Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Are we called to be "spicy"?

I used a term the other day to describe a patient of mine, "spicy".  I obviously was not using it in the version of taste, but of temperament.  The kitty did not like us.  It had sass.  He was "spicy."  I thought it was a more agreeable term than, "cranky, nasty" or other terms.  It wasn't derogatory.  It was acknowledging the innate nature of the being.  All of us respect peppers, right?  We know not to cut them and then rub our hands in our eyes.  We know if we are unfamiliar with the pepper we take a tiny bite until we know how much to respect it's power.  A tiny bit of pepper can add a blast of flavor to a recipe.  A pepper is not innately bad, it just needs to be respected for it's potency.  I liken cats who are "opinionated" to that.

My techs liked this term to describe a cat.  They created a scale of "spiciness".  They said I was "chipotle" because I had just stood up to a client who tried to attack me for the fact her pet had an illness another vet in the practice had been unable to diagnose.  I calmly and respectfully explained that there are not always easy tests, sometimes we had to investigate further and it required multiple tests.  Sometimes problems aren't easy and don't have easy fixes.  She was looking for sympathy and I gave it to her.  I also didn't give in to her.  There's a difference.  Earlier on in my career, I would have given her a ton of sympathy and I would have been made meek.  According to my tech, there was no meekness in that room.  There was controlled spice.

In life, we are called to be merciful and just.  Sometimes it's easy to fall into one or another camp.  Everyone gets mercy, it's all good, it's all ok or rigid justice.  It's sometimes hard to separate the two and it's often on emotional issues.  Just look at current events.  I need not say more.

We are called to be a people who seeks justice.  There is such a thing as righteous anger.  There are things so horrific that they need to be called out and there needs to be consequences.  At the same time, there needs to be mercy.

Parenting also calls for mercy and justice.  It's a hard tightrope to walk sometimes.  When my kid does something bad, I know there needs to be justice, but I so want to give him mercy.  When my patients get "spicy"  I can give them a calming pill.  There's not something nor should there be something like that for my 5 year old.

Justice is difficult with parenting.  While you don't want to make rash, emotional judgments, you know that whatever the bad act was needs to be responded to immediately or else the kid won't understand cause and effect, won't understand that there is a consequence for the action.  I find mercy, easier to give as a parent.  I want my kid to do right, to heal and to know he's at heart a good kid.  If the left hand is justice and the right hand is mercy, they need to work together.  Like a jalpaeno and cream cheese.  My son actually likes slightly spicy food and I do as well.  We are not called to be a "bland" people.  We are also not called to burn the tongues of others.  Do you have any recommendations on balancing mercy and justice in family life?

Who knew I could discuss spiciness, difficult cats, parenting and mercy and justice all in one blog post?  Hopefully it's not too disjointed, but I think often we can find crossover between God's natural world and human nature.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What I'm Reading Now

I read a fairly eclectic mix of books.  Fiction, non-fiction, spiritual.  I'm in the middle of several right now.  Whenever I see an interesting book referred to, I add it to my library "Wish List".  I think I'm near 1,000 on my wish list.  Not sure I'll ever be able to read them all, but keeping these books in this place has brought some new books into my life that I would've never read otherwise.

If my library doesn't have a book, I will often "request" or recommend it for purchase.  They are a pretty big library system and not all of my requests get purchased, but a fair amount do.  A while back I requested a book, Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island.  I was excited when my library purchased it and I discovered three other people had requested it too.  I was on the waitlist and then I got the book and started reading, along with the 5 other books I'm currently in the middle of.

Then the news of Hurricane Florence came and there was an article in a major newspaper interviewing the author of Chesapeake Requiem.  My copy that I had checked out was about ready to expire (the library gives me 21 days to read a book and it normally takes SEVERAL cycles for me to make it through a book).  I thought, "no problem, I'll put it on hold again."  Apparently I wasn't the only person who had read the newspaper article.  The book that I had started reading and was getting into now had 150 people ahead of me on the waiting list.  I told my husband of my angst.  "By the time I get the book back, I will have totally forgotten what I read!"

I worked diligently to read it at every chance I got and as it was really rather engaging and interesting, I made it through.  It's a non-fiction book about a rather liberal journalist who lives on a VERY conservative, dry island where pretty much everyone can trace their family back to a guy who lived there pre-revolution.  With facts about crabbing, boating and small-town life and politics mixed in with the global warming debate (it's not a debate for the journalist, but he is respectful of the islanders having a different view) and personal stories, it was a very engaging read.  I think one thing I enjoyed about it was the fact the journalist and islanders did co-exist and become friends, a nice reminder in this divisive time that there is co-existence possible with polar opposite views.

I've also been getting into some "mystery" and "spy" historical fiction books.  The World War II time period has always fascinated my sister and me and I've been enjoying the Maggie Hope Mysteries.  I don't have a whole lot of time for reading, but I try to squeeze a few minutes here and there, whether I'm in the carpool line or waking up a little earlier in the morning or staying up a little bit late, I get to step outside of my life for just a little bit (and sometimes realize just how blessed I am).  I have way more books on my wish list than I probably will ever be able to get through but I definitely have some good reading to look forward to.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Don't Discourage the Growl

I was doing an exam on a dog today and it was a little nervous.  It had been a street dog for a little bit and so it had some anxiety about being in a vet's office.  It probably didn't help that I had stress pheromones all over because I had just rushed to pick up my son from the school nurse's office for a cough that may have been more homesickness than bad illness, but I digress.

The owner scolded the dog for growling.  I sat back, moved slow and said, "Please don't discourage him from growling."  She looked a little shocked.  She was a nice person who just wanted her dog to behave nicely.  I told her, "It's perfectly acceptable he's growling, he's obviously a little anxious and I don't blame him.  He's just letting me know he's not loving it here."  She looked puzzled.

"What he's doing is kind of giving me the doggy middle finger.  I'm fine with that.  I'll take the middle finger any day over a bite."  The owner nodded, yep, that made sense.  I told her, "it's kind of like when you tell a child, 'use your words'.  A growl is him just using his words.  If you take that away, he may just suddenly bite because you've taken away his ability to communicate."

We then went on to discuss that sometimes, especially with children, a growl is very effective to get them to stop doing something that the dog doesn't like or is uncomfortable.

I recalled a story from several years ago where I was in an exam room with a woman and her child.  The woman asked me for a medication or a means to get the dog to stop growling.  In the few minutes I was in the exam room, I noticed the child maltreating the dog, being obnoxious, pulling it's tail and climbing all over it and the dog was clearly distressed.

I don't remember exactly how I phrased it, I believe it was blunt, but diplomatic (she took it well), "Excuse me ma'am, the dog is not the one with the problem, it's your child.  If your child did what she is doing to most dogs, they'd bite.  They wouldn't tolerate that.  You are lucky your dog is only growling."  The woman realized that she was lucky and that the child should respect the dog and the dog's space.  I also gave her info to a website I like; Liam J Perk Foundation which talks about dogs, children and stress.  Oftentimes, I see "cute" pictures on Facebook that to a trained eye looks like the dog is really stressed and is trying to override it's desire to fight or flight.  Most dogs are way more patient and forgiving of personal space issues than people.

My tech told me after the visit, "You're not the only vet I've heard who has said, "Give me a middle finger over a dog bite any day!"  She then told me I should cross-stitch it on a pillow.  Instead, I'll just share this on the blog...

Monday, September 10, 2018

As the entire East Coast waits...

My family and I don't live on the coast, but we live near enough the coast that we do get hurricanes, or at least their leftovers.  My husband proposed to me on a weekend after the remnants of a hurricane had blown through and there was actually enough wind to fly a kite.  We've seen some serious damage and the town that we got married in actually has high water marks from each hurricane that rolls through.  There's an anticipation, a level of excitement and a level of fear.

In a location where people crowd the grocery stores if we are just going to get an inch of snow, I'm sure there will be a lot of people grocery shopping at the last minute.  My husband and I are trying to plan ahead.  We were supposed to go camping this weekend.  My son was sad when we told him it wasn't going to happen.  Don't want to be caught in the mountains in torrential rain, or even worse, in a valley with flooding.

As I saw my son's sadness coming on I said, "How about we camp in the basement?"  He thought this was a great idea and is looking forward to it.  Hopefully he won't end up liking camping in the basement more than the real outdoors!

We've already had so much rain in our area that everything is getting flooded even before Florence comes through.  My neighbor found some baby rabbits that had gotten flooded out of their burrow.  I helped her keep them warm and found a wildlife rehabilitation facility to take them to so they might have a chance.

With baby rabbits, it's often best to leave them alone.  That is what I told my neighbor to do the first night.  If they smell like humans; the mother will abandon them.  The mothers don't stay with their young and only nurse them for about 5 minutes a day.  My neighbor and I were confused that the mother rabbit would make her burrow in a yard where a dog rambles about 3 times a day.  Furthermore, it was a location that floods easily.  She remarked about Darwin, "survival of the fittest".  I remarked that there's a reason rabbits breed like rabbits.  We weren't really laughing.  We were sad, but gallows humor sometimes suffices when there's not much to do.

The rehab people (these are the people who all they do is rehab wildlife) said they've been getting a lot of baby bunnies.  The outlook is not good, but it's worth a try.  When things get dire, the best you can do is wait, pray and remember, it will all eventually work out as part of God's plan.  Perhaps with some pain, suffering and unexplainable stuff, but as with everything, good can come, even in the face of destruction.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Keep your eyes out...

Look out tomorrow, Thursday September 6th for my catholicmom.com post regarding talking to my son about the current crisis in the church.  Obviously these discussions need to be age-appropriate but I would love for people to comment or give tips on how they talk about difficult situations with their kids.

Also, check out some of the other catholicmom.com posts, they have some very talented contributing writers!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


My son has historically been a pretty good boy at Mass, especially for a kid who quite often doesn't have the attention span to sit down and watch a TV show or movie.  He's great at focusing on books and sports, but other things, well, it's not surprising that he didn't fall far from the tree with a mommy who has to be in motion to stay concentrated...

Over this summer we have had more struggles with him behaving at Mass.  Whether it's him trying to exert control, just all the changes in routines, or what, I don't know.  At some points with what he says, I'm worried he's a budding Atheist.  But then I remind myself he's just 5 and he'll use any excuse he can come up with to get his way.

My husband and I tried to do everything we could think of to get him to behave.  Sitting up front was helpful for a while, but then he just started misbehaving sitting up front, which isn't helpful for ANYONE at Mass.  Then if he misbehaved we told him we had to sit in back.  That doesn't help either.  We know changing his schedule, like going to a later Mass or a Saturday night Mass normally didn't go well.  We gave him mercy in those situations because we knew that being tired/hungry or just off schedule isn't his fault.

Some books sometimes helped, like the book I previously reviewed here :

Some books we've gotten, such as Bibles and Mass guides used to be helpful, but have become more of a hindrance now that he wants us to read them to him during Mass.

It's sometimes hard when adults talk during Mass and my son witnesses this.  I actually once spoke to an adult about this and she was receptive, understanding it's hard to teach a kid that there are rules when other people violate them.  It's hard for me to pay attention during Mass, sometimes I have to close my eyes to focus and sometimes simple things like holding hands during the Our Father or other things distract me from prayer.  My husband and I certainly don't expect perfection from our son.  We are content if he quietly colors, sits in our lap or looks through books.

As I found Mass becoming more and more a source of tension in our family and my husband and I were both getting tired of lecturing him on Mass behavior, I took a new angle.  We got into car after Mass and my son was waiting for the lecture.  Instead, this is what I said:

"So- how would you feel if the next gift you got, I threw it away or tore it apart or broke it?"  This caught my son off-guard.  "That would be mean".  "Yep, it would be mean."

"Did you know that when you misbehave and make noise and are disruptive, that's what you are doing to us?"  He looked puzzled.  "Misbehaving in Mass isn't like when you misbehave in the grocery store.  Going to Mass isn't just something on Mommy and Daddy's to do list."  He took this in.  "It's Jesus' gift to us."  My husband went on and we discussed how being loud and disruptive takes away from everyone's gift.

Hopefully, one day he will realize what a gift Mass is for him, as well.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Beans, beans and more beans...

Most people spend back-to-school time ordering supplies, adjusting their routine and stocking up.  Fortunately, my son's school does not require us to buy supplies, I purchased his uniforms months ago when they were on sale and his backpack and lunch bag from last year so I thought we were in pretty good shape.

I've been spending back-to-school time doing veterinary stuff with the pets.  Specifically, the cat.  Duchess.  Not only is she royalty in name but also demeanor.  She does not like veterinary clinic settings.  I'm not sure if it was last year or the year before, but we went through a brief scare that she had diabetes.   This shocked me because she is a 6 pound, mildly underweight cat who eats canned food.  Canned food is kind of like the "Atkins diet" and so canned food can actually be therapeutic for diabetics.  Well, it ended up working out that she had a high blood sugar and sugar in her urine just because she get's that stressed when she goes to a clinic.  This year, she was doing better so I was quite unnerved when I took her to the cardiologist and he told me she had such high blood pressure she could lose her eyesight and have a stroke.  Follow-up has concluded that she was actually just really stressed.

The dog has his routine follow-up stuff but nothing too exciting there yet (at least for now).

Now my two-legged kid.  He has food allergies and is a finicky eater.  That just makes life pretty fun. He's very excited about eating hot lunch at school.  We had it all worked out and then it occurred to me that the fact that we hadn't given him beans could be a problem.  I know this paragraph is weird, but bare with me.

My son is allergic to cashews, green peas and for a brief time beans.  His allergist thinks he has grown out of these allergies or if not, is close to.  He directed us to get him to eat beans to confirm he didn't have a reaction.  I've been casually trying him to eat beans all summer to no avail.  As the start of school approached, I told my husband we were going to have to take him to his favorite taco place because those are the only beans he said he would eat.  He ate them.  Success.  I called his doctor and reported that.  The staff member told me, "Now what about white beans and kidney beans?".  "What?"  The staff member actually said, "Wow- I heard you deflate over the phone!"  I tried to tell her it took a whole summer to get the kid to eat black beans, and school started in less than 2 weeks.  I was pretty sure the school nurse wasn't going to let him get school lunch unless we had an official letter.

We had just paid over $250 for lunches and my son was actually excited about school lunch.  Last year it was a success if he drank his milk and ate chips.  What is a mother to do?  I'm not one to accept defeat (even my son has noticed this- "Mommy, why do you always win?").  I communicated with my husband that when he got home, I was headed to the grocery store.  I went to the fancy "weird food" grocery store that I knew would have beans "mixed" into things and I looked up recipes on Pinterest.  Unfortunately, I didn't see any "bean baby food" to mix into things.  But I got bean tortilla chips, bean nacho cheese chips (my son immediately figured out they weren't Doritos).  I got a bean burger.  I made chocolate kidney bean brownies (they weren't bad).  I made oatmeal cookies with butter beans and great northern beans.  (Fortunately, my kid eats hummus so garbanzo beans have always been good).  He may have only taken a few bites of each of my concoctions, but that was all he needed to do.

I stayed up late, cooking and cleaning thinking, "What I wouldn't give to have to go shopping for school supplies rather than to get creative with beans."  Oh well- if you haven't figured it out by now, this blog is called All Creatures Great And Crazy for a reason....