugh so hard at her snarky comments about Republicans getting all excited when it looks like so much of the country is "red" on the electoral map, but "No one lives there!" and laughed when Lester Holt on NBC News seemed a little too happy when announcing that recreational marijuana use was legalized in Colorado. "Lester Holt smokes weed!" she said, and I about died laughing.

When I said, "Women are really coming out strong for Obama over Romney this election," she quipped, "Yea, cuz they don't want their rights taken away. Or sister-wives." And in the analysis of what went down, women did prove decisive in this election - along with minorities. Women overwhelmingly went for Obama by a 20-something percent margin. Many women - myself included - were disgusted by the brash and insensitive way so many white Republican men discussed and dismissed rape, and used abortion in rape cases as a talking point. Bad move. As a rape victim - no, a rape survivor - I find their statements appalling, Neanderthal, and just plain sick, and I am glad America kicked all of those candidates out of Congress. And the Senate added 5 female Senators, including the first openly gay woman, bringing a record number of 20 women Senators. Go women! We are a force to be reckoned with, as we well should be, yet we are still struggling against a white-male status quo (if you doubt this - reread the obnoxious statements by "Team Rape" - all a bunch of white male candidates.

But this election isn't about who we voted out, it's about who we elected in, to continue leading us, and hopefully with an even stronger push for the initiatives I believe Obama wanted to do from the outset, but might have affected his re-election chances - fighting for climate change legislation, immigration reform, environmental protection, and other issues important to social progressives. Robert Creamer wrote the most moving summary I have yet read: 6 Reasons Why the 2012 Election will be Considered Historic.

"It presented Americans with the clearest choice in my lifetime between traditional progressive American values -- a vision of a society where we are all in this together on the one hand -- and a vision of a society in which everyone looks out first and foremost for himself alone on the other....Mitt Romney offered America an opportunity to choose values and leaders that were committed to the radical individualism espoused by his running-mate, Ayn Rand disciple Paul Ryan. America said no."

He also made the point that this is likely the last election that the Republican party can turn its backs on ethnic minorities and gays - not to mention women - because America's values are shifting.

"The Right made a desperate last ditch attempt to turn the tide in the "culture war" -- on equality for gays and lesbians, on the right of women to control their own bodies, on women's equal status in America's work places and society at large. They failed. Their positions on rape, contraception and abortion cost them dearly among women. In referenda this fall, the forces favoring marriage equality won in four out of four states....The outcome of this election demonstrated that as the millennial generation grows in number in the electorate, it will most likely be impossible for any candidate to win the presidency who wants to take American social policy back to the 1950's."

Creamer also mentions the reasons why minorities were so key in this election. I personally had a hunch that African Americans would get out and vote for Obama again because - and I hope this doesn't offend anyone - they wanted to continue the era of having a black President. I am lily white but I feel the same damn way. I am so proud of our country for electing Barack Hussein Obama in 2008 and couldn't be more proud to have him re-elected in 2012. And my support for him is not because of the color of his skin but because I believe in what he stands for and his policies, but I have to say that I am so proud of how far we have come in our country that a man with his name, and his skin color, is now the President for another 4 years. Booya! Creamer adds:

"It turned out that African-American voters were every bit as enthusiastic about re-electing President Obama as they were about electing him in the first place. He carried African-American voters 96 percent to 4 percent -- and they turned out at the same levels they had in 2008.... Obama won Hispanic voters by 44 percent -- 72 percent Obama to 28 percent Romney. ... Republicans like to delude themselves that many Hispanics are "conservative." While many are very religious and have strong commitments to family, the polling shows that Hispanic voters believe in a society where everyone has each other's back -- a society like a family -- where government plays an integral role."

I also want to add in a quote by Howard Fineman, another HuffPo commentary.
"[This is] Not a Status Quo Election. Sure, the numerical line-up didn't change much: a Democratic president, a narrowly Democratic Senate and a Republican-led House. But under the circumstances, the results made an extraordinary statement about commitment to change: in health care (Obamacare), in taxes (a push to raise rates on the wealthy), on environmental action and for activist government. The vote was an expression of hope for more change in the future, along the lines of what the president has done so far."

I stayed up until Romney had offered his gracious concession speech, and then even later to see Obama's victory speech. And if you haven't watched Obama's 2am speech, I highly recommend it. If you are on the other side, and believe that this is a tragedy, all I can say is: get a grip. Read this: Presidential Election: “Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation”.

And if you're still in denial about how America could vote for Obama after watching Fox News all the time, here's a hint: Change the channel and get some real news. Fox is not news. And Jon Stewart made the racism it spews abundantly - and hilariously - clear on last night's show "Avalanche on Bullshit Mountain." Fox puts out the message that Dems are just a bunch of minorities on the take. Not only is that a huge lie, it's downright offensive to people like me, a hard working single mom who will benefit from ObamaCare.  Not only that, most of the social reforms in our nation - social welfare, food stamps, Medicaid - were passed long before Obama came around. All Fox and conservative media consumers should get their heads out of the sand and read this: How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File.

I absolutely love the Jon Stewart showing footage of Fox newscaster Megyn Kelly calling Karl Rove on his denial after Fox News had actually named Obama as President. Priceless! She said: "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?" Laughing so hard! Stewart thinks that is a much better slogan than the one they have now: "Math you do as a Republican to Make Yourself Feel Better" - hahaha! He also makes a cogent case for Fox being blatantly racist, with Palin and O'Reilly saying we are a country of minorities and a country of people who "want stuff." Really? I as the first generation to go to college, and the success of my children, are products of the welfare system. More on that in an upcoming post.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

freelancing does not suck!

My vision board... Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Nicole

I posted this on the UPOD Yahoogroup that I'm on (UPOD is a writer's group and it stands for Under Promise Over Deliver) and I got enough positive feedback on it that I thought I'd share it here, too.

I posted it in response to a writer who posted about freelancing being not as financially lucrative as his previous full-time job, and he was lamenting that freelancing was not so glamorous. This was my response:

I am sorry that you are making less now than with a full-time job. That is probably the state of affairs in this business for MOST freelancers, but most freelancers choose this life (those that DO choose it, rather than who were laid off and got into it involuntarily) because we love the freedom of waking up whenever we want, working in our pajamas, getting time to spend time with our kids – or friends – when we want, and working when we want. Yea that sometimes means two weeks of deadline-hell where we work til 2am and fall asleep at the computer, but it also means the ability to travel whenever, wherever, and go to all the kids' events and be there when they get home from school. I don't know if you have kids, but whatever your case may be, I'm sure there are benefits of freelancing that outweigh the "money" situation because after all, money alone does not a happy life make.

That said, I wholeheartedly agree with advice to "follow the money." When I left grad school to freelance full-time, I decided I wouldn't write for less than $1/word. That's my gold standard (and now I often make more than that). That's also why I never in a million years would write for a newspaper, I don't care how prestigious it is – unless they can pay me what I need. Truth is, I'm a single mom and I have to pay the bills, and that's what I need in order to GET BY. I also value a high quality of life which means a balanced life. I work like a madwoman at times, but I also spend time with my kids, friends, God, and I take time to travel (which is always, for me, "work-fun").

I once read an interview with the actor Will Smith and he said he analyzed who made the most $ as actors and it was those in action-adventure movies, so that's where he's focused his talents. In freelancing the advice is the same: Find who pays the best, and pursue them. Of course, it all depends on your ultimate goals. If your ultimate goal is prestige, then pursuing prestigious pubs may be what you want to do, But you indicated frustration with finances, so focus on who pays. It may not even be consumer publications. Maybe you need to balance your portfolio out with some corporate writing, or whatever. I also agree with the importance of networking. There's NO substitute for meeting editors face to face!

My freelance career has ebbed and flowed, and there was one year in the depth of the recession when I stood in line to get food stamps (but because I had JUST deposited a check, despite being flat broke for 60 days before, I wasn't eligible – I could easily see how people play the system. Had I just waited to deposit it, I could have gotten on them and once on, it's easy to stay on – but that's another story entirely). Nevertheless, my income has increased substantially, and this month I made more than $10,000 – just from writing for consumer pubs and teaching my online writing class. I am really proud of that!

The economy is definitely improving in my estimation, and I am glad I didn't cave in and take a full-time job when times were tough (I applied, and didn't get them). What I did get was a "free car" offered by the Universe – God provides… and that solved my biggest concern of the time, which was – what happens if my Subaru with 200,000 miles on it dies? A random stranger who read my blog contacted me out of the blue to give me a Honda Accord… no kidding. He even put new tires, new belts, gave me a box full of oil and filters, gave me all the records, waxed and polished it and put a roll of shiny quarters in the "quarter drawer"). Every morning I get in that car, I am still amazed, two years later.

Other ways to get your life in line with your vision – CLARIFY your vision. If you want to make $X/year, then make mini-steps to how to get from here to there. And this may be too woo-woo for ya, but vision-boarding (looking at images in magazines that appeal, and creating a board with words and images that appeal to what you want) and journaling are great ways to establish a vision for your future that is everything you desire, and more.

And keep focusing on the positive aspects of the freelance life. Just changing the words we use can make a difference. I used to ALWAYS say "I'm so broke." But a couple years ago, I made a conscious choice to stop saying that phrase, and when I stopped saying the words and focused on the positive – what I DID have, what I was thankful for, what God did provide (or the Universe or fate or whatever you call it), things turned around. And also, give back (as David also suggests) – whether financially or of your time. I have an open hand policy in terms of sharing contacts and advice and also finances – when we give freely, the Universe provides back.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All Conferenced Out!

Sparkling ocean in Florida. Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Nicole Holtcamp

So there I was at the Charlotte airport on a two-hour layover headed home (2 days early than planned due to the Frankenstorm headed to the Northeast), and I posted this status on Facebook:

2 hour layover in Charlotte :/ And no free wifi.

And then, right when I post, I hear Debbie Fords voice in my head, "Are you looking for what's right or are you looking for what's wrong?" -- which is one of her "10 questions" to ask when making decisions, or pretty much always in life. And of course I had posted what's wrong. So I decided to follow it up with what's right:

A safe & on-time flight. No delay in next flight. I'm healthy & happy & reading a great new book: The Happiness Project. I randomly met a cool guy in the airport restaurant in Raleigh: a businessman with a PhD in anthropology whose headed to central Africa in a couple weeks with his wife to see chimps & mountain gorillas (So jealous). Lots more :)

I was headed home from the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) conference - the third and final conference I have attended in the past month! I am all conferenced out. First it was SXSW-Eco in Austin, followed by a week at home, then the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medicine in the Media program - which was absolutely fantastic! That was in Potomac, Maryland but I got to spend a day in DC with a friend. Home a week, then to this conference held in Raleigh, NC. I headed home two days early due to the Frankenstorm... I tell ya, from the moment I arrived in Raleigh, it was one craziness after another!

I arrived one day before the conference to see an old friend who moved to NC 8 years ago, but she got sick at the last minute, so I had to find a hotel room and something to do.  I decided to cab it to the Duke Lemur Center (which, it turns out, is the actual home of Zoboo of Zoboomafoo -- a kids show on PBS about a coquerel's sifaka - a type of lemur). They also do a lot of research, and I got to do a tour and see a lot of the lemur species, an 'aye aye' with its freaky weird long finger, and a slow loris with its huge cute eyes. They have large enclosures of the Duke Research Forest where some of the lemurs roam in a more natural habitat, but I didn't get to see them because that's only on the "behind the scenes" tour. It was really neat to see the place though!

The next day, I had lunch with one of my favorite editors at Beyu Caffe in downtown Durham.  I had the Thai Sauteed Veggies and mmmm it was so good! After that, I headed over to Research Triangle Park for the start of the conference. The first day we had half-day tours, and I took a tour of the company Medicago and their greenhouses where they are using a tobacco relative to make flu vaccines, rather than chicken eggs as are normally used. Then, we went to an EPA research facility where I learned about the use of cleaning robots to study how they might decontaminate from an anthrax bioterrorist attack. While my friend and colleague Nancy and I were on the tour, one of our other roommates checked into the hotel only to find out they had given our hotel room away! This was just the start of my travel woes!

We had to scramble to get another room at a nearby hotel - which we did, thankfully. But they were double rather than queen beds, and we were planning on having 2 to a bed. The first night in a place, I sometime can't sleep so well in my 'old age' especially when other people are there (I never used to be this way... could sleep anywhere, head hits the pillow and I was out!) but I tossed and turned for hours so by 1am I gave up, and went down to the lobby and got my own room. Then the comedy of errors began... the first new room reeked of cigarette smoke. Then I realized I'd left my cell phone in the other room with sleeping friends, and so I just needed to make sure the alarm would go off. I tried to get the alarm clock to work but that thing would not work for the life of me (maybe it was the 1am stupor... I dunno), so I picked up the phone for a wake up call instead, but there was no dial tone. Argh. So I got on the elevator, went back to the other room, snuck in quietly and found my phone, then back to my new room.

In this crazed sleepless, tired, discombobulated state, at 2am, I decided to postpone my Costa Rica trip. As much as I can't WAIT to go to Costa Rica and see the sloth sanctuary, I just feel like I've been traveling too much, and I'm traveled out for a while. I need to stick at home and get some work done and make some money, and also wasn't too keen about traveling on my own. Originally my friend was going to go but she had to do something else. And, in this same state of affairs, I called the airlines and switched my ticket home from NC to 2 days earlier; I got in last night at 1am. The conference was interesting but honestly I didn't think it held a candle to the SEJ conferences. I'll stick to them from here on out, I think! I am super happy to be home, and am about to dig into a new article.

Sir Walter Raleigh wearing a lab coat in honor of the NASW conference. The sky was darkening as Hurricane Sandy approached.

Nancy and I went out and had mojitos at the Marriott bar one night! :)

And a bonus pic of my sweet kitty, who thinks she is my "armrest" while I work on my laptop .

Thursday, October 11, 2012

love, self-sabotage and chocolate

White calla lily, Green Gulch San Francisco Zen Center. Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

Sonnet 13

And wilt thou have me fashion into speech
The love I bear thee, finding words enough,
And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough,
Between our faces, to cast light on each?—
I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach
My hand to hold my spirit so far off
From myself—me—that I should bring thee proof
In words, of love hid in me out of reach.
Nay, let the silence of my womanhood
Commend my woman-love to thy belief,—
Seeing that I stand unwon, however wooed,
And rend the garment of my life, in brief,
By a most dauntless, voiceless fortitude,
Lest one touch of this heart convey its grief

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I opened up my chocolate bar (organic fair trade dark chocolate currants and almonds) and there was this poem that spoke to my heart. I bought the bar specifically for the poem, as all these Chocolove bars have inside. I remember reading one from one of the best moments in my life, my Thanksgiving spent in solitude and gratitude at Owl Mountain near Abiquiu, New Mexico back in 2005 - the John Donne poem in my post chocolate foibles, about unintentionally eating maggot-infested chocolate - yum!

I started the Debbie Ford online class, Overcoming Self Sabotage, along with a small discussion group of friends and colleagues to share lessons with. I've also been listening to Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now on audio-CD and when his voice doesn't put me to sleep -- it is very relaxing and calming, and wise, but sometimes that isn't good when you're on a road trip -- I have gained some wonderful insights. As far as style, I think I prefer A New Earth (which I blogged about here and here and here) but this is good too. I really am fascinated by the concept of the pain body. He describes it as "accumulated pain [that] is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind." It gets activated and overcomes us at certain times, but it is not us. I am not my pain body. It is an "involuntary acting out of old patterns."

It would do wonders if people could see that when someone's pain body is activated, it is not them. They are acting from the ego, from unconsciousness. Yes, ultimately an individual is responsible for actions made during any time, but when recognizing that someone's pain body is activated, you can step back and witness and not judge, not react, and not be so affected by things. Easier said than done, perhaps, but worth trying.

Other bits of wisdom that resonated:

"If the pain body takes you over, [an enlightened or conscious] partner will not mistake it for 'who you are.'"

"Humanity is under great pressure to evolve because it is our only chance of survival as a race."

"The ego believes through negativity it can manipulate reality to get what it wants."

"As long as you make an identity out of pain, as long as your sense of self involves embracing pain, you cannot be free. You will unconsciously resist or sabotage every attempt to heal your pain because you want to keep 'yourself' intact and the pain is a part of you."

This last one was very profound for me. Oprah did an online study of A New Earth and has an exercise related to dissolving the pain body. At any rate, I also hope to share more insights from the Self-Sabotage class since I am the Queen of Self-sabotage, but alas, not today.

I just returned from a wonderful visit to Austin for the SXSW-Eco conference, and got to visit and stay with my friend Deb, who is a documentary producer and is involved with the new film (also by my friends I trekked through Nepal with in 2007- Tim Gorski and Jon Kane) How I Became an Elephant. I also stayed with new friend, former film exec Kee Kee Buckley who traveled solo across the U.S. with her dog Yoda in her Prius, "Princess Leia" and is now writing a book about her adventure. You can read some of her journey at her blog Seeking Shama and not only that, she will appear on Friday's Ricki Lake show "How to Stop Stress from Killing You." Oh, and I should mention that she blogged about giving and receiving, touched by the story of the "free car" I received in a divine act of providence! I truly love connecting with friends, old and new - it makes me feel alive and not so alone in the universe to connect and share wisdom, stories, and love with fellow truth sojourners!

SXSW-Eco was pretty cool, but I was a bit of an emotional wreck to be honest, and keep forgetting things (I'm going through some intensely challenging emotional stuff with my daughter). The highlights of the conference for me included hearing Annie Leonard, who created the short film The Story of Stuff -- she is a rock star -- and Bill McKibben, Larry Schweiger and Ted Nordhaus in this incredible session called The New Environmentalists. I will be writing about some other ideas that came out of the conference. I will keep you all posted when the articles come out.

Meanwhile here are a couple articles that came out in the latest Environmental Health Perspectives:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fall travel craziness!

On the Road... near Big Bend National Park, Texas, Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Nicole

I can't believe it's been more than a month since I've blogged. It's been busy around here - and that's a good thing! A couple weeks ago, I finished my big feature on the Elwha dam removal project and that should be coming out next month in Environmental Health Perspectives. I had a few days of downtime, during which I actually went out on the town! Big news for me - I'm kind of a homebody sometimes. I went to lunch at Ruggles Green with my very first high school boyfriend, Sean, who I recently reconnected with on Facebook, then I got together for a fun dinner at Sparrow (celebrity chef Monica Pope's new restaurant) with Texas A&M buds Kim and Rob, and then had like the worst date of my life. Dude was so ridiculously egoic, it was almost funny, if his behavior wasn't so horrifying! One of these days I will write a humorous essay about all my crappy dates, but suffice it to say dude had one thing on his mind and apparently thought I did to, but noooo sir ee bob. Then he kind of freaked out and got all angry. Ah, dating is so much fun! (not). At any rate after my few days of downtime, I got another short turnaround assignment, due Monday, and that's what has me occupied for the last few days. Still working on it...

Rob, me, and Kim at Sparrow. Kim has her PhD in psychology and does something like... pediatric neuropsychology I think?! I'm so proud of her - I met her when she was a 17-year old freshman and she lived in my dorm! She's now married with a cute lil un. I havent met her husband, but they just moved to Houston, and I found her online. We went to lunch a few weeks back too! In college, she became friends with Rob and we all used to hang out a lot. I hadn't seen him in like 20 years! He is a PhD in Economics and is now a consultant. 

But I have some other exciting news to share... First... drum roll please... ... I have changed my name to Wendee Nicole. I decided it was time to move on from my "old" life, that is my ex-husband's last name, and time to move on from that and embrace my 'rebirth' with a new name. I registered and it's now live! I am in the process of updating some of the links, and other things around the web, but check it out!

And next... upcoming adventures!! Next week I'm headed to the SXSW-Eco conference in Austin - woohoo! There are several colleagues and friends I will meet for the first time and/or reconnect with there. I love networking! I was all set to go last year but then Costa Rica called... (and hey I'm probably going back there in November and I'm totally stoked about that.)

After that, I am headed to Washington DC because I was accepted into the NIH Medicine in the Media Course. I am headed there a day early and staying with an editor friend. and then...

The National Association of Science Writers conference in Research Triangle, North Carolina! This will be my first NASW conference and my first time to NC. I have been to almost every state in the U.S. except a handful on the east coast. One of these days I'll have to calculate the number left... and make a trip to them! But I digress. While there I get to stay with my old bud Lisa Sullivan, who lived near me in the apartment I lived in when I first separated from my exhusband. We did bible study together, carved pumpkins together, and she moved to NC a few years ago and I havent seen her since!

With all this travel, I'll be back a week in between just about every trip so it's gonna be a busy/crazy fall but I really love traveling. Tomorrow Sam is having his 16th birthday party, and I'll have a houseful of loud boys - all the while I'm trying to write my article on a crazy complicated research paper... sigh. I will be very glad when my article is done!

A silly pic of Savannah and I... pretty much sums things up.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

nutrition, vegan eating, & science denial - oh my

West Texas Thunderstorm - Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I am sitting here eating carob blueberry ice cream - vegan, sugar free, dairy free - and yumilicious! I did a 7-day juice fast following an online course by Casey Lorraine and Philip McCluskey (who lost 400 pounds by juice fasting and going raw/vegan. Wow - impressive! And he looks like my exboyfriend... Not the 400-pound version - ha ha). Anyway, so now I am doing their 28 day Beautiful Body Detox course, which is basically like I was eating before the fat flush - no dairy, no wheat/gluten, no added sugar (fruit only) but I'm also trying to not eat oil a la Joel Fuhrman and his bestselling Eat to Live book. OK, let me rephrase that. I don't usually just eat oil... rather, cook with oil. I have discovered baking vegetables on...parchment paper! And making kale-avocado salad without the Tablespoon of oil. And it's just as good!

I am really trying to be committed to my nutrition and my fitness. I have a tendency to alternate eating really healthy with eating crap. I go through stages where I eat a lot of sweets. And coffee is (or was) pretty much a staple of my diet. I have a huge sweet tooth and I also was eating a lot of corn chips... not to mention kale chips, but those are ok. And the homemade Carob ice cream is sweetened by Stevia, which is ok on this plan. So I'm just trying to get into a more healthy eating pattern and lose maybe just 5 pounds but mostly it's about being more fit and toned! And less using food as comfort (though I do love me some food!) I have made soooo many recipes since I have been off the juice a week -- marinated tofu triangles, kale-avocado salad, "faux" tuna (with garbanzo beans and cashew cream), zucchini-sagna (raw zucchini & tomato slices with pesto in between), and loads of smoothies and fresh juices. Today it was cinnamon vanilla carrot juice! And I may be doing 3 months of "boot camp" at my gym. Yikes!

I have a load of travel coming up in October, but some I am still trying to nail down, so I will update on that soon, and possibly a trip to Costa Rica in November. THAT I am super excited about! This Christmas, I won't have the kids, and my mom & stepdad will be in Hawaii so.... I have to figure out something to do so I'm not all alone! Will probably end up in Cali visiting one or another of my best friends.

And, here are my latest stories! Let me know what you think! The first one is on a topic I am really passionate about. And before I say adieu, how about that Mars Rover Curiosity sticking its landing?! :)

  • Flavors of Uncertainty: The Difference between [Science] Denial and Debate. Aug 2012 Environmental Health Perspectives. Aug 2012 (PDF here). A feature that arose from my visit to the Science Denial conference in Madison, WI (remember the pics?)
  • One Study, Two Paths: The Challenge of Dual-Use Research A feature for Environmental Health Perspectives on research that can be used for good or evil -- brought to light by the recent hubbub over the avian influenza genetic engineering research. Jun 2012.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Is the Life I Wanted Passing Me By?

Cocha Blanco near the Manu Wildlife Center in the Manu Biosphere Reserve, Peruvian Amazon Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

I am in the process of sort of redefining - or clarifying - my life goals, my yearly goals, and my short-term goals and steps that I need to take in order to reach the next step in my own evolution. And I am listening to Debbie Ford's CD's "The Power to Make Life Changing Choices: The Right Questions in Action" and something she said really jumped out at me.

Lately I have felt a bit disillusioned with my life. Instead of being thrilled by all the amazing things I have seen and places I have gone, I have felt depressed and sad and that life has passed me by - or perhaps that the best is behind me. I know, I know... that's crazy talk. Call it a mid-life crisis, I don't know. I'm staring the empty nest smack dab in the face, and it scares the hell out of me. But worse than that, I feel like there are so many of my dreams that I don't even know if they are dreams anymore, they are buried so deep. Dreams like spending several months in Africa (I am scared now - where did that come from?). Dreams like writing a book (remember what happened to kill that dream? yea, like a book miscarriage). Dreams like having a good relationship with my daughter, something different than I had with my own mom (I really thought I had checked that one off the list, until the shit hit the fan this year in a excruciatingly heartbreaking way). Dreams like... saving the world. Producing and maybe even starring in a documentary film. Going on mission trips (can't afford them - why don't they want volunteers that don't have $3000 to spend?!), joining the Peace Corps, volunteering with the homeless and impoverished. Writing something that actually makes a difference in the world. So many things that now seem so distant and far off... But I know they are still dreams, and though the intense passion of my youth for these things has waned, I want to resurrect my dreams and figure out which ones I still really want to pursue. So I have been thinking about goals.

So back to the point: The CD outlines 10 questions you can ask yourself for every decision to make sure you are making decisions that lead you in the direction of your deeper vision (of course, it helps you have first defined that deeper vision).

Ford explains that when we head to the grocery store, we get in the car and we drive there. We don't stop at every corner and ask how we "feel" or ask ourselves, "do I want to stop here? Do I want to go to that corner shop or that coffee shop" while on the way. We would never get to our destination because we would be pausing and following every whim. Likewise, in other parts of our lives, we have to set an intention and a goal, and then determine how to get there, and not divert from that path. We need to not consult our "feelings" and "emotions" at every juncture on our path - do I want to take this assignment or that one because I like it, or eat this donut or french fries when I'm on a diet -- but rather we should always tune into our deeper vision.

She says there are no small choices, because every single choice we make either leads us toward our vision, or keeps us stuck in old patterns and in the past and our default way of doing things. Each choice, she says, affects our mood and our self esteem. We have to have the faith that we deserve the very best life, and that we can make our dreams a reality. Amen to that!

There's a lot more detail for each of these questions, but it's something to get you started on your path to living your dreams! What do you think?

The 10 questions are:

  1. 1. Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?
  2. 2. Will this choice bring me long term fulfillment or will it bring me short term gratification?
  3. 3. Am I standing in my own power or am I trying to please another?
  4. 4. Am I looking for what’s right, or am I looking for what’s wrong?
  5. 5. Will this choice add to my life force, or will it rob me of my energy?
  6. 6. Will I use this situation as a catalyst to grow and evolve or will I use it to beat myself up?
  7. 7. Does this choice empower me or dis-empower me?
  8. 8. Is this an act of self-love or self-sabotage?
  9. 9. Is this an act of faith or an act of fear?
  10. 10 Am I choosing from my Divinity or am I choosing from my humanity?

And so, the answer to the question I pose is no, but... I have to get on the wagon to make sure that the second part of my life doesn't roll right by me on the same track, when I do want to switch gears a little bit. I love what I do - I LOVE writing (most of the time) but I want to add some new things to my life repertoire. So let's go! What is on your bucket list?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Showing my son the Olympic peninsula

Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park is absolutely breathtaking! Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Holtcamp

The last weekend Sam and I were in the Pacific Northwest, I took him to Olympic National Park. As I've said before, it's my favorite national park - it's so incredibly gorgeous and unique. But I also had to do some additional reporting and photography of the Elwha River for a second story I'm doing. My first story came out in Nature a couple weeks ago - Fish Return to Undammed Elwha River - and I have a feature due in a couple months. I also will be posting a slideshow and maybe doing a podcast for my Wendee Holtcamp Report at Adventures in Climate Change. I had so many technological difficulties on this month away from home, I have gotten really behind on a lot of things. So it took me a couple days to even get groceries in my fridge. I had a deadline on some edits immediately after I got home, I have another story due Monday, and I had to spend some time with my daughter, of course! I am also getting caught up on my two online writing classes I'm teaching simultaneously (note to self: teaching two classes at once is not advised in the future) :) 

Sam and I drove up to Washington's Olympic peninsula on Saturday morning after I had a great evening out on my birthday having a couple drinks at Random Order with my friends Kelli and Orna. Orna gave me a box of amazing Missionary Chocolates (vegan and the proceeds go to a good cause - and they are not only beautiful but absolutely delicious!) I will post a separate post about my birthday and other aspects of my trip soon but I want to keep this focused on Olympic National Park. Without further adieu, here are my photos from the trip, divided up by the location. I would make all the images the larger size but unfortunately the blog isn't wide enough, and it cuts them off! I am going to see if I can work on this...

Hurricane Ridge

It takes about 4 hours and some change to drive from Portland to Port Angeles on the north part of the Olympic peninsula, our home base for the trip. I took Sam to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, which I hadn't been to in many years. Dad said we went there when we traveled there 20 years ago, but I don't remember that part! It was very different from other parts of the park, but this park is so diverse, with beach, temperate rainforest and alpine habitat that you never run out of options! At any rate, this is one of the most visited parts of the park. We took the drive and then did a short hike from there. This is the alpine view from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Another view from the visitor center.

We did a short trail to Sunrise Point on the High Ridge Trail.

But first we had to cross over the ice field of doom. Sam got pegged by a snowball from a young girl.

There were many wildflowers out in bloom, including these avalanche lilies.

I love lupines!

Sam named this deer Fluffy. We saw many black-tailed deer out there at Hurricane Ridge! We never did see any elk. Sam reallllly wanted to go fishing or crabbing and we got some information from the folks at the visitor center, but we didn't really plan for that so didn't have a fishing pole or crabbing gear, and licenses for even a day are pretty pricey. So I told him he'd have to just come back another time!

Sol Duc

On Sunday morning, we ate breakfast at The Haven, a little dive recommended by a friend of mine. Then we headed over to the Sol Duc area for a hike to Sol Duc Falls. But first, we stopped at the Salmon Cascades demonstration because I stopped there last time with Terri and it was pretty cool! Apparently at certain times of year you can see salmon jumping here pretty easily. I didn't see any though.

The"hugging trees"!

So we arrived at the trailhead to the Sol Duc falls, and I forced Sam to change from flip flops into his tennis shoes. It was only 0.8 miles each way, but I didn't know the trail conditions. We saw this nurse log on the trail. A nurse log is one that dies and many other plants or trees start to grow out of it. Sam himself noticed it! And I took a picture.

A little stream on the trail to the falls. This one was taken by my phone! Not bad for a phone pic. 

Coastal temperate rainforest. Isn't it gorgeous?!

Another view of the falls. I just love the mossy rocks in this park!

Another view of the falls.

The Sol Duc Falls

There's a bridge that you cross to get to the area where I took the above photos. 

Sam played on the rocks for a while and I just sat and enjoyed the scenery and the sounds (When I wasn't trying to sneak a photo of him! He's quick!)

The Sol Duc river flowing through the canyon.

Elwha River/Humes Ranch Trail

In the afternoon, we went on another hike with a friend. This time we went to Humes Ranch loop trail. This is a shot of the clouds across the canyon on part of the trail. Pretty cool! Reminded me of an image I shot of the Amazon rainforest in Peru. We walked along and then took a detour that was really steep and went down to the riverbed. It was then that I realized Sam had changed *out* of his tennis shoes and back into his flip flops. Sigh. And this was when he really needed some sort of hiking shoe! Boys!

A view of the Elwha River through trees. This is upstream of where the Glines Canyon dam is (or was - it is partially removed at this point) The Glines canyon dam is the upper dam and is the one still actively being removed, whereas the Elwha dam is already totally gone. See my last blog post from a month ago - Elwha dam removal - for photos of the two dam sites!

Another shot of the Elwha River

A giant pock-marked rock on the Elwha River, a slightly different spot than above. We walked along the stream for a while and then took a different trail back up. It was a good thing because it wasn't near as steep!

Another view of the rocky riverbed.
Another shot of the Elwha River

And double bonus: We got to see the Goblin's Gate! This is one of the narrowest parts of the Elwha. 

"Inside" the Goblin's Gate. I climbed down to get closer, and the boys followed. 

We saw a ruffed grouse on the trail too. Sam was excited to see some wildlife. I was a bit disappointed we didn't see more, myself, because I love wildlife! We did see a couple chipmunks and Douglas squirrels.

And finally, the Hume's Ranch cabin! At the end of the hike, Sam was parched. Not only had he worn flip flops, we hadn't brought any water... oops. It was a pretty good hike too. We got back and drank some water, and then had a nice dinner!

Elwha River Mouth

Monday morning, before we headed back to my dad's, we visited the mouth of the Elwha River, where you can see the muddy plume caused by sediment coming down the river and out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We accessed this from the Lower Elwha Tribe Reservation.

This is an estuary just inland of the river mouth which is very important to young fish. It is also the part that is mostly or partly blocked by sediment from the dam removal, as I mentioned in my Nature piece

The beach on the Lower Elwha Tribe's reservation near the mouth of the Elwha River, looking back towards the mountains. Breathtaking!

Driftwood has accumulated here that has come downstream since the dams have been removed.

Another shot of the driftwood released after the dams came out washed downstream.

Rocks on the beach.

A shot of the muddy plume. The other water is much more blue.

A surfer walks along the beach near the Elwha River mouth. I LOVE this image! It was an opportunistic moment. It looks really cool in a larger size. Click on it!

Another view of the surfer at the mouth of the Elwha.

Talk to the Hand!

And just for fun, a series of images of my darling son and his hand! He so loves having his photo taken! :) I thought it was funny looking through all my pics and seeing "the hand"!

The first night we stayed at the Quality Inn in town, and the next night, we stayed as guests at the Inn at Rooster Hill B&B. We stayed in the Lauren Room and it was great! This was my bed. It had a kitchenette in a separate area, plus ....

These totally cool cubbies! Sam slept in here. There was another one on the other side that was like Alice in Wonderland with a bigger but small door and then a smaller one inside, and then a little tiny room in there. Great for kids. It's great because it's just a mile from the central part of town but it's on 2 and a half acres so it feels like it's in the middle of nowhere. The best of both worlds!