Sunday, April 10, 2005

I had Forgotten that Llamas Spit

I had forgotten that llamas spit. Unfortunately, I remembered it just a little too late - seconds after Forest, the resident llama at the Hutchinson Zoo, showered Greg and his little friend Ace Jackalope. Appropriately enough, it was a bit of a rainy day, so Greg had dressed Ace in his little yellow rain gear.

Greg and Mark are completely unsuspecting in this photo, which was taken just moments before the "incident." I had just said to Mark, "Go over there next to Greg so I can get a picture of you both with Forest." Well, moments later, Mark was across the rather large pen, Ace was on the ground, and Greg was wondering what hit him. Fortunately, I helped with that as the next thing out of my mouth was, "Oh, I'd forgotten that llamas spit."

Little did we know how badly Ace would need his raincoat. And, in my defense for not offering a warning, it's not like the fact that llamas spit is something you need to keep uppermost in your mind in daily life. And it is not what the zoo warns about either.

Oh, and did I mention that Forest is part of the petting zoo? You know, for small children? That's where this very welcoming sign is - right beside Forest's quarters.

We're not really sure what other animals are in the petting zoo - they were all snoozing on this rainy day, or just busy hiding from people who want to take their pictures with Jackalopes.

Before "the incident" we were just enjoying the day. The rain had stopped and the zoo has had a major facelift in the last couple of years. So, we were just wandering around looking at the critters and doing what there is to do.

Greg was feeding the swans and ducks and geese. We looked at the ferret, the bald eagle, the bobcats, tortoise and iguana. The zoo has dramatically improved in the last few years. It's one of those things where we've done something good with tax dollars.

The zoo was suggested by Greg, I think. But Mark jumped right on it because he hadn't been there in years. I was open to whatever. We'd had a late breakfast at Skaets and decided to venture down to Carey Park, where the zoo is. Little did we know what an eventful day it would turn out to be.

You might think that people wouldn't have much need to know about llamas - it's not like they're animals you bump into every day. But, here, we have more than our fair share of llama contact - although never as much as we've had today.

Hutchinson hosts the State Fair and they give away a llama every year. Greg always registers. I wonder if he will this year. Also, we have Hedricks Animal farm in nearby Nickerson and they have llamas. They bring them to the state fair every year for a petting zoo, along with other critters.

Well, I think that's enough of a wrap up about my day. It has had a lot of laughter in it this afternoon. And I have to say for Greg that he is very easy going about such things. He saw the humor in it, too. Although he did mention that maybe a dear friend - like me - might have offered a warning. Honest to goodness, I didn't remember that llamas spit until after the fact. But I bet none of us forget anytime soon.

So, in case you should have reason to be near a llama -maybe you'd like to come visit Forest - let me remind you - llamas spit.

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam

Robert Putnam, the author of "Bowling Alone," will speak in Hutchinson on the 19th. I'm going to see him. He has written a whole book about the disconnection we have as a society and how it affects us all.

He defines our connection with others as "social capital." He says it has declined dramatically and uses nearly 500,000 interviews to prove his point. He says in the last 25 years we belong to fewer organizations, meet with friends less, and even socialize with our families less. We're even bowling alone, instead of in leagues.

Trends over the last 25 years include:
attending club meetings - down 58%
family dinners - down 33%
having friends over - down 45%

This lack of connection contributes to all kinds of social problems - violence, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, etc. - all of them are tied to this lack of connection. For reasons I don't understand, we don't seem to care. I think I mentioned here recently how having family dinners together dramatically cuts down on the chance your teen will engage in risky behavior of various sorts.

A couple of interesting facts Putnam mentions - joining one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year. Also, ten minutes of commuting cuts your social capital by 10%.

I'm always going on and on and on about our lack of connection with each other and it largely falls on deaf ears and alternately ticks people off that I won't let go of this one issue, but I know it's critical. I'm eager to hear Dr. Putnam speak - maybe people will listen to him since he's a doctor.

Father Daughter Dance and the Rest of Saturday

I've had a full day today, although I did try to rest today, which was a dismal failure for me.

This morning I had breakfast with some other Altrusans. Julie and I decided as cochairs that it would be nice to get together with Altrusans outside of meetings just to talk. So, we've had two gatherings so far - both with very little lead time - and both have been good. This morning was not well attended but maybe people don't get up early on Saturday. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

Anyway, I came home and made some cupcakes for tonight's Father Daughter Dance being put on by Altrusa. I then went upstairs and back to bed. I have been getting the message repeatedly that I need to rest. I fell a couple of weeks ago. Then a couple of nights ago I had a really rough night of stomach upset and spent most of Friday in bed, trying to rest. Anyway, I decided I want to try and pay attention to the universe telling me to rest so it doesn't have to give me the message in a harder, different way.

Unfortunately, I did not really get a nap today. Unless I'm ill, I think laying in bed is just a huge waste of time. I could have been accomplishing something during that time. Anyway, I stayed in bed about three hours and I tried to sleep. I did doze, but never fully slept.

I had not planned to go to breakfast this morning unless I just woke up. I went to bed about 2 a.m. and at 7:05, my eyes were wide open and I was ready to start the day. So, I don't know. I just don't seem to be wired that way but I'm going to try and be better about getting some extra rest. I feel like I'm getting that message from the universe and I want to pay attention to it before it gives me the message in a much more dramatic way.

The father daughter dance is for girls 6-12. It's a really neat event. We do punch and cookies and keep it pretty simple. It's so adorable to see the daddies, grandfathers, uncles and whatever with the little girls. The bunch tonight was pretty wild but it was a good evening. I will be putting some photos on my live journal, but they're not there yet.

Mark is down for the weekend from Kansas City. I was doing so well at preparing for his visit until I got ill Thursday night and so I, again, didn't have his bed ready for him. Poor guy he always has to end up putting his own sheets on!

Greg and Mark went to see Gone With the Wind tonight at the Fox. The Fox is a beautiful, 1930s theatre that has been restored. Last weekend we saw North by Northwest. I took a group there to see it and even though I'm not a movie person, seeing the old clothes and such was neat.

We just got in from a late night bite at I-Hop --- the only place that is open late here. We're just chatting but I'm going on to bed soon. Gotta get some of that rest! :)