Paying Homage to Lady Bird

Where flowers bloom, so does hope—Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson

Anyone who loves the beauty of Texas in the springtime owes thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, who spent most of her life in efforts to beautify not only Texas, but the entire USA. One of my strongest childhood memories is of a “Keep America Beautiful” commercial from the 60s, in which Lady Bird exhorted us to, “plant a tree, a bush, or a shrub,” with her Texas twang really coming out on “shruuuub.”

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These very large Hereford cows are why you drive slowly on the ranch roads. These are old bloodlines, and mighty fine specimens.

Since coming to Texas as fast as I could, about 21 years ago, I have visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center many times, and enjoyed the tributes to her there, I’ve read her biography, and I’ve tried to follow in her footsteps by taking care of native plants wherever I’ve lived, especially at the Hermits’ Rest.

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This amazing mosaic is in the small exhibit area in the park.

So, when Anita and I were coming back from Fredericksburg last weekend, a stop at the Johnson family ranch was a must. I highly recommend it; there’s way more than you’d think to see, and it was rather moving to see both the place where Lyndon B. Johnson was born, and where he is buried. He really was tied to his land.

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Enchanted

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Summer color at Enchanted Rock. A tievine flower and some colorful lichen.

My housemate in Austin, Anita, and I are taking a quick mini-vacation to Fredericksburg, Texas. I haven’t taken her many places since she moved here, and I knew she’d love the Hill Country, even while we are enduring weeks and weeks of incredible heat.

Yesterday, we drove out to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a place you should also go, if you’re visiting the middle of Texas. It really is fascinating, especially in the spring or after a rain (due to flowers and little pools of water with tiny shrimp in them).

However, it’s very crowded in the spring and fall, so we discovered the great advantage of heading out early in the morning in midsummer is having the entire rim trail to ourselves (we saw one other hiker). We took Anita’s dog, so we didn’t try to climb the summit. Also, heat.

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A Texas Skeleton Plant. That’s a new one for me! Big, pretty blossoms!

What I DID do, though, was put on my Master Naturalist hat (figuratively–I’d brought hiking boots, but forgot my hat), and see what kinds of plants, flowers, and other things I could spot. I’d never been to Enchanted Rock in the summer, so I did find some great surprises! And of course, I entered them all in my iNaturalist observations. Enjoy the photos, while I tell you about some of my favorite discoveries.

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Fun and Weirdness

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I’ve been reading a lot about these. I could make tea from them. I won’t, though.

You haven’t heard from me for a couple of reasons. One is that I’ve had so much fun stuff to do that it’s been hard finding time to write. I had lots of guests last weekend, and my company has been busy buying houses and commercial buildings. That’s all good.

The other is that it has been “one of those weeks” in which one weird thing after another keeps happening. I’ve been losing things, had a near-miss accident, have said some really odd and atypical things to others, and more.

The good news is that I’ve managed to get all my work done and am ready for a mini-vacation in Fredericksburg, so there should be some good nature stuff come out of that.

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This is only a part of the big snakeskin we found. It was big in the middle, then got smaller. Interesting.

In the woods

Last weekend, Justin (nephew of the ranch neighbors) was here, and he and I had a great time tromping through our woods with the dogs (it was the first real tromp for the two newest ones). He is very much like me, in that he really notices things.

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Dogs and Toads Don’t Mix

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Not much room for common sense in that brain.

We have been trying to get used to having five dogs here at the Hermits’ Rest. It’s quite a circus when they are all awake and wanting to play or tussle. Luckily, it’s quite calm when they are all zonked out from playing.

Our newest buddy, Vlassic, has really been fitting in well with the pack. He is playful, especially with Carlton and Harvey, but also cuddly in the extreme. Quite the lapdog he is.

He is also very much a dachshund. We’re guessing he may be more than half. And it’s his doxie heritage that got him in trouble this week!

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You can tell by the mud on his face that Vlassic likes to put his nose into things!

It’s so cute, but…

Lee was out walking the dogs in the late afternoon, as is his practice. It’s beautiful and not so oppressively hot once the sun is behind the trees. The puppies found one of the toads that lives around here. I do wish I had a photo to ID it, but it’s the usual toad.

Carlton and Vlassic were fascinated, especially Vlassic. He was jumping straight in the air and then poking it, like a doxie going after the vermin it’s bred to go after. Lee was really enjoying the antics of the dogs as they played. Vlassic even play-bowed to the toad, to try to get it to play back.

Then, Lee realized that the black bouncer wasn’t just poking. He was nipping at the toad. Whoops. Toads have secretions to keep animals from doing just that. They are NOT good for puppies.

As Vlassic began to foam at the mouth, Lee rushed the dogs back into the house and proceded to do his version of first aid, which, according to him, consisted of basically water-boarding the pup. The idea was to rinse all the toad secretions off his face and, is possibly, from inside his mouth.

Vlassic was not thrilled. But he did stop foaming. He ate all his dinner and fell asleep.

About 5:30 am, all that food came back up. But, once that was taken care of, he seemed okay.

Poor Lee was so relieved that he hadn’t let our little friend get poisoned to death.

Moral: keep dogs away from toads, even if they look friendly and playful.

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Carlton says he is too smart to eat a toad. Yeah, sure.

Keep Vlassic in your thoughts. Tomorrow he loses his favorite body parts. Doing our part to be good citizens and not create more unwanted pets.

On a Learning Spree, Part 4: My Darned Watch

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Well, of course the first thing I did was customize the watch face to my own preferences. I am not an out of the box person.

For reasons I don’t really understand, my dear spouse decided to get me an Apple Watch a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps that’s because it was 50% off? I didn’t want to waste it, so, I have said goodbye to my trusty Fitbit (it’s going to Anita soon) and started using the watch.

Lee stuck his 50%-off watch on his arm, determined how to use Siri with it, and went on his merry way. Not me. I love to learn about technology and didn’t want my watch to look like everyone else’s.

Since I am on this learning spree, I immediately went off and found the owner’s manual to the Apple Watch, and read every single page of it, adjusting Peach Perfection (the watch’s name) at every opportunity, until I ended up with just what I wanted. See that watch face in the top photo? It’s based on this picture of me and the handsome Apache, to always remind me of the ranch:

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This photo makes a fine mandala, featuring a lot of skin tone, brown, and pink.

That’s cool. (I just looked at the watch. My teeth appeared in the watch face. I just about spewed my lime water. So sorry I have no photo.)

Am I alone in this?

I mentioned my foray into deep watch knowledge to my boss, who’s had an Apple Watch since I’ve known him (three years now?). I’d hoped to use him as my Subject Matter Expert on these fancy appliances. He thought that reading the user guide was a novel concept, and declared me the new expert, since he’s never looked at any instructions. Sigh. He is the BOSS of all the people who WRITE user guides to things! And he doesn’t read them! (I don’t actually think he’s alone in this, since Lee didn’t look either.)

Doesn’t anyone look at the Help for things anymore? I’m a reader, so I read the manual, but there are loads and loads of videos one could watch, too. There’s no reason to allow any little watch detail to bug you! Be curious! I am finding that curiosity is a total hoot.

Some information was hard to find. I had to go back and scour the manual to find out how to change my fitness goals, but it WAS there. Apple is really, really succinct in their help writing style, and sometimes they are a bit light on details, though. So, if any of you know of helpful places to find out MORE information, let me know.

But, geez. I write user guides and training guides, and supervise people who make training videos. We all need jobs! Folks, check out the manuals to your phones, watches, software, and other complicated helpers! (I wish the husband and dogs came with user guides.)

Watches are fun

I was really thrilled to find out that the watch face wasn’t the only thing I could easily change on this thing. I can change out the band anytime I want! Today I am yellow, but I have blue leather, some happy patterns, orange, red, bright stripes, and so on. The wimpy pink band that came with the watch went away fast.

I do have the “big” one, which has taken some getting used to. I have always been a fan of tiny watches for my tiny wrist. See, I can grow.

PS: I’d be happy to be your Apple Watch fitness friend.

 

I Believe We Have a Pack

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Carlton thinks we went out and got him a friend. Note the slobber on his back. That’s from Alfred, the Big Dog.

Who’s that playing with that puppy we only got a few months ago (and by the way, happy 7 month birthday to Carlton!)? Why, that’s Vlassic, so named by Sara the neighbor, because he looks like Anita’s dog, Pickle.

Honest. Not looking for a dog.

We’ve only had the beautiful Carlton for a few months, and we’ve been enjoying him very much. He gets along great with the other dogs, and we’re happy.

But, on Sunday, Sara was meditating in her office, when she saw something on the porch. She thought it was something one of her kids had left outside, but then it moved! It was a very, very black dachshund mix dog. He turned out to be very friendly, very healthy, and obviously a house dog.

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On a Learning Spree, Part 3: The Voice

books
I even keep some of my old textbooks in my office, to remind me of a career gone astray. (Yes, I know at least one book is not on linguistics.)

Sometimes one’s professional and personal interests merge, and this is one of those cases. Those of you who know me in person know that I’ve used my voice both for work and fun most of my life. (And oh yes, I almost forgot the MANY years I studied linguistics; perhaps I learned something about how speech works there.)

I’ve always adored choral singing. Harmony gives me goosebumps, a lot. Singing was my escape from teen angst in high school, brought me joy in the Unitarian Universalist church choir, challenged me when I was in a folk/rock trio, and stretched my skills in some larger local choruses, where I got to sing beautiful music with talented people.

I’ve also used my voice for work, from teaching to recording voiceovers for corporate training material. I love to read aloud, so this was always fun, and I learned so much about making myself sound clear and natural during the years I did this.

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Where are my lost notes? I can’t see them in there!

That was then, but now is now

Well, now two things have happened, one good, and one bad.

The bad thing is that a couple of years ago I “lost” part of my vocal range. Suddenly, the notes B, C, and D above middle C would not come out. That put the kaibosh on my choral singing efforts. When you are the only person singing a part, and your notes don’t come out, it feels really bad. I had my suspicions about what had happened (and no, it was not a blocked throat chakra), but I wanted to know why.

The good thing is that I started to work again with the team at who narrates some of our training materials at my day job. I had heard they were interested in improving their narration skills, so I thought maybe I could read up on it to see if there was some way to help.

Continue reading “On a Learning Spree, Part 3: The Voice”