Questions from the trail: Is that a Caterpie?

Great guess, but this is actually a real-life spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) caterpillar!

Josh and I couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw this little guy by our campsite on the Appalachian Trail recently, and I am still in awe at how cartoony it looked even from just a few inches away.The Pokemon character Caterpie, courtesy of the community at www.bulbagarden.net

The caterpillar looks so much like Caterpie, a Pokémon, that we think the artists must have based their character on this real-life species!

We had no idea what kind of insect, worm, alien, or other life form it was, but the caterpillar’s identity did not remain a mystery for long. A friend and I went to a Monarch butterfly tag and release event at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, and one of the educators was able to identify it immediately as a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar by the prominent eyespots and coloring.

Friends in the eastern half of the US have probably seen the beautiful butterflies these guys transform into:

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Carvers Creek SP NC 0981

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly at Carvers Creek in North Carolina, courtesy of bobistraveling on Flickr



Feline Friday: Pumpkin learns to paint a seascape, and we have a newcomer 

What makes a cat so relaxed she lounges on her back with her toes in the air? Why, a painting lesson, of course!

I was feeling a little overwhelmed when I happened to scroll across the Bob Ross “Beauty is Everwhere” series on Netflix. Although I used to paint quite a bit, I had never seen the artist’s iconic PBS series “The Joy of Painting,” nor did I understand where all of the Bob Ross memes, like the gem below, came from, so I pressed play.

bob-ross-meme (more…)

Questions from the Trail: Which way?

I always recommend walking away from the privy. 

This was at the Morgan Stewart Memorial shelter on the Appalachian Trail in New York, just a few miles away from busy I-84. It was my first time at a trail shelter, and I enjoyed hearing other hikers’ stories from their months (yeah, months) on the trail. We met two women who were each hiking all 2,190 miles of the trail alone and happened to stop at the same shelter for the night. They had both made keeping extensive journals part of their nightly routine, and they would send the notebooks or loose leaf pages home to their families along the way.

Although a privy might sound like a luxury worth taking advantage of, trust me. Taking care of business in the fresh air sans toilet is much more pleasant than sitting anywhere near a privy.

AT sunset in tent

Worth the work, even on Labor Day

Alright, I suppose none of the work occurred on Labor Day, but Boyfriend Josh and I spent the weekend hiking over 20 miles on the Appalachian Trail, which was the most work I’ve ever done near a holiday. Although I think I slept more our first night back home than the previous two on the trail combined, there’s no other way I would have preferred to spend the weekend.

The hike was exhausting and exhilerating, strenuous and satisfying. I can’t tell you how many times I thought, “uphill? AGAIN?” But for every moment spent trudging uphill, gasping for air, clinging to trees for support, there was at least one with a shared laugh, a gentle breeze rustling the leaves, a woodland critter passing by. (more…)

Winter COULD BE coming, so let’s knit everything

Knittaz elbow strapFirst, if you think knitting is only a cold-weather activity, you probably don’t knit, so just sit back and listen to this one. The only thing that stops me from knitting is the occasionally debilitating pain in my hands and arms (thank you, fibromyalgia), which I usually ignore for as long as I can. I pull my tennis elbow straps tighter and soldier on, one more row my mantra when the going gets tough.

And it does get tough. A friend said to me recently, “There is no crying in knitting!” And I laughed, because she was so wrong. I can only undo and redo hours of work to fix that one damn mistake so many times before it starts to get to me. But, like Mr. Frond, the guidance counselor in my favorite TV show, I am a KNITTA 4 LIFE.

Mr. Frond Knittaz 4 Life

Image: screenshot from Fox’s Bob’s Burgers, season 2 episode 3. Love the “chuckles” caption.



I really meant to, but I lost my personality

Well, part of it. I have one personality. I know the Kayleigh who introduces herself with a confident smile at parties is the same Kayleigh who struggles to breathe in crowded restaurants. The average, everyday version is generally on top of her shit, but also avoids crowds and interacting with lots of strangers, especially with this [hopefully-temporary] beer-free diet.

Problems arise when Confident Kayleigh makes commitments that Average Kayleigh is not prepared to fulfill. (more…)

I may have lost my job, but I’ve caught some cool Pokémon


This accurately sums up my job and pokémon search: not loading, and full of monsters.

I was laid off in June, and although there’s never really a good time to lose your job, summer isn’t bad time for it. I had just moved back to the East Coast from Chicago two weeks before and was actually in the middle of vacation when I got my immediate termination notice, but that’s neither here nor there. Point is, I suddenly had a new home and a lot of time on my hands.

When my boyfriend mentioned that a new game requiring you to catch virtual Pokémon out in the real world had just been released, he said it in a “haha isn’t this ridiculous” kind of way. But I wanted it in my life immediately, and we downloaded it. (more…)

How to be WILDLY affectionate this Valentine’s Day

How do you and your partner show each other affection – hugs, kisses, cuddles? How about caressing one another’s eye stalks or changing colors while dancing together at dawn? Let these ten couples show you how it’s done in other parts of the animal kingdom.

  1. Lean On Me

Owls are usually territorial creatures who will not choose to spend much time in close proximity to other owls – like guys sitting on opposite ends of the couch. Owl mates, on the other hand, may stand close together and actually lean on each other as a sign of affection.

2. Bite me

Real love!! (4294586131) (2)

As many dog-owners know, canines often show their love by licking one another’s faces and coats. Wolves in particular will also nip and nibble their loved ones’ faces. Although it can sometimes look aggressive, gentle face nibbling is a sign of affection in wolves.

3. Necking

Embed from Getty Imagesgiraffes.jpg

Male giraffes use their long necks and heavy heads for graceful, slow-motion fights with each other, but they also use them to rub the heads and necks of their love interests. You may spot a giraffe resting his or her head on a mate’s neck, or even entwining their six-foot long necks together. Check out this YouTube video to see it action!  (more…)

Wonderful Wildlife Moment: affectionately leaning owls




While researching adorable ways other species show affection (scouring the internet for heartwarming pictures iS research!), I learned that owls often stand close to their mates and lean on each other affectionately. Aww. The Northern Saw-Whet owls in this picture (courtesy of Kathy and Sam) are young and most likely siblings, not three-way mates. Still so cute.

Mission: research and write stuff. Status: go.

My mission to devote one night a week to blogging AND ONLY BLOGGING! has so far been successful. I may need to separate it into two nights, though, now that I’m branching out into freelancing as well.

Last week’s blog night started with “I’m going to research hive mind and honey bee self-sacrifice for my blog!” When I popped up out of the rabbit hole a few hours later, I had started writing “10 Animals That Discard Their Own Body Parts and Why.” There was a logical progression in there somewhere, and I think it involved bee penises. Strangely, I get a lot of silence on the phone when I tell my boyfriend what I learned about honey bee drone endophalluses.

Anyway, I’ve been loving researching and tracking down facts that fascinate me. I haven’t finished anything yet, but prepare to learn some cool stuff about animals that sacrifice their body parts, swarm intelligence, and surprise tunnels I have yet to burrow into!

It's not hope, but work, that transports us to the highest peaks.

I don’t do resolutions, but if I did

Never hope more than you work.

The more complete quote from wildly-influential-author-I-had-never-heard-of-until-yesterday Rita Mae Brown is:

Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts.

And never hope more than you work.

Trust has never been my strong suit, and work seems considerably more trustworthy than hope anyway. I wouldn’t characterize myself as generally hopeful, but I have oscillated between an odd sort of optimism and a conviction that the most soul-crushing possibilities must be the most “realistic.” I call my optimism ‘odd’ because I’m never really sure if I believe it, if I’m thinking it to make myself feel better, or if I’m joking with myself. I only have one personality, but it sure plays games with itself sometimes.

All this is to say, I’m a little conflicted about hope and optimism. Work, on the other hand, is actionable. I can do that. I can reasonably expect better outcomes from working than from hoping. And hence, I will make every effort to work more than I hope.

I already finished my beer😦 , but if I hadn’t, I would raise it with the conviction that it’s time for hope and uncertainty to step aside. There is work to be done.


I need to thank Ariel Gore for her book How To Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead, and my former boss Jennifer Hee for leaving it out for a poor and ambitious employee to take home. After two years of bookshelves and moving boxes, I finally cracked the book open and read the quote from Rita Mae Brown that gave me the kick in the ass I needed.

Blank notebook

My latest excuses for not blogging

In yet another attempt to make blogging a more regular habit, I will outline the regular habits that have all come before blogging for the last month. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

So here are the top five activities and habits that most frequently come before blogging in order of how hard I think they will be to change: (more…)


The question I didn’t know pool toys were the answer to

“Even when everything’s going your way, you can still be sad. Or Anxious. Or uncomfortably numb. Because you can’t always control your brain or your emotions even when things are perfect.”

Jenny Lawson in her new book, Furiously Happy

My brain decided it was about time to remind me of this truth last week, even though I had just finished Jenny Lawson’s book over the long weekend and could have sworn my brain was with me when I did. The sadness had already been creeping in at the edges for a few days, the exhaustion was setting in, and the things going wrong in my life were nowhere in sight.


A New Zealand sea lion, endangered. Photographed by me on New Zealand's South Island in 2011.

There’s more to “The Environment” than climate change

The overarching narrative of climate change cannot replace the localized stories of environmental degradation being written all over our Earth.

Climate change is such an extensive problem that even many who acknowledge its causes are too frozen to act on it. All of us are responsible to varying degrees, and there is currently no one capable of forcing the concerted action scientists have been calling for for decades. But being incapable of saving planet Earth from all the effects of climate change is a far cry from being incapable of making a difference on a part of our environment, on one species, on one being. (more…)

On Makapuu Lighthouse trail, Oahu

So I’m back, and here’s why

I started Wandering Aloud almost two years ago for many of the same reasons I have returned now. Put simply, learning, reading, and writing are what fulfill me. Especially now that I’ve caught up on all the episodes of Bob’s Burgers.

When I first started blogging, I found none of these things in my work – I had a degree but was barely getting by in a string of jobs that didn’t satisfy me. On the bright side, I honed my ability to make a killer cappuccino in three countries.


10 years ago, then-Staff Sgt. Michael Maloney rescued a 3-year-old during Hurricane Katrina. Soon, they'll meet again. (Photo: Veronica Pierce/U.S. Air Force)

A Not-So-Bad News Roundup

You know what I realized recently? Even though I complain about the abundance of bad things happening every day, from Donald Trump’s continued presidential candidacy to actual crimes against humanity, there IS good news out there. But when I come across it, I don’t bother to read it because it’s not “important.”

The refugee crisis in Syria is important. The whip count on the Iran deal is important. Some guy finding out the name of a girl he rescued on the job 10 years go? Ain’t nobody got time fo dat.

But we should, and for so many reasons. (more…)

Feline Friday Returns

My little one and I now live in Chicago, and she doesn’t get to spend as much time outside in the wilderness (aka nana’s backyard) as she used to. Fortunately, she still encounters some forms of wildlife, even from inside on the 10th floor.

Lieutenant Pumpkin spies a cicada, but alas, it is on the wrong side of the window.


Feline Friday: Game Night Edition


Lieutenant Pumpkin joins the game!

Playing board games with cats adds a whole new level to the challenge – you have to physically protect your pieces from feline intruders AND remember where they were on the board when your catty competitor inevitably succeeds in relocating them. Great fun is had by all!

In other news, Lt. Pumpkin and I may soon call Chicago home. I will have to start knitting her sweaters for the winter…

Toddlers: the next frontier of the gun debate

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 1.39.12 PM

A two-year-old sitting in a shopping cart next to his mom’s purse reached into it, as children, cats, and pickpockets alike are wont to do, pulled out something to play with, eat, or throw on the floor, and killed his mother with it.

Whether or not you’re from a town where carrying a loaded weapon is the norm, chances are this is not how you envision your next shopping trip turning out. Several things strike me about this event: (more…)


It’s a GOOD newsem!

As in a good-news poem, not necessarily a good news-poem.

Obama made an executive call
To give America’s Cuba policy an overhaul.
Some Republicans in Congress are pretty pissed,
But soon enough I doubt the embargo will be missed.

Global temperatures are still on the rise,
But more of New York’s gas will remain where it lies.
Governor Cuomo banned fracking after a health and safety report,
Though the science is “bad,” say the Wall Street sort.

Continuing along the fossil fuel vein,
Gas and oil companies are still feeling the strain.
Chevron just decided to say no dice
To their Arctic drilling plans due to oil’s super low price.

US death penalties also hit a record low,
With jails dealing only 35 inmates their final blow.
Texas and Missouri tied with ten deaths apiece,
But at least the trend is on the decrease.

Conditions at Rikers Island jail are far from good,
But thanks to the federal government, the prison may finally do what it should.
Suing the city for civil rights violations may cause some dismay,
But let’s face it: suing is the American way.

Thought I know in my heart the good news doesn’t stop there,
It is time for me now to go dry my hair.
If you come across any delights worth sharing,
Please post them below – go on, be daring!