Birds, Birding, Birdnerds, & Birdnerding – The Titmouse

A little bird piece for my fellow birdnerds and nature fanatics. ❤️🐦❤️

Rockhounds, Bird Nerds, and Nature Fans

birds -titmouse1

One of our highly nerdy yet entertaining passions is trying to capture interesting or lovely photos of the birds that cross our path. Our path is often quite close to home (a.k.a. adjacent to it as it is in our yard), but we have found some magical winged wonders since moving here a few short months ago.

birds -titmouse2The titmouse is one of favorites because it has a sassy hairdo and loves to talk back to you when you play bird calls in its vicinity.

Fun fact that you never wanted to know – the plural of titmouse is titmouses, not titmice. Think of it like houses, not hice.  😉

birds - titmouses not titmice

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Maybe It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect

caterpillar

I have been working extremely long hours for several weeks now.  I spent a sad portion of the Father’s Day weekend tackling my endless load of spreadsheets for work and have lost track of the number of times I have worked until 2 or 3 in the morning over the past month. To put it mildly, I’m exhausted.

So when I found this amazing caterpillar a couple of days ago, I already knew that I was going to struggle with finding the time to write about it. However this magical creature was  incredible, and something so small yet so spectacular deserves to be celebrated.

Nevertheless I highly dislike slapping a post on the internet just for the sake of generating something / anything. It feels as though I am being disingenuous and rings hollow to me. A dear friend wisely reminded me to not sweat the small stuff with the beautiful words, “Maybe it doesn’t have to be perfect.”

I have been feeling like I have been caught once more in the whirlpool of life as I am inundated with my own attempts to keep everything perfectly above water. Family. Work. More work. House. Projects. More projects. All of these must meticulously handled and managed. Or else…

Or else the world will still keep spinning. The kids will always continue their pattern of doing kid things. Work will keep coming and will continue to be there whether I opt to work myself to the bone or (more wisely) choose to follow more reasonable hours. The house will stand even if laundry doesn’t happen today. And the projects. The endless projects. Those will be ready whenever I have time for them, too. Admittedly those can be rather therapeutic for me, but my husband might revise that to therapy-inducing. Lucky for me, he doesn’t blog, so we’ll go with my version.

At the end of the day, my friend is unquestionably correct. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The posts may have a few grammatical errors, the laundry may blanket the sofa like an odd but fresh-smelling slipcover, and some projects may staying on the pending list a little longer, but that’s okay.

Taking a mental break to write a few words calms me, and taking a moment to celebrate the mystical worlds that surrounds me makes my soul feel light. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfect.

We don’t need to struggle with aiming to achieve perfection because it is already an innate part of our design. If we can move past demanding perfection from our lives, we will allow those magical moments to shine naturally.

We are where we are supposed to be in this moment. So in this moment, take a minute to breath. A minute to celebrate the good. A minute to reconnect to your spirit and the wonders around us. A minute to recognize the perfection that is endlessly around us and with us. Like this beautiful caterpillar, we are all amazing and beautiful, and we are on the journey to become even more spectacular. That sounds a lot like perfection to me.  🙂

Love and light to you always.  Joanna

***Thank you to my dear friend for reminding me that you can celebrate the moment in the smallest of ways. You are amazing dear one! Much love and gratitude to you always. https://misifusa.wordpress.com/

The Mexico I Once Knew

butterfly

When I was in college a few years ago (in this sentence, “a few” means “way more than a few”), I lived in Mexico for a semester. I achieved said semester abroad by selling the whole “I should learn a language!” idea to my father who then tried less successfully to sell the whole “This will be a great life experience for Jo!” to my wildly furious but ultimately out-voted mother.

During my stay there, I spent a minimal amount of time attending language classes while opting for a maximal amount of time salsa dancing on the tables and traveling all over the country. To my father’s credit, it did manage to be an incredible life experience, and by some miraculous intervention of divine grace, I also managed to become quite fluent in Spanish at that time. Sadly my Spanish-speaking skills are in the “la crapola maxima” category nowadays, but I can still run (speak?) circles around my white bread (yet ironically an actual Mexican) husband who doesn’t speak the language. As I am basically the whitest girl you will ever see, this confuses the crap out of most of the workers who come to our home and that never stops being funny to me. That reaction alone would automatically deem the trip a perpetual win in my book, but the truth is that Mexico holds a very special place in my heart for a million better reasons.

I love to travel and have visited Central America, Europe, and Asia over the years. Although I stayed briefly with families in Japan and Ireland when I was young, I didn’t have the same sense of feeling truly at home in the culture and the country as I did when I was in Mexico. Perhaps it was the length of time that I was in Mexico or maybe there was some kind of genetic mutation that occurred with my excessive cerveza consumption / extensive bom-bom shaking. Whatever the reason, I fell head over heels in love with Mexico and have never fully recovered from that infatuation.

mexico

I spent five months living in the home of a beautiful family in Cuernavaca (located in the lower central Mexico). They looked after me but also allowed me to come and go without restrictions. Every few days, I would hop on a bus with a friend or two and head somewhere new – Veracruz, Oaxaca, D.F., Tepoztlan, Puebla, Acapulco, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, and anywhere and everywhere with pyramids.

We could ride for a few hours in any direction and find ourselves in a place that seemed like a new country. Exquisite beaches this way. Thick jungles complete with monkeys and jaguars in another. Deserts over here. Mountains over there. The natural diversity that we experienced still remains unrivaled in my travels.

The only element that rivalled the beauty of the country was that of its people. Their kindness was beyond measure. Given that we were young, low on cash, and even lower on common sense, we didn’t think twice about grabbing a ride with a total stranger, crashing on the sofa of someone we met hours before, asking taxi drivers to trade seats so we could take the wheel (ok that was just me, but the drivers enjoyed the breaks as I drove and yammered total nonsense into their communication radios). I basically lived the ultimate Mexico travel blog that never made it to the internet since Al Gore had just recently invented it in those days.

One of my most amazing and special memories is the trip we took to see the monarch butterfly migration in Michoacan. Given the young / dumb combo pack we were sporting, we hadn’t booked an actual trip to visit the place thousands of people would travel to see. As a bonus, we didn’t realize that it wasn’t exactly (a.k.a. no way at all) walking distance up the mountain once we got close-ish. Ultimately yet another kind stranger saved us. We hitched a ride Jack Kerouac style and bobbled along the dustiest path in the world via the tailgate of that pickup truck. I was covered in a foot of dust one we made it to the site, but I couldn’t have cared less. The butterflies blanketed the area. It was truly breath-taking. I often imagine taking my own butterfly fanatics there someday and even browsed the internet a few days ago to see if just maaaaaybe it might be possible. I felt such sadness when the first notice that appeared on the browser site list was the US government advisory warning citizens to steer clear of the area. In truth, it was far beyond sadness. I felt deeply cheated and my heart ached at the thought of never being able to share that kind of magical natural wonder with my daughters.

It was such a sad reminder of how greatly the country has changed in the years since I left. The safety issues aren’t at all limited to that area. I hear that there are still many places that are safe to visit, but I can’t confidently discern where those safe places are. My worry grows even deeper when my Mexican friends who are visiting the US express their fears about the extreme deterioration in their own towns. Some of them live in places that are shadowed by crime or run by drug lords. They are forced to send money to their families to maintain “protection” or they have to watch what they say and whom they cross. This Godfather reality seems surreal to me, but I’m not being fascetious. This is happening in many areas, and it is devastating to the country. I want my children to know the spectacular part of their heritage, but I can’t take them there. Their safety is never going to be optional in our minds.

So when I hear about Mexican citizens trying desperately to come to our country because they want a better life that they can’t find there, my heart goes out to them. In an ideal world, every single person would enter legally. End of story. However the information currently detailed on the US government immigration boards suggests that you should expect to wait 5-10 years or more to receive possible approval. In most cases, a visa must be obtained before applying for a green card, and in 2017, about 1,250,000 applications were on the visa waitlist. Only 85,000 of those applications were approved, and many of those went to highly skilled workers or people with immediate family in the US. If you do the math, that’s about a 6% chance of getting approved and is weighted toward those with US famliy or a Ph.D. level degree or skillset.

As a parent, I can tell you without question that I would go to the end of the earth to protect my children. Most decent parents would. They are woven into our souls the moment they enter our lives. We are here for them from that point on. So knowing that, I get why someone would risk it all for the chance of hope for the sake of their loved ones.

I’m not saying that it makes it right. I’m just saying that I get it.

I don’t pretend for one moment to have the perfect answer nor will I tell you that there is a right side or wrong side to this crisis. In truth, I don’t have any answers to this problem at all. In my eyes, there is no black and white. All I can see is gray after gray after gray, and I struggle immensely with all sides of the issue.

Reading about the separation of the immigrant families makes me feel such sadness. It reminds me once more how blessed I am. I am blessed because I can’t fathom what a life like that must be like. I am blessed because my biggest problem is my town is a ridiculous monthly water bill, not a crime boss demanding favors or payments. I am blessed because my husband and children are sleeping safely in this home a few mere feet away from me. Yes. I am blessed in more ways than I can count.

Whatever the reasons, whatever the stories, I send prayers to all families. I pray that we will always be blessed with the company of others who love us, that we will forever be given shelter and protection, and that we will be guided with our families to our true homes wherever they may be.

I pray for you. I pray for them. I pray for us.

Blessings to all of you. Jo

Low Carb While on Vacation? Beach Please.

Few things inspire me to take a nosedive into poor eating habits faster than going on vacation. Eating has always been an extremely social event in our home, and I adore going to familiar favorite restaurants at the places we enjoy visiting. The good news / bad news is that this was more of a mini-holiday, and I only spent three of the five days living up my carb-packed feeding frenzy.

In the past, my departure from the ketogenic menu has been swift and unforgiving. I would misstep once and would instantly find myself back at square one. My old eating patterns would resume, and I would be disappointed once more but unsurprised.

The interesting part about this keto hiatus was that it was more eye-opening than derailing. Within a few hours of my chowing on chips and some fried naughtiness, my digestive system decided to prove how unhappy it felt about that action. I won’t be elaborating any further on that. My head started to hurt, my muscles and joints ached, I felt exhausted, and I had nightmares when I slept.

Maybe my symptoms were due to the heat or perhaps they were a direct response to the way that family holidays have a tendency to be significantly NOT relaxing. But I honestly don’t believe that. I just didn’t feel good eating the old foods. The flavors tasted good to me but not so good that I was willing to keep feeling sluggish and achy.

So now I’m back to low carb. I’m not gonna lie. I wish that I could have all that other stuff and still feel good. But ultimately, I can’t because I don’t. It just isn’t worth the body drama and trauma anymore. At least I’m back on track again.

Metamorphosis of the Monarch Caterpillar

I love butterflies. Their spectacular transformation is such a beautiful analogy to our own human journey of growth and awakening.

butterfly1

Unfortunately all of nature doesn’t appear to be in agreement with my sentiments. To our collective horror, my daughter and I witnessed a wasp tearing a caterpillar to shreds a couple of weeks ago in our yard. Consequently we were instantly inspired to create an impromptu monarch village via the butterfly boxes that are temporarily parked on my dining room table. Admittedly it feels a little “Silence of the Lambs” in there, but we have yet to make any skin suits out of the neighbors.

butterfly3

The butterflies are lovely and they bring such joy to all of us whenever we release them. However we have yet to sit for hours to watch every stage of their development. In all fairness to us, we can’t sit for hours doing anything. Given this short attention span challenge we face, I thought that it would be interesting to record one of our monarch caterpillars changing to chrysalis form so we could speed it up. The video is only about a minute long, but the actual process shown here took several hours.

Feel free to share with your children. It’s fascinating to watch this wild caterpillar in action. 🙂

Hugs to you! 🙂 Jo

This is the youtube link. https://youtu.be/BEFIUzgN5qY

butterfly2

To the Young Ones – Being a Nerd Won’t Always Hurt Like It Does Today

While my son was away from his seat at the cafeteria today, another child thought that it would be hilarious to throw his lunch / lunch bag into the trash can. Apparently the kids had been hiding his backpack during lunch on other days, but this is the first time that one of the items actually made it into the garbage.

The obvious question seems to be, “Knowing this dynamic, why leave your stuff unattended around those creeps, and why sit there anyway?” Well the school is very funny about keeping tables to a specific number of children. The old “I put my stuff there first so it’s my seat” rule is law. Weird? I think so. The way it is? Yes. Also that happens to be where my son’s friends sit, and, understandably, he wants to sit by them.

Middle school lunch can be social quicksand. Despite being well aware of this dynamic, my heart felt raw as I listened to my son tell me about how he had to dig through the school trash can to fish his lunch out of it. My sadness turned to anger when he told me how it was soaking wet from the discarded food and drinks and how he had to carry the bag with him to all of his remaining classes. He handed me one of his final exam reviews that is due tomorrow. It reeked of garbage and was shredded from being soaked. Normally he would have had a backpack for his assignments, but backpacks aren’t allowed during finals week. Instead he kept it in his lunch bag because there was nothing in there that would have messed it up. Apparently the only crap that could cause damage was in fact sitting in seats adjacent to said bag.

I’m tired of the immature jackass behavior that is rife in schools today. I’m even more exasperated with a feckless school disciplinary system that does nothing to wake these jerks out of their collective cruel stupor. The bullies believe that their meanness is comical, and although I will bring up this nonsense with the school administration, there will be no real consequence. Hope you nerds enjoy your garbage-flavored lunches and shredded assignments compliments of the social lemmings!

Unfortunately, as the years go by, you will find that the jerks and bullies still manage to fly their creep flags in full color. The social drama and cliques that people should outgrow after middle and high school will continue to appear more often than you can fathom. Social media amongst adults is uglier than any kid you ever saw. Some people in your life will find ways to hurt you to a degree that you could never even imagine.

Nevertheless, it does get better. Once you get older, you get to choose. You choose your partners, your friends, your job. You decide where you will live, what you will wear, and how you spend your time. You realize thay sometimes you roll your eyes at the craziness of it all, walk away from the computer, and put your phone on silent. Athough you may not always like your range of choices, they are yours to make. You get to decide the kind of life you want to live and with whom you will spend that precious time.

You learn to own who you are, and you stop apologizing for being different. You realize that you don’t want to be the same as everyone else. In fact, you want to shine in your own unique way. You don’t need for every person who knows you to like you, and you realize that all the “perfect” and “popular” people around you have plenty of problems of their own.

You just have to get through this part now. And when something else comes along that delivers your spirit another kick, don’t give in then either. It always gets better if you can muster a shred of hope and give it a little more time.

Don’t allow anyone else to put out your spark, and don’t sacrifice your light to someone else who stumbles in a moment of darkness. Never ever forget that their unkind actions are a reflection of who they are, not who you are.

So often the outcasts of the world are the very people who change it for the better. The nerds shake up the status quo, shape our minds, and provide vision to us all. The ones who are different are the ones who make a difference.

As a parent, it scratches my core raw when my children hurt like this. It takes everything within me to maintain a cool emotional facade because all I want to do is cry. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone, least of all my own darling children, and I know what it’s like to feel like you are watching the world from the outside. I understand being consumed by deep loneliness and feeling like you are being excluded. I don’t want this pain for my amazing family.

But taking a <a href=”http://retrospective“>retrospective look at my life also allows me to see that those same painful experiences have shaped me into a better person. While I still feel a heavy sadness at the memory of the cruelties I endured, I wouldn’t go back in time and change them. I developed strength, sass, and spitfire, and I will never allow anyone to take that away from me. It took me a long time to know it, but I can tell you this now – I am a serious bad ass. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet on your side, you are, too. You just have to own it.

You have been dealt this hand because you are strong enough to survive it and wise enough to learn from it. Treat others with the kindness you would want to receive. Be braver than those who can’t survive outside of the herd. Allow the light of your uniqueness to shine without shame even if others try to shut you down. And just in case the jerks are out and about, maybe wear pants with pockets so you can carry hand sanitizer and a snack. 😉

You may feel like people don’t see you now, but they will. You can’t hide light like that forever. So keep shining. Always

Love, light, sass, uniqueness, spitfire, wonder, and nerdiness to you – Jo

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