Facing Forward

I’m on the brink of amazing change, and it all stemmed from a giraffe. You just never know when a figurative cue ball will send your eight ball careening off in an entirely different direction. That’s what makes life so exciting.

I have been watching April the Giraffe’s live feed on Youtube since February. I watched her pregnant belly as the baby kicked. I watched any number of contractions. She kept me company at least 8 hours a day. She became a big part of my life. So when I woke up on April 15th to discover that the birth was in progress, I got really, really excited.

Unfortunately, I still had to go to work. I broke all land speed records getting there, believe you me! And then I immediately logged back on again. Fortunately, the front hooves and the head where the only things that had made it into the world up to that point, so I got to watch the rest of the birth, live.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried some ugly, joyful tears when her calf finally made his entrance, and even more when he stood up an hour later. Life, man. Life! You know? What a miracle it is.

And just like that, I realized I hadn’t been living, not really, for quite some time. It occurred to me that life is like a flowing river, and we float downstream with it. As we go, we see things come toward us and we experience them and then they recede into the past.

But that’s only if you’re facing forward. Many things can cause you to face backwards. Trauma. Grief. Fear. Depression. They all cause you to focus on the past. And if you’re like me, you get stuck there, and try to recreate the past in your present. You want to get back to where you were before everything went so wrong.

The problem with that is you’re still floating down the river. Life goes on. But now you’re not seeing it. Because you’re facing backwards, by the time current events flash past your peripheral vision, they’re already a thing of the past. That’s no way to live.

Time to face forward again. Live in the present. Plan for the future. And don’t do so as half a person, presenting yourself to the world as a broken shadow of your former self.

For example, if you’re grieving, don’t avoid music or experiences that you shared with the person you lost. Why are you narrowing your horizons like that? Would the person you lost want you to only be half of yourself? No. You’re still alive, and to have healthy relationships moving forward, you need to be able to give the next person ALL of you. Yes, grief changes you, and that’s okay. But it shouldn’t limit you, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for continuing down the stream.

So I’m making a conscious effort to face forward again. I’m house hunting, and I’m exercising, and I’m eating right. I’m trying really hard to live in the now. Because life is happening right now, and it’s a precious and limited commodity. I plan to make the most of it, rather than putting it on hold.

And I got all that from a giraffe. Imagine that.

As my friend Carole likes to say, “Onward and upward, into the future!”


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Bad Business

Imagine if, purely by accident, you stumbled upon a way to have at least 50,000 people gaze lovingly at your business at any given time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I know if I drew that much attention to my blog, even once, I’d think I had died and gone to heaven. That’s the kind of PR gold that most fortune 500 companies would pay millions, as in Superbowl advertising money, to obtain.

But somehow, the Animal Adventure Park, a petting zoo in Harpursville, New York, halfway between Syracuse and Scranton, managed to achieve this miracle without even really trying. All they did was put up a live camera in the stall of April, their pregnant giraffe. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They thought a few locals might be interested, and some regular visitors to the park might want to take a peek as well. They never expected the world would be beating a path to their door.

As April’s anticipated due date came and went with no baby appearing, all eyes began to anxiously await the new arrival. They got to know the vet, the owner, and the handlers by name. They created Facebook groups. Plush toys and posters began flying out of their gift shop. They created a text alert system, where paid subscribers could obtain updates and exclusive photos.

When the calf was finally born on April 15th, 1.2 million people were watching the live feed. I was one of them, and I have to admit I had an ugly, joyful cry. They are now having a contest where you can pay to vote for a name for the new baby boy. So far, so good.

But publicity has its downsides. Fielding all those interviews and e-mails has made it nearly impossible for the park to focus on business as usual. At one point, April was limping, and their servers crashed from all the e-mails they received from concerned viewers. People even called 911. And everybody’s a critic. Are they being fed enough? Too much? Why don’t they go outside more often?

So, on the day of this writing, the Animal Adventure Park decided to pull the live camera, just as they had planned to do all along, prior to all this kerfuffle. They thought 5 days of seeing the baby was plenty. Thanks for watching. Now please go away.

I cried when that camera went down. April has been streaming on my laptop at least 8 hours a day for weeks now. As I wrote this blog, I had her off to the side, keeping me company. She has become part of my life. And I’m in love with that baby boy. I know I’m not alone. Schools have used April to teach about Giraffe conservation. Senior centers have noticed that their Alzheimer’s patients may have trouble remembering other things, but they are anxious to check on April every day. We have become a family.

The park staff say that you’ll be able to see them occasionally on yard cameras, and they’ll have sporadic updates and photos, and maybe turn the camera on every once in a while, but it won’t be the same. And what they’re doing makes no sense at all.

I hate to say this, but April is a cash cow. And all this attention could be parlayed into a unique opportunity to educate people about giraffes and their endangerment. It would be a great avenue for fundraising for the park. That little zoo in that little town could become Giraffe central. They could be the go-to people for giraffe information. Yes, it creates more work. So hire a Public Relations person. The live cam would raise funds for that easily.

Throwing away a chance like this seems foolish. It’s such a waste. I will never understand this thought process.

April, I’ll miss you. Having you snatched away from all of us is no way to celebrate Earth Day.


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My April Obsession

It’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep, so I check out the live feed of April the Giraffe. She’s alone in her stall, flirting with the camera. I love her eyelashes and her chipmunk cheeks when she’s chewing her cud.

She’s also heavily pregnant. The vet thought she’d give birth on April 1st or 2nd, and at least 200,000 people have been watching the live feed at any given time, but she’s refusing to perform. I wonder if she senses all the attention. She definitely has the most heavily scrutinized vagina in the world.

Her calf will be about 150 pounds. I can’t imagine what that would feel like. I can’t even imagine what passing 4 hoofs would feel like. She’s been pregnant for at least 15 months, too. No wonder she’s going to give birth standing up, and drop the kid on its head from a height of 6 feet! Serves him (or her) right!

Sometimes I’ve seen April swing her head around and closely examine her stomach as if she’s surprised. I’m guessing the baby is kicking. I have no idea why she’s surprised. This ain’t her first rodeo, as we say in the South. But a giraffe kick must pack a wallop.

I’m obsessed with April. My dog Quagmire is, too. He often sits on my lap and we gaze at the camera in rapt attention. I think Quagmire is in love. I wish they could mate. They’d produce solid black giraffes or short little spotted dachsunds. Either way, they’d be cute. Alas, these inter-species romances rarely last.

I leave the April Cam running on my personal laptop at work so I can keep an eye on her. She keeps me company throughout my shift. She feels like a friend. I just love giraffes in general.

But I wish she’d get with the program!


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The Misinformation Movement

The other day I was perusing Youtube and I came across this video called The Eyeball Collector:


It says in capital letters, TRUE CRIME CASE, so I was taken in for a split second. But, as I’ve written in a recent blog entry, I am a bit of a sick puppy, so surely in all my twisted web searches I’d have come across a little girl who likes to collect eyeballs. I mean, how could I have missed that? So I did a Google search, and sure enough, the ONLY hit is for this guy’s video. And not a thing on Wikipedia, either.

I decided to look into this guy’s list of other videos. A lot of “TRUE CRIME CASES” popped up. These included “The Killer Santa”, “The Spam Murders”, “The Sofa Corpse”, and “The Lesbian Bride Murder”. Actually, they’re worth a peek, because once you figure out they’re bogus, they’re kind of fun to watch. The guy’s got the kind of warped imagination that appeals to me. But what disturbs me are the comments. People actually fall for this stuff! They think they’re true. He could have advertised them as jokes, and I’d still have watched them, and I would have had much more respect for him.

The thing is, this is becoming more and more of a trend. It’s so easy to communicate with the world these days that people with questionable integrity are taking advantage of it. We saw that, in particular, with Hurricane Sandy. Some bozo decided to tell the world that the New York Stock Exchange was under 3 feet of water, and that spread quickly through Facebook and Twitter, and before all was said and done, it was even reported on CNN. If it had been true, it could have had worldwide financial implications, so spreading that kind of bs is, at best, irresponsible.

I have even found myself unintentionally participating in the misinformation movement. I once posted a link to Sokoblovsky Farms on my Facebook page. For the uninitiated, this was a really cute prank web page for a supposed miniature giraffe farm. It even had a “live” webcam of its “petite lap giraffes”.

Petite Giraffe baby

I thought it was cute and funny, but I never in a million years expected that people would BELIEVE that there are actually miniature giraffes out there. Within 24 hours, half my friends list was desperately searching for a way to own one! Good grief. I had to explain, and then I felt horrible about disappointing them. It kind of makes you wonder about the gullibility of the internet viewing public. Now if you do a search of Sokoblovsky Farms, what you find is a lot of links to people asking “Does this place really exist?” So sad.

There are generations of adults now who have lived with the internet their whole lives. I fear that that will engender in them an unhealthy level of trust in this type of media. It takes a lot of effort to double check every fact you come across, but please, at the very least, go to www.snopes.com or www.factcheck.org before spreading misinformation. Not a week goes by without my receiving some hysterical, cautionary and FALSE e-mail in my inbox, which I am able to debunk through Snopes in a matter of seconds, but when I point this out to the sender, I rarely see them sending out a follow up e-mail that says, “oops…”.

Misinformation is easy to spread. I’d like to think most of it is unintentional. But it has to originate somewhere. If you’re an originator, thanks for the laughs, but SHAME on you.