Monthly Wrap-Up

A few weeks ago I was walking through a field and saw this guy on a trash-heap:

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I whipped out my camera, but I needn’t have hurried.

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I think I’ve seen more random taxidermy since I moved to Texas than in all of the rest of my life put together. I don’t know why, but Texans really, really enjoy stuffing animals and pieces of animals. I mentioned this phenomenon to a coworker here, and her eyes lit up with delight and nostalgia as she told me about the first creature she ever taxidermied (a mouse) and how she still proudly displays it in her home. I am not making this up.

Summer is in full swing now, but I don’t want to forget to mention how gorgeous Texas is in the springtime.

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Everything was in bloom, everywhere. I didn’t get a lot of photos, because working full time in retail kind of swallowed up my life for a while until I adjusted to it. On the plus side, this job is getting me into better shape than I’ve been in in years.

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It’s like getting paid to go to the gym for eight hours a day.

The horses that run wild down by the Trinity River have added some new babies to their little herd.

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They keep their distance now and scamper off if Mahogany and I get too close.

Farther up the river, there’s a nice park area where I can work on training Mahogany to cross moving water. We haven’t gone there much, because getting to it involved crossing a narrow road-bridge with no way to get out of the way of traffic. But we braved it today, and discovered that the culvert has been reconstructed to allow for crossing beside the bridge. Now I have TWO places to train Mahogany on water crossings!

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And the park is great for just galloping at full speed across the open meadows.

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School is out for the summer. As per our custody agreement, Luke and Elizabeth are each spending four weeks in California with their dad. Luke went first; he’ll be coming back to Texas this weekend and Elizabeth will fly out to California few days later. It’s their first experience with flying, so that’s kind of exciting. Selfie at the airport:

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An out-of-state Facebook friend came out to Arlington on business this week and invited me to have breakfast with him yesterday morning. Neither of us were familiar with that area, so I got some restaurant recommendations from a local friend and we ended up at a colorful little dive straight out of a grainy ’70s movie. So much food was piled in front of me that I ended up bringing most of it home home for lunch. The company was very nice, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. This was the first date I’ve been on since my marriage ended six years ago, so it feels like a milestone.

And that’s all the news for the month. Life is good. Oh! How To Train Your Dragon 2 is an amazing movie, go see it!

Categories: Animals, Family, food, Friends, Horses, kids, Life, trail rides, Travel | Leave a comment

Writing, Working, Relocating

Funny thing about writing for a living. To make any money at it, you actually have to spent most of your time sitting in front of a keyboard, writing.

Earning a living as a writer has been my dream since I was a teenager. I don’t know why the actual logistics of it never really crossed my mind. The part where I’d be sitting at a desk all day as my body slowly turned to mush? Somehow that was never part of the fantasy.

When we got back from our holiday trip to California, the combination of my return to the sedentary writer’s life and the feast-and-famine nature of the kind of writing I was doing drove me to get a part-time job that I knew would keep me on my feet and running around for a few hours a day in exchange for a steady paycheck. The first week or two of that really made me realize how out-of-shape I had let myself become. So much pain. But then my body toughened back up, and the extra flab started to come off. Seriously, I haven’t lost this much weight this quickly since my marriage ended and I couldn’t keep food down for like two months. I think manual labor is seriously underrated.

What really surprised me, though, is how much I enjoy the job. The combination of physical exertion, mental stimulation and social interaction makes me happy in a way that I did not expect. A few weeks after I hired on, I accepted a transition to a full-time position with more responsibility. I haven’t done any paid writing in weeks, and I don’t miss it. Bonus: my novel is progressing in leaps and bounds now that my wordsmithing energy isn’t being siphoned off into the other stuff.

Another nice thing about a regular-paycheck job is that it offers a certain reassurance to prospective landlords. The kids and I have finally relocated to our own apartment!

Life tip: If you ever move from a largish house into a smallish apartment, spend a few interim months living in someone else’s home. That little apartment will look positively spacious, trust me.

The best part about being able to stay with friends while we acclimated to DFW is that when the time came to start looking for an apartment, we knew exactly which area we wanted to move to. We are right where we want to be, or as close as we can get without moving Elizabeth out of her preferred high school. Luke had to switch to a different junior high, but he’s okay with that. He likes his new school.

Fun extra: there is a church up the street from our apartment with a full carillon that chimes on the hour:

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I can just hear it if the windows are open, so it’s not intrusive. I like it, it’s a pretty sound.

The Metroplex is nice and green again, finally. Winter is kind of bleak here, which is one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging much. It’s not really a photogenic place in the winter.

I was really enjoying how wild and overgrown Mahogany’s stretch of river trail is getting…

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…until I lost my phone out there in the middle of a ride. Oops.

When the kids got home from school we went on a search-and-rescue mission that really only succeeded because Elizabeth kept calling my phone with hers until we heard it ring.

Let’s see, what else? I have plans to create a small kitchen garden in containers on our apartment’s balcony. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can grow here.

And now I think I’m all caught up!

Categories: Animals, environment, Family, Friends, Horses, Humor, kids, Life, trail rides, trees, Weather | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: Nature’s Clean-Up Crew

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[Click through to see additional photos. Warning: Animal Death]

Continue reading

Categories: Animals, Death, environment, Life, trail rides, Wildlife, Winter, Wordless Wednesday | Leave a comment

Home for the Holidays IV: Little Mountains

This is the little mountain at the end of my Perris friends’ road:

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I resolved to climb it every day of my stay, to counteract the debilitating effects of too much holiday feasting and revelry. I ended up skipping a hike or two, but not many. After the first couple of days the little mountain didn’t feel like a workout anymore, so I widened my range until I had scaled all of the immediately local peaks, such as they were.

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I found this embedded in the top of a random peak. I have no idea what it means or why it’s there.

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At one point my uncle came to visit from Phelan, and requested a tour of my little mountain range.

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We got a really nice view of the balloons that day.

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But most of the time I hiked alone. I really wanted to climb the big (relatively speaking) mountain on the other side of the Expressway next to Lake Perris.

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I hadn’t climbed that one since I was in my teens or early twenties, way back in the day. It’s not really a mountain you want to tackle by yourself though. If something went wrong, help would be a while getting to you. On the last hike of my stay, I compromised by setting my sights on a handful of geocaches around its base. I didn’t expect to have time to get to all of them, and in fact I only got to two of the caches and didn’t actually find either one of those. Without a real gps unit it’s really just a guessing game trying to figure out which pile of rocks you’re supposed to be searching under. No regrets though, it was a beautiful hike.

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The second geocache that I searched for was supposedly next to this big rock face.

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I tried to climb that once, without equipment, in one of my younger and more foolish years. I didn’t get very far. To give a better idea of the scale of this thing, here are some arrows pointing to people who were climbing it when I snapped the pic:

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That hike brought back a lot of memories. Two decades ago I used to ride Stormy on those trails.

The next day Steve dropped off Luke and Elizabeth. And if I’m completely honest, I will admit that our reunion was a little disorienting for me.

As I said in an earlier post, this was the longest that the kids and I had ever been apart. The first couple of days, I missed them like hell. I texted them to make sure they were okay, and felt a surge of relief every time Elizabeth posted to Facebook. But they were obviously having a fine time, and so was I, so I stopped worrying and began to enjoy the break. And there I was in this place where I had spent some of my carefree single years, with nothing to do but hike and play with my old friends and act like a kid again, and it was very easy to slip into that old mindset. And then suddenly the kids were with me again, and of course it was great to see them and catch up and everything, but…there was a very small part of me that had a hard time letting go of my rediscovered freedom. It was just…disorienting.

The next morning we headed back to Texas. By the time we arrived in DFW, the weirdness had passed and I was back in parenting mode. We all agreed that, while it was wonderful to see our old friends again, SoCal no longer felt like home. We’re just not desert people; we like trees and grass and rain. We like Texas.

I do kind of miss the mountains, though.

Categories: environment, Family, Friends, Geocaching, Life, Travel | Leave a comment

Home For the Holdidays, Part III: Geocaching

I’ve been curious about geocaching for a long time, but until recently it was mostly a theoretical interest. A few weeks ago it ocurred to me that DFW might have more to offer geocachers than Anza did, so I checked it out and sure enough, the whole Metroplex is teeming with caches. During the week before the kids and I left to spend Winter Break in California, we went searching for four nearby geocaches. We only found one of them. Since I don’t have a real gps unit, I just use an app on my iPad that pinpoints the location of the cache; unfortunately my iPad only connects to the Net via wi-fi, so it can’t always pinpoint my location with much accuracy when I’m out and about. If I’m looking for a cache in the woods, for example, the app can’t really tell me where I am beyond just guiding me to the right general patch of trees.

When I mentioned my interest and troubles on Facebook, a couple of my California friends who are active geocachers offered to take me around their own stomping grounds and show me some tips and tricks for finding caches. I happily agreed.

Brief tangent: by the time I got to California the Saturn was overdue for an oil change, and it had also developed an unsettling steering wheel shudder whenever I used the brakes. So two days after Christmas I took it to my regular mechanic in Temecula to have it looked at. I got there bright and early, but they were already having a busy day, so all they could tell me is that my car would most likely be ready to pick up by the time they closed at five. I left them to it and walked the three miles to the Temec library, where I settled in to work on my book.

I had only been there for an hour or two when I got a text from my friends, asking if I felt like going on a geocaching adventure/tutorial. Whoot!

They drove up from Rancho Cucamonga to pick me up. They had never done any geocaching in the Temecula area, so we decided to search out a few local caches until my car was ready and then head back to Rancho Cucamonga for the advanced class. In their basic geocaching tutorial I learned about lamppost caches and “boogers” and magnetic “stickers” and the ubiquitous popularity of ammunition boxes and Altoid tins. Somewhere in there the mechanic called to tell me that my car was suffering from a case of warped rotors and that they couldn’t get to the repairs until the next morning. So I left the Saturn in Temec, rode back to Rancho Cucamonga with my friends and embarked on a geocaching adventure extrordinaire.

Without revealing any actual locations, here are a few of my favorite caches:

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There was a trackable in the gauge, so I brought it back to Texas to place in a local cache.

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The weather has been cold and dreary since I got back to Texas, but the kids and I managed to go on one small geocaching run the day after we got back. We found two out of three that time, using the tricks I learned in California. As soon as it warms up I’m looking forward to devoting more time to it.

More California pics to come!

Categories: books, Christmas, Friends, Geocaching, Life, Travel | Leave a comment

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