Tuesday, January 26, 2016

day trip, play trip!

This year I want to use free time to explore and go on even more adventures! I of course will still spend the occasional day watching Netflix or playing video games (aka what I did today, Undertale is SO FUN!), but the other day both my roommate and I were off AT THE SAME TIME! This is a rarity for anyone who works in the animal field since we have to take care of the creatures on the weekend. So both Drea and I decided to use this mutual Saturday to visit the town of Victoria.

Victoria is about 1.5 hours away from where we live, so it was the perfect day trip. Though Victoria doesn't have much, it does have a zoo, which was our main target. One of my friends used to work there, so we were scheduled to meet up with one of the senior keepers to see behind the scenes!

But first, BREAKFAST! We even woke up semi-early and got out of the house "on-time". Whataburger was acquired (honey-chicken biscuit=YUM) and we were off on our trip to Victoria. We listened to 90s alternative rock and gushed about how much we loved Mariska Hargitay as a storm rolled in from the north. Soon there was a torrential downpour and lightning streaking across the sky.

Drea tentatively wondered if the zoo would even be open in this kind of weather as the window wipers struggled in overdrive to clear the windshield of the buckets of rain assaulting it. I assured her that the zoo would most definitely be open; zoos don't close unless the earth has split open or a volcano has erupted nearby. We arrived at the zoo in one piece and ran inside beneath Drea's umbrella. There were luckily umbrellas that could be borrowed up front, so even though we did get DRENCHED we at least didn't end up looking like we went swimming in a local pond. We met up with Colton, the animal care manager, and he showed us every single indoor space he could think of since the deluge continued outside. First off we sauntered into their back office area, which was important BECAUSE there was a baby javelina in there. A BABY. JAVELINA.

We stroked her straw-like fur and tickled her pink snout and she snuffed at us before wandering around the back area, nipping at peoples' shoes. There was also an Eastern Screech Owl perched on a windowsill, surveying us with slanted eyes as his trainer prepped diets.

Next up was the education classroom, where we met a little groundhog ambassador that loved having his cheeks scratched.

And then we met the giant fuzzy BEASTS that guard the zoo at night.

They are a pair of Great Pyrenees that chase away raccoons at night! Apparently the male has a crush on the female Red Wolf, and vice-versa. Ah, love.

At this point, we decided to brave the downpour to walk around the zoo. We stood outside the tiger's exhibit and discussed the different animal care aspects of our facilities, attempting to wait for the rain to let up. It didn't. My shoe choice of flip flops was both genius and idiotic as I slogged through puddles, though did not have to worry about wet feet after the rain did eventually fizzle out. We visited the male jaguar and the two female lionesses, who were HUGE. I work with a 30 lb "big cat" who doesn't hold a candle to their size and intimidation factor. One of the females literally glared at me the entire time Colton talked to us; he even pointed it out and said, "Oooh she is giving you evil eyes." After we walked away, they stalked out from under their previous shelter to play in the rain, flicking droplets from their fur and yawning to display their giant canines. Lions are amazing, but not the animal I necessarily need to work with at any point in my life. Nearby their exhibit was an open air aviary with a couple of different birds, so we parted the heavy chains hanging from the ceiling to dissuade avian escape to enter.

Andrea was very into the fancy fantail pigeons cooing in the eaves above us and I was obsessed with this single scarlet ibis. As rainwater dripped down from the ivy covering the ceiling, I acted like a diva and asked Colton to hold an umbrella over me as I took shots of the hot pink bird.

We continued our tour of the zoo to find the coyote exhibit. There were two of them in a large yard, a male and female, who immediately displayed greeting behaviors as we walked up. Their tails wagged desperately and they trotted over to the fence to see Colton. He allowed us past the outer barrier so we could say hi.

Despite my absolute adoration for birds, I started off as a canine person who was obsessed with wolves and coyotes. I love their earthy, desert coloring and their wild eyes, so it was awesome to see them up close; we even got to pet them through the fence. I will admit, my heart stopped when Andrea put her hand up for the female to "sniff" in the same fashion one would with a dog. Colton immediately laughed nervously and stated that they were not dogs and the female had actually bitten our co-worker's hand when he worked there. Luckily, both coyotes were quite friendly and no blood was spilt. Next door to the coyotes were the red wolves, who were infinitely more feral than the coyotes. Their SSP protocol states that they are to have no human interaction to maintain their wildness, so we watched them from a distance for awhile before heading to the "deer yard" aka the hoof stock and other random animals yard. We met Lynard and Skynard.

And these sweethearts. I may or may not be obsessed with deer because they are magical forest sprites.

You can see how soaked we got from the storm, which had luckily dissolved. Also that goose was a-creepin'

Colton gave us craisins to feed to them, which was so sweet. Their tongues are soft and dog-like and they nuzzled into my hands, wanting chin scratches. Ginger was the loveliest of all, she would not leave my side. There were also adult javelinas in the yard rolling around in the massive lake-like puddles that had resulted from the thunderstorm. One of them kept following another deer, Cherry, around the yard and would give her kisses. It was one of the most adorable things I had ever seen. Then Cherry would paw at her face and the javelina would gently chew on her back leg; it was a strange relationship.

It was hard to pull me away from the hoofstock yard, considering how in love I was with the deer, but Colton told us we could do a primate encounter if we wanted. The obvious answer was YES! We were able to go in with the lemurs on golden-handed tamarins.

This was Diaz, he was a little feisty ball of energy. We became "those people" who just loose their minds at the sight of a cute little animal and want ALL THE PICTURES. We got pictures of him on our shoulders, our hands, on his perch…unfortunately the lighting was horrendous since it was noon and the sun was directly overhead so that equals washed out photos. But at that point in time, all you can do is take photos for the memories and try to edit the shit out of them in Photoshop.

We were also able to go in with the ruffed-face lemur, Bright Eyes, who sat on our shoulders and munched on craisins while we nuzzled into his soft fur. He was like a living scarf.

After our primate encounter, we watched a free-contact otter session with Colton. Free-contact with otters is something that a lot of facilities don't do anymore, though the aquarium is constantly trying to make it a goal to create a program that would allow it, so it was definitely a cool thing to see. They know target behaviors to both the hand and a pole, a touch behavior that allows the trainer to pet them (for de-sense purposes), a wall behavior that has the otter place its paws up on the wall to station for certain medical procedures, and a water behavior that has the otter jump in the water, where he or she gets rewarded. I didn't get any photos of this because the glass was quite cloudy, but it was definitely a fun session to watch.

We said our goodbyes to Colton at that point and wandered around the rest of the zoo ourselves.

On the way out of the zoo, we fed some corn to the peacocks and peahens as a grand finale to our excellent zoo trip!

We were starving at this point, so we headed farther into the park to go to the Pumphouse. I was cold at first, so I asked if we could sit inside. However, we soon realized that was a foolish idea because it was actually pretty much the most beautiful day outside with plenty of warming sun, and the patio was right over the Guadalupe river. It was the perfect place to sit and eat a burger.

There were a ton of turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks floating on a thermal above our heads as we ate our meal and lounged sleepily in the sun. I cannot describe how perfect it was. Delicious food, beautiful scenery, warm sun, and good friends. It was amazing.

On the way out of the Pumphouse, we walked to the edge of the river to dip our feet and survey the muddy water up close, but we immediately found that the platform we were standing on was overrun by baby spiders, so we left pretty quickly.

We spent the rest of our time in Victoria driving around and exploring. We found an AWESOME abandoned bank with the most amazing graffiti on it, but I'm saving those photos for another post because they are just so cool.

We drove home after our explorations and stopped for a beer at one of our favorite pizza places before pajamas and SVU.

It was literally the perfect day ♥

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016 in da house!

Oh is it 3/4 of the way through January already? I didn't notice. …

Remnants of NYE the first day of 2015, in Madrid

Another year has come and gone! 2015 started out rough, and there were definitely some rocky bits throughout, but overall it was a good year. Last year I spent New Year's Eve in Spain, ringing in the new year with my family and counting down to midnight in Puerta del Sol with thousands of other people before heading out to clubs with my brother. This year I organized a bar crawl/scavenger hunt for my friends in downtown Corpus Christi where we successfully got a stranger to buy us all Whataburger at the end of a drunken journey from bar to bar. My life is definitely not uninteresting, I'll tell you that for free!


wrecked my car :(
bought a new (to me) car all by myself, haggled to death with loans involved (my very first). I named him Unicorn
started my 365 project
trained some cute creatures and took a bunch of pictures


went to the IAATE conference! It was AMAZING; I got to reunite with ACNW peeps, make new connections, learn a TON, and party HARDY (they go HAM at conferences)
locked my keys in my car for the FIRST TIME EVER and caused utmost tragedy. When I do something, I go big (no matter what it is, apparently)
went hawking with Keith and got to see his peregrine go after some ducks; we also saw a gyr and a merlin
Maeby laid her first egg
discovered my love for succulents and cacti


started getting into embroidery
went to the St. Patties Day block party
Cleo came to visit and it was SO FUN! We did all the whimsical things: embroidered on the beach, ate rice bowls on the beach, went camping on the beach…notice a theme?
went beach camping for the first time
saw a baby parrot
Wendell left us to go make tons of baby tamanduas at his new facility
celebrated my one year anniversary at the aquarium


spent Easter playing Pokemon Snap
visited Utah for my Opa's retirement party! I love my family
went to San Antonio with Erin
the devastating fish kill occurred, almost 80% of the collection perished due to a mixup from a chemical company. It was horrific


petsat for Andie and trained her rat
we made a team for the new annual mini-golf fundraiser and won best-dressed
made a Texas scrapbook to remind me of all the great times I've had in Texas
introduced new segments that I helped train into the show
saw Lauren from REGI! We met up at Fuzzy's and ate queso
had an EXTREME grackle problem where they were constantly mobbing our hawks


got a new golden eagle
went to the Spazmatics, so fun!
found baby possums in Sonora's heat box and it was MAGICAL
went to an epic birthday party for the five people who have the same birthday in the animal care department
MY MAM VISITED! We had so much fun!
visited Austin for the first time - fell in LOVE
watched the FIFA world cup final - go USA
went dancing


got strep throat, ugh WHY summer illness??
went to Austin again, this time with Elise!
visited Hamilton Pools, which has been on my wishlist for AWHILE!
had a going away party for Elise at the beach
worked the 4th of July and then went out to some bars I had never been to before
moved into an apartment with Drea
enjoyed the new beautiful bayside pool at the new apartment
carried 100+ lb furniture up 3 flights of stairs, it was HELL


went to Kendra's bridal shower
had an awesome dinosaur birthday photoshoot
we lost Coco :( So hard. Be in peace, handsome boy. We will always love you
still had a great 25th birthday complete with a Jurassic Park/dinosaur themed party
visited Austin for a 3rd time to float the river
started preparing for Burning Man!


got a new BAEA named Sam that I was lead trainer for!
went to BURNING MAN! Literally one of the most amazing times of my life
traveled to Utah after the Man for Kristen's wedding
had a (very early) pumpkin carving party
got BB CHICKS for our show!
Andie got a baby African Grey! She and Geoff surprised me by asking if I wanted to see photos of Andie's wedding dress and instead they had the baby grey (named Echo) in the office. I love him


almost participated in a Flash Mob
went to the first annual Surftoberfest, it was super fun!
had bonfires on the beach
got to go aboard and tour the Ocearch vessel
hosted a Nightmare Before Christmas viewing party
participated in Big Day again, our team got 76 species despite the pouring rain
Megan visited me! I was SO HAPPY, I haven't seen my BFFL in 2 years! We sailed at sunset, went dancing, made Halloween costumes, toured the aquarium, and stayed up till 2 AM each night talking
went to an EPIC HALLOWEEN PARTY! Drea and I were both killer unicorns and Megan was Lana from Archer!


Sean had a beer he made on tap at a local brewery so we all went to taste it
Lisa visited! We went to the aquarium, played Mario Kart, ate funeral potatoes, and went out one night so I could show her a Texas bar
had our annual Friendsgiving at Kyle's house; we had TWO turkeys, played Cards Against Humanity, and picked fruit in his backyard beneath a full moon
experienced some hard emotional times; I haven't had to deal with something like this in a long while. I'm still trying to deal with it
took lots of pictures of us at work
Sam, my beautiful eagle, died in a freak accident. Rest in Peace, Sammy. You were becoming such a good eagle


practiced slow shutter speed photos
started having weekly Star Wars parties in preparation for the new Star Wars
DAD VISITED! We went on photography adventures and headed to Port A for some birding
Laura found a Christmas tortoise! She was found on Candy Cane Lane, and now all 55 lbs of her lives in Kyle's backyard
visited Candy Cane Lane with Chunk and Laura to see all the lights!
made sure I had a great Christmas eve/Christmas despite being on my own. Made homemade mac 'n cheese, listened to my Chrimbo playlist, watched my favorite movies, and indulged in peach bellinis
had a good Friendmas where I got bananas as a white elephant gift, played lots of games, drank Shiner Cheer, and tried to play Extreme Spoons in the park at 9:00 PM
organized a fantastic bar crawl/scavenger hunt for New Year's Eve

So laying it all out before me, I see the good and the bad of this year. What was bad turned out pretty bad, but there was always something golden and glittery there, too. It helps to maintain that positive attitude I have had instilled in my since my Minnesota days, PMA! Towards the end of the year it became clear that I was trying to gain happiness through other people, waiting for them to say the right things that would make me feel validated or calm. I need to be able to provide that for myself. So this year, the name of the game is SELF CONFIDENCE. I started to try loving myself last year and I only halfway succeeded, so this year that's what I'm about. I need to treat myself better: think lovely thoughts about myself, dress myself lovingly, take care of my skin and my body, give it wholesome, healing, nutritious food. I will not get caught up in the weight loss fads of the new year, I want this to be a lifestyle change that will help me feel good about myself. As Demi Lovato says, "what's wrong with being confident?"

I have to start out the new year with a good song!

Here's to 2015 - you were filled with lots of tears, laughter, sunrises, hazy golden light on the road, singing at the top of my lungs, heartbreak, ocean water, friendships, and fantastic memories. 2016, I hope you are ten times better.


I have done yearly wrap-ups in this format for the past couple of years here, here, and here.