Last week, a girl at work asked a group of us what our goals were for 2017. I told her a couple of short term work-type goals, but I didn’t get into my true goals of the year, since it wasn’t seemly for me to start dominating the conversation by listing my hobby goals. However, I did spend a little bit of time yesterday comparing my goals for 2016 against reality, and considering what my goals for 2017 should be.
These were my goals for last year: to increase my bird count (seen birds for the year) over previous years, with the goal to get to 200 species seen, to get to my 4000th geocache find, to spend more time hiking and camping with my friend, and to work on getting healthier. I did get past my 4000th find (now at 4089). The last two didn’t really happen; my friend and I did not go camping or hiking together after that first weekend of the year, and I am not necessarily more healthy. Jason and I did go hiking and camping (some, not a lot), but my friend’s schedule never joined up with ours.
I decided to do the year end bird count yesterday. I added up the birds I found by comparing notes in my journal against a digital ABA list to count. I did get to a higher bird count than the past couple of years, with 144 birds seen. Suddenly, though, I was struck with the urge to go out and find those last 56 to get to my goal of 200 for the year.
I made a list of what species I was missing that I was likely to find, given the area, and started making some kind of little mini-field guide for my family to help me find them. Based on the list, it seemed that the most likely place for us to maximize the count would be Paul Rushing Park, in the Katy Prairie. While I was working on this, my husband arranged for my oldest son to do a pressure washing job, which we needed to drive him to, that was sort of on the way out there.
Well, the toddler fell asleep in the car on the way out there, so by the time we got to the park, no one wanted to deal with waking him up. Plus, it was the middle of the afternoon, not prime birding time. I directed my husband to drive down a couple of little side areas that sometimes have birding action down them, but then he was going really slow and there was nothing out there to see. When I let him know we should turn around because this was not panning out, we needed to try a different location, he would keep taking his time. His reasoning was that he was just enjoying driving along those roads, that he was having a good time the way things were. It was making me anxious, because I could feel time ticking down and we hadn’t seen anything new yet. I couldn’t just enjoy the journey, because today I was on a mission. He stopped to take a picture of an egret in a canal and I almost lost it. “Egrets! We don’t have time for egrets!”
Then, my oldest son called, much earlier than we expected, and we had to go pick him up. No new bird species seen, no walk around Paul Rushing, a complete strike out. I found myself wishing that I had a friend who would come out with me to the Prairie at dusk or early in the morning. This family thing wasn’t really working, because we were having to balance too many sets of needs and wants.
My best girlfriends all live too far away, don’t call me that much, hardly have time for friendships because their lives are too busy, and none of them are really interested in the same things I am. I recently met a girl in my neighborhood who said she was into birding, and seemed receptive to the idea of us going birding some time together, but I didn’t know her well enough to ask her to come with me, right now. I think we will have to work into it slowly.
The next morning, I was trolling eBird hotspots in the Katy Prairie, comparing my list of target birds against bird counts at the different locations. When I pulled up Paul Rushing Park, I saw that my friend Janey, whom I have much admiration for, was just at the park yesterday, finding some of those same birds I was after! This reminded me that there are actually people in my life right now that I could make plans with who could help me pursue some of these hobby goals in 2017.
It made me start considering my casual friends a little more closely. Instead of thinking about which of my close friends could I try to convince to come with me on outdoors adventures, which one of my casual or new friends could I invest more time with, who has the potential to be an outdoors companion? There are a few women I have met through geocaching that might be willing to join me.
I asked my husband if he was okay with the idea of my spending a little time once a month or so pursuing my own interests with a friend instead and he was fine with that. There is a lot of mom guilt to deal with in having your own interests that are easier without children, which I have spoke of before on here. Some women would just suggest waiting until the kids are grown to have individual pursuits, and I think that is a noble idea, but it is hard for me to accept. I worry that I won’t live long enough to get there.
I have spread my child-bearing years out over basically two generations, so that means it is like twenty years in between having my first infant and my last one being old enough to be a good outdoor companion. I have been trying to straddle the difference by just taking my kids with me out to all the outdoor things, but birding is just not one of those things that is easy to do with a toddler. I want to get better at it before I get older, so that when I am a grandmother, I will already be proficient enough to not get frustrated by it. Some activities are better in your youth, and some are better with age – birding is in the latter category.
Around Thanksgiving, I made camping reservations for the spring. Often what happens to us is we decide to go camping, and then realize that all the dates/places we wanted are already booked for the season, because apparently the rest of Texas plans ahead. This way we were locked in, and my friend could work around it if she wanted to go. She had suggested before that our spontaneous camping trips didn’t work for her, because she had to plan months ahead of time. I made the reservations, then sent back the dates/locations with an invite to this friend, and also to a couple of other friends that I would love to spend more time in the outdoors with. I sent an invite to Janey to see if I could join her birding sometime, and now I am going to look over friends to see if I could set up more concrete plans with them.
So, based on this thought process, I guess you could say that my goals for next year is to find some outdoorsy friends to come with me to do some of the activities that are hard to do as a family, to make plans for camping and hiking in advance so that the friends I do have that want to go can work around that, to try to get over that 200 species bird count, to find more geocaches (I have half a mind to work on the Precinct 4 Challenge and maybe work on knocking out some counties we have not gotten yet for the County Challenge). I think we will all be doing more biking and hiking as a family this year, since the youngest kids all got new bikes. We have a plan to do longer hikes, even an overnight one, with the kids. We are actually going to take a birding trip to the Rio Grande Valley in the spring, maybe even hitting some of the other known migration spots as well along the way. We want to try out more state parks, starting next week. All of these are too many goals to get into during a casual conversation with co-workers, but I hope maybe some of you reading this will be able to join me in them.