Tuesday, September 29, 2015

St. Thomas and modernity

St. Thomas is full of wisdom for everyone, from his times to contemporary times.  I'm not sure my intellect or time management will ever allow me to read the Summa Theologica in completion, but I have been working on "A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica Edited and Explained" by Peter Kreeft with my Dominican group.  It is a book and edition I would recommend.

It's always reassuring that in the presence of very smart people, including lawyers and those who have had advanced theological training, they also have a hard time wrapping their mind around deep philosophy and pulling from their recesses of their mind writings by Aristotle, Plato and other early philosophers.

Thinking deeply really makes me feel my age.  I may have studied philosophy 15 years ago, and it may have been easier then, perhaps my brain cells were fresher (or it may have been because I drank more wine and margaritas back then).  Though reading St. Thomas' writing stretches my ability, it is worthwhile.

I will share a little of what I have read in St. Thomas Aquinas' Question 2 in Ethics VII, in which he discusses "Of Those Things in Which Man's Happiness Consists".

He has his writings set up in a statement/ counter statement format.

1) Whether Man's Happiness Consists in Wealth
2) Whether Man's Happiness Consists in Honors
3) Whether Man's Happiness Consists in Fame or Glory

In our Donald Trump/ Kim Kardashian society, it is interesting to read his points and counterpoints in which he lays out that Man's happiness consists in living a true and virtuous life.

1) Whether Man's Happiness Consists in Wealth- he goes through several objections and counter statements of how this is not the case; one of his final arguments though is from Boethius.  ii. wealth shines in giving rather than hoarding: for the miser is hateful, whereas the generous man is applauded" which Kreeft cited as, "Money, unlike happiness, is good only when spent, not kept."

2) Whether Man's Happiness Consists in Honors- "virtue's true reward is happiness itself, for which the virtuous work: whereas if they worked for honor, it would no longer be a virtue, but ambition".  Some of his writings on this point made me extrapolate to our modern day world and social media.  Whether it be Facebook or Pinterest, in social media some people work hard to show what a wonderful life they have.  Sometimes presenting how happy you are to everyone else leaves little time to enjoy your life, as Kreeft says, "Going on vacation just to take pictures of it."

3) Whether Man's Happiness Consists in Fame or Glory- "human glory is frequently deceptive" and "fame has no stability; in fact it is easily ruined by false report".  Our group then went on to point out examples of people who didn't get credit for their work, or people who work all their lives to build a reputation only to lose it, "  Joe Paterno was cited as an example of someone who had a flawless reputation... until he didn't...

The above is just a tidbit from St. Thomas Aquinas' writing, which though, deep and intellectually challenging when read, could have just as easily been written today as it was long ago.  Hopefully, the above has piqued your interest to explore him more.  I do recommend Peter Kreeft's book "A Shorter Summa", as mentioned above, as being maybe a little more accessible to the average person.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A chance to see the Pope

Last night, my son said he wanted to see the "Sisters".  He then went on to say that he wanted to go to the "sica".  I kept asking him what the sica was?  He then went on to say "Big Church".  Oh, Basilica, I thought?  I said, " Ba- sil-i-ca".  He excited kicked and smiled and did his own rendition of Basilica.  I'm sure he remembered his trip as told in the previous adventure.  I told him, "We are going to see the Pope."

We were fortunate enough to get tickets to see the Pope briefly when he came to Washington, D.C..  We woke our son up at 5 am, got him in the car and took him to get in line, go through security and go see the Pope.  We could have gotten up earlier, but I'm glad we did things the way we did.  My son didn't quite know what was going on, with all the security and 50,000 people.

We waited and talked with people around us for several hours.  Right when the Pope started talking to Congress, my son went asleep.  He woke up (we woke him up) and he was a little confused that we were pointing to a white dot way far away who started talking and we were calling him Pope.  It was a beautiful experience for the Pope to bless all the children in the crowd and their families.  What a beautiful and blessed experience, I am grateful!

On a lighter note... After carrying/holding my son for 6 hours (my husband was not with us and my son only wanted mommy) and a couple of miles of walking, my back/neck and whole body was aching.  As we reached my husband's car, I just broke down and set everything down, including my son and my phone.  When my husband met with us, we all piled in the car and wanted to excitedly share our experience.  When we got about two blocks away, I realized I didn't have my cell phone.  I was kind of panicking.  My mom and husband were asking if it was in my purse and I knew where I had left it last... On top of the car's hood...  My husband pulled over, I don't think knowing exactly what was going on and I opened the door and retrieved my phone from the hood of the car- it was still there.  I think the fact that it remained on the hood of the car is a testament of two things:  my husbands good driving skills and possibly a little extra grace from Pope Francis' visit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

You get what you pay for...

It's been busy, busy around here lately.  With a trip back to the Midwest for my son's first football game to getting ready for a papal visit to the East coast, it's been busy around here.

On my way in to work this morning, I heard a broadcast about "consumers checkbook" on saving money on vet bills and how the "cost of the same procedure varies between $150-650", making out like veterinarians are running up the bills.  The above is not true.  The old adage "that's like comparing apples to oranges" applies.  When there are drastic differences in procedures, you have to ask why.  Does the price include pain medication?  Does it include post-operative care, does it include bloodwork to make sure there are no pre-existing conditions?  There are many options that make your pet's medical care exactly like yours.  There are also options that make your pet's medical care more like the medical care you would find in a third world country.  These are all questions that should be asked. 

 Many people think that when they call to get prices they are comparing the same things.  This is rarely true, it's difficult to go into a detailed estimate on the phone and the assumption that because you are going to someone with a vet clinic means you are getting the same care is incorrect.

As a matter of fact, there are some clinics that I feel would not meet my standards for quality medicine and patient care.  There are regulations that govern clinics, but sometimes, you have to ask yourself "do you get what you pay for?"

Saturday, September 19, 2015

An excursion with a two year old

My son often drives by a big church that we took him to on his car ride home with his Dad.  Last week, I took the day off and enjoyed an excursion with him.  We first went to visit the elderly at a home I used to volunteer at run by the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's order).  I am trying to get him their more frequently as the residents and especially the Sisters enjoy seeing him and so he gets more familiar with them.

This time, he actually remembered some of the Sisters.  They totally dote on him and spoil him.  These Sisters are mostly from India and they only get to see their families once every 10 years or so, so having a young one come by is a total joy for them.  They also love getting hugs from him and apparently high 5's as well.  We said Hi to many of the sisters and we went around saying hi to the residents and then once of the sisters recommended we go outside and the residents would enjoy seeing my son play ball.  What they enjoyed was seeing my son throw the ball as far as he could outside of the gated area and his mommy chasing after it.  Then one of the Sisters suggested that we go chase the geese out of the field.  My son enjoyed this only if I carried him as we scattered the geese.  As I was getting worn down, we went back closer to the house and I was hoping that I could take advantage of how much the Sister's love my son and take a little rest stop.  Fortunately, he remembered them and let him hold him, only with a few tears.  I left and came back as fast as I could to see two Sisters laughing with glee and playing basketball with my son.  It was quite a sight.  I could have taken my time, he was having a ball.

We then went on to meet up with some friends at an outdoor fountain the kids could play in outside of a big church.  My son, even though he was freezing, refused to get out of the water, he was shrieking with glee.  We finally coaxed him out, got everybody in a dry set of clothes and went into the big church.  I took him to Mass and he peacefully fell asleep after the first reading.  He was so peaceful and sweet with an angelic face. I felt bad having to leave after Mass was done, but we were supposed to meet back up with our friends for lunch.  I tried to keep him asleep, but he woke up and sweetly said, "That was a fun Mass"..  I laughed and thought, yes, so fun that you slept through most of it". It was wonderful though to be praying and celebrating Mass with a little angelic boy instead of the tantruming two year old I sometimes have.  I will take the Lord's graces where I can get them...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Trip to Gettysburg

We went on a quick trip to Gettysburg today.  I don't think my aunt knew exactly what she was getting into with my two year old.  She had proposed that we maybe go to a children's museum.  I said that would be great, but what would really make my son's day would be cannons.  My son was happily looking forward to his adventure to see cannons.  He even said, "Thank you Jesus for cannons" last night.  I'm glad he doesn't know the historical impact that cannons have.  In his mind, cannons are cool celebratory tools, like fireworks.  His first exposure to cannons were at the 4th of July Celebration we went to.  His exposures to cannons have been mostly as large objects at parks to climb on (we live in the Mid-Atlantic, so there are plenty of historical areas with cannons around).

My husband and I watched a special on Gettysburg last night.  It was a show I had DVR'd the last time we went to Gettysburg, so I think my husband was happy to use the trip today as impetus for me to watch the show and get it off our que.  I'm a history buff, but more of colonial and recent history than Civil War.  My hubby is a Civil War history buff, so hopefully my son will get a little bit of everything from the two of us.  Anyways, it was a great refresher before we embarked on our journey today.

What would have been an intimidating journey no longer was.  After surviving the 9 hour car ride to Cincinnati, a trip to Gettysburg was nothing.  He did fine in the car and we arrived to meet my Aunt.  My aunt had originally suggested the visitors center and then a audio tour in the car.  I asked her if she was up for the toddler to get a run in first.  Well... we ended up embarking on a journey that ended up at the spot where my Aunt had wanted to drive to.  Along the way we sat in the middle of the sidewalk and ate crackers, happily sitting on the ground and watching butterflies fly by, we also embarked on an acorn chase, throwing an acorn and then trying to find it and throwing it again and random periods of hide and seek.  Life with a two year old is ALWAYS interesting.  Just as he was beginning to lose interest on his excursion, we came up to Cemetery Ridge where there were TONS of cannons to explore.

Having the memory of the show I saw last night, I was able to get historical meaning out of the excursion and my son just had a great time in the fresh air looking at all the cannons.  My aunt looked slightly winded.  We then embarked on seeing the multiple monuments.  One of the monuments that quite frankly, I wouldn't have gone up on on my own (but a two year old must explore everywhere!), had a staircase that actually went up really high to see the battlefield.  The things you find when you explore with a two year old.  While in another couple of years, I'm sure we will be teaching our son a lot on this historic excursion, I think he taught my aunt and I a lot.  She remarked that we had done over 10,000 steps and so she had exceeded her quota for the day.  He then was ready for lunch and a sleepy ride home.  To be two again....

Friday, September 11, 2015


Long ago I learned about judging and being judged as a veterinarian.  My first year out I learned that people who you think have money may not or may not choose to spend it and vice versa.

I had one client give me a sob story about how his home and business burned down and he had no funds.  I tried to cut him a break (I didn't have much leeway, but I did what I could) and then I walked out to see him get into a brand new gas guzzling Hummer.  At this time I made below the poverty level.  I learned how people can take advantage of you...

I had another client who drove down from her oceanfront vacation home in Nantucket to have her dog seen in suburban CT.  She told me she didn't take her dog (with a laceration) to the nearest veterinarian because she wanted to save money.  Obviously, I thought, if you have a vacation home in Nantucket, you aren't impoverished.   As I went over the estimate with her as to what the appropriate course of therapy and antibiotics were (I don't care how much money you have or don't have, I always recommend what I feel is best and I go through any items that are good medicine, but not 100% necessary), she told me she didn't have that money in her "dog budget" and so couldn't I give her a break?  Um, no.  No because it wasn't my business and no because she didn't deserve any money from any "angel funds" and no because she was not entitled to special treatment.  That went over well...

I also had another client with an older dog with a terminal condition.  She was an old lady herself.  That woman gave up getting her prescription medication that month to provide for her dog.  Her dog meant enough to make that sacrifice.  Of course, everyone who worked with her did what they could to help her out.  I believe even one of our other clients may have heard her story and paid her bill (this did happen from time to time).

The stories above are just a few from my first year (and I've worked 7 more years since then), but they left an impression on me about drawing judgements and conclusions.

Then there is also the reverse judgement: it was the end of my internship year and the new interns (most of the time the new interns are straight from vet school, never had a job as a veterinarian before) had just arrived.  We had a couple of interns who though they were new graduates, they had had another career before they became a veterinarian.  I remember checking a patient out in the front lobby and a woman telling the receptionist, pointing at me, she didn't want the "young" doctor, she wanted the older male doctor.  She didn't know that she just picked herself a newbie : )  It was kind of funny because my supervising doctor looked almost younger than I look (I love it, just the other day a technician tried to guess how old I was and she said 25 or 26.  I turned 35 in April : )  I smiled as I walked to the back and thought to myself, "yes, you can definitely ask for someone other than me to work with your pet."

Just recently I have been working in an area that is DEFINITELY outside of my normal socioeconomic conditions.  There is a certain amount of culture shock, but I really to appreciate the diverse environment and working with blue collar and poor people (my definition of different socioeconomic conditions is a location where there are shootings, pawn shops and liquor stores).  It is refreshing to see how no matter what our differences are, we all care for our pets to the best of our ability and just because the outside of the package is different, we are all very much alike.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Proud of my son- but he is crafty...

As my mom said... the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

Perhaps my proudest parenting moment happened this week (and no, you will not be reading about potty training on this blog).

As we were getting our son ready for bed over the weekend, he was "reading" his big picture book bible and talking about Jesus' mommy.  My husband asked him what her name was.  Our son then went on to say, "Hail Mary".  He then continued on to recite his Hail Mary and Our Father with very minimal prompting.  (Maybe one word of encouragement for each phrase).  He did so well that my husband thought I had been practicing with him.  I'm not one of those moms who do rote memorization or flashcards and I definitely never had the expectation that he would be able to do these prayers by himself at two years of age.  (My mom said I was about 4 when I learned them).

It was pretty cute to hear him say, "blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus," all by himself as well as "lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, now, 'mumble' our death Amen."  He was very proud of how surprised and impressed both his parents were.

Of course now, he won't repeat it though.  We do evening prayers every night and he has it in his mind that if he doesn't participate in prayers, he doesn't have to go to bed as soon (he has been working on trying to stall bedtime lately, like wanting to read the entire Mother Goose Nursery rhyme book or other large books.  Crafty little guy...

Friday, September 4, 2015

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies... It's getting to be that time of year again around here.  Ragweed is out and I'm sure a variety of other fun pollens will be out soon.  I actually didn't develop my allergies until I was about 17.  Then, the only way I found out I had allergies was I kept having recurrent sinus infections.  I did a round of allergy shots, antihistamines and nasal sprays.  Then I went to vet school and determined, while I was definitely allergic to hay, it was just a problem I was going to have to live with.

Around that point, my allergist informed me I was allergic to cats and shouldn't be a vet.  Well, I told him, too late.  I still break out and have sneezing spells on contact with certain long-haired cats, some pit bulls and shar-peis.  I no longer test positive according to the allergist, but cat allergies are not well understood.  Some people think it's the dander people are allergic to.  Some people think it's their saliva (so when they groom themselves, their saliva gets on their fur and that is what people are allergic to), others say it's their anal glands.  My opinion; people are probably allergic to different components.  Supposedly in California, they have created a genetically modified cat that is "hypoallergenic".

Hypoallergenic dog breeds have "hair" rather than fur.  (Most dogs/cats have continual hair growth and shed continuously.  Dogs with hair still shed, just like people with hair shed.  This means there is also still a potential for allergy there like with pretty much everything in the world.  An allergy is simply the body over-reacting to a stimulus, which could be just about anything.

You probably don't know that probably about 60% of the problems we see as veterinarians are in some way allergy related.  Just like with people, dogs and cats can get all sorts of manifestations of allergies.  In cats, it's typically stomach issues and skin issues, such as rashes, occasionally sneezing and runny eyes and in extreme forms, asthma or allergic bronchitis.  In dogs, we see saliva-stained (red) itchy paws and ear infections.  Occasionally they will sneeze or cough, but this is a lot less likely to be seen in the absence of ear infections and red paws.  Sometimes they will even develop horrific skin infections secondary to the allergy which require antibiotics or antifungals.

Normally, in mild cases of allergy, I will recommend people try an antihistamine (you can contact your veterinarian for appropriate dosage) and wiping their pets paws or abdomen every night.  In human allergy sufferers, they did a study that said that people who shower at night fair much better than those who shower in the morning.  The thought is this is helpful because they rinse/wash off all the pollen and other irritants they were exposed to during the day rather than "marinating" in them overnight.  This seems to work for dogs too.

In more severe cases, steroids, immunosuppressants and yes, allergy shots, just like people get can be helpful too.  They are even coming out with allergy serum that does not need to be injected, but just given under the tongue to help combat allergies.  There are a lot of similarities between humans and dog and cat allergies that you might not realize.  So the next time it's allergy season and you are grabbing for a kleenex, try to see if your dog is licking at his/her paws or scratching at his/her ears.  With vigilance, you may be able to catch the signs of seasonal allergies before you have to make a trip to the vet.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Separation anxiety

This morning, I was explaining to my husband why I did not want to go grocery shopping before work.  "I don't want to leave the groceries in the hot, hot car all day long."  A minute or so later, my son came over, wrapped himself around my leg and said, "want to go in hot, hot car with mommy!"  Then, "mommy take me in hot, hot car!  Want hot, hot car"  It did kind of touch my heart that my son was willing to go in a hot, hot car, just to be with mommy.  He's probably the only human I know who would be ecstatic to get into a hot, hot car with me.  I'm pretty sure my husband wouldn't be that enthusiastic.

His schedule has been kind of varied lately with travel, and some increased days at daycare after several days of not going to daycare.  I'm sure this all puts some stress on him as one of the best things you can do for a toddler is have a reliable, routine schedule.  Life is not always like that though.

I have told you previously how my son and cat share a bond.  She has separation anxiety too.  She gets upset when her 60 lb canine buddy leaves to go for a walk.  I don't need to go into details of what she does when we even take a weekend trip.  I used to think her behavior was spite, or passive aggression.  I've always known of dogs with separation anxiety (they can engage in such destructive behavior that I have known them to break out of kennels, tear apart dry wall and door frames.)  They can do all sorts of "bad behavior" when it's just a case of extreme anxiety.

Fortunately, I think what my son is going through is just a normal phase.  I had tried a tip from a parenting magazine.  It was that once Daddy drops off the child at daycare, if the child did well on the car trip, they can text mommy smiley faces to let her know how good they've been.  That kind of backfired.  I'm really glad that my husband is the one who does most drop-offs at daycare as I don't think I could have the fortitude to make it.  I suppose I can relate to some of my patients who so long for their family they go crazy.  But you won't find me eating any drywall or breaking a door frame anytime soon.