Sometime early in April, I was sitting outside on our porch, talking to my mom on the phone. I noticed a hummingbird hovering nearby, and then she darted away. And then it happened again. And then I saw what she was hovering near and decided that I should continue my phone call inside. She was hovering near her nest, anxious to protect her eggs.

Ever since we moved in last year, there has been a small nest on a plant hook on our porch. We assumed that it was a wasp’s nest or something we should avoid. But, no. It was, in fact, a hummingbird nest, one that has now been reused this year. (Also: really glad it wasn’t a wasp’s nest!)

Hummingbird on nest, April 2019

We started calling this mother-to-be hummingbird our “little friend.” She grew to be more used to us, or at least startled less when had to come outside. Our laundry room is off our porch, so we couldn’t avoid the area entirely.

In about mid-April, I saw her perched on the edge of the nest, feeding her chicks in the nest. While I couldn’t see her chicks at that point, I took her sticking her beak into the nest as a sign that they had hatched!

And then there was a period where we didn’t see her or the chicks and I wondered if something had happened. But it turns out that once hummingbird chicks can regulate their body temperature, the mother spends less time at the nest and mainly comes back to feed them.

And then, one day in early May, I saw two small beaks poking out of the nest!

Baby hummingbird beaks!

After that point, we saw them more often – first their beaks, then their heads, and then their whole bodies. One was slightly larger than the other one.

Eventually they became big enough so that they mainly sat together on the top of the nest, sometimes facing opposite directions and sometimes facing the same way. My husband made the comment that it might be boring to be a baby bird: it seems to involve a lot of waiting for food, growing, and grooming.

A closer look with a better camera (photo taken by my husband).

My husband took this picture several days before they fledged (left the nest). Two weeks ago, I noticed that one of them seemed more restless, fluffing up her wings. She even hovered above the nest for a few seconds before coming to rest back on the nest. That evening, as I was doing laundry, I turned to look at both of them on the nest and, to my surprise and amazement, she flew off!

The other one, the one who was smaller, stayed in the nest for another day and a half. She was gone by that Saturday morning when I looked out.

It was truly delightful to be able to see hummingbirds so close-up. It was definitely an honor to watch these little ones come into being.


Link roundup 5/18

Watching the finale of Game of Thrones with a group this Sunday? Here are a few ideas (somewhat silly, although mostly clever) for some foods to make for a viewing party.

Talking openly about a topic that is often hidden away: A group of eighth grade girls entered their podcast called Sssh! Periods into NPR’s first Student Podcast challenge and won the grand prize for the middle school category.

About a woman who is working to change and expand the conversation around parenting children with autism.

Much of the western United States is currently experiencing lower than normal temperatures. This article from explains why. (It was around 70 degrees in Vegas today. It would normally be around 90 degrees Fahrenheit this time of year).

Meanwhile, it was 86 degrees near the Arctic Ocean last weekend.

Increasing the visibility of women in science: A group of female scientists created a database to showcase their work. Over 9,000 women joined them.

From Vox: From the latest abortion ban bills to current statistics on abortion, abortion in America explained in ten facts.

According to ABC News, several of the states passing abortion bans have some of the lowest rates of women in power.

What you can do to help women in states with extreme abortion bans.

My thoughts on my biology class.

I loved my sixth grade biology class. Most specifically, I loved my teacher, whose passion for the subject was contagious. On a personal level, he was one of my allies throughout middle school, and I would often visit him at the beginning or the end of the day as he stood outside his classroom. 

And then I didn’t take a biology class for years and years. My high school had “integrated science,” which was really more like ecology – it included biology but only hit the basics here and there. Maybe it was mainly the teachers I had and not just the material, but I was disappointed and didn’t feel engaged with it. I did take chemistry my junior year. I liked my teacher, but I often struggled with the material. I remember that it often took me a while to balance equations.

In college, I remember being interested in taking biology of plants, but I never took it. I took astronomy as my lab class, and psychology fulfilled the rest of my natural science requirements (yes, it fell under that category at my small liberal arts college).

So I was anxious about stepping into a biology classroom again this semester. My class would involve both a lecture and a lab with different professors for each. What if I didn’t have enough of a foundation?

My lecture professor began my life sciences biology class with a cautionary warning: to pass the class, we would need to study extensively. If we were taking several other classes, she would recommend dropping at least one. See, the class, even at the community college level, has a 60% pass rate.

Later in the semester, she would explain that she was telling us because it was the truth, not specifically to scare us. I admit that it was intimidating to hear and I wondered if I was out of my league.

Luckily, I wasn’t. I’m not. Yes, the class is challenging. Yes, the exams are hard: a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and a short essay question (requires a five-sentence answer). My professor is very thorough. She wants us to learn to apply the material and not just memorize it.

She is also, in my opinion, a great professor. She gives great analogies, she uses good visuals, and she’s expressive and personable. 

I’ve been recognizing that I may have pigeonholed myself somewhat in what “type” of person I am in an academic setting. I have always been a good student. I excel at the humanities, languages, and social sciences. I’m creative and love doing art. I was often less interested in and struggled more in math. And science…I think it was mostly that I lost interest. Maybe it was that I didn’t have great teachers for the most part. Maybe it was that other subjects interested me more, or the structure of classes at my college, or a combination of all of the above. But at some point in time, I decided I was not a science person. 

I’m doing well in the class. I’m loving learning the material and feel like I’m filling in gaps where I was missing information. Yes, I study a lot.  The sheer amount of material is challenging. And I’m also getting a lot out of it. So maybe I can be a science person, or maybe I’m a little bit of everything. It doesn’t have to be either/or. I don’t have to redefine myself entirely, just expand my view of myself and my interests to include another subject that I enjoy.  

As the semester approaches its end, I find myself feeling relieved that it’s almost over. I’m certainly looking forward to having more free time and less stress. I’ve also found myself thinking, “I’m going to miss the class so much!”

Friday link roundup 4/26

Looking for a good book (or two, or five, or…) to read as summer approaches? Here is NPR’s guide to 2018’s greatest reads.

Lego releases new bricks to teach braille to blind and visually impaired children.

A physicist and his mother are worker together to translate astrophysics into the indigenous Blackfoot language.

An article from the Atlantic about the double-bind of charisma vs. competence that women who run for political office (in this case, president) often face, especially under the scrutiny of the media.

Link roundup 4/19

While I still occasionally gather links, I haven’t posted one of these in a while. I miss doing it on a regular basis. But I’m on spring break and I had time to gather these!

The oldest living person with HIV turns 100.

Why don’t we cook meals for friends struggling with mental health?

An art historian’s digital mapping of Notre Dame Cathedral may help restore it.

Donations up for black churches that were recently burned in Louisiana have gone up since the fire at Notre Dame. Here is the GoFundMe site to donate.

From NPR: Some highlights from the Mueller report (Or lowlights, depending on how you view it).

From 35 to 36

My 36th birthday is tomorrow. So here is my letter to my current age/year.

Dear 35,

I had a harder time writing you down as an age than most years. I say that I really don’t have many issues with aging, but I kept wanting to write “34” for about four months after my birthday. Maybe it’s because you are directly in the middle of the 30s. Maybe it’s because “I’m 35” somehow sounds more adult. I don’t really know why. But, eventually, I adjusted.

This year, I continued to grow and maintain my proofreading business. I’ve been taking more college classes. This is the year I took the Nia Blue Belt training, which was incredibly rewarding and my Nia practice has deepened as a result. This is the year that we bought our first home and have been gradually settling in, truly turning our condo into a home and a comfortable place to live.

I’ve spent so much time in my life in struggle and strive mode (on an internal level mostly) that it’s almost disconcerting not to be there most of the time. Yes, I have challenges in my life, and some I choose to face and others I have not yet faced. I am still healing in many ways from past experiences, but that pain is less at the forefront of my life. And yes, the outside world can be crazy at times. Yet I am content sometimes to just cuddle with my love and let my life be as it is.

I want to enter 36 clear-eyed and willing. Willing to take steps forward and challenging myself without pushing myself too hard. Willing to get to know new people, reach out.

I have to laugh; I sometimes think I prefer the even ages to the odd-numbered ones. Still, 35, you were good to me. Thank you for all you have brought me and taught me.

What I learned in Math 116

In December, I finished 100-level math survey course called Introduction to Technical Mathematics. It went through basic algebra, geometry, functions, trigonometry, and logarithms. It’s one of the prerequisites to a science course I want to take as I consider applying for a graduate program, so I reluctantly took it.

Here’s some of the things I learned:

• It was much easier for me at age 35 to learn and refresh myself on mathematical concepts than it was in high school. The last time I fully learned these concepts was when I was 15-17, where I was also dealing with other classes, social intricacies as well as everything else that comes with being a teenager. So perhaps I was more distracted then, and perhaps my life experience has helped me be in a better space for learning math now.

• That said, I was really grateful for my main high school math teacher, who I took Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II with. She had a way of making math fun, and she helped me catch up where I was behind my freshman year. While I might have been somewhat distracted at times by being a teenager, she gave me a good foundation in math that served me well in the more recent class.

• I used to think that I wasn’t a “natural” at math. It might be closer to the truth to say instead that I am more natural in other subjects (English, languages, art) than I am at math. I am certainly more right-brained than left-brained, and it takes a different kind of thinking and sometimes more time for me to get into math mode. But after watching other students struggle, where explanations that made sense to me didn’t make sense to them, I realized I’m more natural at it than I previously thought. It’s also that math isn’t my favorite subject; perhaps I’d feel like more of a natural if it was something I felt more naturally drawn to.

• I might actually enjoy doing math more if I didn’t get so anxious taking the quizzes and exams. I enjoy figuring out how to make sense of problems. I do not necessarily trust that I know enough to be able to master them during a timed quiz. The truth is, in the end, I often *do* know the material well enough.

• In high school and college, I was very quiet in my classes. It was hard for me to speak up in class, even when I wanted to (I now think that it was primarily sensory-related and I kept shutting down). In this math class, I was actually one of the more vocal ones when the teacher asked for answers to problems. Now that I know more about myself and don’t put so much pressure on myself to speak, I actually say more.

It was good to review the mathematical concepts and be reminded of the practical applications. While I don’t use all of the concepts in my daily life, I do use some and I can also see where else they would be useful. That’s one of the things about having more life experience – practical applications often make more sense.

I’m planning on taking the first biology course that I’ve taken since sixth grade this semester. I’m curious to see what I learn there!