124 – light dawns, habit calls

As the sun rises on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2015, 6:51 a.m: We do not forget. To those who thank living veterans, we appreciate it–but please give the day’s respect to those who paid with their lives for our freedom. Raise a glass in their honor; celebrate their names. Remember them. We do.

I was looking outside to see if it was light enough to run yet, and decided MemorialDayto check and see when sunrise actually was these days in these parts… and it would be, oh, now.

Didn’t run yesterday and felt guilty as sin–may have finally developed a good habit. Only took me what, eight weeks? They do say it takes 27 repetitions to develop a habit, and considering I’m unusually slow, especially when it’s something I should be doing, I’m figuring a little over double isn’t too bad… 🙂 I’ll take it.

The final proof copy of “She’s Thinking Out Loud,” my book of collected columns, is uploading (for the seventh time) as I write this. The digital copy is out for review, and my apologies to my reviewers, as I set a deadline for them of this weekend, my head being so far up my own backside that I totally forgot that for normal people it’s a three-day weekend. So I re-sent my e-mail and asked them to get reviews back to me by June 1, and if I get them at all, I’ll be grateful.

There’s space in the print reserved for them, and they’ll be inserted after the final print proof is in my hands. Woo-hoo, second book will be out in June, people!

And, speaking of books (and you knew I would) if you happen to be around Fort Stockton, Texas, on June 11, at 6 p.m., stop in at The Garage, Coffee, Music & More, at 1110 N. Main St., for “Meet the Author,” where I’ll be presenting a few selections from This Little Pig, A Flak Anders Mystery. The first 40 people seated will be able to buy a signed first edition of the book. It’s my first book in print, as well as my first novel.  Bring cash, I don’t accept credit cards yet! 😀


99 – the quantified self

OK, it’s mildly hilarious that someone who actually numbers her blog posts finds the “Quantified Self” movement just a teensy bit disturbing.

I think it’s genuinely just one more instance of the human race’s determination that if something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing. To the point of insanity.QUANTIFIED-SELF-Report-Cover-Trend-Reporting-680x382

If you’re not up on the whole thing–and I’m just beginning to hear about it–it’s about using technology to track everything in your daily life. You can read more about it here.

I do track a lot of things–I have to track my work hours, it’s part of the agreement I made when working from home. I fully get that, and especially with someone like me who is intermittently available because I’m working part time.

I also track my fitness efforts. I had to ramp back from my personal best of a five-mile run to about three and a half miles because the longer distance was tearing my knees to pieces. (And, by the way, made Corey drive the route with me a couple of times so I could figure out if those electric poles actually were one-tenth of a mile apart.)

At five miles, my knees had to have three days rest for me to be able to run again, and that’s not effective. Plus it hurts. But at three and a half, I can run every other day. Limiting the distance meant (for me, because I’m a goober) that in order to get better, I have to run a little faster and take fewer strides each day–so I had to have a pedometer to measure that.

So I bought one. And, of course, it also measures how long I’m moving, and how far, and I wear it all day long so I can see if I make 10,000 steps all told. And 10,000, by the way, was pulled out of the air in response to the naming of a Japanese pedometer in the 1960s as “manpo-kei” or 10,000-step meter. Seriously. No scientific basis whatsoever. The health scientists basically just say that you should try to increase your walking/exercise–and they vary from one to the next on what “increase” means.

watchBut the quantified self thing takes all that way, way further. Of course. Because again, we’re talking about humans. And, as always in the last few years, there’s an app for that. You can now track your sleep, your calorie intake, calories burned, your heart rate, your blood pressure, and the list goes on.  Basically, if it can be sensed, mechanically or otherwise, it can be tracked. And one of the main feature sets on the Apple Watch coming in 2015 is… quantifying your self.

There’s also, and again, of course, the “Quantified Baby.” Poor little bugger will probably never get to actually play with mud pies, one of the joys of my childhood. *sigh* I’m going to leave that alone.

There is, like any other “taking it to the extremes” idea, an underlying element that is valid about the whole thing, and one that I can definitely cop to–observation affects the observed. The notion comes out of both physics and the softer sciences.  I know that, when I write down what I eat, it brings the amount and types of food that I eat to the fore instead of it being an unconscious process. When I do that, I eat less and I eat better than my norm.  But the backlash, of course, is that, when I eat something I don’t want to admit to, I just don’t write it down. Which means it has no calories, right? Right.

There’s a middle ground, and I do try to stay there. For instance, I don’t write down my distance, steps, or anything else from the pedometer. I just try to remember from the day before what my time and stride numbers were, and then all I have to try to do is be better than yesterday.  Haven’t figured a similar wrench to use to make the calorie absorption thing work, but I’m thinking about it.

I should make an app for it. Oh, that’s right, there are already a thousand of them out there.

Numerically numb,

95 – retrospection, thy name is… useful

We took the three-day weekend of Labor Day together and went over to Big Bend National Park, hiked a couple miles on Sunday, enjoyed each others’ company. The flowers in the picture were one of many that were in bloom across the park. With all the rain this summer, the whole park was in bloom, especially with the cenizo–the purple flowers in the second picture.  The first picture is yellow trumpetflowers that we saw along the hiking path.

DSCN5606While I was wandering around in my computer files looking for something else while Corey slept in, I ran across my autobiography. I wrote it more than two years ago now, while I was still working for Cisco. Sixty thousand words that were all about me and the various people I’ve been throughout this life.

Much like this blog, it was a little disjointed, kind of all over the place. But here’s the deal…the all-over-the-place-ness that is me has met my match in this man who still tends to see life as an adventure–something to be loved and lived to the fullest.

And, with lots of drive time to discuss what’s next for us, we came to some interesting conclusions. The first time we tried out going mobile, living in a fifth-wheel trailer, the whole intent was for me to be working in the virtual sense, and much of our planning was around how to orient our travel around having an Internet connection throughout the weekdays and then move to the next spot we wanted to go on the weekends.

Cenizo in full blooomGetting laid off from Cisco changed the hell out of that plan.

However, there were a lot of good things about it. Like so much of what we’ve done in the past five years together, though, we did it in a hurry. We started the process in July of last year, and within 90 days or so, we were on the road. And that included stripping the fifth wheel trailer down to the floorboards and renovating it. We learned an awful lot during that whole episode, not least of which is that we actually loved the lifestyle.

However–the next time, we need to take more time. So, basically, we’re looking at 10 to 15 years out this time.  And we want to take it in stages. And we want to do it with a bumper pull trailer instead of a fifth wheel. And we want to get an older van, like an eight-passenger type, to pull the trailer. That would give us the vehicle that we need to get to smaller spaces.

At Big Bend, for instance, we wouldn’t have been able to pull a trailer into the Chisos Basin where we went hiking if it was over 24-feet long. But an eight-passenger van would have made it in just fine, and if it’s been modified for camping, could have been a comfortable way to spend the night, get up early and go hiking, and then head back home.

So, basically, rather than starting from the trailer end of things, we’re thinking about finding a used van and remodeling it using boat-building techniques to add things like a small 12-volt fridge and a propane stove and storage, etc. Then the next thing would be trying it out over the next few years going camping nearby, or visiting family, whatever. If it works for us, then when we’re ready, the next thing would be finding an older bumper-pull trailer and renovating it. And taking our time about it, doing it right, doing it well.

“Taking our time” is a new concept for us. Should be interesting.

It’s possible we’ll think about it so hard that we won’t actually do anything–we could end up talking ourselves out of it completely. But it sure sounds like fun from here.


91 – awful busy for a grandma

The pictures you end up with in your head are funny, no? OK, here’s a test. When you hear the word “grandma,” what’s the picture in your head?

Yeah, mine too. Grandma was kind of an old bat, bluntly. My apologies to any of my cousins who read this, but the woman had only two children–both daughters–and my mother was clearly not her favorite.

All that aside, she was pretty much the classic grandma picture otherwise, white-haired, slightly stooped, almost blind, almost deaf, long retired by the time I have any memory of her. Sewed clothes for all her grandkids, although the colors and patterns she chose for the material kinda proved out the “almost blind” part of the equation.  The only ones I remember were a pair of plaid pants and a red naugahyde poncho for winter. Like Coca-Cola red, shiny and very plastic. Some memories never fade.

However, we just found out that Kelsey is pregnant with her second, the ultrasound is actually today. She’s excited, as is the dad, and that’s always nice to hear. When she told us the news, Tyler (first and so far favorite grandchild. :)) got on the phone and said, “Gamma!” and then went on to talk about something he did that day. So I know I am a grandma… and about to be a grandma again.

But as I sit here writing this, I’m waiting on the sun to come up so I can go run. Don’t want to trip over a skunk or something worse in the dark. Made it two running miles and one walking one on Tuesday night, hoping to do better this morning. Had to move it to first thing in the morning because a) I’m working for a company that’s headquartered in Nevada and no one is around until 9am Texas time, and b) it’s so much cooler first thing. Days are still getting up in the 90s and there will probably be a few more 100-degree days before summer breathes its last gasp here on the ranch…

mamaI am also still pretty much working two jobs–I’ll be training my replacement at the paper, so I promised I’d go over and be there Tuesday/Wednesday next week to show her the ropes for her first paper. So two more nights away from my husband, two hour drive each way.

None of these things fits in with the “grandma” picture, and it makes me wonder what Tyler and his little sister- or brother-to-be will remember about their grandma.  One thing I I learned from Mama (and from Grandma, bless her heart) is that every grandchild of mine WILL believe they’re my favorite. Even I have to lie to’em.

The picture is my mother–because that love is the one that I remember best. And her birthday (and last grandchild’s birthday) was August 17. And I know her grandchildren remember her that way, too, with all the love in the world. And that love is the kind of love I want my grandchildren to know–they already have it from their pretty incredible mom. I want them to have it from me, too.

The sun is up, and now I’m going to go run. Because grandmas do that now. And blog. And work. And love with all their hearts.

88 – counting my blessings saturday (CMBS)

OK, I was wrong, I can write both places. :0) Early on a Saturday morning, I am counting up the things that make me blissful… blessings, if you will:

  1. Just heard from son John yesterday that his next assignment is going to be to Malmstrom AFB, Montana–only a few hours from my best friend, Barb, who lives in Columbia Falls. John has been at Ramstein AFB, Germany, with a short six-month deployment to Kuwait, since 2012. We haven’t seen him since we put him on the plane for basic training two years ago. Barb’s son Ray is also stationed at Malmstrom with his wife and two kids, and oddly enough was also stationed at Ramstein, but he and Johnny have yet to meet.  Barb will be making sure to check in on our baby boy, though he may not know that yet.
  2. Daughter/soldier Kelsey’s leg surgery went well, which I can tell because she is posting pictures on Facebook of the stitched-up incision with commentary and exclamation points. This makes me very happy.
  3. TexasHannonsJohn AND Kelsey, along with favorite grandchild, one Mr. Tyler James, will be home for Thanksgiving, if the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise. Also planning to be there right now are our whole extended Texas family, Corey’s brother Patrick, wife Bobbi (my sister from another mister), daughter Savannah with grandchild Olivia, whom we have yet to meet, and daughter Sara, and they’re all coming from Kingsville. Meeting them at the ranch for Thanksgiving will be their soldier/daughter, our niece Hailé Hannon, who’s driving in from Fort Huachuca, Arizona. You can see all of us in the picture here, taken in 2011. John and Kels are at far left and far right respectively, and Tyler was, at that time, Kelsey’s baby bump.  The back row left to right is Patrick, Hailé, and Sara, with her arm around Kels. Savannah and I are in the center, and Corey and Bobbi are up front. Can’t wait to see ’em!
  4. More on the “me” side than the “us” side, I had an amazing first week at my new job as managing editor of the Alpine Avalanche. All the training and mentorship from my old boss, Hank Hargrave, who now owns and publishes The Normangee Star in central Texas, came back with a rush.  Absolutely love my new boss who, unfortunately, is interim publisher–when they hire a new publisher, she will go back to headquarters and her real life, and that will be a sad day for us–she and I make a great management team, and the new publisher will have some big shoes to fill. She’s already been here 11 weeks, with at least a few more to go, and I know she’s ready to go home.
  5. Last, but certainly not least, I get to see my gorgeous husband today for the first time in a week. It’s an interesting arrangement….I think everyone but me knew that I was going to have to get a job and get off the ranch more. But, if you had told me a year ago that I’d be living two hours away from my husband and only seeing him on weekends, I’d have asked you what you were smoking. Oddly enough, though, I think it just might work.  He and I, we’re working people. It’s who we are, more than what we do. And with us apart during the week, we can fully commit to working our jobs, not worry if I’m getting up early and not seeing him in the morning, or he’s working late and not seeing me until 7 or 8 at night. Don’t get me wrong… I miss him a lot.  But there are benefits to living apart–I kept my eating under control this week, 1300 calories or less a day, every day this week. (living with a foodie has its hazards.) I went after work and ran laps around the park three different days. I went out to one of the Viva Big Bend festival venues last night and took pictures without worrying about whether Corey was missing me… It’s like having all the benefits of being single and career-focused, but you’ve got a permanent date every weekend and somebody to kiss on New Year’s Eve.

Life is good, my chickens. Hope yours is too…


74 – adventures in history

First viewThis country’s stark beauty often makes it seems as if your footprints are the first human ones in this desolate landscape–but then you find that people lived here long before the fences were put up to section off the land. It’s humbling–we live here, truly, we don’t just visit.  But we live here with air conditioning, and heat in the winter–and with comforts that the people who were here before could not have begun to conceive.

We had planned to drive into town yesterday, but Corey’s escalating frustration with the customer service (and the customers!) of the local retailers makes shopping with him less than relaxing, so I said I’d head that way today, instead. So, he suggested we drive down to the “Snake Ridge,” a few miles down the Big Canyon.

closer viewWhen we got there, he pointed out a spot halfway up the nearest canyon wall, and you could see what was obviously a human-built stone wall, snaking vertically up the canyon wall.  From a half-mile away, it didn’t look terribly impressive, but then he used the camera to zoom in on it, and you could see it was actually quite a structure.

DSCN4977So, since it was pretty much irresistible at that point, we climbed–as you can see at top right, it was barely visible–the only vertical line in the picture, about midway up the ridge, leading down through the rocks of the canyon wall.

As we got higher, it started coming into view (second picture) and then as we came up on it, you could finally see how big it actually was against the identically-colored background.

DSCN4983To give you some idea of the distances involved, I’ve also added the picture of the view back down into the canyon–way out there, where the roads meet, you can just see the truck–that picture was taken from the rock wall, looking back at the hike we’d just done.  There is no way for a camera to capture the immensity of the scale of this landscape, as hard as I try!

The wall was a nearly vertical line, but didn’t reach the top or bottom of the canyon wall.  It may have at some time in the past, but it effectively began (or ended) about halfway down the overall slope, as near as we could tell.  We tried to figure out what it was there for, and came up with two different theories–mine was that it was territorial – some family or tribe marking where their hunting territory ended, or began.

DSCN4984Corey’s theory was more intriguing.  One part of the wall had a quite large gap, and what could have been an old game trail running right through the open section.  He thinks that it was a hunting tactic–that hunters could wait at the gap for the game (such as aoudad, deer, or others) to take the easy way through, and give a better chance of killing one with a bow and arrow or spear.  I kind of like his idea better than mine.  We’ll never know, but it’s interesting to think about.

DSCN4986The last two pictures are pretty much gratuitous – one of me at the constructed wall, so you can get an idea of its size, and one of Corey.  Behind him, you can see another of what were undersea peaks a few million years ago. They are scattered down the Big Canyon every few miles.

This country continues to fascinate–and on occasion intimidate.  This East Texas country girl had her eyes on the ground looking for snakes, and her ears laid back listening for a warning rattle. Plus, anything that looked like a nice place for snakes to den up was given a wide berth.

Snakes or not, I love being able to explore as we choose–it’s truly a gift.

68 – making my way back

The first physical thing that is making me marvel at the moment is that it is 5:30 in the morning and I am drinking a cup of tea. My name is Lisa – and I was a coffee addict. I’ve driven down a mountain at dawn because, at the bottom of that mountain (after taking a left and driving five more miles) was a gas station. With coffee. tea

I highly recommend, if you’re going to make that kind of upheaval, do it when you’re feeling like crap anyway.  Which I was (allergies) and even the smell of the coffee was making me nauseous. My body was trying to tell me it was poisonous by its reaction to the smell, and when I ignored that, it showed me why… and because I’m stubborn, it showed me more than once.

So, Tuesday I drank five cups of tea, yesterday was two, today, who knows, but my stomach is so very, very happy with me that I’m not shoving coffee down it that I feel quite sunny.  Even though the allergies are still kind of sucking.

The second physical thing – I’m off all medications except some antihistamine for my allergies. When I left work in October, I was on four prescriptions and a half dozen OTC drugs for various things.  I’m down to vitamins and the antihistamine. I’ll be going back to the doc to get tested in a couple weeks, just to make sure I’m OK–but I’m feeling better every day.

Third and final physical thing – I’m back up to working out two days, taking a day off. Before the allergies laid me down, I was at 90 minutes of full-out effort on the Nordic Track, another half-hour to 45 minutes walk with Daysie. Back up to 65, and inching back upwards.

First and only mental thing – wrote the first creative thing yesterday that I’ve written in a long, long time, “The Voices of Solitary Things.” Such a relief to know that part of my brain still works.