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  • I’ve got photos and stories to write up, but in the meantime I processed the videos and put them into one giant video (18 minutes!) for y’all to enjoy. Lots of cute toddler talk!

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    Forest is getting better as talking now, speaking short sentences and saying adorable words and phrases. The way he now says yes, with a little grin, makes me want to nibble his little cheekies as he cackles away. Succinctly saying yes instead of no when he was meaning yes has become more common over the last six weeks. When he says no he usually means no these days. And he will tell you “Don’t want!” if he really doesn’t want!

    But the sweetest is when he says Momma to me and in particular when he starts picking flowers from the yard and bringing them to me. Here Momma as he hands me oxalis, crow poison, and Japanese hawkweed flowers. I just want to bundle him up and tuck him in my pocket to keep there forever. He also likes to say Eat it Momma as he holds out a dripping spoonful of baked beans or a bitten off piece of chicken nugget, to which I reply back that he should eat it and I’m good with my own plate of food. Occasionally I’ll indulge him if it is something he hasn’t already eaten off of or made disgusting. Toddlers are messy eaters, you know?

    Soon he will be speaking even more clearly and the baby words will be gone. I’m doing my best to capture some of it on video so I can listen to it later.

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    I took about a month off from reading from the middle of December through the middle of January and it was great to disengage with books for that bit, but like always, I tend to come back around to take another gulp from some books. Since it has also been a season in which I’ve watched far more television than I usually do, I thought I’d talk about some shows and movies I’ve watched over the last few months.

    First, books!

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    Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher: With her untimely death back in December I kept seeing everyone talk about her books. I found this audio version, read by Carrie, to listen to over the course of a few days. I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks instead of podcasts recently and am finding it a refreshing change. This book is more about Carrie’s upbringing and relationship with her mother. A worthwhile listen if you want to know more about her life. I’m planning on getting around to her fiction books eventually.

    Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Another audiobook listen. All I’ve got to say is I hope this woman can manage to live out the rest of the Voldemort presidency. I knew very little about RBG before reading this book and it was a revelation to hear her story and the things she dealt with in regards to sexism in the workplace. We’ve come so far and yet not far enough. Put this book on your to-read list.

    This Life is In Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and A Family Undone by Melissa Coleman: I’ve had this book on my to-read list for years now and this was yet another audiobook, read by the author. I did not speed this one up because the author has a wonderful voice that is soothing. Honestly, she sounds southern but she’s from Maine—sooo…not sure on that one. If you are familiar with Eliot Coleman and his expertise around four season gardening then you will know that this is his daughter. The story is about the Coleman family in their beginning years in the back to the land movement in Maine in the 70s. The family was mentored and rented land from Helen and Scott Nearing, the go-to folks for the back to the landers back in the era. I was not left with a good taste about the Nearings after reading this book. I knew some of that going into the story because of what I’d previously read in other articles about the BTTL movement but this book just highlighted it even further. I did give some serious side eye to the freedom a toddler was given to basically roam wherever, but I will just accept it was a different era.

    If you are interested in homesteading, gardening, memoir, or just like a good but heartbreaking story, this is worth reading.

    In the Middle Of

    The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett: I keep see Patchett time and time again as a revered author and so I finally gave one of her books a go. I’m listening to this one as an audiobook and am about 30% into it and LOVE it! Great story and writing. I’ll keep you posted.

    Difficult Women by Roxane Gay: This is a newly released book I am jumping on the bandwagon early for once! I’m not very far into it but the short stories I’ve read so far are captivating and well written.

    Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier: It’s garden and tomato season, need I say more??? Just started.

    The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: I’ve read this a couple of times before but it has been at least a decade since I’ve read it. I’m doing a book club for The Garden Path Podcast with Elizabeth sometime in late March or early April so I’m going to start this one soon.

    On Hold

    On Trails by Robert Moor: I am only about halfway through with this book but it is so, so good. If you are an outdoor enthusiast or hiker you will really enjoy this book as it is about—-trails! And not necessarily hiking trails, either, but animal trails and the author even goes into exploring to find out what were the very first trails. I started this in December and because I was in a lull with reading I had to renew it the max amount of times and I still didn’t finish before needing to return it to the library. I plan to pick it back up again soon so I can finish but based on what I’ve read I highly recommend it.

    Now on to TV!

    As for network tv, This Is Us, Timeless, and Big Bang Theory are what I’ve been watching steadily this year. I dropped the political thriller with Kiefer Sutherland because I was politics-ed out and it was too realistic. Timeless just had their season finale and dropped some major plot bombs yesterday—the thing is, from what I’ve seen, the show hasn’t been renewed for a second season. I hope it gets renewed because it is a show that has just enough intrigue but a lot of lighthearted comedic moments, too. This is Us has turned out to be a hit that I’ve loved more than expected because the characters are written with such layers. Also, Mandy Moore is awesome. And Big Bang Theory just keeps getting better as it ages, I think. I am curious what they are going to do with Koothrappali—is he closeted gay?? Just some weird stuff and innuendos being thrown around this season.

    Over on PBS the return of Sherlock in early January filled the gap where Downton Abbey had previously been. I thought I was going to have another gap to fill until we got to Call the Midwife in April but Victoria has filled that niche wonderfully. It ends here in a few weeks, though. Somehow I missed that Mercy Street had returned. I think it aired after Downton Abbey last year but this year it has been airing before Victoria and my DVR didn’t catch it to record. I will probably just catch up with it online instead.

    Over on Showtime, Homeland has started back and I was a little ‘meh’ on the season as it started. While I really like the actor Rupert Friend, I was surprised to see him back as Peter Quinn after that horrific situation he was in last season. I mean, if this was real life he would be dead. That said, Sunday’s episode finally catapulted the season into something watchable and now I’m intrigued again. Also, I think Dar Adal is a bad guy. Remember season 4????

    Netflix has been my go-to for when I’m looking to be lazy and I’ve come across a lot of good things there recently. If you haven’t binged The Crown yet, get on it! So much about a time period I’m not that familiar with. I never thought I could see Matt Smith as anything but The Doctor but he is a damn charming Prince Phillip. The OA is a series I started seeing a few people mentioning and honestly? I think it’s better than Stranger Things. It’s a show that kind of came out of nowhere and bam! it hits you upside the head. So. Many. Questions!

    A few movies on Netflix I’ve enjoyed have been Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Cobbler (cute movie with Adam Sandler, definitely different), A Royal Night Out for if you need more royalty after watching The Crown, The Fundamentals of Caring, Tallulah, and two documentaries My Beautiful Broken Brain and The White Helmets. I started 13th but haven’t finished it yet. I know I’ve watched some other movies but I can’t remember them right now. Oh, wait, The Switch with Jennifer Aniston.

    Got any books or movies to recommend to me?

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    The fig tree is putting on new leaves!

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    One of the pipevines has returned!

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    As have some of the ground orchids! Still waiting on the Nun’s orchid to see if it will be revived.

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    We will be flush with strawberries soon!

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    The flame acanthus are greening up.

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    Tropical milkweed sprouts! The monarchs will have food!

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    The deer really enjoy gladiolus shoots! They chomp, it regrows, they chomp again.

    I think it’s safe to say that spring is here. A string of 80-almost-90 degree days gave us a taste for what a few months down the line is going to be like. Having the weather that warm already was pleasant in the mornings but by afternoon it was edging towards uncomfortable. A few of my lunch hour gardening days had me teetering on the knowledge that it won’t be long before I’ll be back to needing to shower before returning to work after those garden sessions.

    With Chris gone the last few weeks I haven’t gotten to finish mulching the flower beds but I should be able to get that done this weekend. The flower beds are weeded—well, as much as I can get without being too nitpicky. I’ll have to stay on top of Virginia creeper, pine, and elm seedlings that sow themselves in waves through the next two months. Right now the heavy seedling situation is with the Virginia creeper and I’m seeing a few pines here and there.

    I’m thrilled with what has been showing its face, the plants that have returned from the roots after our hard freeze last month. I thought I’d lost the tropical milkweed but even the little sprouts that had started germinating back in December have returned! The one oddity so far has been our large clump of pink brugmansia. Maybe I need to dig through my photo archives to see when they started returning in previous years—well, last year they barely died back, I only clipped them down to around chest height—but they have not started re-sprouting. This is odd because the variegated brug and a white brug have already send shoots up as has the randomly planted pink brug that is down near the pond. I’ll have to give it more time.

    There are still plenty of chores to get on top of. It’s time to look back at the vegetable garden and the weeds there as well as think about getting tomatoes planted and maybe even squash. More mulch needs to be laid in the pathways that haven’t had mulch yet and a few beds need mulch, too.

    I started some flower seeds last weekend and re-potted some tomato seedlings but I need to do some more seed sowing this weekend and next week. Lots of little garden chores here and there but I’m making myself stop and enjoy the garden sometimes and attempt not to do chores on occasion. You know, stop and smell the roses!

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    Patrice recently wrote an update about her book proposal process and rejections for her memoir of the hike she and Justin did on the Te Araroa trail two years ago. We have been chatting via email off an on over the last year about book writing and proposals, commiserating in the the frustration of the book publishing process. It’s been nice to have someone to share the ups and downs of all of this, though so far for both of us it has been mostly a ‘down’ experience! Patrice’s post spurred me to write something about my own experiences thus far so I thought I’d share them with you now.

    So, refresher for anyone new to my blog. In 2011 Chris and I thru-hiked the Florida Trail after we thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2010. Sometime later that year I started to write a book about the hike and I finally finished it in early 2014. Then I had Forest later in 2014 and I didn’t get around to doing anything else with the book other than sporadic editing until early last year, in 2016. I briefly mentioned last spring that I was putting together book proposals but I haven’t done much writing here about what has gone on with it in the last year.

    The short answer is there’s absolutely nothing going on with it right now and the long answer is much more detailed than that!

    For those who are unfamiliar with the publishing world, and it isn’t like I’m all that familiar with it—I only know this small portion I’ve been dealing with, getting a book published is a difficult process. Back in 2002-2003, after we moved to Florida, I began getting interested in taking writing seriously. I was working in a microbiology lab and one of my coworkers liked to write poems and so we both talked about writing often. I tried to sign up for an adult education writing course at the local community college in Melbourne, Fl but the class ended up canceled before it began because not enough people had signed up. In all of my talks with my friend/coworker she gifted me a subscription to The Writer magazine so I came to understand some of the process of query letters and such when submitting a manuscript. Later on, writing got swapped around for photography and other creative endeavors for a long time so the subscription lapsed, and other than blogging I didn’t do much writing for a long time.

    When I started writing my Florida Trail book I knew that it was going to be a fairly niche book market but I still wanted to write it anyway. As it came time to settle in to write query letters I realized that submitting non-fiction books was a little different than fiction books in that I needed to also write a book proposal. Typically non-fiction is pitched to publishers or agents before it is written, in the form of a book proposal. Memoir is more aligned like fiction in that you should have your book completed, or close to it, before submitting a query and proposal. So, say you want to create some kind of cook book or craft book, you put together this giant proposal, anywhere from 40-100 pages in itself, with information that includes not only the synopsis, but an outline of the chapters, target audience, similar books on the market, your marketing platform (because in this day and age you are the marketer), sample chapters, how you envision the book to look, and even a bio or resume. This is the basic information but it can vary depending on publisher.

    Needless to say my eyes were opened to what was needed and it took me a good month to get everything in order and start formulating a proposal. The good thing was my book was written so I wasn’t just fleshing some idea out; however it was still a headache to research everything that went into it and then try to decipher how I should space paragraphs and making sure I paginate everything and put a header in here or a footer in there.

    As for determining publishers, I began generating a list of who accepted submissions straight from the author and searching for book publishers who specialized in the outdoors. Amazon was helpful with this as was just pulling off outdoors books from my bookshelf and seeing who published them, and then looking the company up to find out if they accepted submissions from authors or if they only took submissions from agents. I had about 10 publishers last spring that I wanted to submit to, those who were small-to-mid sized publishing houses that would fit my book’s platform and began from there. Once I had one proposal formatted I began manipulating it and tailoring it for other publishers.

    Ideally I thought that the two publishers in Florida I was submitting to, University Press of Florida and Pineapple Press, would be my best bet. And really, they probably would have been, particularly UPF, but I received rejections from both fairly quickly. The former had already published a book on the Florida Trail by another author and didn’t want to have two Florida Trail memoirs on their book list and the latter was shrinking how many books they published each year and it my book didn’t quite fit their current publishing themes. Bummer.

    And then I’d slowly get a few more rejections here and there. For the most part all of those submissions last spring were via email with a few sent via the postal service. And generally all of the publishers I submitted to said it could take 2-6 months to get a response. Other than about three, I’ve heard from all of the ones I originally submitted to. However, it is pretty easy to assume that I won’t be hearing from the others after this long. Another bummer.

    So, I had given it about six months and started resubmitting once again back in late October. I found another 10 or so publishers to submit to and began working my way through that list. This time I tried to find more regional publishers because the outdoor publisher list that had been most promising had been exhausted already. I was also looking for more university presses, including my alma mater. I heard back from a few publishers within days with rejections and got a slight bump in excitement when one university press responded that everything looked good and he’d circulate it around the office and I’d hear back in a few weeks. That was around early November and then the holidays happened. I never heard back from him and I sent a follow up email a few weeks ago but again, no response. So. I’m just patiently waiting now.

    Right now I’m unsure of where the book will end up. It’s a wait-and-see game with writing and getting a book published the traditional way. I could continue to find small publishers to submit to or branch out and try working with an agent. I’m worried about both of those aspects because some of the smaller publishers seems so small that I wonder how much different it would be to have them publish it versus me just self publishing—is there much of a difference? And with an agent, if this isn’t going to be submitted to a reasonably sized publishing house with a national marketing audience, how much money am I going to be losing to the agent compared to just submitting it on my own? I mean, yeah, it would be awesome if some imprint of Random House or HarperCollins picks up the book but I’m not deluding myself here. If you have experience with very small publishing houses and/or agents, please let me know what your opinions are on this.

    In all, I’ve submitted to 19 different publishers and have had 8 formal rejections. However, in talking with Patrice I can probably scratch off another four or five based on her submissions to those same publishers I haven’t heard from—she received rejections based on the fact some aren’t publishing memoir right now or the publishing house merged and there was another reason. In reality, I’m now only waiting to hear from just a few publishers.

    My next steps are maybe to research other publishers to submit to once again here in a few weeks or just bide my time for a little while longer and wait for a response from the last round of submissions. I’m crossing my fingers I will hear from the two university presses I submitted to back in early November. But in all honesty? I’ll probably be looking into self publishing through Amazon later this summer. This isn’t a bad thing—I just wasn’t hoping to go that route. There are quite a bit of hiking memoirs on Amazon and a ton of other books in different genres being self published there. It will just be another learning curve for me that I hadn’t wanted to wade into quite yet. It’s almost time to get my feet wet, though.

    And that’s where I’m at with my book. In all of that I have also started writing another book (another non-fiction) and have ideas for two fiction books that I might start next year. Yes, the writing bug has hit me.

    If you have any advice or connections (!!!) I’m open for suggestions.

    Action items for this week:
    While there are a ton of items that I care about and I’m concerned about everything from civil rights to education, right now I feel like my focus has to be on the environment and public lands. It isn’t that I’m not paying attention to everything else but this is what I can manage to put my energy to and where I feel like I have the most knowledge and vocal strength.

    So.

    First up: The March for Science happening on Earth Day, April 22nd. Satellite marches are all over the country, find one near you!

    Second: Listen to this episode of SheExplores with Katie Boué as she talks about being an advocate for the outdoors.

    Third: Modern Hiker has put together a list of anti-environment and public land legislation being proposed right now. I sent off post cards last week about HR 621 and 622 to my reps and then saw Chaffetz pulled 621—but I don’t think I trust him or that it would not be revived at a later date. I need to get postcard stamps because I feel like I’ll just be sending them off weekly from here on out. I’m pretty sure Cruz and Cornyn will not give a rats ass about them but maybe my House rep will. I don’t see his name in the news too often. Also, a lot of #*%@ went down at the state capitol this week and I’ve got to find some time to get familiar with what’s going on there and get on top of my local reps.

    Fourth: Scream into the oblivion? I guess I will channel my anger into digging in the dirt this weekend.

    What action items are you working on?

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    Once Chris was off work last Saturday he met Forest and me at the hotel in Clute and we drove down to Bryan Beach located in the tiny beach hamlet of Quintana. To get there we drove through Freeport and past a maze of various chemical plants, common in this region. Chris commented on a large fenced parking lot full of new car—he’d seen the cars being offloaded from a cargo ship that he’d sent me a video of when it cruised by him (as he was fishing on the jetties) as it headed for the port.

    It was not a great day for being on the beach; clouds and a strong north wind made it rather blustery. The three of us meandered along the shore as we looked for shells and it took Forest no time at all to figure out that he could stash shells in his jacket pockets once Chris showed him how. The trip was kept short and when it was time to go Forest cried “My beach!” and threw a small tantrum. Chris and I looked at each other and were sad he was upset but glad that he liked the beach enough to be upset he had to leave. I think we’re going to have to strive to get down here more this year, especially in the summer.

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    Me: Aww, I’ll take a photo of Forest looking at the turtle. *Looks through camera* ahhhhhh, nooo, don’t touch the turtle! Kids are fast.

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    The eel was ‘spaghetti’ according to Forest!

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    Chris has been working in the Freeport area over the last week so last weekend Forest and I went down to visit him. My original plans were to go down on Friday night but I came down with some kind of stomach bug so the trip was delayed until Saturday morning. It has been several years since I went down to that area, I once went to the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory with Keely and went and saw the San Bernard Oak a different time. I made a list of various places that I could take Forest while we were waiting for Chris to get off work but due to the stomach bug we only made it to Sea Center Texas.

    The center is a Texas Parks and Wildlife operated aquarium and education building with fish hatcheries and a boardwalk and wetland out back. The building is small but the admission is free so it was all well worth the hour of entertainment for Forest, and we walked ’round and ’round and ’round the exhibits. There’s a touch tank, too, with hermit crabs, blue crabs, anemones, and small fish. Outside, the weather was rather dismal with clouds and a chilly wind, so we kept our trip down the boardwalk fairly quick. There were a few ducks and a snowy egret but many other birds. The front part of the wetland area is freshwater and the back part transitions to salt marsh with several clumps of black mangroves along the boardwalk.

    Forest had never seen those huge metal monocular lenses that are often on boardwalks for observing birds so I had to hold him up to the one they had and try to get him to shut one eye and look through. I’m not quite sure he got it but he had a lot of fun with me holding him up and I had to repeat the task a few times before I managed to convince him to move along.

    For a free exhibit (donations accepted! and there’s a gift shop, too!) it was a great stop for entertaining a kid for a little while and definitely something worthwhile if you are in the Lake Jackson/Freeport area.

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