home. Home. Homa. Oklahoma.

I don’t know where this image came from – people have been using it a lot this week. Maybe it came from this shirt designer from Tulsa? Maybe it’s been around a long time. But I like it.

Home is like family. When a place is really, truly Home… it may still be able to surprise you, but you know its strengths and weaknesses. You’ve seen it at its best and at its worst. You love it anyway. Maybe you love it just because you’ve seen it go through so much; because you know the depths (both good and bad) it can go to, how it behaves under pressure, how it gets knocked down but keeps standing up again and again and again. How, in its peaceful calm and its violent terrors, it is still beautiful. And you know it is worth going back to. And worth working for. And worth fighting for. And worth making it as strong as it can be, every time. The land gives us strength. We give our community strength. Our community gives the land strength. And back and forth.

Give me an EF-5 and not a Category 5, an EF-5 and not a Richter 10. They can all kill me when it comes right down to it… but when it comes right down to it, I can only ride one of them out from home. Were I to live somewhere else, it would not be home. Not like this.

Not like a quirky cousin, not like an old friend. Not like this place that I trust like any other to have the fortitude to pull together and come back stronger than it was before. Not like this place where I know - where we all know - we Okies can and will do this together. It's just what we do.

May you all be safe and sound and dry, and have all you need for health and comfort this week.


Air Quality Awareness Week - Part 3 - Real-Time Oklahoma Air Quality

So now that we have covered a little bit about the history of air pollution and air regulations, and a little bit about the pollutants and Oklahoma trends, we get to find out what is happening here and now.

The first interesting tidbit is that there is such a thing as air quality forecast; this is similar to weather forecasting. The best place to see the forecast right now is to use AirNow – they have nifty infographics for particulates and ozone. I heard a rumor that AirNow’s forecasting will soon be discontinued? Well, I’m not sure on that.

If the air quality is anticipated to bad the next day, the Oklahoma DEQ calls an Ozone Watch. The purpose of this is to allow people to adjust their plans if necessary, and hopefully to encourage folks to take measures to help prevent ozone formation for that day. Ozone Watches are often broadcast on the news, but you can find out about them on the DEQ’s website. Tulsa has Ozone Alerts, which are basically the same thing.

But what is the air RIGHT NOW? AirNow has cool infographics for this as well; you can even loop the time period the way you can with weather radars and watch the pollution move across the landscape like a storm of approaching ozone! (This is most noticeable during the summer months)

If you are interested in exact measured values, or if you are curious about current levels of other pollutants, you can view the data from all of Oklahoma’s air quality monitors online in near-real-time.
Photo of McClain County Ozone Monitor

To research how local weather conditions may be affecting the air contaminants, you can cross-reference data from the air quality monitors with weather data from the nearest Oklahoma Mesonet or Weather Underground station. (The Mesonet stations will be more defensible for serious study, but Weather Underground may have stations that are nearer to the desired location)

If you are mostly concerned about ozone and particulates for health reasons, the easiest way to stay updated is to sign up for Health Advisories. You can do this through the DEQ website, and when the air quality in your county hits levels of concern, you will immediately be notified via email.

I hope you found this series of Air Quality Awareness Week posts interesting and informative! Go forth, padawans, and breathe deep! (To listen to a goofy hippie song about air pollution on YouTube, click here)


Air Quality Awareness Week - Part 2 - Air Emissions Trends and Oklahoma

National Trends

Thanks to the Clean Air Act and other air quality regulations (such as vehicle fuel standards), the overall air quality in the United States has actually improved in many ways since the onset of air science and air regulation in the 1950’s. I know it sounds hard to believe, but we have learned a lot as a country in the past 60 years of air control, and it shows. EPA's recent Air Trends Report describes the progress: Based on historical data, levels of every major Criteria Pollutant have decreased both in ambient levels (the level we are exposed to) and in amount of emissions.

Example Graph from Air Trends Report

This becomes more evident if you think back to the tragic events in Pennsylvania and London, where poor air quality resulted in the deaths of many perfectly fine, otherwise-healthy individuals (and these events were not isolated; there were others less note-worthy).

Nowadays, except for very extreme and rare circumstances, most healthy American citizens have less to worry about in terms of air. Some people are extra sensitive to air pollution and they still have to keep vigilant on air quality to protect themselves. These categories of folks are young people (who breathe more quickly than adults and whose lungs are still developing), older people (who are sometimes less physically resilient), and people with cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders (such as asthmatics and heart patients).

Ozone in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, our major air pollutant of concern is ground-level Ozone. Ozone is a lung irritant, and especially problematic for asthmatics. Ozone is a secondary pollutant, meaning that it is not directly emitted, but is created as chemicals in the air react with each other. It is a summertime pollutant because the weather affects the rate of these reactions and the amount of ozone created. Oklahoma experiences higher levels of this pollutant for a variety of reasons. Some of these include:
  • Interstate transport - ozone and ozone precursors blowing in from other states
  • Weather - Hot, bright, still summers allow for more creation of ozone and allow the pollutant to linger for longer periods
  • Urban sprawl and long commutes - Automobiles produce chemicals that react in the sun to create ozone (Nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds), and Okies love to drive. Our state is designed for vehicle transport.
Every summer in recent years, Oklahoma has had several days which exceed the NAAQS for ozone. It is possible that areas of Oklahoma - such as OKC and Tulsa - are on the verge of being designated as nonattainment for this pollutant; watch for this in the news in upcoming years.

PM2.5 in Oklahoma

The second pollutant that Oklahoma is sometimes concerned with is fine particulate matter. This is any thing in the air at all that is teeny tiny... less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. This can be tiny bits of dust, tiny bits of pollen, tiny bits of soot, even tiny vapor droplets. Particles of this size can be breathed in and travel deep into the lungs - penetrating farther due to their size - and our bodies have a difficult time cleaning them out. Oklahoma's major contributors for fine particulates are:
  • Blowing dust
  • Smoke from wildfires


Oklahoma Trends

Oklahoma's Department of Environmental Quality produces Air Data Reports each year so you can see what the monitored levels of various pollutants were in the state. The Air Data Report from 2012 is here. An example graph for Ozone is below.


Air Quality Awareness Week - Part 1 - Air Quality Basics


It has been a long time since the 1948 fatal air inversion of Donora, Pennsylvania and the killing London Smog of 1952. These two events contributed to the growing awareness that the chemicals and compounds we send into the air can have a detrimental – and sometimes deadly – effect on human health. Governments and average citizens around the world sprang into action and began learning about air pollution – what it does, where it comes from, how to control it, and what amounts can be considered “safe.”

Here in the US, the events in the late 40’s and early 50’s were immediately followed by Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, which created funding for air pollution research. This was followed by the Clean Air Act of 1963, where the research findings were utilized to create a set of federal regulations limiting various air pollutants. The Clean Air Act has been amended several times since it was written, most recently in 1990 – these are the regulations companies in the US follow today.

The Clean Air Act breaks air pollutants down into 2 categories. The first is the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, commonly called the NAAQS (“nacks”). These six pollutants – Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), Particulate Matter (PM10) and fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) - can cause immediate health risks to individuals. The other categories of air pollutants are Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). Many of these are substances such as carcinogens, which can have a chronic health effect over time.

When air monitors record levels of pollutants that exceed the NAAQS, that area can be designated as "nonattainment"... this basically means that the area is recognized as having unhealthy air and extra regulations are put into effect to help bring the air pollution back down to safe levels. There are certain exceptions to this... for example, an area gets a couple of freebies a year, and sometimes data can be thrown out if the state can prove the high levels were from a rare event that was not within the state's control (like a huge dust storm or wildfire).

 Each air pollutant has different deleterious effects on humans and the environment. Some air “pollutants” are neutral or even helpful when released in small quantities, but harmful in large quantities. Enough exposure to certain air pollutants can harm even the healthiest of individuals, as well as degrade the infrastructure of our cities and stunt crop growth. For the NAAQS, Primary Standards are the levels of pollutants considered to be safe for public health. Secondary Standards are created to protect everything else.

The allowed levels of these pollutants are based on current science believes to be safe for public health. EPA uses a committee of scientists called the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) to review the science and suggest updates to the standards every few years on a regular schedule.  


This Saturday! Get a Clean New Mower, Prevent Ozone

We all know about emissions from driving our cars, but we sometimes overlook small-motor emissions. Small-engine equipment must comply with a different set of emissions requirements than vehicles; they are  allowed to pollute more than many of the cars we drive. In fact, if you have an old pre-1995 mower, these machines are from the wild west of small engines and didn't have to meet any emissions requirements at all. Gas-powered mowers produce the same types of pollutants as gas-powered vehicles, many of which (nitrous oxides and volatile organic carbons) contribute to low-level ozone formation.

To help keep our ozone levels low this summer, the Department of Environmental Quality is sponsoring a lawnmower exchange this weekend for Oklahoma City residents and offering a $100 rebate towards the purchase of a brand new electric lawnmower.

If you are married to your gasoline-powered lawnmower or miss your opportunity to grab this rebate, you can still help prevent ozone formation by choosing to mow only when your yard really needs it and by mowing either early or late in the day. If you mow during these time periods, the emissions are less likely to react in the sunlight and create ozone.

My husband and I take lawn care one step cleaner and use a manual muscle-powered reel mower on our yard. I like that I don't have to worry about cutting my foot off or maintaining machinery. He likes that it is lighter weight and we don't have to buy fuel. Our lawn is healthier because we let the clippings compost back into the earth. Our neighboors stop in the street to talk when they see us using it - they tell us how they used to have a mower like this when they were a kid, or how well they think it works, or that they have one sitting in their garage that they never use. One person was surprised you could still buy a manual push-mower! (It was at the hardware store - they're still there.)

The right choice for the hubby and I might not be the right choice for you, but so long as you know the options and how your choice of mower affects your lawn, the air you breathe, and your community, you'll be ahead of the game!  I hope you're all able to snag one of the available rebates if a new electric mower is your cup of tea.

  • For an ABC story on lawnmower emissions, click here.
  • For a National Geographic environmental impact guide to lawn mowers, click here.
  • To read EPA's regulations on lawn equipment emissions, click here.
  • To view Oklahoma's monitored Ozone values for the past year, click here.


EcoIcons: Reading Colin Beavan's "No Impact Man"

Happy Earth Day everyone!

I recently finished reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. I suspect you've heard of it? Just in case... a few years ago it was "kind of a big deal." A writer from NYC (and his wife and baby) spends a year trying a myriad of ways for his family to live with zero net environmental impact. He made national news. He made the talk shows. There was a documentary. But the heart of the project was that he wanted to write a book on what he learned.

I watched the documentary a while back. It was interesting/good. Maybe that is one of the reasons I was lackadaisical about getting around to reading the book? (I already knew the plot, I felt.) Well. I should have read it sooner.  It's not very long and it flows well to make a quick and interesting read. For me, the book is a solid home run. I wish I'd read it sooner. In some ways, it was not at all what I expected.

I expected the bits about why we should try to do better for the environment. I expected the parts where he talks about what measures he undertook, and the parts where we find out if those measures were difficult or enjoyable. I did not expect intensely personal storytelling. I did not expect such deep, philosophical speculation.

In the end, I learned a little bit. But I thought a lot. And I felt more inspired than I anticipated.

At work, I like to keep a few special books. These books serve a purpose for me. If I am feeling uninspired and selfish, or even bored; when I don't want to work or have trouble focusing, I pick these books up, flip to a random page, and read just a little bit. When I do that, I am hoping that these books remind me of my priorities and my values. I am hoping they remind me that I didn't come to work to entertain myself, but to accomplish Something Good. I am hoping they keep me grounded and focused. These books are thoughtful and quotable and give my brain something to chew on, in little bits. No Impact Man is going on that book shelf. I might buy a second one to have as a loaner.

So here's a little quote for you to chew on this Earth Day, one which the author decided was the moral of the story:

"I got too paralyzed by this question of whether I was the type of person who could make a difference. Finally, during the year of the project, I realized that's the wrong question. The real question is whether I'm the type of person who wants to try."


On Monarchs and Free Flowers

Did you know that butterflies (and some other insects) taste with their feet? True. Can you imagine tasting your shoes when you put them on? Or walking on a chocolate cake? Delicious.

Also, monarchs migrate through the US from Mexico. They breed in the US. They live in the tropics.

Also, monarch butterflies are at a historic low population this year. So low, that some entomologists believe there is a chance that they will not be able to rebound to normal levels in years to come. There is a variety of reasons for this. Habitat loss. Less food growing around.

So the awesome part is... monarchs love to eat milkweed. And milkweed turns out to be a beautiful garden plant. (Google image search for the genus "Asclepia"... all Asclepias are milkweeds... you will see what I mean!)

To help the butterflies... and/or to get free flowers for your garden... send a SASE to:

Live Monarch - Seed Campaign
3003-C8 Yamato Road #1015
Boca Raton, Florida 33434
$3 donation is requested but not required. For more info on the seeds click here
To listen to an Science Friday story on monarch butterflies, click here


Eco-Documentary Favorites

Happy April, everyone!

April means Earth Day. Cool eco-things happen in Oklahoma during April. It would be nice if the events were more equally spread out during the year, but I understand that this is when environmental issues are more prominently on people’s mind and I certainly! understand the desire to break out of jail and go outside after the last frost. What a better time to have outdoor events than sunny April, with its crisp breeze and green buds?

I’m not going to list April environmental awareness events for you – you can find those yourselves, you smart webby people, you!

Instead, I’m going to recommend some environmental documentaries – you know, from when you’re zonked out on the couch because you’re tired after doing a trash-off or tree-planting event? Of course you wouldn’t be watching tv otherwise! ;-)  Well, I am an eco-, bio-, and adventure-documentary junkie. These are some of my eco-favorites.

Earth Days – describes not only the history of Earth Day, but the history of environmentalism in the US. Educational, interesting, and best of all… intensely inspiring! This one has my highest recommendation. In fact, I might have to go watch it again myself.

John James Audobon: Drawn From Nature – Describes the life of Audobon – including how he came to his profession, his travels, his struggles at becoming recognized in America followed by success abroad, and how his experiences in nature changed his life. Most surprising to me was that he began as an avid hunter – using mounted birds as models for his art – and later became a conservationist after years of watching wildlife populations decline.

Ghost Bird – Not going to lie. I cried. (The story of the ivory-billed woodpecker, it’s alleged re-discovery and later de-bunking, and the affect that had on the local community)

No Impact Man – A journalist in New York City attempts to live for one year without making a negative net impact on the environment. The man (Colin Beaven) takes this interesting challenge to extremes at times, learning along the way. This was less educational than Earth Days, but I found it thought-provoking and fascinating. As an aside, there is a book by the same title.


Oklahoma City's First Plant Catching Donation!

Have you guys heard about Plant Catching?

It's awesome!

Imagine FreeCycle... just for plants!  Here's how it works:
     When a gardener has excess plants, bulbs, seeds, compost, etc, they set it out somewhere visible with a Plant Catching label describing the plant and mark its' location on the Plant Catching website. Other gardeners can search the website to find it, or lucky folks can stumble upon it and take it home, learning about Plant Catching in the process.

I set out the first Plant Catching donation for OKC today and I'm going to set more out sporadically. Spread the word! Share it with all your buddies!  Let's start a garden trade network right here at home!


The Role of Pride in Your Environment

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I lived in this city that nobody liked. If you admitted you liked it, that meant you were unenlightened, probably boring, and definitely uncool. Parents taught this to their kids, their kids taught it to other kids, and all kids bragged about leaving as quick as they possibly could. The only time this city ever made the news was when something awful happened. Natural disasters. Crimes. That sort of thing. And so the rest of the world thought this city was crummy, too. It was a depressed, unnoticed little splotch in the middle of America. I never understood it, honestly – I was happy enough. But I also planned to leave like everyone else and live somewhere more interesting and more beautiful. In the long run, I didn’t – partially because I realized with no small amount of shock that I love my hometown, despite everything. And because of that, I witnessed this incredible transformation that started not long after I moved away to college and continues to this day.

For a variety of reasons, people wanted to be proud of their city again. They quit moving away. Or like me, they moved away and came back. They invested in their city with their time, talents and money. They passed taxes to make improvements to all sorts of things – to dilapidated parts of town, to transportation, to schools, to community recreation and education facilities. They rallied together around local businesses, artisans and sports teams. They made it cool to keep your money in the community instead of sending it to the box stores. They passed incentives for companies to locate here. They started making the news for something aside from getting their houses blown over – they made the news for low cost of living, for high employment rates, for their sports, for creative policies, for all sorts of things - and finally, people started to move in instead of move away.

The city I live in now is a far cry from the city I lived in twenty-five years ago. The difference is so shocking that it brings tears to my eyes because everyone else has finally started to love it the way that I have always loved it, and it is making it beautiful and exciting. A couple of weeks ago I drove down a street in the dark that used to be abandoned - but at night, on a Tuesday, lights shone. The buildings were buzzing. There were people eating dinner in their living rooms. There were store fronts. There was art in the windows. There was a catch in my throat. But it has always been a good city – it always had talented, intelligent, hard-working people fueling it. It always had an arts scene; it always had diverse citizenship; it always had recreational options and pretty garden parks. It always had some cool architecture, lots of possibilities, and innovative businesses. But now everyone knows it does. And it keeps getting better.

Now, it’s this.

The Cinderella City.

We aren’t perfect- no city is. But people have decided that we are decidedly Not Too Shabby, either.

Why did the scullery maid become a princess? Because people were proud of it. And because they were proud of it, they turned it into something to actually be proud of.  

You see, you have to value something before it can become valuable. If you don’t think it’s important enough to take good care of, not important enough to repair or improve, it will keep getting worse. It’s a vicious cycle.   

So how does this apply to the environment? Simple. Pride first. Value first. Why would someone take care of something they don’t care about? If people don’t think the Oklahoma landscape has any value, why would they care if they damage it or not? On some small level, they have to begin to feel proud of it.

So the next time someone tells you that where you live is boring – if they tell you there are no mountains, no interesting wildlife, no Big Nature or wilderness worth protecting (a line I have heard many times) – stand up for it. If you know they’re wrong, tell them so. If you agree with them, do a little research and find out if it’s really that bad. I’d wager it’s not because every ecosystem holds some beauty. At the very least, have something positive to say in return. Like this: “You’re right, but what IS cool about Oklahoma is that…” Don’t contribute to tearing down the ownership and pride for the land – contribute instead to the notion that it is something worth treasuring.

A friend of mine traveled to the Pacific Northwest this year. She said that the land was incredibly lovely, and everyone knew it and treated it that way. They didn’t litter. They didn’t tear things up. They were proud of it. She described one instance where someone in a car threw trash out the window, and immediately received shocked glares from everyone who witnessed it. Imagine if that’s the response littering got at home. I’d probably have less trash blowing into my yard.

If there is one thing I do in life (aside from the obvious - being a good person), I’d like it to be this. I’d like to help people second-guess the value they place in their hometowns and home state. I’d like them to know it’s something worth being proud of; something worth taking care of; something worth showing off to visitors.

If we are all are proud of and value the land we travel through this is when we feel a sense of joy and wonder for being exactly where we are. This is when we stop throwing trash out the window. This is when we start considering the impact our actions have on the ecosystem. This is when we think investing in protecting our resources is a wise idea. This is when we realize that other species have an important role in the giant machine called earth, and we treat them with respect. This is when we learn about our home and share what we know with others; when we learn how to be better citizens.

This is how our ecosystem will be protected and improved.
This is when our natural environment becomes just as beautiful as it always was to begin with.


Winter Weekending in the Ouachitas

I went to school for two years in Latimer County. Believe me when I say that the Ouachitas have a very, very special place in my heart shared only by my hometown and my honeymoon destination. Three days in Southeast Oklahoma cannot possibly be enough... but it was time well spent.

If you're heading from OKC to SE Oklahoma, do yourself a favor and take State Highway 270. I-40 is monotonous and Indian Nation Turnpike... you could probably sleep for miles and not miss anything. But 270 becomes a beautiful winding country highway through hills and forests and a variety of small towns with character. This is the way we go.

This was a birthday trip for me, so my husband baked a chocolate cake and packed it away in the car. (He's the best!) On the way down, we stopped at the darling Bus Station Cafe in Seminole for a delicious burger and a perfectly cooked plate of catfish. Back in the car, we traveled on until we reached McAlester, where we visited Whispering Meadows winery. The people there were incredibly nice - not only gave us a series of free tastings but also taught us some about wine and gave us a tour of their winery and it's quirky, gorgeous Victorian architecture. We left with a bottle of Deja Vu and In the Mood. To top it off, we learned that they have a sister winery close to our house!  If we want one of their wines, they'll deliver it to Urban Wineworks for us. Neat, yes? Onward through Wilburton, my old college town. And my, oh my, did it change in the last... well, a lady shouldn't say how long ago she graduated from 2-year college! I'm still shocked by the number myself. Only one of my favorite diners were still there - and it had moved down the street a ways. We grabbed the flyer for it so we'd have the hours... good to know for later trips.  And on to our destination, Lake Wister State Park.

The folks in the park office were accomodating and we were in our cabin in no time. And, my friends, it was jaw-dropping amazing. The cabin itself was pretty nice, but the VIEW was incredible. 
The cabin was on a peninsula in the middle of the lake, backing up to a little cliff, with a huge picture window from which we could see a little island and both the sunrise and sunset.

If all we did was sit and stare out the window all weekend, it would have been worth the money. We went to town for some groceries and found a little supermarket full of interesting taxidermy which included - if I remember correctly - a fox with sunglasses and a coyote with elongated fangs. We got some eggs and biscuits and hot links, then went back home for grilled dogs washed down with chocolate cake and Whispering Meadows' In the Mood. Healthy, no. But spoiled, yes we were!

The next day we drove down to the Ouachita National Forest Recreation Area to hike the Old Military Road Trail. It's 13 miles long, and travels 800 feet up Winding Stair Mountain to Talimena Drive Trail Head. From there it's all downhill. It was a nice hike - it went across little streams and creeks, through pine forest the entire way (and it was nice to see so much green in the winter). There were occassional glimpses through the woods of looming mountainsides and far-off views, and as we neared Talimena Drive we reached the old 1830s military road for which the hiking trail was named.
THE Military Road. See it?

In a clearing with the mountains far in the background.

 We picnicked on Talimena Drive and then bustled back just in time to make it to the car before sundown. And - my friends - I am not too man to admit that the hike kicked my booty a little more than I anticipated. But finish it we did. And to celebrate we did a little driving along Talimena, enjoying the overlooks, and made it back to the cabin by sunset to enjoy our view and have s'mores. 
From Talimena Drive

From Talimena Drive

Sunday was less eventful, as we were both kinda tired and sore from our grand hiking adventure on the Old Military Road Trail. We made eggs and biscuits, packed up and drove around Lake Wister, getting in and out to explore as needs required. :)
We thought Lake Wister Dam looked a little like Gotham Jail...

Last view of Wister!

Back on Highway 270, heading for home, we stopped in Krebs for lunch... dare we Pete's Place (also the makers of Choc Beer)? Oh yes, we dared. I'd only been there once or twice before... if you've been, I'm sure you know why! But we were hoping for a lunch menu? There was none. It's the same as the dinner menu. They broke their rules by letting us split an order. Perhaps it isn't nice for me to tell you that, but it was nice of them to do it. We had the lasagna. Of course it was delicious. And between the two of us, we could not finish eating it. The one meal. (Which came with side orders of bread, salad, spaghetti, ravioli, and meatballs.) We took a box of spaghetti home. And thus ended our winter weekending in the Ouachitas.


Winter Hike at Greenleaf State Park

Last weekend I visited Greenleaf State Park, just east of Muskogee. I’d never been. I was pleasantly surprised. The cabins were some of the nicest state park cabins I’ve cozied up in, and the hiking trail was everything I could want a hiking trail to be. (Oh, except for that landowner across the highway who marked his land with blue flagging that matched the blue hiking trail markers. Shame on you! But thanks for letting me accidentally detour onto your lovely property).


The trail is clear enough to see, but primitive enough that you really feel like you are hiking and have to keep an eye on the trail markers. The terrain is interesting and beautiful and changes throughout; goes across bridges and roads and up and down hills and rocky slopes and skirts the lake. It's perfect.

Day one was cold and drizzly. Despite that I got a nice glimpse of a hawk, an Eastern Bluebird (one of my favorites!), and a group of five deer that were bold enough to hang out right in the middle of the camp ground. My dog and I enjoyed the warm cabin while a night-time thunderstorm passed, and Sunday was the most beautiful day that I could ask for.  We set off to knock out as much of the 18-mile hiking trail as possible before I had to drive back home. Admittedly, that was only a few miles in and then a u-turn to head back out.

I kept stopping to bend down and admire all the different species of moss and lichen and tiny ferns that were growing everywhere, and to peer at the water looking for critters.

Oh. And there was that whole detour onto private property that I mentioned earlier. That took some time, too. But that’s the beauty of hiking – not being in a race with anyone. Having a chance to stop and smell the… moss.

And I got a tick! In FEBRUARY! Curses to you, freaky warm tick-breeding winter!


This is Important (and Off Topic) - SB32

American Pit Bull Terriers and I... we were puppies together!
Please be aware of Senate Bill 32 which is currently in committee. This bill will overturn current state law which prohibits what is called "Breed Specific Legislation" - the ability to ban specific breeds of dog within the state of Oklahoma. If this bill passes, a municipality will have the right to outlaw ANY breed of dog - this is not just about "pit bulls."  Dogs that have been targeted by breed specific legislation across the country in the past have included not just "pit bulls" (which is not a breed, but a dog type, like "hunting dog") but also German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Chow Chows, Dobermans, and more.

I can understand if people feel the need to improve dog safety, but breed specific legislation does NOT do anything to make the public safer. This type of legislation outlaws dogs solely based on appearance, not on the dog's behavior or history, not on the way the dog was treated, not on how responsible or irresponsible their owners are.  This type of legislation does not treat the cause of dog aggression; it does not increase liability or responsibility of the owner; it does not require people to be more conscientious with their animals; it does not require any sort of humane treatment or training, supervision, confinement, or leash laws. All it does is outlaw a breed - flat out.

In other cities with breed specific legislation, owners with that particular breed are not always grandfathered in. In other cities, the doggie gestapo has come knocking on people's doors, taking by force their harmless family pets, and killing them. Not that I am calling names (Denver).

Breed specific legislation is expensive to maintain and enforce, and it is ineffective in increasing public safety. Police have to be trained in dog breed identification, people have to be paid to inspect, confiscate, and transport dogs, animal facilities have to be maintained. Of course we have animal control now, but this would greatly increase the numbers of animals to be processed and require more resources. In the worst case scenario, can you imagine how expensive it would be to kill and dispose of hundreds or thousands of dogs?

There are plenty of ways to increase public safety from dogs without resorting to this type of legislation.

If you are against breed specific legislation in Oklahoma, please consider signing the petition and writing your state representatives.

The petition at Change.org (this is a preview link, so you can view the webpage it directs to before you click):

Bill Text and Status:


Wine Tasting and Swap Party

Once upon a time (and by this I mean a month or two ago), in a place not so far away (at work), I noticed a trend.  My coworkers were cleaning out their closets while trying to save money for Christmas. I also not had my turn at inviting the colleagues over to my place for fun hang-out time... My work buddies are pretty good about getting together outside of work for nonprofessional friending time.

But I digress. Observing these trends, I thought we should have a swap party! One of my coworkers suggested we add wine tasting to the event, and the inspiration was born. Due to the theme, it was a girls' night in. Due to the timing, it was extra fun to swap items with one another when we were not spending money on ourselves. A bit of a treat in the midst of frugality. (And of course, reusing is one of the green R's.)

The rules:
  • If you have any clothes, shoes, jewelry, or handbags you don't want anymore, bring them!
  • Optional: bring a snack
  • Optional: bring a bottle of wine for the tasting
  • You don't have to bring swap items in order to take swap items home
  • You don't have to bring food or beverage in order to taste food and beverage
  • First come, first swap! 
  • Take as much home as you like.
  • You may try on clothes in the bedroom or bathroom before you take them home. 
  • Leftover items either go back home with the person who brought them, or left behind for me to donate to Goodwill.

I provided cheese, crackers, water and tea, then added my own bottle of wine and castaway items.  I placed my table in the middle of the room and arranged chairs in a circle around it; the kitchen was set up buffet style. I had considered stipulating that everyone bring an Oklahoma wine, but decided (wisely, I think) not to be overly controlling.

The ladies began to arrive at 2:00. Slowly, a pile started to grow. Like magic, an array of snacks and wine bottles appeared. Much to my pleasure, most of the wines present turned out to be local Oklahoma stock, after all! AND there were no duplicate flavors. By the time everyone arrived there was the perfect amount of food and drink for all and a very large pile of swap items in many different styles and sizes. Because so many women were able to show up (I think we had about 12), nearly everyone had at least some clothes in their size to select from.

In the end, everyone found something they wanted to take home (except for one friend who was purposefully downsizing her stuff).  I personally scored, among other things, my new favorite bracelet and a nice leather jacket.

When everyone had left I had only one not-quite full trashbag of donation items, and just half a bottle of wine. Everyone agreed it was a fun event, something a little different and laid back. We might have to make it an annual gig!