Friday, September 30, 2016

The sin of ignoring Lazarus

I heard a great homily a while ago and it really was relevant and it was a very relevant message to life.

If you see something, say something.  When we think of this, we often think of the Department of Homeland Security's messages to prevent disaster.  This great priest was the first who connected that saying to Luke 16: 19-31.  This is the Gospel reading where there was a poor man and a rich man.  The rich man lived opulently.  In today's world, he was probably a foodie who enjoyed Wines of the Month.  The poor man lived at his gate and "who would gladly have eaten the scraps that fell from the rich man's table."  The lack of charity the rich man had was apparent, but what was brought to my attention was that a portion of his sin was his lack of seeing and lack of saying.  What does this mean?

Even after the rich man ended up in the netherworld, he wasn't apologetic to poor Lazarus.  He didn't see the value or dignity in the poor man who was at the bosom of Abraham.

True sin was not seeing Lazarus, not what he did in response, it was his lack of seeing Lazarus as a person and his lack of saying something.  Instead of humbling himself before Lazarus to ask for a sip of water to cool his tongue, he was snapping his fingers demanding that he come, like one hollers for a taxi.  The priest even went farther to say, perhaps Hell is a place where everyone snaps their fingers, demanding attention and part of Hell is that everyone is doing it and hollering so loudly that no one responds.  It is something I could imagine.  I certainly deal with entitled people who think of no one but themselves and demand others to break laws, or bend rules because "they are special."

The rich man though was still in the netherworld with no remorse.  He didn't see Lazarus as a person. How many times do we not "see" people, but "see" what they can do for us, or the role they are supposed to play to get us to the next step in our life.  How often do we utilize people as a way to further ourselves with no thought for them?  I'm sure I am not fully doing justice to the homily I heard, but I have pondered these thoughts over the week and wanted to share them, because in my 36 years of hearing this particular Bible passage, I don't think I've heard a homily looking at this part of the story.  Now the say something part.  When we "see" people, it's not good enough to "see" them, we also need to "say something".  We need to take our witness of their dignity to the next step.  This could mean directly helping them, this could also mean saying a silent prayer.  It means acting.  Not only do we have faith, but we have faith in action.  The homilist said it would have even have been better for the rich man to go into a diatribe about capitalism and working for a living would have been better than saying nothing.

So remember, if you see something, say something.  Faith does not bear fruit without action.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Local Food I

I've been reluctant to endorse organic meat and dairy (as seen in previous posts).  A couple reasons include:

  1. Sometimes cows are in worse shape on "organic" farms because they go without treatment.  If a farmer needs to certify milk organic, they can't use antibiotics for their cows.  While I'm against overuse of antibiotics just like everyone else, there are some painful conditions that benefit from antibiotics, such as mastitis.  Holistic/homeopathic care just doesn't work in the case of some diseases and I don't want to contribute to animals going without treatment.
  2. Industrial farming can still be "organic".  Organic doesn't mean a small farm, or a farm where food is not produced on a massive level.  Industrial organic farming can still have a huge impact on the environment and sometimes take fossil fuel and be environmentally wasteful.
  3. "Organic" doesn't always mean better.  As I've told some people, just because your dog's food is "organic" doesn't mean it's nutritionally sound.  You know they make organic potato chips and I'm sure you can probably get organic french fries somewhere.  Organic junk food is still organic junk food.  Same thing with feeding organic foods to cattle, it doesn't always mean it's nutritionally sound and for the benefit of the cow.  Fecal matter is "organic".  Need I say more?
Reading the book, "The Omnivores Dilemma" seems to fit more with my philosophy.  I'm not a vegetarian, but I do want the animals I eat to be respected and treated humanely.  Furthermore, I'd like to support local farms and sustainable practices.  The author, Michael Pollan writes about "Beyond Organic".  Sustainable farms that go beyond the term "organic" and farm like they did in the olden days.  This does mean your eggs will be $4 instead of $0.97.  While I'd love to buy all my food locally from farmers markets, it does get pricey, but some food for thought would be, when able, buy more locally, when given a choice, pay a little more for responsible farming.  It's worth it and it does taste better!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cute Things My Kid Says...

  • "A drink of chocolate milk will calm my nerves".  We have no idea where he got this from.  According to him it was a Peanuts character.
  • We have been working with him on expressing his emotions instead of hitting or being physical.  Rather than throwing a fit the other day, he said, "Anthony, I'm angry" to his friend
  • He has been intrigued by tarps ever since seeing a baseball game where they put a tarp on the field.  He now has decided, "people need a tarp", "the road needs a tarp," the "bridge needs a tarp".  Basically a tarp protects all things (he was very excited to have a tarp to cover his sand/water table.)
  • After several weeks of rain, my son said, "Daddy, it stopped raining, we can go to P A R K."  Apparently our effort to spell instead of say the word is obvious to both the dog and the toddler.
  • When he had an Oreo last night he said "That's like the Orioles" and now he asks for "A Baltimore Oriole Cookie please."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


I had an interesting experience last week.  I was walking down a street I normally don't go down.  I saw an older woman in a wheelchair who appeared homeless and as I have stated previously, I had some gift cards on me for McDonalds to give to the homeless.  I came over to her and the smell of the air around her kind of confirmed to me she was not a panhandler who had a home to go to, but truly a homeless person.

I introduced myself and asked her name.  She kind of seemed startled I asked her name.  I offered her a $5 gift card to McDonalds.  She said she would have trouble getting there, but if I could spare a few moments, could I walk over and get her a Big Mac.  I told her it wasn't quite lunch time yet, what would she like if they were only serving the breakfast menu?  "A sausage biscuit would be great," she said.  I found myself with a few extra minutes.  I had had something I had planned on doing, but it wasn't something I had to do.  I really felt called to go to that McDonalds and get her a sausage biscuit.  I thought about it, rather than take the $5 gift card, she asked for a sausage biscuit which is a little over $1.  I ended up picking up 5 sausage biscuits and two hash browns.  I dropped a sausage biscuit and a hash brown with another homeless man named "Bob" on my way back.  Reverend Mary, as the woman called herself, looked a little surprised when she saw me walking back to her with the McDonalds bag.  We started talking.  She asked if I worked in the area and I said I was a veterinarian who worked all around.  She said she did outreach.  I thought for a moment, "hmm, am I actually helping a homeless person or is she one of those people faking homelessness to start a dialogue or do an expose?"  Again, my nose provided an answer.  I asked who she did outreach for.  She said she did outreach and pointed up to the heavens.  I smiled.  She was doing outreach.  It was a blessing for me to be able to help her and to be reminded of the blessings I have and that I was blessed to be able to help someone like her.

We probably talked for a half hour or so.  I felt like I was being called just to be "present" with her.  She spoke with me about the struggles of being homeless, how many people perceive that most of the homeless were mentally ill.  She told me how most of the homeless had once had jobs and a career and health problems or family problems or other "crosses" in life happened and tore their homes away.  She told me how there are people out there trying to document the homeless.  Many of the homeless have amazing stories.  I worked with a lady in a hospice house who had ended up homeless, but long ago had been married to a Canadian oil baron.  It really is a reminder, "But for the grace of God, go I."  I told Reverend Mary about a quote that is often attributed to Mother Teresa, "God only gives you what you can handle, but sometimes I wish he wouldn't trust me so much."  She got a kick out of that.  She explained to me why she had a newspaper under her hat and that many people think its just because she's crazy, but that it really blocks the cold wind from her ears.  She told me how the homeless are very inventive with the little they have.  I told her it was a blessing to meet her and pick up her sausage biscuits and hear her story and it is a blessing to be able to serve her.

I think because she knew I was a veterinarian,  she discussed her sores and wounds with me.  (I think she had the thought that, as a veterinarian, there probably wasn't much that can gross us out).  Being in a wheelchair and living on the street had been hard on her body.  She told me how she had sought medical treatment but what she really needed was a clean, dry place to stay.  She was very matter of fact and she never asked me for money or anything more than I offered.  She said the homeless shelters don't have enough room for all of the homeless in the city.  I asked her what her plan was and that I was worried she might not make it through the harsh winter.  She said she didn't think she would make it.  I asked her if she had heard of a religious order that had a hospice house.  She had not and I told her more information about it as I had volunteered there.  I gave her the phone number and address and she got a big smile and said, "Wow, you truly are a blessing."

What a gift she gave me!  Far more than the sausage biscuit and information I gave her, I was left with a beautiful feeling of being able to make a difference, no matter how small it was and in blessing her, I felt blessed.  Really, I got the feeling walking away that for all I knew, she could have been Lazarus or an angel and I've failed the test more times than I want to know to help those in need around me, but this day, I did make a difference and I did say "Yes"

to Jesus and I was blessed.  May I say yes to Jesus more often and remember that it brings more of a blessing to serve others than to be shy and introverted and ignore the pieces of the world around me that take me out of my comfort zone.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Kids these days...

I've been lamenting in some ways, "the rudeness of society".  I actually found this in a veterinary forum, fellow veterinarians lamenting that people are just getting ruder.  Someone historically minded pulled up several quotes from the Colonial era all the way back to Aristotle of people perceiving the younger generation as being ruder than the previous one.  That same person said that psychological studies have actually attributed this attitude to "ego" and fear of the stranger.  They found statistically significant  evidence that people are much more willing to forgive/understand rude behavior of their friends and themselves vs. that of strangers.  While all of that information is interesting, I still think our society is becoming ruder.

I attribute the "rudeness outbreak" to our addiction to technology.  I know I'm also an offender.  We are so used to having our phones on us and maximizing our time that instead of waiting in line and actually making conversation with others, we will multi-task, checking e-mails and looking on Facebook.  I'm an offender, I'm aware of this and I need to continue to remind myself to put my phone down.  We have a no phone at the dinner table policy and I think it is a good thing.  Otherwise, we probably wouldn't have as much conversation.

I experienced an awkward situation the other night when I took my son to a Chick Fil A.  He was having a good time and another little boy came running in (the place was crowded, because in case you didn't know, Chick Fil A gives kids free meals on Tuesdays between 4 and 8).  He came in and tore the toy my son was playing with out of his hands and displayed obnoxious behavior.  I looked for the parent.  Nowhere to be found.  What do you do?  Well, when it comes to my son, protective Mama Bear comes into the picture and I told him, "Hey, he was playing with that."  The kid continued to do the behavior and my own son was kind of in shock.  They don't allow this activity at daycare and he doesn't have a sibling to be a brat to him, so he hadn't experienced this before.  I tried to move my son on to a different toy and the kid kept trying to follow us.  At one point, he told me his name and started climbing on me!  I could not believe a kid would do this to a stranger.  Still no parent.  It occurred to me that the kid was being so obnoxious to get attention.  I felt kind of sad for him that he was willing to behave like this to get a stranger's attention.  I tried to console my son and told him, "That's not how we behave and I'm happy to know that you know how to share."  I ignored the kid because it wasn't my role to be his parent and I didn't want to feed into the behavior.

Another little boy was playing nearby and the "Brat" went over to him and started poking at him and getting into his personal space and instigating a situation.  The "Brat" looked at me for sympathy when the victim was fighting back.  I told him, "Give him space, I don't have sympathy for you."  He kept going.  It got to the point that the victim's Mom came in as her son was in full-fledged annoyance with the "Brat".  The mom was mad.  I quietly told her, "It's not your kid.  It's not your son's fault."  She looked at me wide-eyed and puzzled, "Really?"  "Yes," I said, "the other kid is the problem, not yours."  She looked relieved and thanked me and said, "Thanks, because I was about ready to really yell at him."  They left peacefully.

The father came in at one point and told the "Brat" he had 5 minutes left to play.  He was not an abandoned kid, but I think he was probably emotionally abandoned.  I felt sorry for him.  I told my husband when I got back, I kind of felt guilty.  I said, as a Christian, was it my responsibility to pay attention to him and let him know he had value.  He so seriously craved attention and my gut was to give him negative attention because he was such a obnoxious kid.  But I did feel sorry for him.  I did wonder where the dad was in everything going on and I automatically assumed he was probably on his cell phone.  I don't know.  I don't know the situation.  I know they say, "It takes a village to raise a child."  I feel like it's hard for the villagers to help when it really takes a parent to raise a child first, especially in this politically correct world where other parents would probably come after villagers with pitchforks if they thought their parenting was questioned.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Go Animal Control!

When most people think about "Animal Control", they think about the stray dog-catcher or the licensing fees.  I'll be the first one to say, in my municipality, I almost feel that most of the license fees for my pet go to the county's coffers.  (I also live in a place where when you go the grocery store they charge you 5 cents per bag if you don't bring your own grocery bag).

Most of my interactions with dogs have involved them coming in to pick up stray dogs or putting pets on rabies quarantine.  I had one situation, not in my home county, where apparently they were understaffed and they wanted me to be in charge of a cat's quarantine.  I explained, "yes, I will vaccinate the cat, yes, I will explain quarantine to the owner and that she needs to keep the cat inside, but no, I will not go to her house and no, I will not get her to sign a contract."  Even though I have a pre-law background, I like to stay as far away from legal issues as possible in my profession.

I have met some awesome animal control workers and some people who have seen horrible things.  I think like many in law enforcement and medicine, most people are grateful to never see the damage of a severe dog attack, wrestle a rabid animal or see severe abuse.  These people are on the frontline and should be appreciated.

When I lived in Arizona, I would call Animal Control regularly to do welfare checks on pets.  These are pets where people admitted to me abuse or told me abuse that was going to happen.  People who were planning on injecting harmful substances into their pets, admitted that a member in their family abused an animal and even in one case, a person who made comments that made me think her child was also potentially at risk.  I knew that in that jurisdiction, I could not get sued and my tipping off animal control would only potentially have the consequence of getting someone mad at me or never bring their pet to me again.

There are sometimes "gray area" situations, where you are not sure if its just ignorance or lack of resources and you don't want to scare people off of getting medical treatment, these become judgement calls you have to live with at night.

Veterinarians can actually be one of the first lines of defense in domestic violence situations and the first to know of a potential sociopath developing.  There have been numerous studies in criminal justice that these types of offenders often abuse animals first.  Sometimes we are told stories that just don't make sense, "the cat broke his leg and got a black eye because it fell out of a window."  Okay, if it's a 5 story window- believable.  If it's a window on the first floor- totally not believable unless the cat has some type of neurologic disease.  We don't want to be put in these judgement positions, but it is a responsibility that we have to protect animals and other members of their family and society.

I had a fairly recent experience where I was worried about a young pet.  Oftentimes, puppies and kittens can be very sick and people can't afford to pay for care. (I will avoid the tangent of if you don't have money- don't get a pet).  People in the veterinary profession have hearts, this is how we often end up with our pets.  My dog and my parents' cat were animals that were surrendered so they didn't have to be euthanized or die a horrible death.  This is a selfless action of the previous owner.  If they don't want to do this, then euthanasia is a viable option if the animal is sick.  This is not a pleasant one and not one I want to do if I think I can save the pet.  Sometimes people don't choose those options and they elect to take the pet home "against medical advice".  I can't really go into the specifics of my recent situation, but lets just say that I am moved by how dedicated Animal Control was to look into the situation.  They also found out that what I was calling about (the pet had died, which was my fear) was the tip of the iceberg.  There was a whole lot more to the story.  I felt bad for the young pet, but that night I didn't feel so helpless.  I did not carry the weight I sometimes did because I knew that I did all that I could and that Animal Control was doing their job and hopefully, even with the death of the innocent pet (less than a pound in size), that pet may have not been saved but I hopefully helped to save others.  At the end of the day, you can't fix the world and you, "Can't fix stupid."  But you can hope that the world is a slightly better place and I salute Animal Control for that.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Goal Post Idea- Great for young football lovers!

I've been meaning to share this idea for a while, and what time is better than football season?

My father-in- law last year made a large version goalpost for my son.  He LOVED it!  So much, that for Christmas, my husband made two on a smaller scale.  Simply using  PVC pipe cut into smaller pieces, and the following for each goalpost:

1 2.5 pound circular weight
1 T-joint
2 Elbow joints
1 Collar piece to fit post into weight

We purchased a rug from Amazon that looks like a football field (we found it in the Kids Rugs section) for $40 and voila- football field!  My son loves making touchdowns, field goals and even setting up his Fisher Price people to make a game complete with narration (Maybe he's a budding ESPN reporter?)


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Thanks Big Blue! And.... Be Grateful for the Things you weren't grateful for before... S

So you may remember an earlier post about my car losing air conditioning.  Then later on, my parents let me borrow their Cadillac.  Let me fill you in on "The Rest of the Story".

Just as I was getting used to driving (and parking) the unfamiliar car, the unexpected happened.  But first, let me give you some backstory.  We had discussed options with them where we would have use of the Cadillac for as long as we wanted, meaning we would be free to sell the Subaru now for whatever we could get for it.  Ultimately, though, we determined that the "Big Blue" Subaru still would have some value to us in the winter.  So we decided to basically just store it in the garage until then.

However, last week, I was working out of state and was trying to find a Costco.  I realized that the GPS in the car couldn't find the Costco and I got lost and ended up going to google maps.  By the time I got re-oriented (a half hour trip instead of a ten minute trip), I was growing impatient.  I was on my lunch break and I didn't have that much time.  Then it happened.  The car was barely moving.   I immediately put on the hazards.  There was no space to pull over, no shoulder.  I was on a major highway.  I tried to get into the right hand turn lane to get off.

A man in the car next to me was motioning and as I rolled down my window the man told me a bunch of fluid had just come out of my car.  Then I smelled the smoke.  This is not good...  Everyone behind me is honking to try to get me to move.  I can't move and even worse, if I try to move, I roll backwards.  I just shut down the car.  I try to call AAA and its like the downward spiral of numbered menu Haades.  I then tried the Onstar as I was trying to tell AAA "Need an operator" and pressing 0 over and over.  I tried calling my mom and then Onstar came on, I finally got through to AAA and about 10 cars were beeping and swearing at me.  Some good samaritans, a immigrant man and his son came over and tried to help me roll the car as I balanced the phone, my AAA card and my sanity. They could not roll it, but the man gave me good advice to put the hood up so people behind me could see that my hazards were not on just because I was on the cell phone.  My mom heard me saying "Gracias" and the other man,"DeNada" in the background.  AAA came through and I told them where I was.  They said they would stat the order as I was at a dangerous intersection.  We scrambled to find a dealer to get it towed to.  The tow truck driver came and got it put on the truck very quickly and gave me a ride.  As we travel maybe a block or two, his tire blows.  I'm also in communication with my workplace at this time and they are very understanding.

When the tow truck blew his tires.  I just started laughing.  This day just couldn't get any better.  I saw the comical effect in it.  The tow truck driver just kind of looked at me.  I just said, "I'm so grateful that I have another car at home.  It doesn't have air conditioning, but at least it doesn't leak fluids and smoke in the middle of the intersection."  I think he thought my response was definitely a glass half full perspective.  When I asked him if he deals with angry, upset people a lot, he said he did, but most of the time they weren't upset at him.  He said it was much better than his previous employment when he was a car repossession man, then he was avoiding people chasing him.  I guess he was a glass half full type of guy!

I had brought my dog in that day so that I could give him some vaccines and get assistance with a badly needed nail trim.  This ended up being a huge blessing, because my husband and son had to come directly from work/daycare to pick me up about a little over an hour away and by the time we got back to our house, even if we had left immediately, my dog would have been alone for 12 hours.  I was also fortunate that the clinic I was working at was also a boarding facility, so he stayed the night and my family was able to go out to a nice barbecue dinner (why rush back when the dog's okay and it's during rush hour?).  My son thought we were having a vacation.  He was totally oblivious to my tumultuous day and was happy to get an Oreo from the waiter at the end of his dinner.  We then went on to Costco, to get the supplies I had originally set out for before the car gave up.  My son then asked if we were going to Putt-Putt next because he just thought this after work excursion was all fun and games.

I just felt a deep sense of gratitude that I was not hurt (would have been very easy for a car accident to occur where I was at) and that everything had worked out smoothly and alas, we had not sold Big Blue.  I don't think I've ever been so grateful that I have a car without air conditioning!

Friday, September 2, 2016

An Inspirational Monsignor Part II

As I stood there, with a debris-colored lab coat (It was the 4th time I had changed my lab coat that day), struggling to tell a man that his dog was in critical condition and needed to go to an ER and he argued with me, I used every bit of my will power to not raise my voice, but to be compassionate.  He argued that he wanted to take his dog to another veterinarian, a 2 hour trip away.  I had stabilized the dog after being hit by a car and being in shock.  It could die on the trip.  Rather than tell him the many things that came to my mind, I calmly told him, "ok, if you are going to take your dog, I need to remove the IV catheter in her arm."  He didn't like that answer and asked why, "well, if I don't know where you are going, I can't let it stay in."  He got agitated.  He told me his veterinarian would have a better and cheaper solution than what I was proposing.  "Ok, let's call your veterinarian," I suggested.  A waiting room full of people watched to see what transpired.  Another client with her dog said supportively, "that's what they do in human medicine, transfer of care."  The man called up his doctor and kept commenting that I was wrong and "my vet" will set me right.  I spoke with his veterinarian and explained the situation and asked, "is this a transfer you are comfortable with?"  Her only response, "put him on the phone".  I'm not sure exactly what transpired, but the receptionist later told me, "wow! you are so nice!  I can't believe how you handled that."  Apparently the man got off the phone and sheepishly said that his veterinarian told him to do whatever I told him.  The dog got the care that it needed.

UGH! I wanted to scream at the man, but didn't.  My little "FitBit" had monitored a heart rate increase and I'm sure if it could measure blood pressure it would have been high.  People can be so hard to be nice to.  I was at the brink of having not a charitable thought to the man left in my soul.

Later on, as I was walking with someone and we saw some homeless people I realized I had run out of McDonalds gift cards like I normally give out.  The woman I was walking with spoke about a situation where her daughter had given a homeless person some money and then saw that person walk over to a fancy car.  Ok.  The obvious judgement is that the person doesn't need the money.  Another possibility and I have seen this in real life is that they may have gotten the fancy car from someone (such as the Cadillac that I'm driving around that is definitely not mine.)  I heard a story once of a woman who had a BMW and ended up in rough times and went in that BMW which was the only thing they owned and they were on food stamps and went to a food pantry.  She knew people judged her, and that they didn't know the whole story.  I will admit the more likely possibility is that it's a person who is making money off of begging, but we don't know.

I thought to myself internally.  I would rather give gift cards/food items to people who beg than those who ignore them.  With giving items other than money, I feel like it is less likely to be abused/ used for cigarettes and alcohol.  I also feel that if I give away items to 100 people who are unworthy of them, but 1 who does truly need it, I'd do it for that one.  Just like I think it was Abraham who bartered with God for the innocents in a city, if I was that one innocent, I would not want to get tossed in with the rest.

I have been thinking recently of a desire to help the homeless, and possibly set up some type of mission to them and their pets.  Any inquiries I have made just reveal a lot of bureaucratic tape.  With my young family and all the other responsibilities I have, it just doesn't seem like a wise undertaking right now.

Mother Teresa once said something along the lines of , "you do not need to come to India to serve the poor, their are poor where you live, in your home, in your family, in your neighborhood, serve the poor there."

One woman once told me something interesting with her interaction with the homeless.  What they want most, she said is dignity.  They don't want you to avert your eyes, they want to know that their presence is acknowledged.  She said one way she did this was to learn their names.  She said though she couldn't save the poor of the world, she could do something for the "David on the street corner".  For the homeless in those in need God put into her life, that was how she could serve God.  While I still try to work on my outreach to the homeless, I realize that my heart can be a lot more charitable and patient with them than it can be with even those I work with and those in my family.  If I can make loving and serving others my vocation, like Monsignor has demonstrated, perhaps that is my role, no dramatic, inspiring gifts, but the loyalty and steadfast spirit of serving others with the gifts I do have everyday and ultimately, to keep showing up.