Growing Up (Older) and Nerdy Hobbies

We finished up the very end of April, which we renamed 'moving month', by going on an adventure.

It was beyond time to get out of the house, and do something besides unpack boxes or hang stuff on walls.

Cub Sweetheart is looking for a place to fish, within an hour or so's drive from us, where he can put in his little pontoon boat and not be whipped from one side of the lake to the other. Yesterday we drove for about an hour to Cleburne State Park.

I realize bird watching is about the nerdiest hobby ever in the history of the world. Possibly the only less cool hobby would be stamp collecting? I'm actually afraid of pet birds (all that sporadic flying around!!!) but for some reason, along about 1988, wild birds started to interest me.

Interest me to the point of watching birds, feeding birds, and keeping track at a very lazy level, of birds I'd spotted. Back then our kids were 12, 7 and 5 and I remember us sitting at the kitchen table, jotting in the bird book they'd given me for Mother's Day, which birds we'd spot at the feeder, adding to our growing list.

Not interesting me to the level of learning to recognize or make bird calls. First of all, I can't even whistle so me making bird calls is never going to happen, and second, even I am not so nerdy as to crouch in the bulrushes alongside a lake and call to birds. I did try, once upon a time, to learn to make a hawk call, and the entire family still laughs at me because it sounds more like a screeching crow or wounded something. It's still good for a family laugh, and there's something to be said for that.

Once in awhile I find myself wondering, 'when did I start to like broccoli? or Brussel sprouts? or dijon mustard or anything else that kids absolutely won't eat. And I find myself thinking, if someone would have told me when I was 15, that someday I'd enjoy nerdy hobbies, like studying all the things I didn't pay attention to in school, or how to organize a pantry or knitting or working in the yard, or watching birds, I would never have believed them. What 15 year old girl aspires to any of that?

But indeed we grow up, i.e. older, and we change. We begin to enjoy things like watching birds, even if it feels like something only our suspender-clad grandfather would do.

So when CS asked me if I wanted to go along for the ride, I promptly said yes, grabbed the Bonine (non-drowsy version of Dramamine), my bird charts and off we went. We'd planned to pack a picnic lunch but Texas had decided to be ridiculously windy and our sandwiches would have had a hard time even staying on the table. The potato chips would likely have been whipped up into the air, and rained down like salty manna. So we ate before we left. Not so celebratory but practical.

We loaded Miss Lily into the car with our maps, bird charts, and bottles of water. Lily is a sensitive little thing, and I don't know if her separation anxiety level is just par for the course for a Shih Tzu or it's the trauma from having to be readopted by us, but if we put her in the car, she starts trembling so hard her entire 8 lb body shakes. All for the fear that we're going to take her to the groomer or kennel and leave her for an uncertain amount of time, possibly never to return. We're trying to desensitize her by taking her along on happy adventures, where she doesn't get left behind.

Almost immediately after we got off the highway and hit the two-lane I saw scissor tailed fly catchers swooping through the air, their tail feathers swishing back and forth. There's something so amazing about watching them, these foot long birds with the weirdo tail feathers.

After all my planning, when we got to the park, it was so windy that I didn't even bother to grab my bird chart or binoculars or good camera. Rather I just grabbed Lily's leash, and we lazily walked the paths alongside the lake, trying to avoid the poison ivy that is so prolific it should be Texas's state something. The day's whipping wind told me to just meander and enjoy.

Lily was more than happy to sniff all the new smells, consider chasing squirrels who'd run up the tree trunks and look down at her, chattering their taunts of 'come and get me.' We took a look at the lake, went inside a few new cabins that have been converted to have walls, AC (not a luxury in Texas but rather a necessity - nobody in their right mind would camp in a tent in August if they could be in a little building with AC because it would feel like being roasted alive with dirty children running amuck.) We found a small beach, big enough for buckets and shovels and wading a bit, shower houses to get rid of the sand afterwards, and lovely picnic spots for day use that included places to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. All noted for future reference.

But no birds. I did see a couple of cardinals, but not the roadrunners or cranes or anything else that is supposed to be prolific in the park.  Maybe they were all clinging to tree branches, hanging on for dear life while the wind whipped about. Another day perhaps. We're planning to load up our two Texas Littles and take them there, for at least a trial run of a day's outing. If that's successful we might be able to take them for an overnight. I don't think they've camped outdoors yet, so it would be high adventure for them, and possibly for us too!

Even without the scissor tailed fly catchers, road runners, or cranes alongside the shore of the lake.

But I'll still point them out, and maybe they can try to learn to make some bird sounds. 


I had a shin tzu who was also anxious and shook uncontrollably whenever he was taken out of the house. He ended up,having Cushing syndrome which if I recall correctly is an adrenal gland disorder. I found out too lat eto be of any help for him but it might be worthy of a conversation with your vet. They are such a sweet breed and I am hoping to get another one someday. Right now we have our handds full with a lab and Bassett.
Bev said…
SO kind of you to take time to let me know this. Maybe, maybe that's what's going on with her? I'll definitely talk to our vet the next time we see them. You are right, they are the most precious of breeds, the only thing they ask to be completely content is to be by your side constantly.
Kelly said…
We found a mobile groomer who comes to our home and it has changed our sweet puppies lives! They are calm and content from beginning to end, and now look beautiful without any trauma. We also have someone come to our house when we travel- I was told early on with my first shih tzu they just cannot do kennels. It costs more, but is worth it, since the dog walker also grabs the mail and keeps the house "visited". And it isn't a huge cost difference:-) They are such precious little animals- I am sure taking her for fun trips will help ease her fears! And gives you company!

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