A New Year: Looking Up, Looking Back, and Plugging In

“Let the world wag.” ~ John D. Rockefeller

Knock Knock. Who’s There?

Me, that’s who. (And another ‘who whoo’ further on.)

Yes, I’m still here, and I promise we haven’t fallen off the grid no matter what the lack of communication might suggest. There’s been no time for holiday cards (again) and even fewer phone calls (still), and practically no drop-in social visits since summer. Friends and family who followed this blog probably did so thinking they’d at least be kept in kid photos and life details. So sorry to have mislead you.

It was six years ago that we sent out the last holiday card and update. Our youngest was still a toddler, we had a freak snowfall in Houston, and the card was adorned with a melting snowman (RIP, Rosco) as well as a nice family portrait by the creek from the weeks before. It’s the same framed one that hangs above our fireplace mantel to this day.

Six years ago. Shame on me.

I know now that juggling two babies and two toddlers at one time was merely priming the pump for the action that was yet to come (which is now). Mom, Dad, Friends — You were all kind enough to warn gently, but clearly we weren’t listening. (We were probably just sleep-deprived).

And, as we are learning, teenagers don’t like to listen either. (Only they are getting plenty of sleep.)

Suddenly knee-deep in the never-a-dull-moment Teen Madness, the wise advice of sticking to 1.5 kids per family finally started to sink in, only it was too late to back out. College is just right around the corner; it’s ‘Go Time.’

Perhaps eye-deep is more appropriate.

I manage to hold on to some sanity in day-to-day living and running a school by going for walks outside, watching the birds, snuggling with the kids in the morning and at the end of the day (they still do this!). It feels good emerging from the over-consumptive meat-centric ‘holidays’ that begins with Halloween and ends with New Year’s. Texas is no place for a Trash-Nazi-Hoarder in the best of times. I soon came to realize that becoming vegan was the redneck equivalent to duct tape: it may be sticky and inconvenient at times, but it really holds everything else — environmental, conservation, education, kindness and compassion — together. My parental tool box would be useless without it, however unredneck living the vegan ethic may be.

As for the 20 years with my best friend in the whole world, I look forward to the day everyone else moves out of the house and I can have him all to myself again. To start this milestone year off right, we went back to our favorite spot — 15 years ago before we had kids — and took them with us. Now, they understand the magic of The Big Bend in West Texas. That post will be coming…provided I have some time.

The decade mark also seems the right time to get some perspective.

Don'ts For Wives

First Read of 2016

Okay, so good thing I wasn’t a wife 100 years ago; he might have thrown me out before the Paper Anniversary. But my baby loves this dirt-playin’ kid-lovin’ bird-chasin’ non-conformist, and that just works for me.

Resolutions of 2016? Nothing new, just more of the same — loving, laughing, living.

Day 5 (Last Day!) - Window Trail


Mr. and Mrs. Dirt after a hike up to
‘The Window’ in the Chisos Basin
Woo hoo!!

Top Posts of 2015:

Looking Up! Always.

You might already have surmised that it was a great year for birds in 2015. It was! Our second in a row learning about each of the unique species we ‘collect’ means that we have graduated to citizen science. So for 2016, we will count actual numbers of species we see, then log them digitally through Cornell University’s eBird database. Birding is a beloved hobby and a continual learning experience for us, but keeping our eyes out for these lovelies is more about the health of our environment than it is about our own personal pleasure.

That is hard to admit. Birding is pleasure, if you ask me.

We ended last year with 254 species — two shy of the year before — the bulk of which came from within a 20-mile radius of home. Another 50 or so came from road trips, and several cuties were utter and complete surprises all in themselves. Such fun, these little nuggets of feathers.

Every little bird has a story behind it, and every one of those 254 stories makes me smile. We can do better than that, so for this New Year, we are upping the ante to 300 species for 2016.

So look out, Little Birdies, here we come!!

Vermillion Flycatcher (Female)

2nd To Last Bird of 2015
Vermillion Flycatcher, Female
(Ain’t she a beauty?)

Great-horned Owl

Can you guess who whoooo dropped in to see me
the first week of 2016?
(Hint: She’s ‘great’ and she’s ‘horned’ too.)

Related Birding Posts of 2015:

Moving On

When’s the last time you visited the blog? Have you even noticed the clean new look? Or that I paid to remove those annoying targeted ads that showed up when traffic suddenly increased? (You’re welcome.) It was well worth the money spent, and a big wonderful thanks to WordPress for not making me want to pull the plug for one more year at least.

But mostly, I want to thank all my fellow bloggers and followers for all the ‘likes,’ thoughtful comments, re-blogs, shares, interaction, and otherwise being a part of my home-away-from-home, with special kudos to top contributers:

Jet Elliot
Sonya Lira Photography

Thank you all for joining in on my crazy, dirty life. I appreciate you all! And I look forward to hearing from you throughout 2016.

All Tucked In For A (Short) Winter’s Nap

What posts would you like me to focus on?
Garden?  Kids?  Nature?  Travel/Field Trips?

Hit me!

28 thoughts on “A New Year: Looking Up, Looking Back, and Plugging In

    1. Never thought of Leap Day that way! Thanks for coming by, Steve. It is special that we got to start our new year out west. Hoping to do it again soon!

      PS — there a few more pics of BB if you click the picture, which will take you to the album. I just have extra no time to post at the moment about it. We stayed in Terlingua near the ghost town area and romped on the east side of the park predominately.


  1. I use to see a lot of owls years ago now I never see them probably because I want to photograph them. I read something very sad that was about putting out rat or mouse poison is killing the owls they will eat the dead or sick mice. I am not sure what the solution is when you live in the country I do not like mice in my house lol.


    1. The best defense against ‘pests’ (I like to think that WE are the real pests) is to do nothing. Never poison!!! If they are coming into your house, plug the entry points. Stop feeding them (bird feeders are nice feeding stations for rodents at night); find out why and where they are finding food in your house. Don’t kill snakes for the sake of killing them (even the venomous ones) as they are the great balancers of the havoc we wreak on eco-systems. That’s just to name a few.

      Sonya, I think your stuff rocks! I appreciate your contributions here…always have. I hope you have a wonderful, nature-filled year. 😀


      1. The problem here is we are surrounded by pastures on all 4 sides and when they mow the pastures here they come. Mouse traps do a good job for the most part. I dislike poison because when they do die in the house its always in a wall you can not get to so you must suffer the smell. Oh that smell! Traps you can throw away. I think for the most part our cats must be doing an okay job right now. This is why one needs plenty of cats lol.


  2. Hahhaha….appears I’m not the only one slacking on posting 😉 I know how it is…that’s for sure!!! Love your GHOW pic! I heard one calling from my yard on Wednesday for the first time – now I have to try and find the little bugger!


    1. I know, right? It’s been a BEAR of a school session. Let’s hope that semester B goes a bit more smoothly. I hope you have a great bird — and work — year, Matthew. Cheers to you!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I would have loved it if he did. It was a mantel piece at a cabin we stayed in. I couldn’t resist the curiosity. My, how times have changed in a short century. Thanks for coming by, Inger!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Shannon, I enjoyed your post today, as I always do. Your yearly bird count is impressive, and your photos are terrific. The GHO is a SUPER photo! Thank you, too, for the your kind words and link here, I am very honored. Thanks so much for keeping your posts going in spite of the busyness, and I espec. appreciate all the information and reverence you share in the world about the wildlife and parks. I hope 2016 is another great year of success and vitality. 🙂


    1. Being in the Gulf Coast region of Texas gives us more birdies than we can shake a stick at. The trick is to FIND them in all seasons, and even when they’re just passing through.

      Bird IS the word! Thanks so much for coming by.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Woohooo! Where do I even begin Srooo! Beautiful tribute to the year that flew by, 254 is a very impressive count, like how rain counts birdie love. Congrats on a fantastic year – the photo and post recaps were great too – what a charmed life.

    Horned what you say now. Not the… Wait a minute, owl we need is her ❤

    Thank you for the shout out too my dear friend.


    1. Some days it doesn’t FEEL so charmed. 😀

      I feel quite lucky that the owl dropped in. She was probably after some rodent (which I think her to be sitting on), but I will be selfish and say her fly-in was all for me. While we were shooting her, a bright red male Vermillion Flycatcher came in for a visit. My day for sure! Here’s to a great 2016, Christy. Love your stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awww I miss reading yours too, Shannon. Time has been such a cruel mistress. I ought to make meaningful changes in my life, if not for anything but to read about your wonderful adventures. Will haunt you soon, dear friend! (big smile)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I understand the ‘busy-ness’ and haven’t been visiting many blogs either. (Remember? The first email contact? That’s WHY.) Life is more important, but do…keep in touch however you can! Hugs.

        Liked by 1 person

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