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Road Trip: Austin   

‘Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” – Ann Landers

Photo from 2016 Stories from the Heart Conference with vivacious Debra Weingarten at the head of the table cheering us on. Sadly, she was missing this year.

My road trip to Texas, so far, had been a family thing, reconnecting with distant loved ones, and spending cherished time together with lots of hugs. My four-day stay in Austin to attend Story Circle Network’s Stories from the Heart Writing Conference was just as full of love and hugs.

Though not related by blood, I considered the other female participants – from  SCN  founder and award-winning author Susan Wittig Albert, whose published books are almost too many to count, to writers who were still hoping to be published – my sisters.

Without many of these women in attendance here in Austin, and other members scattered across the world, my own book, Travels with Maggie, would never have been published.

I first discovered Story Circle Network in 2010 when I saw an ad in Writer’s Digest for the Stories from the Heart Conference. I have not missed one of the conferences, which is held every other year, since.

I was on my second draft of Travels with Maggie when I first joined the organization for women writers, and was trying to give my book the voice which critiques said it lacked. In the first draft, I had tried to disguise that I was an old broad. Story Circle gave me the confidence to realize that being an old broad, and still having a zest for life, was the unique voice the book needed. And then when the book was finally finished to my satisfaction, and with the very generous help of SCN member Sherry Wachter, it was my SCN sisters who lent me their confidence to publish it.

To be among these women, my sisters, was every bit as heartfelt as being with my blood relatives.  The only thing missing was my marketing mentor, the vivacious Debra Weingarten, who sadly was in the hospital with terminal cancer. This award-winning author and publisher’s high energy, overwhelming love and always-upbeat attitude were missed by everyone at the conference who knew her.

It was important for me to hold Debra’s hand, and SCN’s beautiful new president, Jeanne Guy, made it happen. Together we skipped out of the conference to visit Debra, who was weak and soft-spoken as she lay in her hospital bed — but smiling through the pain.

Even as I write this, I can still feel Debra’s hand in mind, and her love and support for me, and for all of my other Story Circle sisters.

Thankfulness fills my heart for having found Story Circle Network, and such wonderful women as Susan, and Jeanne and Sherry and Debra, and all the many other wonderful women whom I now consider sisters.

I now serve on the board for the organization, and during a board meeting that had me staying over an extra day after the conference ended, I learned my worth.

According to Susan Albert, SCN had paid $450 for the Writer’s Digest ad that had caught my attention – and I was the only person who responded.

“It was a worthwhile investment,” Susan said. Of course, that made me feel good, but then that’s how I felt from the first to the last sisterly hug I got at the conference – and there were many.

Bean Pat: A Cat Story: https://windagainstcurrent.com/2018/08/18/the-cat-that-found-me/?wref=pil

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

I wonder if this crow is heading the right way — or is as turned around as I was. — Photo by Pat Bean

Turned Around

            The 200-mile road trip from Dallas to Austin to attend my fifth Stories from the Heart writing conference — which was the reason for my making my annual trip to Texas in July instead of a more pleasant month, like April when the bluebonnets are in bloom – took me once again on a familiar route.

No bluebonnets in Texas in July. But if you go in April, you might be able to catch them. — Photo by Pat Bean

I picked up Interstate 35 on the outskirts of Dallas and followed it south all the way to Austin. It was a familiar drive with little chance for me to get off track, since even the Wyndham Garden Hotel that was my destination, was located beside I-35. But I put the address into my GPS anyway.

Using the GPS is a recently new habit since I didn’t own one when I traveled full-time exploring this country between 2004 and 2013. My youngest daughter, however, gave me one for Christmas in 2015. And I’ve grown addicted to it, although I do still study actual maps before taking off down the road.

On the far side of Waco, I needed to make a restroom stop, and when I saw a Buc-ee’s sign ahead, I took the next exit – and ended up in a tangle of construction that required a U-turn to get where I was going. Then I took the wrong exit and found myself repeating the U-turn maneuver to get to where I wanted to go.

Instead of Buc-ee’s however, it was another gas and convenience store where I stopped because it was closer – and the need to use the restroom, a bonus of being an old broad, was making me more and more uncomfortable.

Once my business was taken care of, I filled my little car up with gas and took off back down the road, which required about two miles of dodging construction before I finally got back on I-35. I had gone about a mile down the road when I passed a highway marker that read North 35.

Sh-ee-it!  I’m not sure how it happened but I was heading the wrong way. It was another four miles before there was an exit that allowed me to make yet another U-turn and get headed south again.

At times like this – and I have them often since my sense of direction ranks in the minus category even with a GPS – the only thing to do is to laugh at oneself, and be thankful for the bonus sight-seeing excursion.

Bean Pat: An artist’s eye https://playamart.wordpress.com/2018/08/16/timeout-for-art-about-that-feather/#more-19973 I liked this blog because I piddle around with watercolors, and because the live model for this simple painting delighted me.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact h

er at patbean@msn.com

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“There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums.”  –Michael J. Fox

Me with my granddaughter Shanna and grandson David, who is my oldest grandchild, at Sue Ellen’s for my book signing party.

Sh-ee-it Happens Among the Good Times

After spending a few days with my two sons and their families in West Columbia and Lake Jackson, and having a delightful fish dinner on the beach, I was off again, this time to Dallas, to visit my daughter, Deborah, and other family members.

Three generations of women:: My daughter Deborah with her daughter Shanna and me.

Having lived on the coast for 15 years during the ’50s, ‘60s and “70s, with parents living in Dallas, I didn’t need a map for the 300-mile journey, which would take me straight through the middle of downtown Houston during the morning rush hour. Even after I had moved away, I ended up still having friends and family on the Gulf Coast and family in Dallas, so it’s a drive I’ve made almost yearly since I left home at the age of 16.

In earlier years, the trip was made on Highway 75, which was under constant construction, and which was eventually eaten up by Interstate 45, just as the old Route 66 was eaten up by Interstate 40, which now winds its way between California and North Carolina.

In recent years, getting through Houston has always given me a sense of satisfaction that I could still make the drive while remaining cool and calm in the midst of multiple lanes, which oft times were full of idiotic drivers out to get me – as it was this particular morning.

Once on the north side of the huge metroplex, I breathed a sigh of relief, and stopped at a Flying J and its Denny’s for breakfast. Although I had promised myself when I first started the trip that I would write in my journal daily, this was the first time I had pulled it out since I had left Tucson. I tried to recapture all the events that had happened while I waited for the eggs Benedict I had ordered.

The breakfast was excellent, but soon I was back on the road heading to Dallas.

I was going to stay at my daughter’s, but my son Michael made an unexpected trip to visit his sister, and so I ended up staying at my granddaughter’s so everyone could have a comfortable bed. It all worked out well, and I was delighted to get to spend a bit of time with my youngest son as well as my oldest daughter, her husband Neal, and their two children, my granddaughter, Shanna, and my grandson, David.  We played board games and laughed a lot.

Shanna and her wife, Dawn, and I played numerous games of Frustration in the evenings, and the two held a book signing party for me at Sue Ellen’s, where I sold a few copies of Travels with Maggie to their friends.

The day before I left, I finally found a few minutes again to catch up on my journal. Sadly, when I couldn’t find it, I realized I had left it at the Denny’s in Houston, 250 miles in the opposite direction from where I was next headed.

It was a sad loss, and a logistics problem that I have not yet been able to solve.  Sometimes, even in the best of times, sh-ee-it happens!

Now available on Amazon

Bean Pat: Theodore Roosevelt National Park https://naturehasnoboss.com/2018/08/13/room-to-roam-2/?wref=pil  Enjoy the views.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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             “The Early bird gets the worm. The early worm … gets eaten.” – Norman Ralph Augustine

It was peaceful and quiet at the Matagorda County Bird Nature Center, where rare time spent with a son was even more important than the lovely scenery and the birds. — Photo by Pat Bean

 

A Day for the Birds

The greatest number of bird species ever reported in one U.S. county in a single day is 250.  The day was December 19, 2005, and the place was Matagorda County, Texas, according to Wikipedia.

This yellow-crowned night heron patiently posed for his portrait. — Photo by Pat Bean,

Knowing this bit of trivia, it was an easy decision when my son asked me where I wanted to go birding, which is how he and I bond when we have a rare day to be together. I chose the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center located in Bay City for more reasons than that, however. It wasn’t December. It was going to be a hot 100-degree plus July day, and I knew this bird sanctuary had a golf cart that birders could use to get around its 37 acres. And while summer birding in Texas isn’t exactly great, I suspected the center would still have some birds in residence.

Lewis picked me up early, and we birded until 10:30 when the heat got to me and I had to yell uncle.  We then did a drive through nearby San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, which is in both San Bernard and Brazoria counties.

Lewis posed for a photo to be texted to his wife, Karen, who wasn’t with us this day. She was in Niagara Falls, where Lewis plans to join her soon. — Photo by Pat Bean.

The day’s final bird total was well below the 100 birds Lewis and I got on an April birding day on the Texas Gulf Coast a few years back, which began on the beach in Quintana, and included a visit to the San Bernard refuges. But we still had a few extraordinary sightings,

There were a couple of green herons, always one my favorite birds; a close overhead flyover of a Cooper’s hawk; a brilliant summer tanager, which was one of the birds Lewis and I saw on our first bird outing together at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge in 2002 when Lewis caught my birding addiction; and a great photo-op of a yellow-crowned night heron.

We ended our adventure by having lunch at Dido’s, where a couple of hummingbirds entertained us as they vied for nectar feeders that sat in front of the large windows that overlooked the San Bernard River.

It was a great day. But as much as I loved the birding, the best part of the it was simply getting to spend time with my son Lewis.

Bean Pat: Writing Soul Mates https://smpauthors.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/waiting-to-be-prospected/  Some good ideas for those times when we struggle with writer’s block.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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“Family means putting your arms around each other and being there.” — Barbara Bush

Nana, posing for a picture with Savannah and Charlotte. Life was good.

Making Connections

After too brief a visit with family in San Antonio, and a promise to stop again on my way out of Texas, I hit the road for Texas’s Gulf Coast south of Houston. It was an easy, and familiar, 210-mile drive: Interstate 10 to Highway 36 to West Columbia, the home of my son D.C., his wife Cindi, who acts as my guardian angel when I am on the road, and their autistic daughter, Susan, who holds a special place in my heart.

One of my favorite things when I visit the Texas Gulf Coast are the moss-laden trees. I lived down there during Hurricane Carla in the 1960s, and one of the sad results that all the moss was blown away. — Photo by Pat Bean

Nearby lives his son, David, and the second of my three sons, Lewis, and their children (my grandchildren and great-grandchildren). Making and keeping connections with all these family members is important to me, especially since I usually only get to see them once a year.

The connections come easier with the adults, especially since I’ve found things to share with them – from watching Survivor with D.C (we’re both addicted to this TV reality show) to playing Settlers of Cataan with Cindi, to birding with Lewis.

But I hadn’t yet truly bonded with my two great-granddaughters, four-year-old Savannah and two-year-old Charlotte. Charlotte wasn’t even a year old when I had seen her last, and Savannah was shy with strangers, a good thing in my mind, and I let her maintain her comfortable distance.

This visit, however, Charlotte broke the ice. She climbed up on the couch beside me and we played “This Little Piggy …” She laughed and giggled and was free with her hugs, and since Savannah didn’t want to be left out, I got hugs from her too.

Life is good.

Bean Pat: A relaxing drive through the country  https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/lens-artists-photo-challenge-time-to-relax/ A peaceful kind of road trip.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Life is Good

Mountains are always calling to me. — Art by Pat Bean

The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” — Bill Bryson

Road Trip Ahead

One of the best parts of my days is sitting on my third-floor balcony with my morning cream-laced coffee and my thoughts. Often, they turn to gratefulness for the good life I have. Thus, it was this morning.

While I have to count the pennies carefully these days, at the still young (or so I would like to believe) age of 79, I have a nice place to live, children and grandchildren who love me, plenty of books to read, good friends, a dependable car, great horned owls in the giant ponderosa tree in view of my balcony, I’m not yet addle-brained (at least I think I’m not), a loving canine companion – and I’m beginning a road trip Thursday.

May I never take any of these fine things for granted.

Meanwhile, my plan is to tell you all about my road trip to visit family and attend a writer’s conference in Texas as it happens. Stay tuned.

Bean Pat: Frog Diva Thoughts https://frogdivathoughts.com/2018/07/04/scaffolding/#like-8189  Most, if not all of us, have survived some hard times in our life. This heartfelt blog reminded me of that, and made me even more grateful for the life I live now.

           Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her patbean@msn.com

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In a region of Texas some call the last great habitat, thorn forest intermingles with freshwater wetlands, coastal prairies, mudflats and beaches. Dense patches of thorny brush rise among unique wind-blown clay dunes called lomas.”  — US Fish and Wildlife Service

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge — US Fish and Wildlife photo

Birds Galore

            It was a warm November day in 2005 when I visited South Texas’ Laguna Atascosta National Wildlife Refuge, whose name loosely translates to boggy lake. My own description of the refuge, recorded in my journal, coincides somewhat with the official version. I wrote: “Laguna Atascosta is one big briar patch – a haven of thorns. It seemed as if every plant was armed.  Scattered purple and orange wildflowers sat among sage, yucca, and palm trees with shaggy trunks.”

A pair of aplomado falcons. — US Fish and Wildlife photo

Along with my descriptions of the landscape was a list of the birds I was seeing: osprey, white-fronted goose, great egret, great blue heron, white-tailed kite, long-billed curlew, loggerhead shrike, kestrel, sandhill crane, white-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, white pelican, Harris hawk, red-shouldered hawk – just to name a few. Half of the birds found in North America rest, feed, migrate through or nest on this landscape, the leader of our small birding group told us as we watched lesser and greater yellowlegs feeding in some shallow water.

It was easy to tell which was which of the two, not an easy task when looking at only one of the species, I thought, as I added dunlin, marbled godwit, black-bellied plover, northern harrier, gull-billed tern, black-necked stilt and willet to my bird list, which kept getting longer – and kept looking for the No. 1 bird on my priority list.

But as the day wore on, I became more and more doubtful I would see an aplomado falcon, a globally abundant species but rare in North America. Once widespread throughout the American Southwest, only two remaining pairs of aplomado falcons were known to exist in the states in the 1940s and ‘50s, most likely because of over harvesting of eggs, according to US Fish and Wildlife.

Aplomado falcon. — Wikimedia photo

Today, the aplomado falcon has made a comeback in South Texas due to an aggressive recovery program involving captive breeding and re-introduction efforts. As of 2004, more than 900 falcons had been released in the Rio Grande Valley, with 25 nesting pairs documented in 2006.

Finally, thankfully, I got to see one of those pairs. Our group finally identified one sitting regally on a yucca. The aplomado falcon was a good distance away, but my long-lens telescope brought it up close for a detailed view. As I watched the falcon, which was a new life bird for me, I noted a second one sitting a bit lower on the plant. What a delightful day for us birders.

But it wasn’t over. Before we headed back to our Harlingen Hotel, which was the base for those attending the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, I added lesser scaup, crested caracara, belted kingfisher and a dozen or so more birds to my day’s list.

Laguna Atascosa may mostly be a briar patch, but I feel like Br’er Rabbit, who despite his words, would have been quite happy to be tossed back into that thorny thicket.

Bean Pat: Bay of Fundy https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/the-bay-of-fundy/#like-38633 One of my favorite blogs because I usually learn something new, especially how to identify wildflowers.

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her patbean@msn.com

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