Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
"Mirror Mirror, on the wall"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In search of an Aardvark!

Nursing Zebra Babyis almost as big as Mom
Mom and Baby sharing a mud bath.

Where did Baby get those beautiful eyelashes?  Mom, of course!

Don't worry; be happy!

This 3 week old baby was as big as an animal cracker
In search of the Aardvark

While I was in Kruger National Park, I was surprised that there were so few small animals and rodents to be seen.  I invited our adorable young guide, Michael, to come to visit me in Wellesley, where he could see millions of squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, bunnies, skunks and raccoons.  He could also see tons of deer, wild turkeys and even foxes.  Although they have all of the “big five,” Elephants, Rhinos, Lions, Leopards and Cape buffalo, in the Bush,  the threat they pose to all the smaller animals makes them stay well hidden.  Michael, who lived in the midst of elephants and lions, had never seen any of the animals that eat my flowers every year and forage in my trashcans if I forget to close the garage door. 

In Kruger, we saw Impalas everywhere and joked that they were “the fast food of the bush” since they were prey to every predator.  We saw baboon mamas and baboon babies, Giraffe Mamas and Giraffe babies and Wart hog Mamas and Wart hog babies but we never saw an Aardvark.   Our guide at Sabi Sabi had only seen an Aardvark once although he was a Tribal South African and had lived in Kruger his whole life. 

Like the unicorn, Aardvarks have assumed magical status and tickle our imaginations.   They are a symbol of all that is mystical and hidden from our view.  Their existence illustrates how big the world is and inspires awe and wonder.  We can be reassured by the Aardvark that many things we will never see in our lifetimes really do exist.  It is in the searching that life is revealed and I can’t be disappointed by the journey I took even though we didn’t find the Aardvark. 

Now that I am home, my camera gear is packed away and I go about my life as usual.  However, I find myself looking at all the same things that I have looked at as routine for years, in a different way.  I find that I am mesmerized by the way the birds are lined up on telephone poles, the gracefulness of the bare tree branches, the color of the sky and the clouds, and the sunset.  As I drive up my driveway, I smile at the squirrels that scurry by, chasing each other up and down the trees.  I stop for a moment to listen to the rustle of the leaves and see a lone hot pink flower poking out among them, defying the laws of nature. I am sorry that haven’t taken the opportunity to appreciate my own environment and see for the first time, the beauty that I have been missing.

I even have my very own Aardvark right here, at home!  She does not have a long snout or big ears and her name is Olivia. She eats squash and avocado rather than insects, but she has a smile that fills my heart with joy and everything she does is a miracle.  I hope that I will never stop searching for the Aardvark, but I am very satisfied by the one that puts so much magic in my life!


Olivia, my very own Aardvark!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sharing my Blog on Facebook was a big step!

Olivia and Duke: Play nice Olivia!

Yesterday was a BIG day for me when I put my blog out on facebook and I want to thank everyone for reading it and for all the kind responses I got!  It really means so much to me.  You may be wondering…”Why?”  Why am I doing this and what do I get out of my blog.

One week before Olivia was born, I injured my back pretty severely.  While I was lucky because the pain was mainly referred nerve pain in my leg and foot and at very least, I could hold Olivia when she was born, I couldn’t walk, or play tennis and golf.  So I had to figure out what I was going to do with all the time I had spent doing all of these things.  I have always loved writing, so I decided that I would sign up for a writing class.  For years I have fantasized about writing a sit-com about all the crazy things I see happening with my friends and family.  Kind of like a “Friends” or “Everybody loves Raymond” based on families with grown children, like mine.  Of course my children, as usual, challenged me with the question, WHO, Mom, would find your sit-com funny?   They still don’t understand how I can always find amusement in my life and it doesn’t really matter if they don’t get it.  I know there are people out there, like you, who get it.  People like me!

Anyway, I found a great writers workshop in Boston called Grub Street and looked at their schedule.   I would have taken any class that began immediately and that met during the day.  The only class that fit those requirements was, “Writing the hard truths”.  Well, I have some hard truths.  In my father’s last few years when he was caring for my mother, he took all his frustration and pain out on my sisters and me and played each of us against the other.  We still haven’t recovered.  I had some good painful truths to write about!   

After the first class, I was so intimidated.   My classmates wrote about truly devastating life experiences.  For example, one woman wrote about the abduction and murder of her niece, Sara Pryor; A story that I inhabited in the 80’s when I passed by the house where this child lived everyday when I took my children to pre-school.  There were yellow ribbons tied around a tree and signs hoping for information about Sara’s whereabouts. One woman was molested as a child and another timid, awkward man, had been married to a depressed schizophrenic for 25 years.  I imagined my classmates thinking that my stories about my “mean Daddy” were as traumatic in their eyes as not being able to buy a new pair of shoes because they ran out of my size! 

When I first presented my work, they ripped it apart.  Particularly criticizing my lack of honesty.  One woman in the class actually tried to defend me because she felt that my classmates were too harsh and that they should try to find something I had done well in my work.   I assured her that their criticism was valid and that I appreciated it and accepted it.  I took it all to heart and my next presentations were received with accolades mixed in with suggestions.  

I continued with writing workshops through the summer and decided that I had to have an intermediary goal to my sit-com, and the blog was conceived.   It makes me accountable to publishing a post at least once a week, it allows me to vent and share, but most importantly, as I go along, I am really finding my voice. 

It took me a long time before I e-mailed the link to a few friends and I was very careful about what I shared about my children, but I have learned that I am entitled to “my stories”.  At first, I sent every post to them for approval and found that they could accept anything I presented from my own point of view.  On Thanksgiving, when I told my kids that I was going to share my blog on Facebook, they turned to me with surprise.  “Are you still doing that?” they asked.  I laughed.  Oh well, now I know that I can really push the envelope.

I have heard so many of you tell me that you have left comments and they don’t get posted!!!  I am really so happy that you have visited and your comments and insights are so important to me.  I was hoping that I could start some conversations and  I need your feedback to make that happen. I am investigating this further and if it does not get resolved a.s.a.p., I may have to change my server. 

Again, thank you for reading and I hope that I can meet your interests with my topics and issues. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Afterglow: My level of existence is elevated after my wonderful African Adventure!


Unfortunately, I didn’t have time or the internet ability to post while I was gone.  The tour that I was on kept us so busy from sunrise to sunset, we fell into bed each night and even the hotels, which said that they had internet, had spotty service at best.  I am writing now from the first flight homeward, from Zimbabwe, where we experienced the astonishing Victoria Falls to Johannesburg S. A.   We have about 24 hours of traveling and two more flights ahead of us.  It is a welcome opportunity to rest and reflect on this amazing, trip of a lifetime. 

We actually joined this Tauck Tour after hearing about it from our Friends, Joanie and Mike who had planned to go on this trip as a 40th Anniversary celebration. Their trip sounded amazing, but I never thought of us as the guided tour types.  I worried a bit about Lewis aversion to being told what to do and when.   I really had nothing to worry about because this trip was nothing short of amazing.  We started out in Cape Town, had two different Safari experiences, and visited Johannesburg before traveling to Victoria Falls where the tour ended with a highlight.  We stayed at wonderful hotels, some more wonderful than others, saw incredible sights, and never had to worry about an airport transfer or a piece of baggage.  If there was anything to complain about, it was only that the details and instructions that our tour director gave us on a daily basis made me feel as if I were an incompetent five year old who had never been on a trip before.  I kept asking my friend Mike, “Do you think she would be shocked to know that you are a Harvard graduate?”

Joanie and Mike were wonderful travel companions.  We have traveled together many times before with a group of friends who go away together every year for the Fourth of July and even went to the beach together for a few days this summer, so we knew that we got along and would have a lot of fun.  We knew that they enjoyed meeting new people too and that we would not prevent each other from developing other relationships, but we didn’t foresee how bonded we would get from sharing these powerfully life-changing experiences. 

The other people on our tour were all interesting and we enjoyed our time with them, too.  The first night we met, it was clear that there were a few characters on this trip besides the ones we brought with us, Joanie and Lewis, but as we went along several others emerged.  One nice quiet lawyer from California was invited to join a group of African Dancers and ripped off his shirt to mimic the African men as he danced!  Lewis, of course, whenever he saw an African troupe on the street, couldn’t resist hopping in the middle and shaking his booty along with them.  Other members of our group would steal the microphone on the bus and tell jokes much to the tour director’s dismay, and Lewis loved to play tour director and propose  itinerary changes.  Although we were attentive and moved by the challenges of poverty and race relations in South Africa and Zimbabwe, I will say that we burned more calories laughing than with any other activity.  Here is a video of Lewis dancing with an African troupe.
video


The Safari vehicles held 6 people, so one unlucky couple from Lancaster, Pa. was assigned to go with our little group.  Betsy and Bill were the most good-natured and happy people on the trip.  Although I usually wonder if my real mission on this earth is to be the brunt of Lewis’ jokes, Lewis teased Betsy relentlessly and she took it all with great humor.   We went to two Safari sites; the first was Tinga Legends in Kruger National park, and the second was a private reserve called Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge.  We saw every one of the “Big Five” animals up close but so much more; beautiful vistas, breathtaking sunsets and starfilled nights more.   (The big 5; elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and Cape buffalo)

One day we were watching a pride of lions sleeping in a clearing after killing a cape buffalo and filling their bellies.  As we watched, a herd of Elephants came marching towards them.  Our guide warned us, “something is going to happen but I am not sure what”.   With that, the elephants started to take off after the lions; who knew that those huge lumbering beasts could run at about 40 KM's per hour.  They isolated one little lion cub who ran under a bush to hide.  The Mama lions did everything they could to distract the lions to no avail.   The elephants circled the bush and tried to trample the poor little cub.  After a while, the elephants dispersed an we drove close to see if the cub was okay.  He looked alright to me as he shivered underneath the bush but I am not sure.  Our guide told us that this was on of the most exciting experiences he had with a group.  He allowed us to see it all unfold at a very close distance but kept us safe the whole time.

Every day, we loaded our pictures on our i-pads and relived the excitement, but I always started with the pictures I brought with me from my last Olivia visit.  I am so happy that the whole family will be here for Thanksgiving and I will be able to share all my pictures and experiences and get some baby-love from Liv.

I have so many more Africa tales to tell so I hope that you will come back for more!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Getting there is half of the fun! My upcoming trip to South Africa


Olivia's  First Halloween

     It has been a long time since I felt free enough to take a trip across the world.  First I couldn’t leave my children; there were football and soccer games, homework and tests, formals and parties and actually, I didn’t want to miss any of it.  Then my mother got sick and we went from crisis to crisis.  I was afraid to commit to dinner with friends, never mind a big trip.   Well, my time has come and tomorrow, Lewis and I are leaving for a South African adventure.   No one will either miss us or probably even notice that we’re not around. 
    Although, I know that this is going to be the most wonderful experience, I have had so much fun these past few months, just looking forward to it and preparing for it.  This trip has even inspired to me to drop a couple pounds, something I have been trying to do unsuccessfully, for years.  Of course these few pounds are a drop in the bucket; not enough to prevent the nightmares I am having about being asked to reveal how much I weigh before boarding the small planes.
    We purchased our safari clothes, returned our safari clothes because we just couldn’t bear to wear anything so unflattering, and bought them back again.   I struggled with what I would pack knowing that they would be very strict about weight on those reprehensible small planes.  Also concerning to me was if I would have to compensate for lying about my weight by cutting some luggage weight.  Which was the lesser evil?
    We were warned that we shouldn’t wear blue or black because they attract Tse Tse flies!  This surprised me because I actually thought Tze Tze flies were extinct! In addition we were told that we shouldn’t wear bright colors or white.  There went all my options! Earth tones, khaki brown and green were all that was left and those are not my colors.   I guess I don’t have to worry about bringing more than the allotted 44 lbs after all.
    A few weeks ago, we got all our shots and poor Lewis came down with just a touch of typhoid afterwards.  He got a burning rash up and down his arms which drove him crazy for almost two weeks.   We leave tomorrow with malaria pills in hand to take before we go on Safari.
    Now, we are in the last stretch and, this morning, I woke up with shooting pains in my ears, and Lewis lost a filling.  Good thing we were so organized because on our last day at home we had to fit in a Doctor’s appointment for me and a Dentist appointment for him.  “OY”.  
    Anyway, I am not sure whether I will be able to post when I am gone, but I will certainly try and hope that I will be able to post some pictures of my trip.