On The Move

Well, true to form I entirely missed writing here in April and am on to May. I have three half-started posts and no all-finished posts. I am caught somewhere between accepting that I just don’t write here regularly and where I actually want to be (Anne Lamott’s instructions: Butt in chair. Just do it.) But binge watching M*A*S*H on Netflix every evening has won out lately. (Full disclosure: Moonstruck is streaming on my phone as I type this post on my computer, but I sort of feel like as long as I finish this, it is okay).

I am starting to feel more settled. In mid-April I finally moved my things out of storage and into my new house. Unpacking has been more than a little like seeing long-lost friends. A dear friend helped me pack back in January when I moved back to the city.  Unpacking all of the meticulously wrapped glasses and kitchen items, seeing all of the carefully labeled boxes so I could tell what was in each one, it made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to have a friend like that, someone who didn’t think twice about dropping everything and driving 100 miles with me to spend 18 hours packing up all of my worldly belongings and cleaning a house that wasn’t hers and then turning around to drive 100 miles back. I have learned a lot about friendship from her in the last few months.

It seems like every time I start to get in a groove with my running something happens to throw me off. March was going really, really well. Then one morning after a great 6 mile run I was in the shower. I reached for the shampoo. That’s all I did. My upper back was in exquisite pain for nearly two weeks. It was the kind of pain where I could only fall asleep for about ten minutes at a time and then would wake up because of the pain when I moved in my sleep and just cry because I couldn’t figure out anything at all to do to make it better or to be able to sleep and my god, all I wanted to do was get a good night’s sleep. It was not the most fun I have ever had. After about two weeks of this it slowly started to get better and now I am more or less back to normal, glory be. Grad school killed my upper back. (I want to call grad school a bad word, but I won’t.)

I almost always start a blog post with a bulleted list of things I want to include and then fill things out from there. As I was doing it this time, I realized that just about every single one of those bullets could be a blog post of its own. Butt in chair, J-Dubes. Come on, now.

For tonight, because I am also a firm believer that sometimes you just have to put something out there in the world even though you know it isn’t finished, I’m giving you some short bullets, along with pretty pictures.

So here is the abridged version what I have been up to in the last month and a half:

I’m a regular blogger over at the Leica Birding Blog. In early April I wrote a post about taking my nephews birding for the first time. I meant to share that back when it happened, but I procrastinated and then they published another post I wrote about local patch birding. So I guess that while I haven’t been writing for my own blog, at least I have been doing a little bit of writing somewhere.

I babysat my friend’s accordion for four years and finally was able to give it back to him. It was a beautiful instrument, but too big for me to play. I was really glad to be able to take care of it for him and give it back, even though he didn’t give it to me with any expectations of getting it back.


We found out that we received a Heritage Fund grant from Arizona Game & Fish to put together a series of monthly field outings for young birders in southern Arizona. Here’s a picture of a trip we took to Pima Canyon last month–everything was in bloom. Amazing.


I took a tile paver workshop at Santa Theresa Tileworks. Everyone was so complimentary when I shared the pictures that I feel compelled to explain: I didn’t make the individual tiles. I did do all of the design and…I don’t know what you call it–construction? Once I decided on the design I cemented it it all in place and did the grouting.


I traveled to San Diego to the Trilateral Committee for Ecosystem and Wildlife Conservation in San Diego. I gave two presentations, including one to the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Director of the Canadian Wildlife Service, and the Director General for Wildlife for the Mexican Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources–more than a little nerve-wracking, but I think it went well. I also got to spend an afternoon/evening wandering around the San Diego Zoo–I have mixed feelings about zoos, but this one is pretty special. I got a little goofy with some of the statutes. #flystyle with an extinct prehistoric bird. Fun times!

Can you believe that something like this used to exist?

My management board met in San Diego right after the Trilateral.  There are some major changes on the horizon for my program, but I feel fortunate to get to work with a lot of really amazing people, doing a job that I love.

SJV Management Board

I took an incredible science communications short course from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC). I definitely have a longer post coming about this experience. The workshop days were long and full, but we still had a bit of time for some evening and early morning birding.

Me, Danielle, and Alicia

NCTC has an Eagle Cam for the nesting pair of Bald Eagles on their property. My friend Danielle and I went birding one morning before class started and saw this guy (gal?) and it’s mate come into the nest with a fish, as well as an interloper young bird that this one chased away. Digiscoped with (Danielle’s) Leica APO-Televid 65 + iPhone 5s + Phone Skope Adapter.

Bald Eagle

I’ve been in a good place with running for the last month. I hit my monthly mileage goal for the first time this year in April. May is also off to a good start. My travel and field work schedule between now and September is ridiculous, but I’m looking around for some races to put on the calendar. I got in two runs while I was back east last week, including a gorgeous seven-miler along the trails and roads at NCTC. (I stopped for a quick picture with the Potomac River behind me.)

Mid-7 mile run, with the Potomac River behind me. Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

So that’s the medium-form version of what I’ve been up to lately. My goal for May? Butt in chair. Keep on running. More writing. Less Netflix. Bird by bird.

Embracing the unexpected

I’ve started to write this post about twelve times but just haven’t been able to finish it. I’ve barely been able to start it. 2015 has not started out as I’d pictured it. I’m dealing with some big, unexpected changes in my life and have been spending a fair amount of time just getting through the days. January and February 2015 can suck it, frankly. I am still on the fence about March and April, too. 

But sometimes the way to get going is just to get going. You have to embrace the unexpected. Since I can’t seem to construct coherent paragraphs, I’m going to throw some bullets out there and see where this goes.

  • December was one of the very best running months I’ve ever had in my life. I was excited to start 2015 strong. But I guess the universe thought that was funny, though, because the reality has been that I haven’t been doing much running in 2015. My goal for March? Try to change that.
  • I figured out today that it is a 2.5 mile run one way from my new house to the path where I like to run. I stretched it into a 10k this morning and it felt great.
  • Netflix has been my close friend in 2015, with a special shout out to sitcoms of the 1980s. M*A*S*H is still awesome. Cheers, too.
  • I’m expanding my podcast horizons. Today I listened to Dear Sugar, the episode called “The Family We Carry.” I really liked it and was simultaneously frustrated by parts of it. I think I need to listen to more.
  • I moved in early January and my stuff is still in storage due to a combination of circumstances that is too boring to describe. I’m looking forward to unpacking, which I hope will happen by the end of March. On the plus side, living with one suitcase of clothing and none of my books or records has helped me realize that I really can get rid of a lot of my things and I wouldn’t ever miss them. I’m planning on doing some serious downsizing when I finally unpack.
  • I forgot how wonderful the public library is. There is a branch right down the street from my new house and I’ve been going every week to check out music, movies, and books. I can even download eBooks to my Kindle. It’s kind of great.
  • Three cheers for the 2015 ABA Young Birders of the Year! We announced the winners this week. I judge the Conservation & Community Leadership module and am in awe of the things that these kids accomplished.

Okay. According to my word counter, I have written over 400 words. That’s an acceptable amount for a blog post, right?

6.5 down, 993.5 to go

So it’s 2015. I was in bed and asleep by 9pm last night (although midnight fireworks did briefly wake me up). I decided the new year was going to come whether or not I was awake at midnight to usher it in and I needed a good night’s sleep.

Can I be honest? I hate New Year’s Eve. At least as an adult, they almost uniformly end up being a tremendous let down, although it was fun banging on pots and pans at midnight when I was a kid. Anne Lamott tweeted something today that summed things up for me:

So on Thursday morning I got up and I went for a run.

The last few days I haven’t been feeling the best, so I put absolutely no expectations on the run. I just wanted to get outside. And I ran (full disclosure: I walked part of it) the slowest 6.5 miles of my life, no exaggeration. But it was sunny and cool and the snow-covered Huachuca mountains were there in the distance and it felt important to start 2015 off doing something I wanted to keep on doing throughout the year: running.

I am still all over the place in terms of running goals. I know I want to run 1000 miles by the end of the year (only 993.5 more to go!) I’m doing weekly track workouts on Tuesdays with Sierra Running and I know that is going to help me get faster (hello, 8:10 mile this past Tuesday. Where did you come from?) I’ve got a few races on my radar, everything from 5Ks to half marathons. I have a few friends and relatives that I’d love to run races with this year (Susan, Danielle, and Portia, I’m looking at you). But mostly? I just want to love running.

I’m a fan of Krista Tippett’s wonderful podcast, On Being. Last week on her blog Parker Palmer wrote a post about “5 Questions for Crossing the Threshold.” (Spoiler: he meant the threshold for the new year, not death). I’ve been thinking about these five questions a lot over the past few days. My typical New Year’s “tradition” is to make a handful of resolutions that never, ever stick, usually because they are big and lofty and just not realistic (re-learn all of the French I forgot; learn to watercolor paint; learn to really play the banjo–you see where I’m going with this). So rather than think about specific things that I want to do in 2015, I am thinking about his five questions:

  1. How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
  2. What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
  3. How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
  4. Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
  5. What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?

There are all kinds of things I want to work on this year, but instead of making a list that I know I will never keep, I am going to think about these five questions. Being alive, human, open to beauty and love, and figuring out what new creation awaits…that’s what I’m looking ahead to in 2015. If I can learn french, painting, and banjo into the bargain, so much the better, but I’m not putting any expectations on things.

But one thing that I am definitely going to do is another #project365. I did this for the first time last year–took a picture each day for the entire year (if we’re connected on Flickr, check out my album, or you can see everything since late May on my Tumblr.) I can’t tell you how cool it is to scroll back through those pictures and remember some of the individual moments that made up my year.

So tell me: how do you greet the new year? What are your plans?


Thoughts on goals

The countdown to 2015 is on, and I’m working on setting some goals for coming year. The first and biggest: Run 1,000 miles. I’m aiming for 100 miles a month, knowing that my travel and summer bird camp schedule will make for some weeks when I just can’t get many miles in.

I’ve been using December as a test run, trying to get in a groove before January 1 comes around, and it’s been great, actually. This time of year, when the days get shorter and weather turns colder, has always been a hard time for me to get out and run, so I’m always trying to find things to keep me motivated.

Being part of the Oiselle flock has really helped (nothing like seeing the accomplishments of other people to get motivated). I’ve also started using my Garmin regularly on runs. I’ve had a Forerunner 305 for years. I’ve used it off and on, but the software it came with was a little clunky and for the past few years I’ve mostly been using my watch or running without keeping track of time at all. This month I dusted off the Garmin and found out that there is now a whole new system: Garmin Connect. It has all kinds of groovy features, including the ability to set and track progress on all kinds of goals–mileage goals (by week, month, year, etc.), distance goals, frequency goals, and even calorie goals for those who are so inclined. So I set weekly goals and monthly goals for December to try to get to 100 miles this month. And it turns out that seeing the progress bar shift to the right is a real motivation for me to run. The first thing I do when I get home is hook my Garmin up to the computer and upload my data.

I’ve also gotten back into listening to podcasts while running. I used to do this all the time. Then I began running with other people and started leaving my iPod at home. Fast forward to today, when I am mostly running on my own again. I struggled with motivation. Getting out to run on some mornings felt impossible. Then I remembered podcasts. Yesterday I went out on a run pretty much solely because I wanted to listen to the last episode of Serial. Current (and some perennial) favorites: This American Life, The Moth, Radiolab, Wiretap, Third Coast International Audio Festival, and 99% Invisible.

I also added a new widget to my website, over there in the upper right-hand side. I’m tracking my weekly/monthly/annual mileage and putting it out there for the world to see (well, I’m not that deluded–for the two of you who read this blog to see).

I’m working out a few more goals for the coming year, one of which is to write here regularly. But 1000 miles, watch out. I’m coming for you.

What are your goals for 2015?