The recent 75 degree temperatures were such a welcome change last week! After some brutally cold days and nights (and even a foot of snow in December), we were ready to hit the swamps and get back to work! Our “down time” is normally from November - March. When the temperatures start to rise, we are on the lookout for alligators! We were happy to spend several days in Brunswick County, the place we
love so much.
A friend of ours had told us how far the water was down at Orton Pond. The state is still doing repairs on the damage from the hurricanes last fall. We pick up more trash at Orton Pond than we do in ALL of the habitats in Brunswick County combined. There is a huge problem with people feeding the alligators there. Not only do they illegally feed them, they throw their trash at them.
We normally clean Orton Pond with custom made, extra long grabbers that my husband makes. They do an excellent job and enable us to get in areas without getting in the water. Since the water was down, my husband climbed down the banks of the pond to get to the trash. Even though it was very warm, the alligators are still in brumation. I still kept an eye out on the water for any approaching alligators. We took some photos of the trash that we were able to get to and we’ll post them in this blog. One aluminum can had alligator teeth marks all over it.
Not only does the trash make the pond look bad, it is bad for our ecosystem and all of our wildlife. It is an eye sore and it is a danger to the wildlife that calls Orton Pond their home. We’ve been cleaning alligator habitats since 2010 and we picked up so much trash that we literally had no place to put it. That is one of the reasons we became involved in the NC Adopt-A-Highway Program. They provide free orange trash bags, gloves and vests. They also pick up all of the trash that we collect. It is a great way to volunteer and give back to the community.
Which brings me to a subject that I’ve been meaning to address … we had previously adopted a two mile stretch of Midway Road (the road that leads from Highway 211 to Oak Island). That is a four lane road and there’s not anything on it. When we first
adopted it, it wasn’t too bad. As the months went by, more and more trash was being thrown out there. It didn’t get mowed very often and we couldn’t pick up trash when the grass was nearly knee high. Then when they did mow it, the trash got cut up into thousands of pieces.
When you adopt a road you agree to pick up the trash four times per year (every three months). We were picking up trash about once a month on Midway Road and still couldn’t stay caught up. We were struggling to keep it clean and it worried me that we couldn’t keep up our end of the contract. The final straw was when someone complained about us last fall. They called Fran at the DOT and told her (we) Alligator Alliance hadn’t been picking up trash on Midway Road. Fran told them that we had picked up more trash than what was required of our contract. That complaint forced me to make a decision. I had to let the NC Adopt-A-Highway contract expire on Midway Road.
My cousin Sheila adopted the other two mile stretch of Midway Road shortly after we adopted ours. We both were excited to keep Midway Road clean. Unfortunately, last week someone complained about her half of the road. Since the G.V. Barbee Bridge closed last October, the only way onto Oak Island is by Midway Road and Swain’s Cut Bridge. The trash situation has gotten even worse on Midway Road since the bridge closure. Sheila told me that due to the complaint she received last week, she has made the decision to end her contract as well.
Since we (Alligator Alliance) and Sheila (Seaside Crabby Chic Art) have both made the decision to end our contracts on Midway Road, now no one will be picking up the trash there (unless someone new adopts that road). We don’t know who complained about us, but I just want to let that person know that we worked really hard to keep that road clean. We don’t even live in Brunswick County. We drive 220+ miles to volunteer to keep roads clean. Adopting a road and keeping the trash picked up isn’t easy work, but it’s rewarding. We honestly did our best to keep the trash picked up. I’m sorry it didn’t work out. My hope is that a large group of people will adopt Midway Road, because it is the road most tourists take to Oak Island. I don’t want their first impressions to be of a litter strewn road.
I’ve been promising everyone for the past two years that I was going to write a children’s book. It is complete and you will be able to read it very soon. We have been contacting publishers for the past few months and trying to figure out the best (and cheapest) way to make it available for everyone. Our hope is to have it available by the end of next month (March).
We are also working on new brochures and t-shirts. We will be meeting with our t-shirt printer next week. The brochures are still a work in progress, but we will have all the changes made and have them printed by April 1st. We have had many requests for Alligator Alliance stickers. We have designed one and we are currently shopping around for the best price to get them printed. As always, we like to hand stuff out for free. When I started Alligator Alliance I never meant for it to be a way to make money. We do what we do because we love alligators.
Thank you for your continued support. We had a LOT of exposure last year from our articles in North Brunswick Magazine (we made the front cover!) and Carolina Country Magazine. We are very excited (and hopeful) that we will be featured in another magazine this spring or summer. We were recently contacted by a major magazine and we are keeping our fingers crossed that they will follow through with an article about us.
We want to thank our friends Dawn and Jeff who often let us stay in their guest cottage on Oak Island! We take a lot of spur-of-the-moment trips based on the weather. When I texted Dawn to see if her cottage was available, she told me that someone else was in it at the moment. Then she told me we were more than welcome to stay at her parent’s vacation home on the island. That worked out perfectly! We are blown away by the kindness and generosity of others and very thankful to Dawn and her parents!
Remember, ONE person CAN make a difference. Be that ONE person. Make the difference. Choose your own path. My path is through the swamps! As always, swamp water runs through my veins.
I have had weight issues my entire life. I have lost a LOT of weight before (many times) and I’ve gained it back (many times). For some of you who have known me for a long time (before Alligator Alliance), you all know that I’ve been on The Oprah Show three times. For those of you who only know me through Alligator Alliance, I’ll give you a brief history. I lost weight in 1994 and I was on The Oprah Show in January of 1995 and May of 1995. My third appearance on The Oprah Show was in May of 2010.
Weight has always been a struggle for me and I imagine it will always BE a struggle for me. When I saw my first alligator in July of 2010 and decided I was going to start cleaning their habitats, I didn’t realize how hard it would be for me to do at my size. But, I still did it. As the years rolled by and I got older, it became even more difficult for me.
Two things helped me to make the decision to do something about it. Our friend Chad Griffin (owner of CCSB Reptile Rescue and Rehab Center in Kernersville, NC) teaches an alligator handling certification class. I have wanted to take that class for YEARS, but I knew I couldn’t physically do it. There was no way at my size that I could jump on and off of an alligator’s back. Chad has been such a good friend to us over the years and he understood my dilemma. He even offered to do a private class just for me and my husband, but even with that offer, I knew I couldn’t physically do it.
I told my cousin Karen how much I wanted to be certified in alligator handling and how I was just too big to do it. She encouraged me to take control of my weight. I remember her exact words. “We’ll see how badly you want the Gator Life.” That statement stuck with me. Karen made that statement a while ago, but I didn’t start my diet until last June. It took me a while to get started, but on Friday, June 20th of last year, I woke up and thought THIS IS THE DAY!
My husband had lost 100+ pounds over the past few years by eating low carb and high protein. He made it look so easy, so I decided that would be the plan for me. The first three weeks were hard. I’ve never been much of a meat eater, so I struggled with eating a lot of protein. I love potatoes, bread, pasta, desserts and sweet tea (all the bad stuff). The biggest challenge I had was giving up sweet tea. But, after the first week, it got a little easier. The weight started to fall off. I lost 8 pounds the first week and that motivated me to keep at it.
Eating low carb and high protein for me is so easy now that I don’t consider it a diet. I consider it a way of life. I set small goals for myself and kept moving forward. Not many people knew that I was trying to lose weight. I didn’t want the added pressure of people asking me how much I’d lost and what I was doing. It took a few months before anyone really noticed my weight loss. One thing that helped was that I kept wearing my baggy clothes (size 3XL Capri pants) all summer long, up until October when I bought my first pair of jeans in 11 years. The first time I wore them, people were shocked.
My goal was to lose 120 pounds and I met it on February 1st! Below you will see some “before” and “after” pictures of me. The “before” picture was taken on March 28th 2018 when we did our photo shoot for the North Brunswick Magazine article. The “after” picture was taken last week (February 5th).
We spent several days last week at Oak Island and we were able to clean some alligator habitats. It is so much easier for me now that I’ve lost weight. I can walk further and do things that I couldn’t do before. At my age losing weight isn’t just about looking better. It’s about feeling better and being healthy. I want to be able to look after my Dad as he ages. A neighbor of ours (Lynn) told me shortly after my Mom died in 2014 that I have to look after myself before I can look after anyone else. How right she was.
Now I can take the alligator handling certification class this spring, which has been a dream of mine for so many years! I want to thank Chad Griffin for being so patient with me! I can’t tell you how many times we scheduled the class and then I’d cancel it, because I knew I couldn’t fully participate.
I want to give a BIG thank you to my cousin Karen for challenging me to lose weight so I can live the “Gator Life.” Her statement “We’ll see how badly you want the Gator Life” really lit a fire under me. Karen also did a lot of research and helped me figure out different sources of protein besides meat.
Very few of my friends and relatives even knew that I was attempting to lose weight. My husband made sure not to post any photos of me on our website after June of last year, so I could keep the “secret.” I want to thank the following people for their constant support and encouragement … Karen, Sandra, Kelly, Kim, Shelly, Terri, Taylor, Susan and Angela. Your texts and e-mails kept me motivated! Many, many thanks to my Dad (Gary) and my husband (John) who have had to deal with me on a daily basis. My Dad is an amazing cook and it has been extremely hard not to eat his home cooked meals since last June!
My size may have changed, but some things NEVER change. My love for alligators and my commitment to conserving them will always be my top priority. Alligator Alliance is my fulltime job! Now I am able to work harder than ever at protecting them and keeping their habitats clean. I am looking forward to what 2019 has in store for me as I fully live the GATOR LIFE!