Yes, I am concerned about Zika

 

mosuitoToday, Governor Rick Scott confirmed the first case of locally transmitted Zika to be reported outside of South Florida. The patient is in Pinellas County, which for those of you unfamiliar with Florida, is just outside the Tampa area. I live in the Orlando area. The new “hot zone” is roughly 125 miles from my house.

The World Health Organization reports the mosquitoes that carry Zika can only travel 0.2 miles. So, why would I be worried about it in Orlando? Mostly, my concern is due to the fact that I am an outdoors enthusiast and I am a woman of childbearing age. I am not pregnant, nor am I trying to get pregnant, but scientists have yet to reign in this virus. I know they are working hard on researching a vaccine at the CDC in Atlanta, but until it is proven effective and becomes widely available we are stuck relying on good old fashioned bug repellent and DEET to protect ourselves against Zika.

I am a mosquito magnet. I swear, no amount of DEET or citronella candles can keep the bugs off of me. My husband can testify that mosquitoes frequently chew on my limbs leaving large welts all over my body even when nobody else in our group has a single bite. I feel like I cannot protect myself in the Zika environment.

Fact is, scientists don’t know a lot about Zika. They are still researching its side-effects, not only in unborn children and newborns, but also in adults. Microcephaly is just one of many potential birth defects caused by Zika. A study published earlier this month in the British Medical Journal reported on research in Brazil that links severe joint deformities to Zika. The babies also had calcifications on their brain. The study was small and the cause and effect is unclear, but it is the perfect example of how little scientists really understand about the disease. Other studies have related Zika to infant blindness and trouble swallowing.

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of Zika in adults are fever, rash, joint pain and pink-eye. But its longterm effects are unknown. A study published last week that was conducted by Stanford University researchers and scientists in Brazil suggests Zika may damage adult brain cells as well, potentially causing memory loss. The study was conducted in mice, so it obviously needs more research, but these potentially unknown factors are downright scary to a healthy, outdoors loving adult like myself.

I’m definately not “freaked out” over Zika. But I admit, I do worry. Scientists aren’t sure exactly how long Zika stays in an adult body, so I have to wonder if a baby I concieve three years from now could be impacted by a mosquito that bites me today. In the meantime, I will continue my current lifestyle and the threat of Zika will not keep me out of the woods.

I encourage everyone to contact their local and state lawmakers and ask them to provide more federal and state funding to research and fight Zika. Also, please keep a close eye on standing water. We can’t do much about the swamps and puddles that nature provides, but we can dump out our bird feeders, trash bins, and other items that may be collecting rain water around our homes.

This Florida girl can’t afford to worry about a stupid bug.

Pokemon Go: Making America Great Again

Fact: Millions of people are playing Pokemon Go.
Fact: They look really silly walking around staring at their phones.
Fact: It is a huge waste of time that could be spent on more important issues.

False: Families are spending even less time together because they are too busy playing.
False: People are so busy staring at their screens that they miss the world around them.
False: Its just another game eating children’s brains and has no educational value.

The title of this post is meant to be a joke,  but there is some truth to it. I regularly walk a 3-mile loop through my neighborhood. Usually, I pass a few kids on skateboards, a couple of neighbors walking their dogs and a handful of fit adults jogging in fancy workout clothes. This past week I observed something different. I passed crowds of children huddled together, I saw fathers out with their sons and daughters laughing and squealing as they walked down the sidewalk, I was almost run over by teenagers hurrying down the street on bicycles. They all had one thing in common: They were staring at their phones, hunting Pokemon.

pokemon

I’m making assumptions here, but based on my previous excursions through the neighborhood I doubt the father who I saw being dragged down the street by two little girls regularly walks with his children. They were, without a doubt, discussing the Pokemon that was being chased down by an older boy walking in front of them. Sure, this isn’t exactly meaningful conversation, but I am betting that during the discussion of weedles and lures the father had an opportunity to talk to his children about their day at school, or if not, at least they are bonding over something.

The pedestrian traffic picked up as I got closer to the busiest Pokemon stop in the neighborhood. The biggest observation I made is the diversity of players. Old, young, black, white it doesn’t matter. Pokemon does not discriminate. I saw groups of teenagers, who I’d bet rarely acknowledge each other on a typical day, hanging out in the same spot asking each other about what they caught. They were all united.

So, in this dark and depressing time in American history, lets not bash the Pokemon Go players. Instead, lets learn a thing or two from them. If we can unite over fictional Japanese anime creatures, then surely we can unite over the more pressing issues.

 

Dealing with Alligators: Tips from a Florida Girl

I’ve lived in Florida my entire life and have spent plenty of time in and around alligator infested waters. Below are my tips for avoiding an unwelcome encounter:

1.) Assume there is an alligator in the water.
They live pretty much everywhere. We have a small retention pond in our backyard. 90% of the time it is alligator-free, but since that 10% exists we have to keep an eye on it. Don’t think that big gators only live in big rivers. My husband once saw a 14-foot gator swimming in the Little Econlockhatchee. We’ve even seen gators swimming in salt water!

gator 4
I bet there’s a gator in there… (Black Bear Wilderness Area, Sanford)

2.) There’s a saying in Florida…
If you see one gator there are 10 more lurking right below the surface. I have no idea if there is any scientific proof to this saying, but it seems like a good rule to live by.

3.) Do not be afraid.
It is a good idea to be cautious and respectful of alligators. It is a bad idea to panic and make a big scene. If you are near the water and you see an alligator your best bet is to slowly walk away. If you are in the water and you see a gator do not splash or act distressed. Typically, they are more afraid of you than you are of them.

gator 3
Getting close to a gator in a controlled setting is best. (Midway Airboat Rides, Christmas, FL)

4.) Stay away from the grassy parts.
Every Floridian knows alligators nest in the grassy part of the water. Lilly pads, thick algae and debris make great cover. The water is usually full of tannins in those areas too which makes it difficult to see below the surface.

gator 2
The grassy parts… stay away from the grassy parts (Christmas, FL)

5.) Don’t go in if you’re not confident
I’ve been swimming in Florida waterways my entire life. I always weigh the risk before getting into the water. If its gator mating season or if I’m in a stretch of river known to be the home of an aggressive gator, I will not step foot in the water.

gator 5
Just chillin’ by the water’s edge at 30 weeks pregnant (Flagler Trail, Econ River)

6.) Do not swim at night
I would never swim or walk along the edge of a Florida waterway at night. (See number one if you are confused as to why.)

Dear moms, We cannot protect them.

It’s a harsh statement, isn’t it? We cannot protect them.

There’s something so primal about giving birth. As we grunt, groan, scream and curse our bodies into releasing new life into the world, something else triggers too. We become animal. We become overwhelmed by an uncontrollable desire to protect the tiny human that just came out of our bodies. We may even literally snarl at anybody who comes too close. You know the saying, “I would die for you?” We moms know that isn’t a dramatic expression. It is the truth.

lrr8zwytexrrm
Seem familiar, mama?

This isn’t going to be another mommy blogger post about how the Internet-of-moms should band together and support a mother who is being criticized because something tragic happened to her child. My goal here is to simply bring attention to the truth.

We cannot protect them.

Mother nature/God/The Devil/Whatever you believe in is stronger than us. Our babies can be taken away from us in an instant.

Truth is, it is insanely easy to forget how fragile our lives are. It takes a freak event, like a toddler getting killed by the jaws of a gator at the Happiest Place on Earth, for us to realize that the one thing we love with every fiber of our being can be suddenly ripped away from us. (I do apologize for the cliches, but its the truth.)

Here’s the thing though: We can’t let it dictate our lives.

Yes, last week an alligator killed a child at Disney World. But I live in Florida and we will still canoe, kayak, and swim in the waters.

Yes, last month a child slipped into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. But my son enjoys animals and we will still visit the zoo.

Yes, last month four young sisters were killed on their mother’s birthday when the SUV they were riding in crashed on the way home from a trip to the beach. But I like to drive and we will still travel together as a family.

Yes, last week 49 people were killed by a gunman at an Orlando nightclub. But I enjoy a good drink and I will still stop at a bar to socialize and have a beverage.

These tragedies become “news events” because they are rare. We cannot let our own quality of life suffer out of fear. Have fun and do your best to keep them safe,  but in the back of your mind know even the strongest mamabear is no match for mother nature. We cannot protect them. That’s why we must love, teach, and cherish our children every single day.

To my son: You are already changing the world.

Here you are, 9-months-old, happily jumping in our bedroom doorway. You are so sweet, so innocent, so unaware of the circumstances of today. 20160612_125802

Today a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub and killed at least 50 people. The FBI is calling it terrorism. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and it happened in the town we call home. I have been to that nightclub before, celebrating a friend’s birthday years ago. I can picture what it looks like inside. There are a bunch of white couches and mirrors and two bars where people dance and party. Everybody I met there was kind and fun. We danced. We laughed. We had fun.

Last night that fun abruptly stopped. A man full of hate came in with a gun. He tore apart dozens of families. I’m assuming at this point (because so much has yet to be determined about the shooter or the motive) that he did it because the people inside were different from him. They have a different lifestyle. They have different religious beliefs. Some of them, perhaps, live by a different moral code than the majority of society. So, he killed them.

What I want you to know, my sweet boy, is that there are terrible people in this world. At some point, someone will hurt you. Your job is to be one of the good guys. You don’t have to love everyone. You don’t have to agree with everyone.  But you do have to respect them. Let your voice be heard. But speak with only your mouth and mind, never with violence.

That said, you do have the right to protect yourself. Always protect yourself and those whom you love. Only then is it acceptable to resort to violence. Understand that I am talking about true, physical danger: a threat to your life, not to your lifestyle.

I could be cliché and say I’m scared of the world you will be raised in, but I am not afraid. You are already changing the world, my sweet boy. I see it in your eyes. They are full of kindness. It is my job as a Mother to make sure that kindness never goes away. And there are thousands of babies born every day to parents who feel the same way.

Yes, we live in a time of terror. But I believe this is only a hiccup in history. I have faith that your generation can fix the world. But I am sorry it falls into your hands. You are amazing, my sweet boy.

Love,
Mama