The okapi has been one of my favorite zoo animals since I discovered it some years ago at the San Diego Zoo. I was fascinated by its reddish, dark velvety fur, which I later discovered was oily and hleped repel water in its natural habitat, the Ituri Rainforest. The stripes on the back end of the okapi make it look like it may be some sort of zebra, but in fact it is a member of the giraffe family. The body shape is similar to a giraffe, but with a much shorter neck. However, the okapi does have a long, flexible, blue tongue used to capture the leaves from trees like the giraffe. It is the only mammal that can lick its own ears. Now that’s impressive.
The okapi is a beautiful animal. You really have to see one live to appreciate it. There are approximately 10 to 20 thousand left in the wild and only about 40 zoos or institutions house them in captivity. They’re not listed as endangered, but are threatened by pouching and habitat destruction.
Okapis are essentially solitary, coming together only to breed. Hey, I’ve been accused of that…well, not the breeding part, just the solitary part. No wonder I’m fascinated with these animals. Anyway, they’re not social animals preferring to live in large, secluded areas (probably so they can write their novels.)
This is not an animal I was aware of growing up. It was, in fact, unknown to the western world until the 20th century, but has been depicted in carvings for almost 2,500 years in old Persia. Ancient carved images of the okapi have also been discovered in Egypt establishing the okapi was known to the ancient Egyptians. It was known for years as the “African unicorn.”
How many of you have seen an okapi? What’s your favorite zoo animal?
But there were a couple of exceptional purchases. The first was my three-year-old great-great niece, Meredith, who convinced her grandmother to buy her a book. When asked what she wanted the message to read. She said, “To Baby Amelia & Meredith” (Baby Amelia is her little sister. What a sweet, thoughtful, little girl.)
I just spent five days in Michigan with my nephew Chet and his family where I received the red carpet treatment and had a pleasant, restful time–a much needed break. After a fabulous weekend in Chicago at Printer’s Row Book Festival, Chet picked me up and drove me to Bay City. Michigan was beautiful, so many shades of green (as opposed to our southern California brown hills) and lots of spring flowers still in bloom. While I was there I researched an area where one of my characters will go in my next novel. It is a sequel to The Advocate. It’s so much easier to write about an area when you’ve actually been there. I was quite surprised how different things were from the aerial maps I saw online. My highlight in Michigan was passing through Paw Paw and seeing where Norm Cowie, author of Fang Face, went to high school (great book, by the way!)
When I started to write this blog I thought about how the “M” states had played an integral part in my life. In addition to Michigan I have a connection to most of the “M” states. Growing up in Minnesota I remember jumping rope to the Mississippi diddy: M-I-crooked letter, crooked letter-I-crooked letter, crooked letter-I-hump back, hump back-I. A good part of my family lives in Montana, so many that we chose to have our “Family Onion” there last year. My very dear friends live in Maine and I have the good fortune to visit there quite often (going again the end of next month). We had our last sister trip with all five sisters in Missouri (memories that will forever be dear to me). My publisher, Echelon Press, is located in Maryland. So that only leaves Massachusetts. Although I’ve been there several times, have some nice memories of Boston, but it’s the remaining state to develop a real connection. Any suggestions? Any of you connected to the “M” states?
Limbo—I’m talking about the dance, not the place somewhere between heaven and hell.
Do you remember the limbo? Are you too young? I remember being the limbo champ once in school. In all fairness, I think I had an advantage. Since I was only about four and a half feet tall, I was much closer to the ground than my fully grown friends.
For those of you who are not familiar with the dance, the dancer leans backward and moves to a Caribbean rhythm as he dances his way under a horizontal stick without touching it. If he touches it or falls backwards, he’s out. During a competition the dancers follow in a single line with the stick being gradually lowered each time through until only one dancer remains.
People often associate the dance with Hawaii, but it originated on the island of Trinidad. The name comes from the Trinidad/English dialect, “limba” meaning “to bend,” from the English “limber.”
Research indicates that in certain African beliefs the dance reflects the whole cycle of life. The dancers are moving under a pole and emerging on the other side representing the triumph of life over death.
And I bet you thought the limbo was just another dance. But then you probably received most of your limbo knowledge, like I did, from Chubby Checker and his “Limbo Rock.”
Do you have a limbo story? Please share.
Since most of my blogs have been about me, I thought I’d give you all a break and provide a little insight into my novel. So my “k” word is “Kantor,” the cologne Sabre’s brother, Ron, always wore in The Advocate. Here is an excerpt from the book, page 25:
She opened the office door. A familiar odor caught her attention–faint, but recognizable. Her brother’s favorite cologne, Kantor. It had been years since she had experienced the smell of his cologne, unsure if they even still made it. She would check with the other attorneys on Monday to see who in the building wore the cologne. She started to dismiss it when she noticed that her brother’s photo, on the credenza behind her desk, was facing the wall. She knew she hadn’t moved the photo.
No point in trying to find the cologne, it doesn’t exist except in The Advocate, again on page 181:
As she approached the spot where the stranger had been sitting, she smelled the familiar odor of Kantor cologne. Once again her heart skipped a beat. It was the only cologne Ron ever wore. The smell grew stronger the closer she came to where the man had been seated. She peered around, but he seemed to be gone. She watched as she walked to her car, but no further evidence of him, nor the smell, presented itself. More paranoia?
I guess you’ll have to read the book to see where the smell of Kantor is coming from. If you haven’t done it already, you can click here to enter the drawing to win a free, autographed copy of The Advocate.
Can you juggle? Years ago I learned to keep three balls in the air for a while, but I never worked at it hard enough to master it.
On the other hand, like the rest of you, I’ve been juggling things all my life. In college, I juggled schoolwork, a job, the party scene, and managed to get through it without destroying my grade point average. I juggled bills, spending money, and rides for lack of parking. I even went through a period in my life where I was pretty adept at juggling men.
And then there’s the jugular vein (which has nothing to do with the word I started with, but sounds close enough and it does start with “j”). When I was teaching sixth grade, I had a student (yes, a sixth grader—and that wasn’t half as bad as the one with the gun a couple of years later.) come at my jugular vein with a knife. I guess you don’t need to ask why I changed from teaching to law.
So, I’ve juggled many things, survived an attack to the jugular, and even dated a juggler for a few years. Most of my friends probably couldn’t tell you his name. He was simply “The Juggler.” The relationship was an adventure. You can’t imagine the places a juggler can get you into. We stayed in Elvis Presley’s Palm Springs home (long after Elvis was gone), had a shot of Louis the XIII Cognac with some producer in Hollywood (at $100 a shot—totally lost on me), and hung out with Robin Williams at the Comedy Club for hours after it had closed. The juggler, nine years younger than me, had a maturity level at least ten years less than that. But then, what did I expect? After all, I was dating a man who played with his balls for a living.
What do you have the most trouble juggling? Or the most fun?
Growing up I never really thought much about things being “impossible.” As I’ve said before, I went through life doing things because I didn’t know I couldn’t. My sisters function the same way. They’ve all set fine examples for me; none of them know the meaning of impossible.
We’ve all heard of the athlete with a handicap who does the “impossible.” Just about everyone knows about 5’ 7” Rudy Ruettiger who played football for Notre Dame. Or Wilma Rudolph, who became known as “The Black Gazelle.” She overcame polio, scarlet fever, and double pneumonia only to go on to set running records and win Olympic gold medals.
But it’s the little things you do everyday that lead to mastery and eventually overcomes the impossible. Writing that extra paragraph, doing that extra set of exercises, making one more phone call, working that extra hour, saving that extra dollar, stuffing one more envelope…it doesn’t matter what goal you’re trying to reach, it’s the little “impossibilities” that ultimately make you a winner.
So, I think I’ll go eat that extra piece of chocolate and try out for American Idol. Ok, so there are limits, but most of them are in your mind.
I’m a little “Fertile” girl who went on to write a novel, The Advocate, and actually got it published. Who’d ever thought that was possible?
What “impossible” thing have you achieved?
When I was young and very foolish, I spent three months in Europe hitchhiking around the country and sleeping in youth hostels. What an incredible way to see a country. I met so many wonderful people and had unbelievable experiences. I was twenty years old and my traveling companion, Michele, was about the same. We spent the entire summer traveling from one country to another. We started in Amsterdam, met up with old friends from home in Germany, saw the Mona Lisa in France, had a scare in Spain, danced through Italy, stayed in a haunted hostel in Wales, met new relatives in Ireland, and had other great adventures in Switzerland, Austria, England, and Lichtenstein. We met fellow travelers from all over the world and locals that often gave us housing and superb hospitality.
In those days, they didn’t have our fast food restaurants and it was impossible to find a good hamburger. We were very young and although we liked most of the food, we didn’t appreciate it as we may have had we been a little older. We were starved for good old American food. We finally found an import store. We sat outside on the steps for almost two hours until it opened. Once inside, we paid about five times the amount we would have at home for a jar of peanut butter. We thought we had died and gone to heaven. We would buy fresh loaves of bread in the bakeries and fruit from the stands on the streets and ate fruit and peanut butter sandwiches for about a week…until our peanut butter was gone.
Hitchhiking was the best way to travel back then. I was a college student at the time, and a bit of a hippie…not the real thing…I had too much “Catholic guilt” to get into the free love thing and the drug scene didn’t appeal to me. So, with my hair in braids and my loose outfits, I was sort of a hippie wannabe. I did hippie things, like: travel with just a single bag pack all summer, wash my clothes by hand in cold water and hang them out to dry, took cold showers (ok, so I had no other options), go barefoot or wear sandals, and of course, hitchhike.
We hitchhiked from city to city and then took the bus system around to see the sites, except in Italy. There we even hitchhiked in the city because the Italian men were so eager to give us rides. And yes, they do (or did then) pinch your bottom when you walked down the streets, just like in the old movies.
Hitchhike, a word my mother never quite forgave me for. She didn’t know until I got home what my mode of travel had been. She would have been so worried, and rightly so, but I know she also admired my sense of adventure. Now, I’m older and much wiser and will no longer even take a ride on a roller coaster, much less with a stranger. So now when I get the urge to put on jeans and a sweatshirt and hitchhike down the highway, I know I’m only dreaming of a time gone by.
Have you ever hitchhiked? Or picked up a hitchhiker? Please share your story.
Have you researched your genealogy? It can be great fun. I started the process about ten years ago, or more. I was able to research my mother’s side of the family back to the twelve hundreds. I found some very interesting stories along the way. I also met a group of relatives that I would’ve never met if I hadn’t been looking for information.
I returned to Fertile, MN and discovered a graveyard from the 1800’s that belonged entirely to our clan except for about six graves that were from one other family. The graveyard was off the beaten path in the woods hidden from the public. It contained the graves of my great grandparents, and my great, great grandparents and gaggles of great aunts and uncles. All those original “Fertile families” were “gi-normous.” My great-grandfather was one of eighteen. His folks came from Canada to the valley along with three other families nearly as large. They arrived there too late to get their homes built before winter settled in, so that first winter they had to dig holes in the hills and live underground until the snows passed. They initially called the area Godfrey Township. It was sometime later when my brilliant ancestors changed the name to Fertile.
I also discovered other interesting things, like the first cousins that married each other, making some parts of my family tree a “pole” instead of a tree.
Have you researched your genealogy? Any interesting stories you’d care to share?