Friday, November 27, 2015


Thinking of the Fiddler of the Roof (especially sparked by watching it on Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade) makes me think of how our traditions really change, especially as we join different families.

My husband and I were talking about some of these things as we look forward to my sister getting married soon, and talking about what has changed since we have joined each others families (and traditions we are still getting used to).

I will always remember our big family gatherings with my aunts, uncles and cousins, the huge platter of turkey on the special turkey platter my Grandma had, the games of tackle football with mostly my uncles and cousins (this was normally after my grandpa yelled at everyone to get out of the house and get outside, especially in his later years, he enjoyed peace and quiet for "resting his eyes" during the football games.)  There was also all the dishwashing that helped work off the calories consumed during the dinner and my mom's great pies.  There was also the driving between families and going through the Sears Roebuck catalogs to start the Christmas lists.

My husband and I actually got into a discussion on what is appropriate timing for Thanksgiving Dinner.  In this era of Google, I actually googled, "what is the normal time to have Thanksgiving dinner".  As if Google knew how to keep marital harmony, it came up with exactly the time in between we each thought it was.

We each have different specialties and foods that our families prepare (we also have the advantage that both of our families have exceptionally good cooks and foodies as members).  There are items that are different when we go to the different families houses.

One thing that really made me appreciate this Thanksgiving and that I'm EXCEPTIONALLY grateful for is that my son is not allergic to turkey.  That may be a funny statement, but up until today, we were quite concerned that could be the case.  As any one with a food allergic member knows, anaphylaxis is not something you want to deal with on the holidays.  Twice in the past month at daycare our son has had a reaction to things that he has had all the time and that seem quite mundane.  Like zucchini and turkey.  He ate a ton of turkey and turkey gravy last Friday and his face swelled up and he got hives.  Fortunately he was responsive to Benadryl.  Just as everyone kept asking him if he was going to enjoy turkey this Thanksgiving, my husband and I tried to downplay that it is a turkey holiday.  Fortunately in consultation with my son's allergist, we were told that it was most likely some other thing that he was allergic to that we may never even know, (this was especially after I told the doctor that he had had turkaroni, turkey sloppy joe and turkey meatloaf all within the past month without a reaction).  The allergist commented that she wanted to eat at his daycare...  So thus, with Benadryl waiting on the table, our son had turkey and did fine.  What a great thing to be thankful for... So, while not all of the sides and the desserts are the same, at least so far, the family will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving turkey (at least unless he decides he's a vegetarian).

And just as the song "Tradition" is expressing the richness and holding on to family traditions in a changing world, so do we all try to hold on to our own.  A little flexibility helps in this world, but the most important tradition to focus on is surrounding ourselves with love and family on the holidays.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

So your daughter/granddaughter wants to be a vet....

You don't know how many times I hear this.  Originally, I used to give all kinds of tips and be supportive.  My own doctor even commented how he wanted to be a vet but wasn't able to get into vet school.  (I told him it was ok he told me that, but it might not instill confidence in his other patients).

Here are some things to be aware of if you or your family members are considering veterinary medicine.

1)  You go to as much school as MD's and pay as much or more for schooling, but only make a fraction of their income.

2) There is now a problem of there being more veterinarians than jobs.  This is somewhat debatable within the profession, but the schools keep opening up and the amount people spend on their pet's veterinary care has decreased.  You do the math.  Also, what used to be a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of applicants to positions has now become closer to 2:1 or even 1.5:1.

3) Starting salary for veterinarians is on par for what most college grads can get after only 4 years of school.

4) It is NOT all puppies and kittens.  Most of what we do involves end of life decisions and financial conundrums rather than playing with cute critters.

5) It is not a profession for people who prefer animals over people.  You have to work with A LOT of people.  It is a very customer-service oriented profession.  If you're not a people person, you will have a hard time dealing with what equates to more than 50% of your job.  You don't have to convince the pets to have treatment performed and to pay for it.  You have to convince the owners, the people.

 6) Vet school is hard.  I would kind of compare it to training for a marathon.  It can require a lot of long hours, sweat, nausea and a certain amount of self-centeredness to get through it.  It's tough.  Most of the marriages (not all of them, but probably 90%) that I know of that started in vet school are not still together.  It takes a lot of time, hard work and perseverance.  It takes a really good partner to go through it with you.  So if you want to get a family started right away, probably not a good idea.  It's possible, but you're not stacking the deck in your favor.

We still need compassionate, intelligent, hardworking veterinarians, but I just want to caution people it may not be as easy a career as they think, it is more of a vocation or calling....

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


As Thanksgiving is nearly here, I have found more and more things to be thankful for lately.
A good friend sent us a gift card to a local "good foods" delivery that had fresh, natural already prepared foods arrive at our house so even though I was still recovering from surgery and going back to work, I didn't have to worry about making dinner.

I met another friend at a local women's retreat who seemed to know exactly the right words to say to make me feel loved, prayed for and encouraged.

My car has 146,000 miles on it and we found out on Saturday it wasn't going to make it for our Thanksgiving trip and they weren't going to be able to repair it in time.  Thankfully the dealership gave us a loaner car that was a 2016 model with all the features. (No charge ; )  Good marketing plan for them and made a bad situation actually pretty good.

My son is continuing to entertain everyone with the things he says and does and was a perfect angel on the car-ride down to my In-laws for Thanksgiving.  I'm not proud of it, but I actually behaved crankier than him in a hypoglycemic-traffic jam moment.  Then it was entertaining because in the midst of a horrible traffic jam, the car in front of us was rocking out like a New Years party.  It was the entertaining interlude I needed.  Also, just as I was about to go crazy listening to the Florida State chant for the 50th time, I remembered the book on tape I had downloaded for my son.  It took the whole family's mind off of traffic and longing for dinner.

So overall, even though it's not Thanksgiving yet, I'm very grateful for my family and friends and all the little things in life.  I really do believe God can bring good out of bad and at the very least, bring good out of annoying.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Travel with your pet

It's that time of year... The time for traveling.  While I can't make holiday travel less stressful,  I can give a couple of tips:

1) Plan ahead.  Don't leave your travel plans, or pet's holiday plans for the last minute.  It can be difficult to get space in a boarding facility or find someone to come in your home over the holidays.  I know of some clinics and boarding facilities that are already booked for Christmas, which is over a month away.

2) Find out information about where you are going.  This may seem pretty simple, but finding out the airlines requirements, hotels requirements and talking with your veterinarian about any specific health risks (these change with the part of the country you travel to) does not always occur.  Also, if you are traveling, look into whether you need a Health Certificate.  These are all items that should not be left for the last minute.  Some areas of the country also are having a canine influenza outbreak, so it's good to know if you will be traveling to or through that area.

3) Consider whether an anti-anxiety medication or anti-nausea medication might be a good idea.  There are some homeopathic remedies that can help.  Rescue remedy is one I have heard of some people having success with, as well as Zylkene.  These are over-the-counter medications.  We also have the ability to use prescription medications (such as doggy/kitty valium) and a great motion-sickness medication.  Signs of car-sickness include drooling, inability to rest, panting heavily, as well as whining.  If this is something that can be of help to your dog/cat, please let your veterinarian know.

4) Dependent on your car/ size of pet, consider restraint.  It is the law in some states (such as New Jersey) that your dog needs a seatbelt.  This is a good idea, if it is practical for you, even if it isn't the law in your state.  A kennel, or something to keep the dog (and cat) contained or protected, can even save their life.  I had a patient once who was the only survivor of a car accident because his kennel protected him.  Both of his owners perished in the accident.  Just like seat belts matter for people, they can matter for dogs too.  Cats roaming around the car can be dangerous for them and humans alike.  The area under the dashboard, where the brakes and accelerator are can be an inviting and dangerous area for a cat to hide.

Travel with pets can be a fun and memorable experience.  Please think about some of these tips to keep everyone safe this travel season.

The following links may be helpful:

Air travel with your pet

Holiday Travel Planning, Coming, Going and Staying

Careful planning ensures smooth journey

And on a Holiday note let me just give a public service announcement.  Unless you are parents who have thought long and hard about adding a new addition to your family... Please DO NOT give a pet as a gift.  It is well known in the veterinary community that January and February are bad months at shelters.  This is the time when the adorable Christmas gift becomes too much of a burden for many un-expectant owners.  Puppies and kittens grow up- and they aren't always easy to train.  They also take a lot of work and are not a novelty.  Please consider this.  Also consider what is called the "new" type of animal abuse- read this article Poor Little Rich Dog to learn more.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

4 easy steps toward becoming a better pet owner...

1)  Get a good veterinarian.  It always amazes me how sometimes people pick veterinarians based off of simple things.  Things like location, or they got a free coupon.  I totally understand "shopping" for a veterinarian who is reasonably priced.  I do not understand shopping for "cheapest".  Again, as has been said previously... you get what you pay for.  Finding a veterinarian who is easy to communicate with, is willing to work with you and listen to you and spend time with your pet are key.  Keep looking around if you need to.  This is a good thing to be picky with.

2) Feed a high quality food.  This doesn't mean expensive.  Sometimes, it can actually be the other way around.  I know of a particular brand of food that I really don't like that markets itself really well.  People feel like they are feeding their pet something that is high quality.  It's not.  It's just overpriced. Pet foods can be like organic all natural fries.  Just because it's organic and all natural does not = nutrition.  Please speak with your veterinarian before you believe the salesman at the pet store's recommendations.

3)  Forget the Gucci collar.  It's unbelievable to me how many people spend a lot of money on collars, accessories, etc. for their pet and then don't have any money left for preventative care or other medical care.  Your pet doesn't need a Gucci collar.  As a matter of fact, your pet may have an allergic reaction to it. (I had one patient who would have an allergic reaction to any type of collar except for one that was made of hemp.  No joke.)

4) Parenting your pet is somewhat akin to parenting a toddler.  They can "train" you just like a 2 year old can.  Try to be a loving, yet not overindulgent pet parent.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Anesthesia and the considerate cat

Yesterday I got a rather routine procedure.  But anesthesia, whether it's being done to me or I am performing it on patients, always has its stresses.  When I am training technicians to monitor anesthesia, I always equate it to flying a plane.  The beginning and the end are the most critical, but really the whole process is something not take for granted.

Anesthesia in humans and pets are really very similar.  I had the anesthetist curious when I said that propofol (the drug we use in both professions to induce anesthesia) is the drug you count, " 10,9" and there's nothing more to remember.  She looked at me and said, "really, you tell your patients that?".  "No," I told her, "I tell the owners because just like people are nervous about their own anesthesia, they are nervous about their pet's too."  A lot of people will try to put of doing procedures on their pets (particularly dentals) because they say, "my pet's too old for anesthesia."  I tell them age isn't a disease and their pet is not getting any younger or healthier with time.

In both human and animal medicine, we take tons of precautions to make sure we have the best anesthetic candidate possible and do everything we can to keep things safe.  In a healthy pet/individual, the chances of dying under anesthesia are probably a lot smaller than getting in a fatal accident in a metropolitan area.

I was speaking with my husband as I was asking the nurses what fluids and antibiotics I was getting.  I remarked that it's funny that the human and veterinary profession have different pronunciation of cefazolin, a very common antibiotic.  I told him how it was spelled and asked him how he thought it would be pronounced.  He pronounced it back to me the veterinary way- it made sense that way.  It's interesting how everything in veterinary medicine is typically named by what the disease is.  For example- hyperadrenocorticism is overproduction (hyper) of the adrenal gland (which contains adrenaline and steroids.)  In humans, it's called Cushings.  Why you might ask?  Because that is the MD that discovered/wrote about it.  Many diseases in people are named after people.  Most diseases in animals are actually named for what they are.  Just something to think about.  Maybe it's because we have too many different things to remember with all of our multiple species we are just a little bit more logical about our naming of diseases.

I had made a deal with my husband that Duchess, our kitty would assist in my recovery and be allowed to sleep in our bedroom and on me (one of the compromises of marriage was not cat in our bedroom).  I told my husband how she is very caring and compassionate when I am sick and previous times recovering from surgery.  I'm pretty sure he didn't exactly understand this.  She has been gentle and sweet, purring and rubbing and checking on me.  I instructed my husband to leave the door open for her, so she could get in an out.  Our bedroom door doesn't have a super tight seal and on a fairly regular basis she is able to open it and barge into our room whenever she wants to (even scared my husband once with this in the middle of the night.)  Last evening, my husband came upstairs and was shocked to see her standing patiently outside of our partially opened door.  I told him how he needed to leave the door open wider for her.  "That's never stopped her before," he commented, " you mean to tell me she's actually being considerate?".  "Yes," I informed him, "she actually can be considerate and sweet at times of illness."  My husband saw a whole new side to the feline master of the house he has lived with for 3 1/2 years.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Softball and Rain

I caught some type of Fall respiratory bug this weekend and my husband did a great job of trying to get me some rest.  Sunday was one of those magical days when there was not a whole lot planned until later that day.  My husband and son played ball outside.  It was idyllic and priceless.  Much like how my son snuggles his warm body against mine and snores, I'm trying to savor these moments as I am all to aware they do not last long...  Just watching him play ball with his Dad, run to imaginary home plate and use his Dad's baseball mitt, time has fast-forwarded too much.  I think we may be starting to hit the "sweet spot" the spot where my son's personality takes off and the cynicism of being a teenager is too far off to worry.  The spot where parenthood is actually a lot of fun.

My husband had his last softball game of the season tonight.  This means the last night, rushing around to try to coordinate his game, my work schedule and our son.  It has not always been fun.  When I'm not working, it means about 14-15 hours of single parenthood.  That's sometimes trying too.  In a grand finale of the season, the Mid-Atlantic got quite a bit of rain and it took me over two hours in tough driving conditions to get to the taco place I was supposed to have gotten to first, to pick up our food.  My son and husband were almost done with dinner by the time I got there.  I was rather exhausted from the driving, it's funny how that goes.

My son was happy and content and though my husband and I were both tired parents, kind of hoping that the rain would cancel his game (I had mixed feelings on this one; I was ready for softball season and the logistics of it to be done).  My son was saying how he was going to go to Daddy's game.  My husband tried to back him down, "Daddy's game might be cancelled because of the rain."  My son was having none of it.  He tried to convince his Daddy there was no rain.  I scarfed my tacos down and we got into our respective cars and my husband said he would meet me at home.  I told him, despite the miserable, cold and rainy weather, I had to take him to see at least a little of the game.  He had heard us talking about it and it would be like taunting a dog with a bone, or our cat with a milkshake, just cruel if we talked about his Daddy's game and he didn't see at least a little of it.

On our way from the taco restaurant my son was trying to direct me to the field.  I think he got the lights at 7-Eleven mixed up with the lights on the field.  After an entertaining conversation on what direction is right and what direction is left, we got to the parking lot.  I stopped the car.  We were at the field.  The prospect of getting out in the cold and dreary rain after being gone from the comforts of home for over 12 hours was not that appealing to me.  I look over to check my messages, hoping one would be from my husband saying the game was cancelled.  My son starts yelling "yay, yay."  He then exclaims, "Let me out.  I have to play ball with Daddy."  His mix of joy at mommy coming through for him and the possibility of playing ball with Daddy were better than a Red Bull at getting my keister out of the car.  I got him bundled up in a rain coat (of course I didn't have my own) and took him up to the pavilion by the field, so we could wait for the game to start with at least minimal shelter.  He was ecstatic.  I was happy that he was so motivated to see the game that he actually kept his hood on.  Every time he tried to take it off, I told him we would go home and that was a consequence I was happy to make good on.  We watched the first four batters of the game and as I worried about his little hands getting cold, he agreed, we could go home now.  He was a happy little boy.  The perfect end to his day.  We got back into the car and headed home.  Instead of falling asleep in the car, he was ready to play ball inside when we got home... I think we have another ballplayer in this house and I think I better get ready for many more Softball/Baseball seasons...

Friday, November 6, 2015


I can't believe we are not even into the holidays yet and I'm feeling we are on the  heavy side of the scale in my household... While talking to my husband about maybe not baking any cookies this week (especially with all the Halloween candy around, my husband pointed out), he informed me he thought he was doing good on his diet.  I asked him why.  He told me his pants felt looser.  I asked him if he had a Bernie Sanders butt.  I was focused on the first two words, he was focused on the last one... I then explained, "you know, re-distribution". My husband said I got points for creativity but I left him with a bad visual image....

Now that my 10k is done though, I'll have to refocus on eating healthy foods and start playing a lot more basketball with my son. What are some of your favorite fall activities?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Book Review: Money Saving Mom

Now, I'm sure you've read about one of my favorite bloggers before, Crystal Paine over at Money Saving Mom.  She has just come out with a new book, "Money Making Mom".  I had the privilege of pre-reading the book and would like to share some of what I gained from it.

Crystal has what I would call an eclectic mix of Dave Ramsey's financial principles (be responsible, be wise, cautious risk-taker) and Pope Francis' call for social stewardship, you can acquire all the money in the world, but what fun is that if you don't give it away?  See if you would like some deeper philosophical musings on whether mans happiness consists in wealth.

Throughout the book, Crystal uses her own life experience, as well as others, to illustrate her points.  She had a humble start and is very open about sharing mistakes so she can help others and prevent them from making the same ones.

Her main objectives were:

"find freedom to dream big and set long-term financial goals"

"start thinking creatively"

"forge an intentional pathway for your future in line with your priorities"

"best of all: be in a position to help others along the way."

Overall, I found her book entertaining, informative and encouraging.  It's actually a book I'm considering giving to some people for Christmas.  There is an old saying that I used to use all the time to describe my political beliefs.  You can give a man a fish, but to teach him how to fish is a much greater act of charity.

Crystal goes through how to detect a scam (and to be cautious and responsible with any thing that could look like one).  Knowing your talents and using your talents appropriately is also a focus in the book.  Let's face it, some people are not meant to be sales people.  I for one could not be a make-up consultant for a variety of reasons.  There is no box, no set way for setting up financial independence for yourself and your family.  The end of the chapters of the book ask questions to make you think about how the points apply in your situation.  This is a great book that could keep on giving by helping others start on the way to their own small businesses.

As a final encouraging note for those who are struggling to get a small business off the ground:

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently- Henry Ford