Manatee Feet?

Did you know that manatees have 3-4 nails on each flipper – one thing they have in common with their closest living relative, the elephant! These nails don’t serve a specific purpose, but they may help reduce abrasion on the manatee’s flipper when the manatee “walks” on the bottom.

This manatee fact was presented courtesy of savethemanatee.org/facts.

What is Runoff?

“Dad said something about runoff from the street? I think he said something about fertilizer, oil and other chemicals.” He shrugged. “I don’t know what that means though.”

What is “runoff”?

In my latest book, A Manatee Miracle, I aim to teach our youngest readers about ocean life and ocean health – but in a non-preachy way. I’ve seen the effects of runoff in the ocean firsthand. As a child in the Florida Keys I witnessed the death of much of the life in one canal in a span of less than ten years. Manatees are just one of the victims of human carelessness.

You can help prevent manatee mortalities as well as harm to our oceans and other sea life. Runoff, such as sewage, manure and fertilizer enters waterways and causes algal blooms, some of which can be fatally toxic to manatees, and can kill grass beds that manatees rely on to eat.

What can you do to help?

Purchase environmentally safe products. (I know this is easier said than done, but there are many alternatives to the harshest of chemicals available in stores these days. It’s worth a shot.)

Properly store and/or dispose of toxic materials and do not discard waste in storm drains.

Use fertilizers sparingly and consider using a compost for yard and food waste.

Sweep up areas instead of hosing them down.

Check vehicles for leaks and properly recycle motor oil.

Take your car to the car wash instead of washing it in your driveway.

Pick your weeds instead of spraying weed killer chemicals that end up in the oceans and waterways.

The good news is, I have seen improvement in the canals of the Keys too. With a little bit of knowledge we can help bring life back to waterways that have been hurt.

Book Launch Day!

What better day to launch my latest book than Biodiversity Day 2021!

Today is the official launch of my latest book, A Manatee Miracle. The first installment in The Adventures of Shelly Beach series, A Manatee Miracle introduces us to Shelly Beach and her family as they move to the Florida Keys. A friendly manatee leads Shelly and her brother Sunny to a magical paddle boat and on to save the fragile environment they have come to love. #ForCoral #ForNature

It’s an elementary-grade chapter book for new, young readers. The print copy comes in large font, to assist those computer-strained eyes. With so much being done on the screen these days, I know firsthand how much damage can be done to eyesight.

My hope is that the series will teach young kids the value of wildlife, nature and the ocean in a fun and magical way.

The Gatekeepers

Do you ever think about the creativity that was clearly present in the 1960s, 70s and 80s? The creativity that inspired the movies, songs and books that we all remember and think of fondly? Remember all those John Hughes movies? What about Ron Howard? And what about the movie stars we all remember – many of them are still around, but obviously getting older. Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Eddie Murphy – I could go on and on. Names we all know.

How did Harrison Ford start out? He certainly didn’t just begin making millions of dollars as an actor. In fact, it appears he began as a pretty average guy. There’s no doubt now that he’s Hollywood royalty, the elite.

Where did Tom Hanks begin? It seems he started out pretty average also. He was certainly not a millionaire.

Some of these actors I have mentioned have gone on to become the super elite – very powerful in not only Hollywood, but the entire world, even expanding into being able to shape popular opinions and make incursions into the political world. On the other hand, some have been blacklisted, and pretty much badmouthed globally. You’ve gotta wonder sometimes, who decides who is worthy of praise these days? Who controls who gets to work in Hollywood and who doesn’t and what is the deciding factor? If someone of elite status decides they don’t like you for whatever reason, do they get to destroy your career?

Not too long ago I was talking to a colleague and she opened my eyes to some interesting information about the entertainment industry. The two largest talent agencies in the 1980s were William Morris and Creative Artists Agency (CAA). CAA was started by defectors from William Morris. At first glance, I would never really associate entertainment industry professionals with political figures. But, it seems they are very connected.

In the 1980s William Morris apparently had more of the moderate and conservative-leaning talent. The ones who defected and started CAA apparently leaned a little more left, as we would say today. Former White House Chief of Staff and former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother, Ari, worked at CAA. He ended up leaving and formed another company called Endeavor. Endeavor then took over William Morris. With this takeover came a housecleaning and consolidation of all the talent – to include sports figures, actors, actresses, directors, publishing, musicians, you name it. Other consolidations like this were previously shut down because of monopoly concerns, but this one wasn’t. Ari then took over IMG – the largest sports talent agency. What does this all equal? Pretty much complete control in one company of all media, sports and entertainment. And guess what? If you are a small agency, owner of a sports team or whatever, you probably better fall in line, not think for yourself and certainly do not question the accepted narrative, or you will no longer find work for your talent. See how that works?

If it seems like this might stifle any new creativity, that’s because it DOES. Have you noticed that in the past, say 10 years, or likely more, most of the movies that come out are all remakes of old successes? Take a look at what is out in the theaters now. Do you see many truly original new ideas? What about TV shows – sitcoms? Any new creative ideas out there, or mostly remakes of old ideas?

It’s not that I think remakes are bad. I just wish some new creative ideas and people – unknowns – would be granted entrance through the gates. I wonder how the new Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford or any other very popular star from the past could possibly be found in the current atmosphere of stifle. You’ve got to let new ideas – even ones you may not agree with – in or you muffle creativity.

Anyone who has tried to get an agent or have their book traditionally published, for instance, knows the struggle. If you are not a known quantity, it is not likely the gatekeepers will give you a chance. In fact, they will probably just shut the gate in your face. They don’t want to take a risk with an unknown quantity because they could lose money. But, if they don’t take a chance on new talent, how do we get new creative ideas out into the world?

How do we open the gates?

Wanda’s Wish

She stared out the rain-soaked windows of her train car as she zipped through woods and fields lit by a dim grey light. A distinct feeling of dread hung over her – but not the usual blanket of discomfort she usually felt, it was a more smothering dread that she could feel deep into her bones. Along with the dread came the guilt.

Why hadn’t she just sucked it up and gone to Aunt Wanda’s for dinner? Aside from the fact that Emily didn’t know that “dinner” to a southerner meant lunch, she had been too wrapped up in her own daily drama to take the time to clarify the semantics.

Now Aunt Wanda was gone, and she would never get to speak with her again. She would never learn the stories she had promised herself she would put to paper, giving Wanda’s experience a life, beyond her earthly life.

Aunt Wanda was quirky, to say the least. She didn’t seem to get along with anyone, but she had always taken a liking to Emily. Every summer as a child, Emily could remember the obligatory visit to Wanda’s house in Arlington, Virginia. Emily’s parents only suffered Wanda’s company; Emily was the only one who actually wanted to be there. She was fascinated by all the trinkets on display in Aunt Wanda’s house. It had been years since Emily had visited – college and first jobs and boyfriends had consumed all of her time. The dinner invitation had been only recently, and Emily couldn’t help but feel regret at blowing her off, as unintentional as it had been.

Emily wiped a tear from the corner of her eye as the train squealed to a halt. She was there.

~

Opening the door she was blasted by the faintly floral-scented stale air of Aunt Wanda’s deserted house. She took off her wet shoes and left them at the door. Looking around, she smiled at the familiar curio cabinets lining the walls, filled with figurines – entirely figurines of bulldogs. Aunt Wanda had loved bulldogs, and you could definitely tell.

Emily had vivid memories of staring into those very cabinets with wonder, and then pestering Aunt Wanda incessantly to let her keep a figurine. This would happen on every visit, without exception, and would only end with Aunt Wanda capitulating and giving Emily a trinket to take home with her.

Now she only knew that Aunt Wanda had requested in her will that no one other than Emily should be allowed to come to her house and dispose of all her possessions. No one else had received anything in the will, only Emily.

She had to give it to Aunt Wanda, the house was immaculate. She walked around in silence, accompanied by only her reflection in the mirrored cabinets and hundreds of porcelain bulldogs, all looking at her. What would she do with them all? What was she to do with the property? She really had no guidance – the will only stated that Emily must appear at the house on the date specified.

And here she was.

“What do you want me to do, Wanda? I can’t keep all this stuff in my little studio apartment. It’s cluttered enough as it is,” she spoke out loud to the silence. The bulldogs stared back at her dubiously.

She sat down on the perfect antique fainting couch where she knew Aunt Wanda had loved to write.

But she had never written about herself.

Emily’s eyes fell to the delicate table in front of her. On it was placed a small black book.

Emily picked up the book and opened it. It was blank except for a few lines written in Wanda’s graceful cursive handwriting.

Dear Emily,

Please take care of my Edward. He will be arriving at 2 o’clock. The entire property is left to you, but only on the condition that you keep him safe and happy.

Love always,

Aunt Wanda

Emily stared at the writing. She jumped when the grandfather clock in the hall began chiming. It was exactly 2 o’clock.

Who is Edward?

As the clock stopped chiming, Emily took a deep breath, almost relieved to think that Aunt Wanda must be pulling her leg from her grave, playing one last wacky joke on Emily.

Just then she heard a light tapping on the door. Emily felt the strong desire to pour herself some of the scotch that she knew was in a beautiful crystal decanter in the corner liquor cabinet.

She instead pried herself off of the couch and walked slowly to the front door. Opening the door, she saw nothing but the quiet street in front of her, until she looked down.

There, sitting on the doorstep, was a huge bulldog, tongue hanging out the side of its mouth. Slobber dripping on the red brick. The bulldog stood up and walked past Emily and into the living room, turning to look back at her, wagging its tail.

“Edward?” Emily laughed. The dog barked happily. She kneeled down to pet him and noticed a collar around his neck had a key attached to it. He licked her hand as she fumbled with the key to get it loose.

As she turned the key over in the palm of her hand, Edward started walking toward one of the back rooms. She followed him into a room lit by a bright sunbeam. He sat down next to a rectangular black lockbox. He cocked his head to the side and looked at her.

Opening the box, Emily could not believe her eyes. Inside, a tiny golden bulldog figurine sat, staring up at her with diamond eyes. Emily grinned as she remembered pestering Aunt Wanda endlessly to let her keep the solid gold dog. Next to the dog was a stack of bills – one thousand dollar bills -wrapped with a shiny gold ribbon. There had to be 20,000 dollars worth of them. She wasn’t even sure that bill of currency was printed anymore.

And it’s not.

“Thank you Edward.” Emily patted Edward on the head, laughing so hard she fell over on the carpet. She couldn’t remember the last time she laughed so hard.

“And thank you Aunt Wanda!”

The End

This short story was originally published on Vocal Media.

My Appearance with Kerrin Black of Talent Finders

Don’t believe the doubters ….I always have many, many doubters. No matter how many times I prove them wrong, they still doubt me, but it’s almost like it encourages me to prove them wrong yet again…

I had a really great interview with Kerrin Black of Talent Finders – you can check it out here: