Monday, September 23, 2013


I just spent nearly 10 hours in the most freezing cold conference hall imaginable.  I did have a 30 minute lunch, but was still cold when I got back.  I would have like to have stayed for the 5:30-6:30 presentation, but was so miserable I decided to come back to the room to warm up before the 7-8:30pm presentation.  I can look out my window and see countless restaurants, along with a huge shopping mall with a food court just across the parking lot, but I'm so cold I'm eating crackers and peanut butter because I can't stand the thought of going out into the cold hallway.  I really need to ice my foot but that is just not going to happen.  I think I have my Carhartt winter work coat in the trunk of my car and I may have to go get item.  I wonder if JC Penney sells footie pajamas and big fuzzy slippers because that's what I want to wear under my coat.  I think my bibs are in my work locker or I'd wear them too.

Okay, I'm done complaining about the cold.  Otherwise, the conference is great!  Today lots of the topics covered animal welfare issues.  For those not in the profession, animal welfare is the scientific approach to animal care covering everything from proper diet to proper housing to emotional state.  This is opposed to animal rights which is the philosophical viewpoint that animals deserve the same rights as humans.  Anyway, I learned some great stuff I'd never considered, along with lots of differing ideas.  I also attended the meeting for chapter leaders and I best be going over our chapter's constitution and bylaws ASAP.  We also had speakers from Lewa, the International Rhino Foundation and the cheetah organization that Bowling for Rhinos helps fund.  It's been a long day and I'd probably be exhausted if not for all the coffee I drank trying to keep warm.

Yesterday's trip to Duke Lemur Center and the Durham Science Center was fantastic!  The lemur center had acres and acres of wooded areas where troops of lemurs roamed free.  We got to go in 3 of them.  One had a group of sifakas along with some other lemurs I can't even remember because being inches away from multiple "free-roaming" sifakas was so cool.  The next yard was full of a large family of ring-tailed lemurs.  There were many babies of different ages and all would run right over your feet.  The dominant male went right up to everyone.  We then saw several pairs of breeding lemurs who were in enclosures rather than huge free yards.  Finally, we got to go into the nocturnal building which housed aye-ayes, pygmy lorises and gray mouse lemurs.  Before I saw my first aye-aye at Omaha Zoo, I thought they were tiny.  They are actually the largest nocturnal primate and one of the largest (maybe the largest, I can't remember) lemur.  Anyway, they are crazy-looking and super, super cool.  They have to have tons and tons of enrichment and can only have fleece cloth because they pull apart everything.  They also can make a small hole in an orange or a nut and perfectly clean out the fruit, leaving the shell/skin intact.  I don't think I've ever seen gray mouse lemurs before, or if I have, I didn't get a good look.  There are adorable!  They are probably the cutest primates I've ever seen.

The Durham Science Center was also way better than I thought it would be.  They had a really nice butterfly and insect house.  We got a behind the scenes tour of the black bears and a keeper did a demonstration with one of the bears in the squeeze cage.  Meanwhile, two of the other bears came right up to the fence and we were an inch away from them.  We also got to see the wolves and farm animals up close.  Last night was the conference ice breaker at the Greensboro Science Center.  The Greensboro Science Center is also an AZA accredited zoo and aquarium with a large ray touch tank.  The food was a fat girl's dream with a mac and cheese bar (yes bar) and a huge selection of dips with home made chips.  There was also a table with vegetables and cheeses.  Delicious food followed by a ray tank with no children.  Pretty awesome!

Ugh.  I have 10 minutes to make it back to the meeting room and I'm still freezing.  I guess I'll come back and take a hot shower.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

North Carolina

I'm in North Carolina for the next week for a zoo keeper conference.  I'm excited for countless reasons, but the main ones are that I love road trips, I've never been to a national level conference before and my doctor said I don't have to wear my boot as long as I'm not doing anything strenuous.  I've been wearing the boot for the past 7 weeks, including all week at work last week.  I'm sick of it!  Back to work went really well.  My first day back I was in so much pain when I got home I thought maybe I made a mistake.  I iced my foot and then used my heat wrap and was a lot better in the morning.  I then started icing my foot during my morning break and lunch and the difference at the end of the day was huge.  By Thursday (my Friday) I was much better than I was on Sunday.  My foot still hurts, but it's not the unbearable pain that kept me out of work.  I went off all my pain meds ~6 weeks ago and switched to all natural options.  I'm taking a specially formulated joint pain vitamin pack along with an herbal anti-inflammatory.  I would normally assume the holistic approach is a bunch of hooey, but it seems to be working at least as well as the prescription that was giving me all kinds of nasty symptoms. 

Back to North Carolina...  I left Friday morning after I dropped the kids off at school.  I took my time and drove without any real goal in mind.  I stopped at interesting rest areas and landmarks.  I found a really cool Audubon center near Dayton that had a great sitting room overlooking a large bird feeder area with a water feature.  I enjoyed the scenery and pulled into Charleston just as it was getting dark.  I would have liked to drive another hour or two, but I decided that I wanted to be able to see my surroundings.  It was a wise decision because the drive through West Virginia and Virginia was one of the prettiest I remember.  The never ending foothills covered with green trees that were just starting to change.  West Virginia's slogan is "Wild and Wonderful" and it certainly was.  I was meandering through North Carolina, sort of sad my drive was almost over when I saw an exit sign for Mt. Pilot.  Wait, what?  Mt. Pilot?  Like from Andy Griffith?  There really is such a place?  Indeed there is!  And there is even a restaurant called Aunt Bea's.  I've been there.  I also stopped at Pilot Mountain state park and drove to the summit.  Today was foggy, windy and drizzly, but this is the time of year for hawk migration and it turns out Pilot Mountain is one of the counting points.  If next Friday is a little nicer, I will be going back to count hawks!

The convention center/hotel in Greensboro looks like it was built in the 50s.  It has one large tower and two small ones.  There are more than 1000 hotel rooms and countless conference rooms.  My room looks like it has been recently updated.  It's nice, but the bathroom is weird.  Specifically, the shower is weird.  There is no tub, just an enormous shower stall with only a half sheet of glass floor to ceiling and no door.  The shower head is mounted to the ceiling and rains down over the drain.  I have to step completely out of the water to adjust the faucet.  There is no towel bar convenient and no curtain rod or side of the tub or other place to hang a towel.  The toilet is right on the other side of the shower glass so the only place for a towel (other than the rack all the way across the large room or the bar behind the toilet) is the floor in front of the toilet.  GROSS!  The way the shower is set up with a huge area out of the water, there is no floor mat.  I had to lay a towel on the floor in front of the toilet to set my clean towel on.  Weird. 

Tomorrow I'm going on a pre-conference trip to the Duke Lemur Center.  It's a place I've always wanted to visit and now I get to go AND go behind the scenes.  Tomorrow night is the conference ice breaker at the Greensboro Science Center that is also a zoo and aquarium.  Monday through Thursday are conference days with a trip to the North Carolina Zoo thrown in at some point.  I've got a few extras planned for the evenings.  It should be a fun week!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Well, I'm pretty sure I'm in my final week of being off work for my foot.  I have been doing so little for the past 6 weeks that pretty much the only thing I could have written about would have been my woes about not being at work.  When I look back to what I have accomplished during my time off, it seems like I should have done a whole lot, but I really did next to nothing.  Of course, I've been trying to keep off my foot and allow it to heal, but that's probably no excuse for my son's bedroom being a complete pigsty and the rest of the house having 1/4 inch of dust everywhere. 

I went to lunch with my dad and aunt Sharon last week.  I hadn't seen Sharon for a while and was filling her in on my foot.  Dad told Sharon that I'm looking into changing careers to something less physical.  He then went on to state that I'm "taking it very well."  Uhhhh...  I don't think that is true at all!  The truth is that I am completely devastated!  I love being a zoo keeper.  I love working at a physical job outside.  I absolutely love working with the animals!  There are certainly things I don't love about my job, but most of those things involve something going wrong with the animals (illness, injury, old age, death) which is extremely stressful sometimes, but ultimately makes the job more meaningful and special.

I have needed most of my time off to just process the thought of leaving the zoo.  I've had very productive days where I've made phone calls and gone to appointments and worked hard on my resume.  They are usually followed by days curled in my chair, doing only what I'm absolutely forced to do.  I'm not very good at showing emotion or letting people know how I really feel.  I hate drama and really don't cry or rant or anything.  My plan as of this second is to go back to work next Sunday and work until at least January 30th- my work anniversary date when my retirement vests.  If my foot is perfectly fine, I will continue at the zoo for a while and give myself more time to research (and hopefully find) other jobs.  If my foot is bad, I will probably quit soon after my anniversary date.  I'm certainly no closer to finding another job than I was 6 weeks ago, but I'm in a lot less denial and have a lot more ideas.  I'm not there yet, but I'm slowly coming into acceptance.  I know I'll eventually be okay.  Seriously, scooping poop is not the only thing I can do.