On occasion I make it to the gym to swim or work out if the weather is nasty, but I prefer to exercise outside. Last week I ventured to the Gold’s Gym at prime-time after work to try to shake off a long day with a few laps in the pool.
After my swim I decided to sit in the dry sauna to warm up and dry off. My eyes where still adjusting from taking off my goggles when I opened the door to the small sauna- only to find it was packed with about 15 people. I squeezed into the top corner and could not have predicted what was about to happen.
Maybe I’m old school, but I don’t think the crazy hot sauna is really a hospitable environment for electronics. The other 15 people would not agree with that statement. Each person had a device and was listening to music, checking emails, Facebook and even taking pictures- I’ll get to that in a minute.
The woman next to me was decked out in a trash bag looking space suite that I thought they quit making in the 80’s. Her makeup was pouring off her lush, black skin and pooling on the collar of the suit and she was mouth breathing very loud. The man next to her decided a crowded sauna was absolutely the right place to do some yoga moves and grunt through each pose.
But the chick in front of me took the cake. At first she wasn’t looking at her phone, but then saw everyone else was so she pulled out her giant iPhone 6. She surfed around briefly on Facebook, then decided the sauna was a great place to capture a selfy.
She lined up her phone to get a good photo, puckered her lips, sucked in her cheeks, flipped her long blond hair around and snapped a few choice shots. I wanted to tell her to take her hat off so didn’t get such a shadow over her eyes, but I let it slide. She seemed so pleased with the way she looked in the hot sauna that I didn’t want to rain on her narcissistic parade.
Unfortunately, she didn’t check her background. If she had she would have noticed that I had moved my big old, white leg just behind her right shoulder. No one looks good in a sauna. They look even worse with a giant, middle-aged woman’s thigh photo bombing their precious selfy.
At one point she grew frustrated that her phone wasn’t able to follow her commands because her hands were too sweaty to navigated the touch screen. But, then again we were in a dry sauna so she might have expected that.
People came and went during the 10 minutes that I spent in the tiny room but there was never less than 15 people. I feel certain each one of them came pretty close to voiding the warranty on their smart phones on that day.
I love riding on the trails. Well- I love riding horses pretty much any where, any time. After the Memorial Day floods of 2015, there was a lot of debris and mud on the trails at the barn where I ride. But a few amazing women did a little trail work and now we can ride again. I also love my GoPro and learning how to edit on iMovie. So I made a little Trail Report news reel to share with the other riders.
What can I say? I like lists. I like lists so much that I take a vacation every spring with my family to make lists of the birds we see. But even before we step foot out the door or pack a bag, I make lists of where we will go, what we might see and how long it will take to drive there.
Birding is about observation, tracking and cataloging as much as it is about getting into nature. The Greater Texas Birding Classic gives my husband, mother and myself a reason to make a crazy run around the state to count as many birds as we can see in 6 days.
This year we are planning on increasing our reach by heading out to Big Bend National Park to start our listing of birds. Big Bend is known for a few types of birds that can only be found in the strange and wonderful ecosystems of the park. From there we will journey to the Rio Grande Valley, up the coast, then inland to our home in Austin.
In the past we have witnessed around 250-275 species of birds per trip. Texas has amazing birding and the spring migration is where its at if you are an avid birder. The migratory birds journey up from Central and South America on their way to points north and Texas is smack dab in the middle of three major flyways.
The other benefit of this mad dash around Texas is it takes me to places I’ve never seen and would never normally travel to unless I was looking for birds. Last year we touched the very tip of Texas at Boca Chico at the mouth of the Rio Grande River and the Gulf of Mexico. This year I’m hoping to visit 3 state parks I’ve never been to before so I can get a little closer to having visited all 92 state parks in Texas.
The other thing I like about our journey is it blends together my love of Texas history, sociology, travel and nature. We get to see so many great historical sites and some wonderful snapshots into the human activities of small town life, the oil boom of south Texas, campers at parks, and other birders who are on their own quest.
I make a lot of lists in my life. Most are for work, some are for daily life tasks, but the ones I make of the birds are purely for me and purely for fun. Well, I guess they aren’t all for me, I load them into eBird to be a citizen scientist to do my part to help better understand the bird populations and migrations. Stay tuned of for updates from the road on The Atomic Cowgirl Facebook page.
I’ve been having fun playing with the GoPro and learning how to use iMovie. I made a little movie trailer from footage of one of the rides I took with the women from Rocking B Stables in Austin, TX.
I’m lucky to live in a place that is close to where I can keep my horses and still have some open lands to ride them on. This video is a short chronicle of a day doing some trail work with my dogs before having a nice ride with friends. Most of the footage is shot from the backs of Chief, the dog with the pointy ears or Casino, the one with the floppy ears, or from the back of my big grey mare- Breeze. Ranger, the dun mustang, didn’t make the ride today- but he got lots of attention, which is what he loves the most. The rest of Austin, TX is knee deep in SXSW- but I would much rather be in the woods with the real wildlife, and my friends.
For Christmas the dogs got me a harness that they could wear the GoPro on so I could see the world the way they do. This a short mix of clips from the dogs at the park. As you can see, there is a lot of joy in every step as they explore the park. Casino makes a big run at the opening and for those that know my giant lazy dog- this is a long sprint for the Big Guy.
A year ago, my husband and I moved around the corner from our old house into the home we are in now. One of the main reasons we moved was because the property of our new house is buffered on 2 sides by greenbelt with a little wet weather creek and thick woods. Even though we are in the City of Austin, we feel like we are in the country within the confines of our little sanctuary.
In January we decided to document the wildlife that lives in the small greenbelt that buffers the neighborhood and connects up with Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park. We installed a game camera on a tree that was near the little path that the animals made in the woods.
In the first two days we found that the woods have a ton of wildlife. The first photo was of an armadillo, then a fox, possum, deer, feral cat, squirrel, birds, a big buck, mouse, and finally kids playing in the woods.
Since then we have moved the camera to several different spots to see if we can capture photos of any other species of animals wandering through. So far we don’t have a photo of a cotton-tailed rabbit, jackrabbit or a coyote, but we’ve heard coyotes on more than one occasion. However, I don’t think we have bobcat this close into the city.
When the weather gets warmer, we will move the camera closer to the creek to see if we can document any type of reptiles. We have also documented over 25 species of birds that live in the area or migrate through.
Here is a list of all the wildlife we’ve seen so far in the yard or in the woods behind the house.
Armadillo, Fox, Raccoon, Squirrel, Mouse, Deer, Possum
Great Horned Owl, Screech Owl, Red Shoulder Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Crested Cara Cara, Carolina Wren, White Wing Dove, Mourning Dove, Red Bellied Wood Pecker, Downy Wood Pecker, Ladder Back Wood Pecker, Chimney Swift, Purple Martin, Cedar Waxwing, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Great Tailed Grackle, American Gold Finch, House Finch, Lessor Gold Finch, Blue Grey Gnatcatcher, Tennessee Warbler, House Sparrow, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Black Chinned Humming Bird, Back Crested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee.
AUSTIN — A new National Parks Foundation initiative announced Feb. 19 by the White House emphasizes goals shared by a growing Texas coalition of partners with chapters in major cities, the Texas Children in Nature collaborative.
The ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative gives fourth graders free admission to all National Parks and other national lands during the 2015-2016 school year.
“We are so excited about the new ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative,” says Jennifer Bristol, Coordinator for Texas Children in Nature. “In Texas this really expands the efforts that many of our partners are working on to create more access to nature for families in our rapidly growing state.”
Bristol says kids 12 years old and younger already can play for free at all Texas State Parks and many city and county parks around the state. She said studies show children and their families who spend more time in the outdoors tend to be healthier, happier and smarter.
With children spending up to 8 hours per day indoors, sedentary with media and only minutes per day playing in the outdoors, experts say this is a step in the right direction.
Texas Children in Nature is part of a national grassroots movement that ignited after the release of author, Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv participated in a summit held this week in Chicago to publicize the ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative.
“[This] announcement and new initiative may well be a turning point,” said Louv. “It will help support the people who have worked so hard, many of them for decades, to connect children to nature. It will encourage new actions by local government, education, religious organizations, the health care professions, and, crucially, by our business communities. The greatest change must happen beyond government, in the daily decisions that all of us, as individuals and members of families, take in our daily lives. Ultimately, only we can make sure that every child receives the gifts of the natural world.”
Richard Louv and experts from around the nation will be speaking on this topic this spring the Children & Nature Conference being held in Bastrop at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort on April 7-9. The Conference and Gala are being co-hosted by the Children & Nature Network, Texas Children in Nature and Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center. The three day event will bring together leaders from the conservation, health, education, technology and built environment communities to explore ways to encourage families, schools, churches, non-profits and businesses to support getting kids off the couch and into nature.
Registration is required for the event. More information can be found by visiting the conference webpage.
“We really want to make outdoor time, family time in Texas,” says Bristol. “The announcement of the ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative and the Conference coming up in April are both great steps towards raising awareness that all children and families need to have access to nature to be healthier and happier.”
I feel like I am making really good choices today and that feels great. For example, I chose not to make a sandwich with the 10-day-old lunchmeat. I also chose to put the lunchmeat in the trash instead of back in the fridge, and that felt like a good choice as well.
But these choices do not come without a flicker of guilt. I was raised in a home where sciences experiments were commonplace when it came to food. Blame cannot be placed on any one person, for the list of ancestors who helped our family arrive at this disposition is too long to list. My mother simply held dearly her Scottish / American upbringing and believed in the values of statements such as, “waste not, want not” and “a penny saved, is a penny earned.”
But is old Mayonnaise saved, Mayonnaise earned? What about Folgers coffee cans filled with bacon grease? How does that apply to the savings factor? If the grease is used, I guess it could save money from buying lard- hmm? I’m not sure, because I only saw the bacon grease be used once or twice; but by-golly we had cans full of it under the counter neatly saved in Folgers coffee cans.
My parents were not at fault, she was simply following a strange custom that was passed from one generation or friend to another. My brother and I were equally part of the disfuntional equation. We too had heaps of guilt internally piled on us for wasting things. More often than not, we would simple put the 10 -day -old lunchmeat back into the fridge for the next person to deal with. But when no one in the family likes to waste, then the issue starts to compound.
The final result of a family being food thrifty is a kitchen filled with little items like mustard getting tucked into the door of the fridge with an expiration date six years old. Or Coors Light beer from a party five years ago sitting in the back of the fridge, just waiting for the right person to come along. Or a box of Casbah from 1999 hiding behind several layers of soup. Poor, lonely, unconsumed products. Maybe instead of being worried about being wasteful, I should have more concern for their feelings.
With that mindset, I know I made a good choice today. I didn’t eat the aging lunchmeat and I placed it in the trash where it now has friends whose expiration dates have also passed.
I am now grown woman with my own kitchen, but the familial practices run deep. It is quite a thing to overcome the generational institution of Scottish guilt, but that is what I did today. And tomorrow I shall repent.