Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Strange Times for Everyone

The title of this post sounds cliche.  There isn't really a new "normal".  The word I seem to keep using with my husband is "sustainable".  Whether the decisions we make are sustainable.  When we were trying to keep the hospital admissions down in March and April, we were quite rigid.  We are adapting.

The initial precautions we took in March/April are not sustainable for the long-term for our family.  The uncertainties of work, the wish to sustain relationships, all of these things need to factor into the decisions we make, besides keeping our family healthy.  We are blesse
d that our family does not have anyone at extreme high risk of the disease, but we do have parents who are more at risk than we are.  We also know that they sometimes take less precautions than we do.

With our son, I see the role isolation has taken in his life.  As an only child (not by choice) he is forced to be with us all the time.  He is becoming more of anadult ahead of his time while at the same time becoming more engaged in video games (of the sports variety).  We used to not allow much digital time in our house, but the need to get work done, keep him occupied and realizing that he can't watch sports games on TV like he used to has changed how much we allow.  (I am sometimes shocked at all the old games he finds on the TV.  He will ask me if I was at a sporting event he's watching that happened in the early 2000's.)  My kid actually told me, "It's endemic to me that I have difficulty breathing if I don't have soda, games or dessert."  Yes, my 7 year old actually used the word endemic.

We are trying to balance learning, play and quiet time in a whole new way.  We used to never have TV or anything on during dinner time.  Dinner time was a time for us to connect.  I can't remember how it was exactly said, but our family realized that we really are together all day most of the time, so instead of forcing more conversation at dinner, we've started listening to audiobooks together.

Fortunately, we were able to go to my family's lake house for a brief respite, and there were boys his age there.  It was awe
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some.  It was like watching my kid become a kid again.  Interacting and socializing outside with his peers brought out a new joy.  Swimming, slip and slide, baseball and other lower risk activities were a great way to connect.  It reminded me that his childhood memories are not going to be like mine (I have no idea how he's going to remember this time period but I can only hope he will remember the good parts of all this "togetherness" and not the frustrations). 

 Even though his childhood will have a memory of a huge departure from "normal" and a lot of disruption, he will still have memories of childhood.  At this time, I don't think my role as a parent is to make life "normal" for my child.  I think my husband and I have the responsibility to walk in faith, find room for joy and not deny that there are some disappointments.  Jesus calls us to grow and these times are testing the soil we are planted on.  Everyone needs grace at this time and we are happy to find that in our Catholic faith.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Getting Back Into Church

As I'm sure many of you have experienced, watching Mass from home is missing a lot more than the Eucharist, (which is obviously the most important).  Spiritual communion, while helpful, is not the same as receiving the physical sacrament.

My husband and I tried to keep watching Mass at the same time on Sundays (and occasionally Saturday vigil) and we made a point out of changing out of our pajamas or casual clothes, putting the kitten away to stop his antics from distracting us and telling our son he had to pay attention during the Gospel reading and the consecration.  His difficulty paying attention to Mass at home made me worried that there would be quite a bit of regression when we got back into the pews.

My emotions and thoughts on missing Mass has vacillated from a deep longing and attraction to receiving the Eucharist (I convinced my husband to get up at 5 AM on our anniversary to make sure we could be one of the first 10 people to attend Daily Mass as that is where the limit was at the time), to feeling guilty that I somehow didn't have a deeper longing and need and despair as some people I know.  In some ways, it felt like life was still going on, despite the absence from the Sacraments.

This past week, we were able to go to Mass as a family for the first time in several months.  Though we were wearing masks, there was a lot of hand sanitizer and no missals, it felt like coming home.  My son, to my shock was impeccably behaved (although one thought I had was the loss of oxygen he had from wearing the mask may have helped, which he attested later to me that he couldn't breathe at times during Mass).

As a veterinarian, I've had to train myself to have extreme control of my emotions.  I probably only cry a couple of times a year (whereas a child, it was probably a couple times a week).  I hadn't cried the first time I had received the Eucharist on our anniversary, but on the first Sunday Mass together, after witnessing another woman cry, I did find myself fighting my emotions.  I received the gift of reassurance that yes, I did have a heart and yes, that heart longed for and needed Jesus.  While I was concerned that my ability to go on without the Sacraments had concerned me, what I didn't realize, until then, was how much spiritual communion did carry me through, how much the priests continuing to celebrate Mass, even without the Faithful physical present had a power to carry us.

Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Big Book of Christians around the World Review

In a time when everyone needs to feel even more united than before, I was delighted to receive the book, “The Big Book of Christians around the World” by Sophie de Mullenheim and Solenne & Thomas.

My whole family enjoyed this book, from the age of 6 to 45, we each learned something new and different.  The book has 1-2 pages on each country with small paragraphs of facts, stories and more.  Each region has a “journal entry” written from the perspective of two children about something special that happens in that area.  While the book does a great job at highlighting unique practices in each country and region, it also does a fantastic job at showing how the Faith unites us all.  While the book says it’s “The Big Book of Christians,” I found that it was heavily focused on Catholics.  Obviously, I have no problem with that!  I did kind of think twice though about sending it to my non-Catholic Christian friends as it may be a little “too Catholic” for them.  I was happy to send it to some other families I know that share the faith and they were excited to receive it.  There was only one segment in the book that I found parental guidance was needed for.  There was a small paragraph about a robin hood type folk hero and I had a talk with my son that while giving to the poor is laudable, stealing is not Ok.  Otherwise, I found the values in the book to be part of our foundational beliefs and a great way to open all of our eyes to the beauty of our faith around the world.  Even though we are all different and may express our love for our faith differently, Jesus unites us.  What a great message for our times!

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Friday, May 8, 2020


I'm sure I have a problem many people would love to have right now... I'm way busy!  What I thought would be a lull that would allow more time for projects around the house and spending more family time together with my husband has instead  become one where it seems like we are working multiple full-time jobs.  As one mom put it, "We are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.  Some of our boats have more people in them than others or are having to work from home, or having to work outside the home.  Some of us have additional stressors and some times there feels like a giant hole in the boat."  So true.

I had originally lost a lot of work at the beginning of this crisis, but now I'm getting a decent amount of it back.  Add on the change in situation where my husband is at home and my hours and flexibility have changed.  Moreover, my sister brought a great blessing to us in recruiting me to teach classes online, and I now have lesson planning and trying to fit in more and more classes.  (It originally was helping out with grocery money and now it has taken off and I kind of feel pressured into doing more because I keep getting requests to teach more classes.)

As my husband said, "It's not really like we are working from home, it's more like we are sleeping at the office."  Add on my husband and I trying to split task-mastering our son into his schoolwork (which he has a fair bit of) and I almost feel like homeschooling him would be easier than this online hybrid we are navigating.

At one point I also had to remind my husband that I'm used to having "pleasant" coworkers, so it would be appreciated if he could try to attempt to be friendly throughout the day.  He took my feedback and adjusted accordingly.

Navigating how we do things is also difficult.  I can't go into too many specifics, but I've had to draw lines for some people.  No, I'm not entering your car in a busy parking lot to see your pet.  No, I don't want to be in a small room with you when you just came from a hot spot area (apparently a lot of people are still traveling around the country).  Fortunately, I haven't seen any cases that have looked like coronavirus in pets, but it sounds like that may be something we need to keep our eyes out for.  It's a strange world and a strange time.  A lot of people are talking a lot more on the phone with me- even my son's specialist doctor who always rushes when we are in for appointments seemed thirsty for conversation.  He wanted to talk about wearing a bike helmet, COVID and more when we just wanted to hear from him whether my son's tonsils are ok (they are).

Hopefully I'll get back into blogging soon, but right now my family is busy praying and trying to hold it together.  In some ways it reminds me of initiation when I was on my varsity team in college.  It was something that involved spray painting from a river/bay.  As we were working on our "project" we realized that the boat we were in had a leak, at the same time a police officer above was alarmed by our noise and then looked down, "Oh, just spray-painting, carry on then."  He knew our graffiti was good-natured.
 Yep- we will all just carry on and when you have a hole in your boat, teamwork help gets you through.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Vet School Series: UP, obstetrics and Kalamazoo; living it up on the farm!

I can only write a quick email;

I am eating very well, lamb, lamb hot dogs, this isn't as strange as it might seem because we work with lambs all day (we just think of the really irritating ones that injured us or were reaaaally bad mothers); I've had much wrestling practice, and the comment was once made, if Jesus is our Shepherd, as sheep that means we are really stupid.  They can be very stupid, but also very loving and sweet.  I am developing muscles in places I didn't know existed.  I'm also developing skills in sprinting, wrestling and lunging, not to mention hurdling.

We get to do a lot of vet med, but also a lot of plain old framework (re-filling waters, rebedding hay, etc.. We've done more castrations than I care to remember, and now I feel like a mini pharmacy; we use about 2 drugs, a pain medication (I'm a big fan of this one) and an antibiotic.  We use garbage bags as our surgical field.  Okay, some interesting stories, certainly can't write 'em all up.  In the U.P. (for those of you not from Michigan, this is slang for Upper Peninsula, which could also mean "back woods") in the horizontal rain, about 12:00 AM; there are two of us outside, after a 17 hour day of wrangling, pulling lambs etc. there was another vet student and myself, she's about my size and we are alone.  We saw a light in the sky; a red light/glow like a city.  I said, "oh isn't that a pretty sight, it must be Sault Ste. Marie.  Then we see a light swinging around  and say, "maybe that's the lighthouse, that's cool" then when the woman came to do the midnight to 6 shift, we told her of our neat discovery; she laughs and says that's the maximum security prison about 3 miles away; but don't worry, the escaped prisoners wouldn't want to walk through the swamp.

Procedure-wise, I straightened out a dystocia which had 2 lambs trying to come out at the same time with their heads twisted and mom and the twins are doing fine : ). We have also tried to repair broken legs; done tons of bottle feeding (we now have lambs that think we are mom and call for us and follow us around); fixed a prolapsed uterus (uterus that was inside out) pulled and tried to fix multiple dystopias.  The prolapsed uterus called us to dig back into our minds for something about a wine bottle our professor told us.  We weren't sure if you were supposed to drink wine if you were fixing it, or the wine bottle was somehow involved in the fix.  Times like these inform you as to what you pay attention to in class...

We pulled and worked with many dystocia, humanely euthanized some animals and just made some more comfortable.  After I was trying to work out a difficult dystocia yesterday (Mother's Day), I got a whole new appreciation for natural childbirth; my first response after pulling my wrist and arm of what seemed like a high pressure chamber was, "wow, if that hurts my wrist, how must that feel for her."  I have a whole new appreciation for the crushing pressure and what our mom's went through for us.  Well, we've done a lot more, but I gotta go....meg

Friday, April 10, 2020

Approaching the Easter Season

I'm not sure who to attribute this to, but I think it is appropriate to share; let me know if you know who the author is:

The first Easter didn't happen at a church.  It happened outside an empty tomb, while all the disciples were sequestered in a home, grief stricken, and wondering what was going on.  So we're all going to be keeping things pretty Biblical this Easter.

Yep, this Lenten season has been different.  It has been challenging.  I relaxed some of my dietary restrictions I was going to give myself because having difficulty getting groceries was real.  Going dairy free and being restrictive when supplies are restrictive just was not what I felt called to do.  Having patience with our families, pets and all those around us, that was what I tried to focus more on.  Telling people who keep the groceries coming, "Thank you and you are essential."  Remembering the difference between needs and wants.  That was not what I had started my pre-Lenten journey wanting to focus on, but that's where I ended up.

Watching Tenebrae and Holy Thursday Mass online is just not the same.  As Catholics, we are "tactile" we need touch, smell, the incorporation of the senses.  Yes, there is a sorrow for what we are longing for, but in that, I can unite myself to the disciples.  The uncertainty, the sorrow, the anxiety.  I can unite myself with them in hope as well.  Without having to book a babysitter and the ability to "pause" services, I'm not spending half of the service trying to get my son to pay attention.  I have access through the internet to a Tenebrae service in Singapore and one in a beautiful cathedral in Chicago.  I can attend virtually a service at St. Patrick's cathedral and expose my son and family to more than I would be able to in normal circumstances with the realization that when the new "normal" returns, my whole family will have a greater appreciation for what we have missed.  While we can't experience the presence of the Eucharist in it's physical form, we may in the biblical- give thanks.

Let us all give thanks.  No matter if there's job loss, illness, financial woes or parental meltdowns that children are not going back to school this year, we all have the best thing to give thanks for- Jesus.

Have a Blessed Easter Season!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

There are some silver linings...

The times have been changing for everyone.  We have all been forced to be adaptable.  We veterinarians are a fairly adaptable specimen, but we also like things the way we like them (like everybody).  The ongoing joke is that seeing pets, but not the people is every veterinarian's dream!

That's not quite true and I really do miss the one on one I get with pet owners.  It also makes certain aspects of my job downright difficult to impossible.  I can't demonstrate how to do things over the phone, I can't read body language or express empathy very well over the phone.  Everyone's going through challenges right now and even though veterinarians are considered essential workers and are fortunate enough to be able to work and get pay, there's stress for everyone.  There's the stress of small business owners, the stress of uncertainty and the stress of shortages.  We know that we share most of our equipment and supplies with human medicine.  We know that they are a greater priority than we are.  We also know that an important component of human health is the companionship and relationship they have with their pets.

There are worries that pets are going to suffer just like the rest of us.  Unfortunately, decisions such as, "I'm going to do everything I can to avoid the human hospitals," means that we are going to have a harder time treating animals who are riskier to handle, like anxious or mean dogs and cats.  We do the best we can, but our paradigm has changed.

To the silver lining... now, with so many people home, more people are adopting pets, older cats and dogs, and especially puppies are becoming new members of households, helping during this time of isolation.

People are just nicer now.  I'm sorry to say we aren't always that nice during normal times, but overall I've noticed everyone seems to be more patient and have more of a "can do" attitude.  Maybe it's because our expectations have been totally dropped.  I don't know.  Obviously I hope this pandemic goes away soon, but I hope the silver linings stay with us for a while.