Monday, March 27, 2017

Giraffe Midwife Needed?

April, the giraffe, is ready to give birth any second now.  Her belly is as huge as a barrel.  I've become fairly obsessed intrigued by this giraffe and by the whole process of readying for a large animal birth in a small rural zoo.

Located in the Animal Adventure Park, a small interactive educational animal park in Harpursville, New York, April and her pregnancy saga have captured my heart and the affections of hundreds of thousands of You Tubers around the world.

From the moment I learned of the giraffe who "is about to deliver at any moment,"  I've been glued to the live camera feed of her onYou Tube, watching her a ridiculous amount of hours each day a lot.  By this point I've been monitoring April for 4 weeks, 5 days, 3 hours, and 24 minutes.

My April addiction began while I was eating my lunch back on February 22 of this year.  So, the way I see it, by now I'm practically qualified to be her birth doula.  I'm sure I know her that well.

In fact, all I have to do is put an "a" in the Google search bar.  I've searched "aprilthegiraffe.com" so often, checking her progress and wellbeing, my search engine takes me right there.  Heaven forbid if I wanted to learn something about albatrosses, or albumen, or any other "a" thing.  I'd have to actually type in the whole word.

During this long season of waiting, I've learned all about giraffes and their birthing habits.  Surely April's veterinary, Dr. Tim, would be grateful to have me as his quite competent assistant.  I'm possessed now with a wealth of information, just due to all the other giraffe birthing videos I've watched and internet articles I've read.

April and Oliver, necking
Oh, and I know all about April's relationship with her boyfriend, Oliver, too.  I'm on top of that.  April is 15, and this will be her fourth baby.  Oliver is only 5, and this is his first offspring.  So actually, April is a cougar disguised in giraffe spots.

Furthermore, we can truthfully call Oliver a deadbeat dad.  He won't have anything to do with the raising of this calf.  The only thing male giraffes worry about is mating and dining.  Repeat, over and over.

April is currently about 2000 pounds, a healthy weight for a 14 foot tall pregnant giraffe.  Oliver still has a bit of growing to do before he is a full grown bull.  He weighs in at about 1600 pounds now and is only about 12 feet tall.  He'll enlarge to about 2600 pounds at a full height of about 18 feet.  These are large animals, to be sure.

April with Alyssa, her favorite keeper
I really should be there, for I bet nobody knows her behavior patterns like I do.  I've studied what she likes, how she flings her hay over her shoulders, how she moves, when she lays down, and which keepers she responds to the most.  I've learned what every different sort of tail raising indicates - peeing, pooing, itching, fly swooshing, irritation, moodiness, or pressure.  And don't go pressing hard on her left side up there in the middle - she doesn't like that.  She will kick you or give you a whopping tail smack.

I know when she needs food, snacks, enrichment, attention, vet checks, and clean flooring.  Alyssa is her favorite tender.  I suppose I'd agree to working alongside Alyssa to help April give birth.

I'm been watching all the progress towards April's impending delivery, and I know she's getting very close.  The hubby and I often talk over dinner about the "signs."  Our conversations are peppered with comments like "increased backend swell," "aggressive baby movement," and "wax caps still present."  (Wax caps cover the holes at the tips of the teats to keep the nutritious colostrum fluid in for the baby's first nursing.)  We're onto all of it.  Ask me at any moment of the day, and I'll give you the most recent update.

Look closely for those wax caps
Ultimately when it's baby time, we're gonna see hooves protrude out April's backside, if her birth goes according to the normal pattern.  This emergence of baby's hooves will be the only sure sign that she is in active labor.  Giraffes instinctively hide all other signs of labor.  In the wild they don't want to do anything that alerts predator lions and jackals near to a vulnerable new baby.

So I wait.  I watch.  I check.  I fret if my internet craps out for a few moments.

How long will we still have to wait?  Good question.  The zookeeper tells us that a "witnessed" mating" occurred back in mid-October of 2015.  Giraffe pregnancies typically last 15 months, so the birth window was calculated to be mid-January to mid-February of 2017.  Hence the live camera was placed and started filming the "any moment it could happen" event in mid-February.

Well here we are in late March, no baby.  Since then the zookeeper has deduced that the first witnessed mating apparently "didn't take," and perhaps a later coupling did.  Not only that, but giraffe delivery due date windows take the estimated due date, plus or minus 50 days!

With so much watching and waiting, April and her child-to-be are just such a part of my life now.  They're practically my family.

Zoo officials say the live camera feed will continue for five days after the birth and then will be taken down.

What?  They can't just cut me off like that!  I'm gonna need some sort of an intervention after this is all over.  That feels like too abrupt of a transition for me to gracefully, emotionally handle.

Well anyway, this gal here, this giraffe-midwife-wannabe, is hoping all goes well for April and her baby.

And it better be soon.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Day of Hunting, Catching, and Killing

Today I feel much like Alexander.

That is, the Alexander of that well known award-winning children's book by Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Everything today seems to be going miserably, and I'm feeling out of sorts about all of it.

It all started last night when the hubby and I had a heated and unsettling argument.  No, let's call it what it was - a fight.  How is it possible for a husband and wife to have such a nasty row when we were in agreement about the issue?  I guess it all comes down to the semantics and their delivery, folks.  I tell you - they're killer.

Probably because of the argument (no we didn't kiss and make up before going to bed), I slept poorly.  Restless much of the night, I suffered through a cinema reel of bizarre and messed up dreams.

I stayed in bed later this morning than usual, because, well, I was just tired from that miserable night.

In general, I don't do "early morning" anything easily.  This morning, though, I didn't do "later morning" well, either.

And, I was out of K-cups for the coffee maker.  In that vein, let me just state that I do not possess a big enough mug for the amount of coffee I felt was required this morning.  Today I could have used the maxim magnum monster mug.

Along with feeling generally out of sorts, today I'm not feeling physically well.  An old and persistent ailment is giving me pain.  Pain that I could really do without.

I did valiantly try to get on with my day.  I tried to be productive and to get some work done, but business issues are continuing to confound me.  I have this mantra that EVERYTHING IS FIGUREOUTABLE, but at this point I haven't figured out one iota of it.

I'm feeling lonely.  (Usually I do whenever I have an argument with the hubs.)  I sort of feel like I might as well go crawl in a hole and just eat worms.  Nobody loves me.

And besides that, for the life of me, right now I cannot remember the last time somebody gave me a word of encouragement.  There.  That's obviously proof that nobody really cares about me.

I should probably just go and run away.  To somewhere, anywhere.  No, I don't really do any running these days; I'll just walk out.  Get out of here.  Get away from my problems.  Actually, now that I think of it, those old achilles wounds are bugging me.  I'll just limp away to somewhere and sit and lick my wounds.

Today, I'm pretty sure I am an insignificant, worthless specimen of the human race.

Yup.  I know now how Alexander felt.  It's one of those days.

It's on days like this that I need to pack up my gear and go hunting.  A day of hunting, catching, and killing is what's needed to alleviate what's ailing me.

At times like these when I'm about to slip over the edge of that crumbling precipice and fall headfirst into that black vortex of discouragement, isolation, and depression, I need to hunt.

Here's how I imagine it:  When the destructive thoughts begin flooding my mind, I imagine myself leaving my physical body and hovering up somewhere in the air space above my brain.  (I know you're probably thinking I'm crazy it's a stretch, but stick with me here a bit.)  That's where the "hunting" happens.

I've got my fancy schmancy weapon in my hand for the hunt, for I'm ready to "capture" those deadly thoughts.  I picture them coming out of my head one by one, just like those individual thought bubbles you see in the comics.

My weapon looks sort of like a superhero-sized butterfly net.  Destructive thought emerges.  I swing, flail, chase, swirl, swoop, reach, scoop, and do whatever it takes to "capture" it.

Then the "killing" happens.  I swiftly fling that thought, the one I've trapped in my net, with every bit of strength I've still got, up against the wooden cross.  That big one - the one onto which Jesus was nailed and bled and died for me.  The cross that is now empty, for Jesus conquered death, too.

When my captured thought slams against the cross, it is immediately soaked in the blood of Jesus there, absorbed, and then eliminated.  I'm free of it.

The "killing" continues until all those thoughts are captured and gone.

Today has been a heck of a hunt.  Plenty of warfare, capture, and killing.  I'm pretty beat up, but I'm gonna be fine.

Here's the reality.  My personal way of visualizing this thought battle may seem silly, but look at this:

     "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Furthermore, I've come home with no trophies from this exhausting day of hunting, for I've left them all with Him, and he's disposed of them.

He is the trophy, and I have HIM.  For that, I am so grateful.

     "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."  (Colossians 3:2)

I think Alexander just needed to learn to hunt.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Miraculous Provision

This morning during my quiet coffee time, I read portions of Mark 6, specifically the account of Jesus feeding the 5000 and the subsequent record of Jesus walking on the water.  (See Mark 6:30-44 and Mark 6:45-52.)

It is easy to read these two incidents quickly, to zip through them speeding onto the next thing.  If you’re like me, you’ve heard these two familiar stories over and over, many times since those early childhood Sunday School classes.  I remember coloring activity pages of five bread loaves and two fish, then cutting the shapes out, tearing them up, and putting the tiny, torn pieces into baskets my teacher had conveniently brought along.  We then pretended to be amazed at how the bread and fish had multiplied.

But really, what does this story of the feeding of the 5000 tell us today about PROVISION?

Here’s what I think:  Jesus provides what we need, when we need it.  Miraculously.  Period.

And, we usually don’t recognize it.

The feeding miracle as recounted in Mark 6 takes place far from other civilized areas.  Jesus had gone there with his guys, after all, to get away from all the chaos surrounding them and to rest.  They were in a remote place – no local cafes or restaurants, and certainly no food trucks rolling in right around dinnertime.

Miraculously, using five loaves of bread and two fish, he “cooked” up a satiating meal for thousands!  This is not in the same league as Gramma’s Thanksgiving spread for a whopping table of 25.  No, Jesus is feeding possibly as many as 15,000 or more, when you add in the women and children to the 5000 recorded men.

I can’t explain how he did this.  This is not just some sort of sleight of hand.  He doesn't have enough secret pockets in those tunics of his to hide food for thousands.

Those people in the crowd couldn’t have imagined this special meal was going to happen.

The disciples, even though seeing the food pass through their very own hands, didn’t get it.  (See later in verses 51b-52, and again at their “retest” in Mark 8.)

Even today, we don’t get it.  We don’t look for and expect his miraculous provision. 

Yet, he still loves to provide, to bless us.

I know that is true in my own life.  Just last week I headed up into the mountains to our family’s lodge for a little getaway, to a “quiet place for some rest.”  (See verse 31b.)  The lodge is in a remote place – seven miles off the nearest paved road, way back into the woods.

I had $0 cash in my wallet when I arrived there, yet miraculously I left there with $170.  No stores, no banks, lousy non-functioning satellite internet - just unexpected PROVISION. 

One relative gave me cash to help cover food I had purchased for all of us.  I had not requested help, nor had expected it.  Another relative gave me cash for a donation for several of my books.  I had not been counting on this money, either.

By miraculous, timely PROVISION, I had money then in my wallet to cover me on the next leg of my trip.  After leaving the lodge, I made a road trip which required cash turnpike tolls and meals along the way for several days.

Some people might attempt to explain away this miraculous PROVISION.  Others might claim I had been irresponsible by not bringing any cash along when I certainly knew I’d need it.  Yet others may find alternate ways of explaining away his provision to me.

They can all say what they want.  They can believe as they choose.  As for me, I want to watch for and recognize these delightful gifts from my Father.  I don’t want to miss a thing when it comes to his miraculous PROVISION to me!

Lord, keep my heart from being hardened by what goes on around me in this world.  Help me to always seek you and see your ways at work in my life.

The disciples were (as we are too!) dense as doorknobs.  They didn't get it.  Watch for their "retest" later in Mark 8...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What Will YOU Remember?

The Alamo
A few days ago, the hubby and I returned home from a wonderful five-day sightseeing vacation to San Antonio, Texas.  We had a great experience, but I’m left with some things to ponder.

Leaving the winter temperatures and dreary gray skies of central Pennsylvania, we were hoping for lots of sunshine and warmer days in Texas, and we were not disappointed.  Also, we were looking forward to experiencing a new place and learning some more tidbits of our country’s history.

The River Walk
Using our rental car, we made our way around the area and saw all the sights and sounds on our itinerary:

The Alamo
The San Antonio River Walk  
River Walk Boat Tour
The four other missions along the Missions National Trail and in the Missions National   Park
            A two-day on/off double decker bus tour of San Antonio
            Breckenridge Park
            The Pearl Brewery
            Buckhorn Saloon and Wildlife Museum
            El Mercado (The Marketplace)
            La Villita (Old Town part of San Antonio)
            The 1968 World’s Fair Tower of the Americas
            Dinner at Rudy’s, a Bar-B-Q joint famous with the locals

San Antonio On/off Bus Tour
As we traveled home, I was pondering over all we had seen, heard, and tasted. My thoughts traveled back to other trips I’ve taken in my lifetime, and I sorted through the memories I have from them, too.

It occurred to me that my memories of each trip are frankly quite limited, yet the ones I have are very specific. 

Oh yes, I took plenty of photos and purchased oodles of post cards while on those trips.  I created elaborate scrapbooks of my journeys, which are now….somewhere. 

I bought plenty of souvenirs on those trips, too - things that seemed so “necessary” to have at the time.  All those carefully made purchases are now…somewhere.

I worked hours before each trip, planning and carefully crafting and studying my itineraries.  After those trips, I saved all those travel papers and trip brochures, so sure I’d want to look over them again and again.   But the reality is they are now…somewhere.

I don’t know where all those things are, and if I’m being totally honest, at this stage of my life they don’t matter.  They’re just things.  I have the MEMORIES, and that’s so much better, even though my memories are condensed down to just a few visual images and impressions from each trip.

Some of those trips happened as long as fifty years ago, so it’s no wonder my brain has sifted and sorted and only retained a few recollections from each.

From my first Disney World Trip, I remember the flying ghosts of the Haunted Mansion and that one pesky dwarf of Snow White’s who seemed to be following me everywhere.

From a Bermuda trip, I have pleasant recollections of skootering around the island and visiting a little boutique perfumery en route.

From San Francisco, probably the best fish and chips I’ve ever had there on the wharf and a meal at Tommy’s Place, a quirky little eating joint.

San Diego – riding the glass elevator in the hotel with my brothers

Tijuana, Mexico – bright lights and lots of gaudy colors and clothing

Norway – fjords

Sweden – a meal of crawfish and caviar

Denmark – a large carousel

Alaska – glaciers and bears and Tammy – a beautiful lady trapper

Venice – pigeons and a stinky gondola ride

Australia - digiridoos

I could go on and on.  I’ve been certainly so blessed to have had so many fine traveling experiences.

My point is that of all the things I’ve seen and experienced, my mind has captured and kept just a few limited things from each trip, and that’s enough.

"Homeless Jesus" statue
Thinking about this most recent trip to San Antonio, Texas, I believe that twenty years from now I’ll remember three things:  The Alamo, The River Walk, and the many homeless people I saw everywhere we went.

Yes, I’ve seen homeless folks before in larger cities, but I don’t typically see them in my small hometown.

Frankly, seeing so many obviously hungry, sick, and mentally ill people living on the streets in such wretched conditions wrecked me.  I drifted off to sleep each night with them on my mind.

I’m compelled to give this issue more thought and lots of prayer.  What should be the Christian’s response when actually meeting these people face to face?

Oh for sure, I’ve given money to organizations working to alleviate and heal the people living in homeless conditions.  Yes, I've done that, even though it seems like such a drop in the bucket when I read that we currently have about 2 1/2 MILLION homeless people in our country. 

But it’s different when they are standing six inches in front of you, looking you in the eyes, and begging for help.  You see them, you smell them, you wonder what to do.

Ironically, throughout the week of our vacation in San Antonio, I was reading a book by Mike Yankoski, Under the Overpass.  It is an enlightening account of the six months he purposefully lived as a homeless man – one month in each of six large cities of the United States.  He and a buddy undertook the adventure as a social experiment.  They wanted to study how the Christian community is reacting to the homeless population of America.

This homeless issue is truly messing with me. 

Note to self:  Pray more about this.  What specifically does God want me to do when I am confronted by a homeless person?  How shall I be ready next time I travel to another big city (or anywhere the homeless may be found)?  How can I help without aiding addiction? 

Must.  Pray.  More.