Friday, April 13, 2018

Physics and Ikea

I have often wondered why veterinary school has so many pre-requisites.  It’s amazing to me that I sometimes use my undergrad pre-law background more than my hard-science classes I took.

Sure, chemistry and biology were somewhat helpful in vet school to understand physiology and how the body “works”. But the 4 physics classes I took?  Nope- when a dog gets hit by a car or a cat falls 5 stories, I don’t stand there and calculate velocity or the relationship with gravity.

I didn’t hate taking physics, I found it somewhat interesting, but when I had to cram in roughly 300 college credits of material into my brain, it seemed like the less relevant of my classes.

Then it hit me-literally.  As my 5’2, 125 pound frame was trying to negotiate two extra large shelves that were taller, wider and close to heavier than me out of Costco and into my car, I used my knowledge of levers, gravity and positioning to get the laws of physics to get those large objects into my car.

I got a little help from a couple of kind men who took pity on me, but I ultimately got them into my car.  I backed my car up to the garage and then was able to slowly slide them into my garage.  My husband came home and checked out the boxes and was confused how I could have gotten something so heavy into the garage by myself- “physics” and a little help from some nice guys...

I then found myself just recently putting something from IKEA together.  It was a reminder to me that the offer of assembly for a cost is maybe not that bad an idea.  My four year old tried to help me and it became an exercise in keeping him safe and struggling to grow in patience.  I almost think they should put an IKEA challenge on those survivor-skills challenges on TV- it is a battle of mental and physical strength...  who knew that all those credits I took in physics would pay off in household skills.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Piano Lessons

My mom had always been saddened that she didn't know how to play a musical instrument.  Determined that my sister and I would be privileged, where she wasn't, she required us to learn how to play piano.  I didn't hate playing piano per say, but I HATED practicing.  There were always too many other things I wanted to do.

It didn't help that my sister was more naturally gifted at playing the piano than I was.  Once I was able to "choose" the instrument I got to play, I chose the violin and got "somewhat" better at it.  I shelved playing a musical instrument during my high school years, had a brief time where I tried to learn again in college and then let it go.  Fast forward 8 years later and I decided to try out for our Church choir and the choir director was happy to find I could read music.  I hadn't realized it, but my mom had opened a door to a different language for me when she made sure I learned music basics.

I enjoyed choir, but have again put that part of me on hold while I raise my son.  As I was talking to him, he enjoys music and listening to me singing and fortunately has his father's ability to pick up tunes easily.  Though my husband never had formal musical training, he's able to pick up a tune on the piano better than I can.

I now understand my mom's wisdom of starting us with piano lessons, before we got to choose our musical instrument we wanted to learn- first- it makes sense to not hop around many different instruments until you find the "one" and what you learn on piano is fairly transferable to other modes of music.  But what I realized most was while I was talking to my son- I asked him what musical instrument he might want to learn.  He immediately told me, "the Trumpet and the Drum".  I then realized that listening to an inexperienced piano player would be a lot more enjoyable than hours of novice drum and trumpet play.  Smart mom!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Keeping Sunday for the Lord and your sanity.

I tried something this Easter Sunday I haven't done in a long time.  That was to not do any housework and just have family time.  In order to do this, I worked like mad on Saturday and I tried to prep as many things as I could ahead of time, so there would be minimal meal prep on Easter.  It was worth the effort.  I didn't do much and that was the point.  We had "Easter Bunny" time, we went to Mass and we ate and we watched a movie as a family and visited on the phone with a few people.  That was it.

I've always tried to avoid treating Sunday as just any other day.  Since my internship, when I had to work most Sundays (sometimes working from 5 am to Midnight) I have avoided any job where I would have to work Sundays, even occasional Sundays.  To me, unless I was working as an emergency clinician (which I did) the only reason for working Sunday was for the convenience of some owners to get vaccines on Sunday, and that was unnecessary in my eyes as I do believe unless your job is required in an emergency setting, everyone should get a day off, religious or otherwise.

I remember as an emergency veterinarian sometimes working a 12 hour shift, going to Mass, getting an hour of sleep and then working another 12 hour shift.  It was rough.  I think the Lord had to know I tried.  When I was in veterinary school I had a brief stint of trying to not "work" by not studying on Sundays.  That didn't go well, especially when all my professors liked to put exams on Monday mornings.

Being a mom, you pretty much don't get "time off".  I heard lately that a study said that working moms do the equivalent of 2.5 full-time jobs.   I'm fortunate enough that I work part-time as a veterinarian, but my time is taken up by volunteering at school, responsibilities at church and trying to do as many things at home so my husband doesn't have to spend his weekend working either.  With taking my son to swim class (and going for a 2 hour swim with him every week) to standing outside in the rain while he has soccer practice, I occasionally think that working full-time the "traditional way" might have it's perks!  I would actually have a time to check e-mail, even if that was in a designated lunch break.

As I was trying to negotiate a utility bill, the operator chastised me when I told them I was driving (I was in a traffic jam and using handsfree technology).  I tried to explain to the service person that in a traffic jam was the only time I had 30 minutes to listen to their "on hold music" and I wasn't kidding.

My husband had a discussion a while back about why I was forgetful and I assured him it wasn't dementia, but that I had too much on my mind.  As an example, I sent him an e-mail that was basically a "brain dump" of all the random things in my mind that I had to do.  Here's the somewhat eclectic list;

"go to kielbasa store, pick up husbands shirts, do we want cinnamon rolls for Easter?  Check my doctor's message on the patient portal, send Easter card to my parents, e-mail PTA liaison about clothing sale, confirm dates with one clinic, respond to two other clinics regarding dates they requested, pay business insurance, pay business credit card bill, go to barbecue place and get free sandwich : )  make sure we schedule dates for our son for before and aftercare, e-mail that family we were hoping to watch our son over the summer regarding summer care...."  All that was in my head for the short trip from an exit ramp to the door of work, less than 2 minutes.

Yeah- that's not a completely random and frantic train of thought, is it?  I have a hard time shutting off my head a lot of the time.  When I'm a veterinarian, I'm systematic.  Over a decade of training and learning that if I don't do something the same way every time, I'm going to miss something.  Somehow as a parent, and regular human, I haven't found my "system".  I'm sure this is the way with a lot of people now a days.  I think maybe my smartphone is somewhat of an enemy.  With people being able to text message and e-mail and expect prompt responses it just puts us all the more in a spin cycle.  On the night of my birthday, I found myself almost getting guilt-tripped into working for someone on my family's day off and I found myself trying to find other doctors to help someone who was in a bad situation.  I think it's kind of sad that there were at least 5 of us veterinarians all texting each other at 10 pm (though I guess it says something about us that we all like to try to take care of each other).

We are all on a frantic rush, sometimes I try to intentionally lose my phone, but then people get annoyed that I didn't answer and my voicemail is full.  Do we remember, back in the good old days, when you sometimes had to play phone tag with people for weeks?  We all survived.  We all survived when we weren't able to pass on forwards or get instant answers.  I surely can't get rid of my smartphone (though sometimes I'd like to) but I do have to have boundaries, we all do.  My small action of taking back my Sunday is not going to return me to a day gone by.  But maybe, just maybe it will give my brain enough of a rest that I'll remember not to put my keys in the refrigerator.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Little Girl at Mall Playground

A while ago, I had an interesting experience.  One of those where you just sit back and watch something unfold.  There's always a line between being a helicopter parent who hovers and prods and over-manages and a parent who is disinterested and doesn't give the child the attention they need.  Currently we are going through a phase of problem solving in this stage of my son growing up where it's difficult to walk the line between protecting his feelings and allowing him to mature as a person and come to awareness that sometimes in life there are difficult people and you have to learn how to deal with them.

As I was watching my son climbing (I like to silently watch him interact and try not to get distracted by my cell phone; they say so many playground injuries are increasing because parents are pre-occupied with their phones) and I saw my son get on to a piece of equipment and he didn't realize another girl was on it at the same time, and that she had been there first.

Instead of reacting how most children would, verbalizing and trying to persuade the other party to do what is right, this child began screaming- screaming very loudly and trying to push my son off.  My son kind of froze in mid-air.  I don't think he had ever heard any one scream like this girl did.

My son was alarmed by her screaming.  I cuddled my son and said, "You shouldn't try to climb on the playground at the same time as someone else, but she shouldn't have screamed at you- that's how you lose friends."

On one hand I wanted to pull the girl aside and let her know how she behaved wasn't ok either.  I wasn't worried about taking on her mom/caretaker, but I looked at her with pity.  I knew from watching her behave for a couple of minutes, that she was on the way to being a brat and there wasn't much I could do about it.  I also noticed that her parent/caretaker was oblivious to her.

I didn't want to teach my son that mommy has to fight his battles either.   I gave him love and wished someone would give that little girl the love and attention she needed, for as I told my son, if you go around behaving like that- you won't have friends.

My son is in a stage right now where he's learning that sometimes people wrong you, sometimes they don't apologize and sometimes you have to forgive.  Forgiveness is a difficult thing for most people, adults included.  Sometimes it's easy to have anxiety as a parent.  You worry that the little bumps and bruises, the slights and the "emotional trauma" that our kids experience could go on to scar them for life.

I look at my son and I see a kind, empathetic soul, maybe a little sensitive, just like I was when I was little.  I think, while lot's of times the bruises and bumps they get as kids make them tougher, I think it hurts us parents almost as much as it hurts them.  Sometimes it's easy to over react, but I think the most important thing I can do through these things as a parent is just be there.  Be there to listen, be there to hug, be there to be told, "I don't want you standing next to me I can do it myself".  Because even when kids say that, they look back.  They look to see you, to know you are there.  To know you are present.  That's the most important thing I remember from my childhood; may I continue to remember to pass it on.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Yesterday was 60 degrees and today we have a winter storm...

You would think I wrote the above title when I was back in Michigan, but no- I'm rather south of Michigan and we have this crazy spring weather.   My behavior might possibly be just as crazy too.

A couple of weeks ago we had a severe windstorm, one of which most of our area is still recovering from.  Brand new fences broken, countless trees down and more shingles off of roofs than I can count (we haven't identified any from our roof, so we're hoping we are home free).  My "greenhouse" cover on my planter blew off into the yard about a day after I had placed it, and between rain and miserable weather, I hadn't gotten around to replacing it yet.

I picked up my son from school yesterday and it was about 60 degrees.  My son lectured me about still wearing my winter coat (I haven't transitioned out of transferring everything from my coat to my purse, so I kind of wear it as one would carry a purse).

As soon as I brought my son home,
he raced up to his bedroom on the third floor and got into his "favorite shorts" as soon as I could get my coat off.  He was excited.  Someone told him it was the first day of spring tomorrow.  I didn't have the heart to tell him he was potentially going to get a snow day, so hold on to those pants!

It was a nice, sunny day and my son was in shorts.  I loathed the idea of being stuck in the house with snow and ice the next few days, so I ditched my work ethic and said, "let's go to the park."  I thought "if we are going to be stuck in the house the next couple of days, I'll have plenty of time to do housework and my son needs the fresh air and exercise so he won't drive me nuts while I'm doing housework".  It seemed like legitimate rationalization.  I paused momentarily and thought, "do we need sunscreen?"  Then I realized I was catching my son's "bug" of thinking 60 degrees is Florida.  We got out of the house and went to the park my son calls the "Party Park".  It's a little further away from our house and its normally where we host my son's birthday parties.  We hadn't been there in MONTHS, possibly since September.  He was excited and I was excited.

We tried to meet up with a few of his neighborhood friends and decided it would be easier if we went back to the park closer to our house.  On our way, we started skipping.  My son complained.  I told him, "run along with me if you can't skip."  He told me, "I can't run, I might get a boo-boo."  I said, "so what?  boo boos happen, just try to be careful."  He then explained in a rather surprising role reversal how he wanted to be safe.  I pointed out to him none of the sports he enjoys, (hockey, basketball, football and baseball) are completely free of possible injury, he's 4- he should run.  I couldn't convince him and I tried to explain if you don't do things that have the possibility of a minor injury- you can't do much.  It's a risk you take when you are having fun.  Apparently I'm not an overprotective or helicopter parent if I'm trying to explain this to a kid.

I was slightly worried about my son's perception of running and skipping as dangerous activity.  We got to the park where his friends were and he immediately climbed to the top of the playground equipment and began launching himself off the side.  Nope- he's not risk-averse.  He just knows how to make a good excuse.

We got home and I decided no time like right before a winter storm to put the greenhouse cover on.  I fixed that up and started seedlings and now I'm waiting for the snow.  Nothing like the first day of Spring!

Friday, March 16, 2018

That time I forgot how to ice skate...

Alas,  spring is coming!  It’s not quite “short weather”.  My son has been asking when “short season” comes since before Christmas.  He doesn’t care if it’s spring or summer, he just wants to wear shorts again.

Between having the flu, breaking my foot, having the flu and family vacation, we have not been able to go to our local skating rink.

We are blessed to live in a town that has a skating rink in the winter and then they turn it into a stage, fountain and reading nook in the warmer months.  My husband had the great idea that we try to make it to the rink one last time.  Since Wednesday is not a “school night” for my son and he is totally messed up with the time change (that’s another story...) it worked well for my son and I to go skating and than my husband meet up with us (probably also conveniently planned as my husband isn’t totally into skating- see previous post here

I got my son’s skates on and then rushed to get mine on as he was so excited to get on the ice.  I somehow didn’t notice a minor detail...

We got to the ice and I asked my son to wait for me to go around once because I was rusty and hadn’t skated in a year.  I definitely wanted to get a “feel” for my feet before I was also adding his 30 pounds to the mix.

I stepped on the ice.  I fell.  I tried to get up and I fell again.  I kept falling.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I can only guess the expression on my face.  My son looked worried.  Each time I fell I tried to act like it was fun, trying not to scare my child.  Maybe it’s because the skates were sharpened?  Maybe I’m losing it?  But I was a figure skater, I tell myself.  I try to figure out if I have totally lost my skills how on earth am I going to be able to help my kid skate.  I make it around the rink once and then a kindly man, in broken English motions to my skate.  “Bottom”, “something,” I hear.  I look.  One of my skates has the skate guard on it.  I guess one skate guard was already off (found it back at the house) and I had just assumed they were both off.

If only my husband was here, I laughed to myself.  It gave me a lot more sympathy for him and my son, remembering now clearly, what it feels like to not know how to skate.

Sometimes, I think especially as a parent to a young child, it is good to remember how it feels not to know how to do something.  It’s a reminder that learning is not always easy, not always second nature.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Hazards of the job...

I don't know if it was my application for workers compensation, or coaxing a colleague that I refused to work at for fear of endangering my health, but I've begun to reflect on the dangers of my job.

I used to joke with my sister that I think being a veterinarian was safer than being an elementary school teacher (because at least I could sedate my unruly charges), but I think I was probably lying to myself.  I'm not sure that my parents even knew that every time I walked into the large animal clinics in my school there was a large sign that basically boiled down to, "You are entering an inherently dangerous area where great injury and even death can happen, so don't sue us because we told you so."  Obviously it was written in legalese, but that was the gist of it.  Someone in the class ahead of me got most of her teeth knocked out by a horse.  I'm pretty sure that my youth and being naive kept me from having more serious anxiety than I did.

Some dangers, I like to think, I have control of (such as, I don't work in places that have unsafe environments such as open flames near oxygen tanks or a faulty scavenger system that means humans get anesthetized along with the animals).  I realize that jobs come and go, but my health is something I have to try to hold onto.  I like to think the fact that I haven't had any major mishaps lately is become I'm getting smarter and my staff is getting improved training.  But if I'm being honest, I would acknowledge a certain amount of luck and God's good grace has played a big role.

The 3 bite wounds I have received as a veterinarian that were serious enough for me to go to the hospital were in my last year of school and first year of practice.  It was when I was in school that I broke my leg dealing with a cow (that's a good story).  I've gotten more bruises than I can ever count (currently writing this with about 10 bruises that I honestly can't remember which patient inflicted or in what combination).  I even got a strange "flu-like" virus from pigs.  My more strange injury was actually a dog that bruised my rib and then bruised my back just by pushing me into an exam room table.  I'm a pretty tough cookie.  I had a kitty patient who actually got their claw attached to me by entering in one side of my finger and than coming out at another point.  The owner was impressed how calm I was as I extricated myself from the cat, no hospital visit needed.

My husband has commented that I should wear bubble wrap and gloves to try to stay protected.  Unfortunately, I can't practice medicine like that, so I'm left with praying, trusting my coworkers and considering other careers as my reflexes slow down