Friday, December 21, 2012

My Wish for a Brand New World

Pardon my departure from my usual "Healthy Writers Club" Friday post, but the decidedly creative Jaye Robin Brown came up with a great idea for an end of the year blogfest. We have all been hearing so much hype about Mayan calendars the end of the world that JRo decided to give the apocalypse a positive spin. Here's what she has to say:

Last night I was thinking about the Mayan calendar and the whole thing about the world ending on Friday. This got me thinking.

If the world ends on Friday......

Then on Saturday.....

We wake up to a brand new world!

I know I'm not the only one out there with IDEAS on what they'd like this brand new world to look like. So here's your opportunity to go deep, be profound, maybe silly, whatever your style. So go ahead and sign up now, but between Thursday and Saturday, come back and hop around and envision a brand new world. Writer style.

JRo's words got me thinking, and I realized I have LOTS of ideas for a brand new world. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary highlights just how screwed up this place we call home can be, and although I know bad things will happen no matter what, I still would love to see a culture shift in response to this.

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
In particular, I wish we would begin to value public education the way we value celebrities and sensationalism. I wish Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung's yearly salary wasn't roughly $100,000, and I wish Victoria Soto--the heroic teacher who died shielding her students from gunfire--didn't make between $38,000 and $59,000 a year. (Salaries based on CT averages).

Compare this to reality starlet Kim Kardashian's salary of $800,000 per episode--plus countless product endorsements and appearance fees. (According to the Examiner, Kardashian is rumored to spend $80,000 a year on her beauty regime alone.)

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
I also wish we would get our values in the right place. And I wish we wouldn't allow monsters like NFL quarterback and "reformed" dog fighter Michael Vick back into the public limelight, while many animal rescue organizations struggle with the constant threat of insufficient funding and bankruptcy. (Vick, by the way, makes $12.5 million a year. Yes, you read that right.)

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
But let me be clear here. I am not being critical of Kim Kardashian. She is an opportunistic, business-minded mogul who has capitalized on the fact that she apparently possesses something the American public values. The same could be said for people like Snooki PolizziKate Gosselin and Honey Boo Boo. (Sorry, I just can't say this for Michael Vick. He actually has a talent, but... Sorry. I will never forgive that man for what he did to those animals.)

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
What I am trying to say is that I believe it's time for us to stop criticizing and judging the majority of these so-called stars. It's time for us to start pointing the finger of blame directly at the people responsible for their success and fortune: ourselves.

Come on, tell me you haven't EVER cast a stray eye at Kim or Snooki or Kate or Honey Boo Boo in the tabloids. Maybe you have even seen their shows. And whether you've noticed them for entertainment, out of curiosity, or simply because their dysfunctions and poor decisions made you feel better about yourself, you have still supported the business empire that is their success.

This may seem harsh, but I am no innocent here. I devour tabloids every time I board an airplane, and you know what? I enjoy them. I enjoy reading the crazy stories and looking at the articles about plastic surgery gone wrong, and I come away feeling superior--like I'm above all this.

But, you know what? I'm NOT, and my $3.99 (or whatever) just got funneled back into the wheels of whatever sensationalist culture we've created that actually prints this stuff.

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, a quote popped up on Facebook. It was attributed to Morgan Freeman, and it rationalized the shooter's motive by saying:

"You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here's why. It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine?

"Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basement see the news and want to top it by doing something worse and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster instead of a sad nobody. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or maternity ward next."

It's a beautiful quote, isn't it? But here's the most interesting part: it wasn't actually written by Morgan Freeman. According to the Star Phoenix, it was written by a man named Mark Price from Vancouver, and he originally penned it with the expectation of only sharing it with his friends and family.

But then the quote began to spread, and some of his friends began attributing it to Freeman. A few hours after it was posted, Price reported, “If I know the internet, someone will attribute the quote to Morgan Freeman or Betty White and it’ll go viral. [edit] OH GOD IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING."

As you can imagine, Price has received criticism for allowing his post to spread this way, but he stands by it. Here's what he told reporters: “I honestly wish my brush with internet fame wasn’t associated with murdered children. If what I said resonated with thousands of people, despite who they believe said it, GOOD. I stand by what I said about why it happened, and how it was reported!

“I saw a father taking his terrified child away from the school literally being chased by a Fox News reporter looking for a scoop, and that pissed me off. So no, I’m not gleefully cackling about this. But I have to admit this has been a crazy specimen of how things get out of hand online, and that it’s been astounding to watch. If it weren’t given to a celebrity, nobody would be talking about it. What got people to spread my words: The content of the message, or who supposedly said it?”

You know the scary thing? Price is absolutely right. If he hadn't "been" Morgan Freeman--the beloved actor who gave us The Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, and March of the Penguins--we probably would have never heard what he had to say. 

And to that, I say: Shame on us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Download ROUGE for FREE Today!!

Photo Courtesy of Leigh T. Moore
I don't know about you guys, but I have always been intrigued by New Orleans. The salt air, the music, the swamps, the culture, the voodoo... It's the type of setting that just BEGS a story, so I am delighted to hear a wonderful new one has just been written. 

ROUGE, a new YA novel by the fabulously talented (and kind, and thoughtful, and determined) Leigh Talbert Moore, just oozes with Louisiana flavor. And even more importantly, Leigh is a delightful person I'm happy to support and proud to call a friend.

Check out her amazing pitch:

Trapped in the underground theater world of 1890s New Orleans, Hale Ferrer has only one goal: escape. But not without Teeny, the orphan-girl she rescued from the streets and promised to protect.

Freddie Lovel, Hale's wealthy Parisian suitor, seems to be the easy solution. If only his touch could arouse her interest like Beau's, the penniless stagehand who captures her heart.

Denying her fears, Hale is poised to choose love until an evil lurking in their cabaret-home launches a chain of events that could cost her everything.

Are you drooling in anticipation yet? If so, you should head over to Amazon RIGHT NOW and download ROUGE for free. That's right, I said free. If you are a Kindle owner, Leigh is offering free Kindle Select downloads today (12/19) and tomorrow (12/20). Here's the link: ROUGE

While you are there, you can also check out Leigh's first book, THE TRUTH ABOUT FAKING. Her novels also make great Christmas gifts. (Wink, wink.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: Wolves vs. Dogs

As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours." I reprint one of my favorite "Ask a Zookeeper" questions on my blog every Tuesday, and you can ask your very own question HERE!

Here is this week's question:

Q. Why are wolves so vicious while dogs are so docile? Aren't they pretty closely related? -circle gets the square

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
A. Hi circle! The answer lies in the domestication process that transformed gray wolves into dogs. This process began between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago, when early man began interacting with and taming wild wolves. Not all wolves were suited for this, so only the most "sociable" and "approachable" animals were tamed. These wolves bred with other "man-friendly" wolves, and their offspring grew up even more comfortable around man.

As each generation passed, the fear of man gradually left these wolves. And as each generation passed, the wolves' anatomy and physiology began changing. Humans who wanted strong animals to pull their sleds selectively bred their strongest animals together. Humans who wanted fast animals to help them hunt selectively bred their fastest animals together. Eventually, the wolves had changed so much that they weren't even really wolves anymore. That's when they first became dogs. (And that's why there's so much variation between breeds today!)

To answer your question, I would argue that wolves aren't actually "vicious" creatures; they are just wild animals that are guided by instinct and strength and prowess. Their natural fear of man is what makes them appear vicious to us.

Dogs, on the other hand, have been bred and raised among humans for so long that they view our relationship with them as natural. Their instinct to fear us has been absent for many thousands of years, so they are born with a clean slate against us. It is up to us to ensure we live up to their trust.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Once There Was a Heartbreak

Once upon a time, two people fell in love. And it was beautiful.

He was of the mountains, and she was of the sea. But they built their love with fire, and they dreamt it was meant to be.

They lived boldly, and they lived fully. They made footprints in each other’s hearts, and they laughed and loved and took on the world together.

She taught him how to follow his dreams, and he taught her how to listen to her heart. But fate has the cruelest sense of irony, because his dreams and her heart led in opposite directions.

So what to do? Sacrifice his dreams, or sacrifice her heart? Or respect the beautiful thing that was their love enough to leave it be?

Fairy tales aren’t supposed to end with goodbyes, but theirs was never a classic love story. And once they realized their fire would destroy everything they’d ever built, they made an impossible choice.

They set each other free.

Healthy Writers Club: Doing and Not-Doing

Photo Courtesy of Shallee McArthur
It has been another week, and I have been steadily plugging away at my healthy living goals. I hope you have been successful, too; it is so much harder to keep yourself centered during the holidays.

I've been thinking about Lao Tzu lately, and I have been paying lots of attention to the Taoism concepts of doing and not-doing. In the Western world, we place so much emphasis on DOING, and I see this reflected in my life all the time: exercising, writing, networking, job-searching, etc.

But this week, I have been trying to remind myself that it's okay to be NOT-DOING sometimes, too. It's critical, actually, because rest is one of the most vital--yet overlooked--aspects of living a healthy life. (My body learned this lesson the hard way this week. I attempted two back-to-back sixteen-mile bike rides with very high resistance, and my knees fought back and kept me grounded for the next two days.)

Here is my favorite part of the Tao Te Ching. I have found it very inspirational lately, and I hope you do, too:

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and he lets them come;
things disappear and he lets them go.
He has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When his work is done, he forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

How does this relate to your life--writing or otherwise? I have recently discovered exactly how violently my stories will fight back if I try to force them to behave. I have also discovered that my mind and body both need time to heal. If I try to force either to fall in line, they will protest with a vengeance. 

That's why I am trying to embrace the fact that it's okay for me to NOT be okay sometimes. And with all the transition going on in my life right now, I need to accept the bad times just as fully as the good times. As the quote goes, "Sometimes, we must be hurt in order to grow. Sometimes, we must fail in order to know. Sometimes, we must lose in order to gain. Because some lessons in life are best learned through pain."

When is the last time you experienced this feeling?

Here are my weekly Healthy Writers Club milestones:

  • Three bike rides (39.5 miles)
  • Five ab work-outs
  • Three arm work-outs
  • 10,481 new words on my polar bear project, and I am actually having FUN
  • Lots of family time, a few adventures, and lots of moments of NOT-DOING in addition to my usual DOING ;)
How about you? Any setbacks or milestones this week??

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: Exotic Animals as Pets

As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours." I reprint one of my favorite "Ask a Zookeeper" questions on my blog every Tuesday, and you can ask your very own question HERE!

Here is this week's question:

Q. Are there any animals not commonly kept as pets that you think should be? -slowgrind

Photo Courtesy of bagsgroove
A. Goats! My friends laugh at my love for them, but what's not to like? They're cute, they're relatively docile and they mow your lawn for you! Pigs also make great pets, but they grow bigger than you'd think, so it's important to make sure you have lots of space for them.

In general, I actually recommend NOT owning exotic pets, because there are lots of behind-the-scenes issues with the pet trade. While some exotic animals are raised for this purpose, many more are stolen from their native habitat and smuggled overseas for sale. Infants are often separated from their mothers, and many die during transit.

Wild animals are also much more unpredictable (and sometimes dangerous) than their domestic counterparts, so owners often struggle to take care of them. They usually don't get the nutrition they need, and their "newness" wears off quickly.

Many times, owners eventually decide to "set them free," and this almost always has fatal consequences for the animal. When it doesn't, it disrupts the natural balance of the native ecosystem. (A great example of this is the massive reticulated pythons that are currently running amok in the Everglades--even though they are native to Southeast Asia.)

That being said, I definitely think farm animals should get more props for being awesome. If you happen to own a nice piece of land and can afford to support them, I would highly recommend them!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Manatee Adventure

(Probably not one of my most photogenic moments)
I missed another Healthy Writers Club post this Friday--which means I haven't posted since I participated in the U.S. Geological Survey's Crystal River manatee research study two weeks ago. This means I still have to nerd-squee all over the place. (Here's the link to my original post: Manatees and Squeeing!)

Manatee Research Study Team: November 2012
In short, I had an absolute BLAST. It was absolutely mind-boggling to be included with such a capable and professional group of people. I was on the Manatee Catch Team, so my job was to help pull in nets and to help restrain the manatees on the beach. Once they were restrained, we pulled them into a stretcher, loaded them onto a boat, and escorted them over to the medical beach, where veterinarians performed all their tests before giving the animals back to us to release in the deep water.

Catch Team: November 2012
The manatees were out of their element, of course, but everyone there did everything possible to make the encounter as stress-free as possible. Everything ran like clockwork, and the animals were even given oxygen while their heart rates were monitored for stress.

Weigh Station: November 2012
(That's me with the sunglasses in the middle on the right side!)
My friend Sonya and I both jumped right into the action, and we crashed into this crazy dog pile every time we restrained an animal. We were all covered in mud, and everyone’s hands were on top of each other, and we were bumping faces and falling in on top of each other. Someone always had a hand on your back, or he or she was helping steady you as you walked. The teamwork was amazing, and I felt so honored to be part of something like this.

(That's Sonya on the left and me in the middle!)
After spending so many years living away from water (or in Alaska'a case, water you can actually swim in), I can definitively say I feel like I've returned home now. Once you have saltwater in your veins, you struggle to live without it. :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ask a Zookeer: Amazing Animal Reunions

As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours. It’s as though [they] took the classic 'What do you do?' cocktail party question and turned it into a website…minus the awkward small-talk."

I have been having a great time hosting my Zookeeper Q&A so far, and I have decided to reprint one of my favorite Jobstr questions on my blog every Tuesday. (Do you have your very own "Ask a Zookeeper" question for me? Ask it HERE!)

Here is this week's question:

Q: Have you ever had a reunion moment like this one where an animal you hadn't seen in a long time remembered you? -becky

A: Oh my gosh, isn't that story the sweetest thing you have ever seen?? While I have never experienced anything nearly that dramatic, I did have a great moment a few years back when I returned to a marine park in Florida.

While I worked as the Education Director there, I really bonded with four rough-toothed dolphins. Two were very young and didn't remember me at all two years later, but the third seemed to show a flicker of recognition when she saw me. The fourth (my VERY favorite) immediately rushed over and put his chin in my lap. I was so overwhelmed and moved and thankful that I literally cried on the spot.

(By the way, leaving facilities has been the HARDEST thing I ever have to do in this line of work. Although the direction of your life changes and you know moving is what you need to do, you still feel like your guts get ripped out every time you have to say goodbye. I tear up just thinking about it.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Healthy Writers Club: Manatees and Squeeing!

Photo Courtesy of Shallee McArthur
Happy Friday, everyone! I am cheating and writing this post on Monday (four days before I'm supposed to), so I'm not exactly sure what my stats will be this week. However, I have a REALLY AWESOME excuse: I will be participating in the U.S. Geological Survey's annual wild manatee study in Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge this week!

I am just thrilled to death about this. I have never participated in one of these studies before, but I have always, always, always wanted to. (I wriggled my way in this year through my friend Sonya, who worked with me at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach a few years ago. When she asked if I'd like to join her, I jumped at the chance.)

You are probably wondering what a wild manatee study is, and you are probably sensing how ridiculous and nerdy my squeeing is over here. I will fill you in on the details.

Here is what USGS has to say about their work, and you can read their full handout here:

Photo Courtesy of USFWS Headquarters

Over the last decade, the USGS has successfully captured, examined, and released over 300 manatees, creating an extensive sample and data archive. Research in greater Crystal River, Florida is providing needed baseline health information of West Indian manatees. This is the fourth year of the wild manatee study at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

Health assessments are a valuable tool to determine the fitness, specifically related to environmental and medical issues, of any population of wildlife. Marine mammals, such as manatees, are often used as sentinels for emerging threats to the ocean environment and human health. 

Photo Courtesy of vladeb
A two-team approach is used to capture and exam manatees. The Capture Team and Assessment Team both consist of biologists and veterinarians representing federal, state and local government agencies. All procedures are conducted by experienced biologists and veterinary personnel. Manatees selected for capture are circled with a large net and pulled onto the beach by an experienced capture team. 

Photo Courtesy of vladeb
Once on shore, the manatees will receive a complete medical examination by veterinarians on the assessment team. Blood is drawn under sterile conditions from a flipper, centrifuged for plasma and serum separation, and submitted for routine blood analyses. Other laboratory tests are employed when necessary. A manatee physical exam includes the following:

• General Appearance 
• Body Condition 
• Photo-documentation of lesions and wounds 
• Heart/Pulse Rate 
• Respiratory Rate 
• Temperature 
• Body weight 
• Complete body measurements (body length and girths)
 • Eye exam 
• Implantation of PIT tag 
• Subcutaneous fat layer exam 
• Analysis of blood, feces, urine and skin 
• Reproductive parameters 

Improvements in the handling of wild manatees are possible by monitoring individuals using ECG and evaluating inflammatory response to injury or disease during capture. Blood biochemistry and hematology research has benefited manatee clinical medicine by establishing normal ranges for veterinary evaluations of healthy wild manatees. 

Photo Courtesy of myFWCmedia
Other published studies incorporating capture data include research on several biological subjects including: 

• Hormone levels for determining pregnancy 
• Capture stress levels in wild manatees 
• Epiphytes (living organisms that grow on manatees) 
• Trace element contaminants in manatee tissues compared to levels in the local environment

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
OMG, those of you who are familiar with my first novel, THE MERMAID GENE, already know my protagonist Kai Murphy is the daughter of a famous dolphin researcher who does catch and release medical exams like this all the time. 

The fact that I built an entire novel out of the AWESOMENESS THAT IS WHAT I GET TO DO IN CRYSTAL RIVER means this adventure will absolutely qualify for my Healthy Writers Club BODY, MIND and SPIRIT milestones this week.

I will fill you in on all the details when I return!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: When Animals Attack

As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours." I reprint one of my favorite "Ask a Zookeeper" questions every Tuesday, and you can ask your very own question HERE!

Here is this week's question:

Q: Have you witnessed any {grisly} animal attacks on humans (or on one another) during your time in zoos? Any one in particular stand out as the worst? -grizzly adamz

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
A. Hi Griz! Believe it or not, I actually haven't seen any grisly attacks--just occasional bites or scrapes or bruises. There are a lot less attacks than you might think, and this is partially due to the safety protocols zoos and aquariums put into place before an animal and its keeper even meet.

Animals are basically separated into "fight" animals or "flight" animals. The "fight animals" (bears, most big cats, etc.) are hard-wired to stand their ground when threatened, while the "flight animals" (most hoofstock, wolves, raptors, etc.) have evolved to flee.

In most zoos, keepers use "protected contact" while dealing with fight animals--and even some flight animals. This means all training must be done through some kind of barrier--like a fence or bars. This prevents most dangerous incidents from occurring.

Injuries can occur even when working with flight animals, of course, so keepers must always be alert, and we must learn to "read" our animals before training can occur. If an animal seems "off" for some reason, we must trust our gut and put our personal safety first--even if it means temporarily missing a training session. (In the event we do get injured, 95% of the time it's because of an error on OUR part--not paying attention, not reading our animals correctly, being distracted, etc.)

Here are my personal claims to fame: I have been bitten by a raccoon (twice!), bitten by a bottlenose dolphin, clawed by a great horned owl, cornered by a Bactrian camel and stabbed in the arm by a mountain goat. (Every time, the injury was my fault!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: When Animals Escape

As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours. It’s as though [they] took the classic 'What do you do?' cocktail party question and turned it into a website…minus the awkward small-talk."

I have been having a great time hosting my Zookeeper Q&A so far, and I have decided to reprint one of my favorite Jobstr questions on my blog every Tuesday. (Do you have your very own "Ask a Zookeeper" question for me? Ask it HERE!)

Here is this week's question:

Q. Has [an animal at your zoo] ever gone missing or escaped and did staff completely freak out? -nat

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
A: I have been fortunate enough to have never dealt with a large-scale animal escape. However, a few years before I started working at one particular facility, a bunch of kids broke in and cut the locks off a number of animal enclosures. The result was chaos, as you can imagine, but thankfully zoos have protocols for dealing with just such a situation.

Animals are basically categorized according to their threat level. Large carnivores and some other animals (like an elephant or a moose in rut) are considered the highest priority, of course. An emergency plan is developed the moment the zoo acquires this animal, and staff members are briefed on what to do should an emergency arise. (Evacuate the zoo, for instance, and then grab tranquilizer guns and attempt to corral the animal back where it belongs.) Training is also done to teach the animals how to react in unfamiliar situations, because the animals are often more frightened than the humans. Many animals know their crates are safe places, so zoo staff members often use positive reinforcement to entice them back into their crates. Finally, everyone attempts to keep his or her cool, because animals can often sense our stress.

In reality, we are half-terrified, but just like a first responder is trained to react to an emergency, we are, too. Our calm and focus is critical at a time like that.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Healthy Writers Club: I'm Allergic to Everything!

Photo Courtesy of Shallee McArthur
This has definitely been a busy week. On the BODY front, I have managed six workouts in the last seven days--which is so UNLIKE me that I just have to keep reminding myself I actually accomplished this. Four workouts were bike rides (36 miles total), and I've started trying to do abs (and sometimes arms) at the conclusion of each ride.

One workout was a canoe trip through the mangroves with my Dad, and the other was a paddleboarding yoga trip at Weedon Island with Urban Kai. Although I'm not flipping around or doing handstands on my board yet, I did manage a few warrior poses and such--and I didn't fall off once!

Here's a pic as proof. (I'm on the red board on the left.)

Photo Courtesy of Frank Long
Also on the BODY front, I got my food sensitivity test results back today, and OH MY GOSH, I am apparently allergic to nearly everything. Here's my list:

VERY HIGH: Banana and Pineapple
HIGH: Cranberry
MODERATE: Sesame Seeds
LOW: Broccoli, Cabbage and Clams
VERY LOW: Whey, Pecans, Baker's Yeast, 
Tuna, Milk and Egg Whites
TRACE: Whole Wheat and Lobster

My initial reaction was to FREAK THE F*CK OUT, but I am back under control again. Realistically, I should only really cut bananas, pineapples, cranberries and sesame seeds out of my diet. I can limit broccoli, cabbage and clams, and I can just keep an eye on whey, pecans, baker's yeast, tuna, eggs, milk, whole wheat and lobster. No big deal.

If anything, this knowledge can just help me remember to pay attention to the foods I shove in my mouth. It can also encourage me to eat as much chocolate and honey as possible. ;)

This week was a really good week on the MIND front. My WIP has been fighting with me ever since I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo, but I finally made a breakthrough this week and just started writing. I managed nearly 4,000 words in two days, and I feel so much better than I did before. 

This project is beginning to feel FUN again, and I'm starting to look forward to writing it. I also look forward to making this guy one of my characters. (In the most non-cheesy way possible.)

"Mac," Photo Courtesy of Me
On the SOUL front, I am continuing to explore Tampa and spend time with my family and friends. This week, it was the Holiday Market, Weedon Island (twice), the Florida Aquarium (again), the Royal Tea Room and various other spots around the city. I am beginning to know my way around now, and I am infinitely thankful for the people who have been there for me.

This transition still has its good days and its bad days, but I have been pinning the shit out of my feelings on Pinterest. What a great catharsis, and it's pretty to boot! :) Here's a link if you'd like to see what I have been up to: WORDS OF WISDOM.

So that's my update. I hope you had a good week, and I can't wait to visit your blogs. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: Panda Exchanges

As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours. It’s as though [they] took the classic 'What do you do?' cocktail party question and turned it into a website…minus the awkward small-talk."

I have been having a great time hosting my Zookeeper Q&A so far, and I have decided to reprint one of my favorite Jobstr questions on my blog every Tuesday. (Do you have your very own "Ask a Zookeeper" question for me? Ask it HERE!)

Here is this week's question:

Q: How do zoos negotiate animal exchanges (like when you hear about the SD zoo getting 3 pandas from China for a season or something)? -padres123

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
A: Hi Padres! Animal exchanges are done for a variety of reasons, including reproduction and genetic diversity. In the case of giant pandas, zoos often acquire them to inspire guests to care about issues like wildlife conservation. (They obviously appreciate the increase in zoo attendance as well. ;))

Nowadays, there are probably less than 1,000 pandas remaining in the wild. Only 110 or so live in zoos, and just 16 of these are housed outside China. The Chinese government regulates the export of pandas to zoos in other countries, and these exchanges can be incredibly complicated.

The crux of the exchange is monetary, of course, but many other factors may be at play. Sometimes, the zoos exchange other animals during the trade as well, and often the money must be used in a particular way--i.e., to support panda habitat restoration or research. Pandas can only be loaned for a certain amount of time, and very high standards of care must be met to ensure the panda is put into a thriving, dynamic environment.

Hope this is helpful!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Healthy Writers Club: "Call Me Maybe" and So On

Photo Courtesy of Shallee McArthur

Well, I officially suck at NaNoWriMo, but I had a good week nonetheless. I hope you guys did, too!

Here is my weekly progress:

Photo Courtesy of TinyTall
Wow, I really like riding my bike. Like, a lot. Like, way more than I thought I would. I managed four bike rides this week, and I covered more than 33 miles. (I would have gone on more rides, but I went out of town for two days, and I've been busy nursing a hangover for the past 48 hours. Definitely don't bounce back like I did in my twenties... ;))

I also attended my second stand-up paddleboarding lesson this past weekend, and I've nearly perfected what they call the "pivot turn." (I just call it "the turn that makes me fall off the board in the middle of Davis Island Harbor.")

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Did I mention I suck at NaNoWriMo? In terms of the tortoise and the hare, I have always been the hare. But NaNo is filled with mutant hybrids that combine the dedication of the tortoise with the speed of the hare, and I just don't know how to hang with that.

Oh well. I expected as much when I started, and I will not let NaNoWriMo defeat me!

Photo Courtesy of SidPix
Geez, I'll be honest. This transition to Florida from Colorado is one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken in my entire life. But I keep reminding myself that it's okay for me to NOT be okay right now. And I shouldn't be okay tomorrow, either--just like a butterfly can’t spring from a chrysalis 30 seconds after entering it. I need to take the time to let my insides dissolve, and I need to take the time to let them completely reform again.

You don’t have functional wings just because you feel a little twitch of muscle in your shoulders.

Here are my weekly Healthy Writers Club milestones:

1. In-Flight Entertainment Favorite: I made a conscious choice to forgo music on my bike rides this week, and I really, really enjoyed the silence. It gave me a chance to actually listen to my thoughts for once. And that was nice.

Oh, and I finally broke down and gave into my love of "Call Me Maybe" this week--especially the U.S. Olympic Swim Team's version. Best three minutes and twelve seconds ever.

2. Coolest moment: Realizing that I'm actually starting to look forward to my bike rides now. I've mapped out this gorgeous route along the water in South Tampa, and I can't wait to visit it.

3. Hardest moment: I hit a wall last night, but I'm back today. And I've started collecting inspirational quotes on Pinterest. (Check them out here.) They help, too.

How did your week go? Any healthy milestones or set-backs? I'm looking forward to visiting your blogs, and I hope you have a great weekend.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ask a Zookeeper: Surprisingly Ferocious Animals

As many of you know, I am the Zookeeper-in-Residence on website where "you can ask people anything about their jobs and answer questions about yours. It’s as though [they] took the classic 'What do you do?' cocktail party question and turned it into a website…minus the awkward small-talk."

I have been having a great time hosting my Zookeeper Q&A so far, and I have decided to reprint one of my favorite Jobstr questions on my blog every Tuesday. (Do you have your very own "Ask a Zookeeper" question for me? Ask it HERE!)

Here is this week's question:

Q: "Are there any animals that SEEM cuddly and docile to zoo visitors, but are actually ferocious and around which you need to be careful?" -Dan79

A: Absolutely! My general saying is that any animal with a mouth is capable of biting. ;)

Many visitors believe a zoo's only dangerous animals are the carnivores, but many of the world's most unpredictable and powerful animals are actually herbivores. Even the cute and cuddly creatures are capable of packing a pretty powerful punch. That's why it's important for animal care professionals to never let our guards down. No matter how long we have been working with a particular animal, we must always remember it is a wild animal, not a pet. 

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
As a specific example, I used to work in a facility that displayed arctic foxes. They were the cutest things in the world--fluffy and white, with button eyes and little black noses--but their cuteness transformed the moment anyone got too close. If given the opportunity, they would have probably chewed my fingers off. :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Healthy Writers Club: NaNoWriMo Madness

Is it really Friday already? And is it really November? I feel like I've been stuck in slow motion for the past few months; I can't believe Halloween is already over!

Before I get into my weekly milestones, I just have to share this cute picture of my nephew and me at the pumpkin patch this week. He's certainly worth a move across the country, don't you agree?

Photo Courtesy of Me
Here is my weekly progress:


No stand-up paddleboarding this week, but I will be attending my first on-the-water yoga class this weekend. I'm hoping to someday be this girl:

Photo Courtesy of lululemon athletica
In the absence of paddleboarding, I went on three long bike rides, and I also did one super intense cardio session followed by arm and ab work. (Not my best week, but I'm still fighting that stupid cough and sore throat that has plagued me since I moved here.)


Oh my God, it's NaNo time. Are you guys freaking out or what?? 

Photo Courtesy of NaNoWriMo
I've never done NaNo before; I've actually purposefully avoided it, because I take deadlines--even self-imposed ones--so seriously that I often talk myself into panic attacks. However, I have resolved this year to use NaNo as a framework for getting some work done on my new manuscript. I'm not going to hold myself to NaNo's ridiculously high word count, but I am going to check in over there and use its guidelines to remind myself to get some words on paper. 

Are any of you taking the plunge? If so, please find me so we can be buddies: Lisa Ann


I'm hanging in there. It certainly is an adjustment to realize I'm not just in Florida on vacation, and I'm still struggling with the idea that I live here and my life is unalterably different than it was a few months ago. It's also difficult to jump outside my comfort zone, as I settled into a pretty comfortable daily routine in Colorado.

Being surrounded by friends and family helps. This week, I went to the pumpkin patch for family portraits, watched a ballroom dancing competition with my good friend Mel, attended my first silent film (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) with Mel and my dad, caught up with some friends I hadn't talked to since the move, and helped my sister and brother-in-law take my nephew Trick-or-Treating.

Photo Courtesy of josierichards
I have also been thinking about caterpillars a lot, and I've made my peace with the fact that you need to stay in the chrysalis for awhile before you are able to become a butterfly.

Here are my weekly Healthy Writers Club milestones:

1. Weekly Stats: Three 5+ mile bike rides; one cardio session; one arm and ab workout

2. In-Flight Entertainment Favorite: Mumford & Sons. Surprisingly amazing cardio music

3. Coolest moment: For the first time this week, I had a moment where I looked down at my legs and realized they felt strong. My arms are starting to feel strong, too, and that's certainly a new development for me. They haven't felt like this since I stopped spin class two years ago.

4. Hardest moment: My body just can't seem to get well. I have been in Florida for nearly a month now, and I have been "sick" in some way for more than three weeks of that time. First it was a sore throat, then a fever, then a runny nose, then sneezing, then coughing. I woke up a few days ago to feel ANOTHER sore throat, and I almost had a meltdown. No way I could have handled starting the cycle over again!

How did your week go? Any healthy milestones or set-backs? I'm looking forward to visiting your blogs, and I hope you have a great weekend.