Friday, December 30, 2016

Three Kings

One of my favorite traditions passed down from my family has been keeping the Christmas decorations (and tree) up through Epiphany.  Who wouldn't like Christmas being a little bit longer,  especially when there's not really anything exciting going on in January?

The celebration of Epiphany is when the Christmas season ends and we celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings arriving to adore Jesus.

Many people would be able to tell you about the gifts they brought, can you?  Gold, Frankincense and Myrh.  I just recently found out the significance of Myrh.  Gold and Frankincense I think are easy things to think of as Kingly gifts, but Myrh?

Myrh was present at the beginning and end of Jesus' life.  I'm certainly not a Bible scholar, but the more I learn, read and actually absorb, the more intriguing it is that parts of the Christmas Story are precursors for the Easter Story.  Myrh gum comes from the resin of trees and like the gift Frankincense could be used as a perfume.  At the beginning of our Lord's life, Myrh was a gift, at the end, it was present at his Crucifixion, death and burial.  These characteristics of Myrh I was aware of previously, the characteristic I learned of recently is one that piqued my interest as a veterinarian.

Myrh was used as treatment for intestinal parasites.  Wow!  That's kind of cool for this nerdy veterinarian and it also makes sense that this would be a gift for a baby, to help protect and keep a baby healthy.  There are other items in the Bible that refer to intestinal parasites, such as the reason pork was not allowed for the Jewish people to eat.  There was actually human health and infectious disease logic behind some of these Biblical directives.

Sorry if the above grosses you out, but it's definitely a different factoid about Epiphany than what you will find in most places, so consider yourself prepared for Jeopardy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Three Year Old's Mind...

That's a loaded topic.

My son varies from humoring me to making me feel guilty just by sharing his perceptions of things.

He asked my husband over and over in different ways at Mass why Joseph and Mary were Jesus' mommy and daddy and why he was born in a manger.  My husband's response- "Because God wanted it that way."  That was a final word that didn't get questioned, I wish I could use that on his many, "But Why's"

After Mass, as we were sitting in the living room after my son had put the baby Jesus in all the nativity scenes, he started playing with his Fisher Price Nativity Scene.  Oblivious to us, he started doing dialogue that we tried to follow along.  At one point, the Virgin Mary was on top of the Manger, in the spot where the Angel was supposed to be.  My son, pretending to be Baby Jesus, (yes, this is sacrilegious, but take it with the mind of a three year old) was waahing and crying, "Mommy, please come down,"  apparently Mary was saying, "I want to sing and be an angel".  Baby Jesus informed Mary several times that she was not an angel, she was a mommy and she needed to stop singing and get down and be with him.  A little later, as the shepherds, Three Kings and Holy Family all crowded around to see the Baby Jesus, Baby Jesus asked them all to leave because he needed to be alone...  Historically inaccurate, but still a cute scene and if playing this scene makes my son realize that Jesus came down to Earth to be one of us, mission accomplished.

Now for the guilty part.... I periodically multitask to the detriment of getting things done (and to letting the dog back in).  This doesn't work well with a dog who doesn't bark.  While it's wonderful that I don't have an obnoxious, barking dog, sometimes I wished he barked as a form of self-preservation.  Over a month ago I left Dewey in the rain during the afternoon, got distracted and moved onto something else.  My husband came home, he eventually asked, "Where's Dewey?"  I realized I had left him outside and at this time, it was dark.  My husband asked, "Why did you leave Dewey outside in the dark?"  Apparently over a month later it left an impression on my son since he asked, "Why did you leave Dewey outside in the rain in the dark?"  I was adequately guilted again and my husband defended me with, "sometimes people get busy and they forgot things, but don't worry, mommy won't leave you outside in the dark with the lights out."

Friday, December 23, 2016

It's that time of year....

Well, pretty much every time of year is "that time of year" for toxicities.  As discussed in a previous post:   Spot ate Pot? And other toxicities...  Chocolate is most common one people are aware of, but that's really rather dose dependent and is not one that keeps me up at night.  Raisins,  xylitol, anti-freeze and "foreign bodies" are the things that give my heart a flutter.  Also, ham bones and other things that can get stuck in teeth and in the stomach.  One Christmas, I even saw a Jack Russell Terrier who ate a deep fried turkey that weighed as much as he did (sometimes I think dogs' stomachs defy science).  Try to be careful about what is on the counter, under the tree or what your guests feed. When in doubt, keep your dog kenneled or shut in a "safe" place.  There's nothing like a several hundred dollar emergency bill and time in the ER on the holiday to spoil the Christmas spirit.

Not too long ago, I was speaking with my son's preschool teachers and they were amazed that dogs are even more creative than toddlers with what they will put in their mouth.  Oftentimes when we are looking for chocolate and we make a dog "fess up" by inducing vomiting, we will get action figures, hair ties and even once some underwear that no one knew was missing.  I once had a dog come in to be spayed, until her pre-op pain medication made her nauseous and I discovered she had eaten a whole ceramic planter, complete with dirt.  Yep, we delayed that surgery.

So as you get ready for the holidays, make sure you dog proof your house, which is actually one step above toddler proofing...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Giving up and Letting go

The above title may seem like it goes along more with Lent than with Advent.

There are some similarities and disparities between the two.  They are both a preparation time for a celebration of a Holy Event.  The Son of God being born into our world and then being crucified and dying for our sins so we can be born again through Him.  He's kind of a big deal.  It is easy to focus on other things though at this time.

I have found myself trying to simplify things.  The amount of baking, cleaning, shopping and basically worrying about everything being perfect.  It's not going to be perfect.  I'm going to let that go.  I may not get 5 different kinds of wonderful baked goods out to the people I thought I would- I will let that go too.  Most people who truly care about me and I truly care about are happy to have one well-baked, delicious goodie, then to know that I stayed up all night cursing my KitchenAid.  Priorities...  Another mom in my son's class was happy to hear me say, "Really, it's not worth pulling an all-nighter to get baked goods for the teachers on the same day- let's put a basket out and everyone just brings in baked goods when they want to- the holiday will just stretch out the giving."  Not only is my old body getting too old for all nighters, I'm realizing more what really matters- and what doesn't.

At work today, I had a fresh, young idealist I work with asking me why I didn't push more for multiple recommendations for a patient.  He knew I had a plethora of ideas of how my patient's life could be made better,  but I focused on one.  "Why didn't you tell her all the other things you would recommend?"  he asked.  "Because, judging by her responses in our exchange, I think I only have enough relationship capital to spend on one thing."  "Huh?" he said.  "Well, I've gotten to the point where I realize if I convince people I'm right on one thing, they are more likely to listen to me on others, so I save those battles for later."  Further elaborating, "If the one thing I said works, she will come back for more.  If I tell her she is doing six things wrong with her dog, she won't listen to me on any."  As I prepare for our Lord's coming at Christmas, I think I have to adapt a little bit of that psychology to my thinking.  If I can just focus on the celebration and anticipation of our Lord's coming to open my heart and to focus on giving of myself (not my baked goods and other stuff) to others, maybe He will help me work on all the other stuff when I'm ready.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The boundaries between reality and make-believe

It is interesting sometimes to just try to follow my son's thought processes.  The other night, we were talking about Santa, St. Nicholas and why we even celebrate Christmas in the first place.  As we told him we are celebrating Jesus' birthday, he asked, "well then, why do I get gifts?"  We told him that Santa and St. Nicholas bring gifts to children to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.  Still slightly confused, I said, "remember how when you go to your friends' birthday parties, you get to take home small gifts or party favors?"  I then cited some specific examples.  "Well, that's kind of what Santa does- he gives party favors and gifts to all the good little children in celebration of the Lord's birthday."  He knew we had taken a basketball to church for a child in need and I think was slightly confused that Santa wouldn't just give everyone tons of gifts, "That's our opportunity to help celebrate Jesus' birthday by giving to others."

He had been playing quite a bit with his Fisher Price Nativity set, and acting out scenes from the Nativity.  A little later, he said, "I don't want to go to Jesus' birthday party (We had explained how Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we would all get together at Church and celebrate with a birthday party).  I was confused, "Why don't you want to say Happy Birthday to Jesus?" I asked him.  "I'm scared," he said.  I couldn't fathom why he would be scared of Christmas, or celebrating a birthday.  Upon further questioning, "I'm scared of the animals in the barn."  Apparently my son thought we were going to the barn to see the Baby Jesus and he was a little intimidated by cows...  After I contained my laughter, I explained that we would be celebrating Jesus' birthday at Church, at Mass, and no, there wouldn't be cows there.  "Yes, I want to go to his birthday party," my son said.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ashley's War: The Untold Story

I recently had the privilege of reading, "Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield" by  Gale Tzemach Lemmon.  I was introduced to this story by an interesting podcast, "Smart Women, Smart Power" by Nina Easton.  Both the podcast and the book are very interesting.

There's a lot of talk in the news about women in combat roles, but dating back to World War II (and possibly before), women have been serving the military and putting themselves in harm's way more than people realize.

Ashley's War focuses on telling the modern day story of courageous women by looking at one hero's life, Ashley White Stumpf.  She was a petite blonde Kent State alumnus who was also a Catholic.  Her ultimate life goal was to raise a family with her husband, but before she settled down, she wanted to make a difference in the world.

She joined an elite group in the military called "Cultural Support Teams" otherwise known as CSTs.  CSTs are attached to special forces, such as the Army Rangers.  Their role, particularly in Afghanistan, is to provide access to the over 50% of the population that due to cultural reasons male soldiers don't have access to; women and children.  Not only did they help to investigate and question this population, they also helped to keep them safe.

The author summarizes Ashley's heroism well,  "When Ashley White-Stumpf became an angel, she was at the apex of her life.  She was a newlywed with an incredibly loving and supporting husband.  She had just purchased her first home.  She had a good job and an amazing family.  And yet, Ashley asked, 'what can I do, how can I make a difference?'  Think about that for a minute.  How much better would this world be if every person, at the happiest, most fulfilled point in their life, thought not of themselves, but of the good they could do for things bigger than themselves?"

Please consider thinking about this question and as the political discussion of females in the military is discussed.  Look at the perspective offered in this book.  I found it enlightening and inspiring.

Friday, December 9, 2016


Okay, okay, I will admit it.  When your son's period of defiance coincides with Christmas, it's just a little to easy to use Santa as the carrot and coal as the stick.  While reading my son's book "It's Christmas, David!" my son picked up on the idea that bad children get "coal" in their stockings and good children get gifts.  When the, "If you don't pick this up I will put it away for a week" turned to "2 weeks" and was still ineffective, I got on my phone and told Santa that he might want to be aware that my son was not listening.  This perked him up.

He immediately picked up the toys and got on his phone to Santa, to give him an update and say that, "he did do what Mommy asked."  This scenario has played over a couple of times.  I haven't done the "Elf on the Shelf" because I didn't really want to get into the whole reporting to Santa thing (but honestly, it's probably that it would just be one more thing for me to keep up on).

This is the first year that my son has a real awareness of Santa and is asking us a lot of questions about our family "traditions" and the different things they do and their meaning.  In years previous, the only Advent tradition he really noticed were the candles, (I think most kids are pyromaniacs).  This year he has adapted his Charlie Brown book to a "Advent Book" and after my husband reads our Advent Prayers, my son will pick his book up and say, "Is today the 2nd or the 4th?" as he thumbs through for the right page.  After he finds the page, he will "read" a few words, which sometimes are unintelligible and sometimes really funny.  "If your parents tell you to listen, then you should listen...."

On the car ride into work today, my son was insisting he wanted a different beverage than the one we had packed (milk).  My husband and I were trying to talk in code and apparently in reference to juice, my husband said, "we don't have any B. O. X's".  My son caught on to this and said, "I want a B.O.X."  I immediately became alarmed that my son was now able to spell and our code was broken. "Why do you want a B.O.X?  Do you know what a B.O.X is?"  "Something else to drink," was his response.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas Stress

Maybe it's because of the intensity and stress of the election, or maybe because I have adapted a simpler lifestyle, or maybe it's because last Christmas, we overindulged our son and vow not to do so this year.  I don't know what it is, but this Christmas, I just don't feel as stressed.

I started planning for Christmas back in July- presents I was going to make, shopping sales for things for our son, what gifts I was getting for people and shopping sales.  I'm sure this all contributed to less stress this season, but I don't think that's the big reason.  Everything is maybe a little more in perspective for me this year.  I'm trying to turn over a new leaf about not stressing about things and not worrying about all the things I'm not.

I'm not the Martha Stewart of Housekeeping.  I like a clean house, but it's probably never going to meet some people's standards.  But you know what?  That's okay.  I was talking with an old friend this week who was stressing about all the things she's not.  I told her I had an earlier crisis this year, upset about what someone else thought of me.   Then I told her, after crying a little, I sat in bed and told my husband, " You know what?  I'm freaking awesome!"

Yes, it was not a humble comment, but I think that myself, like many women focus on the things we aren't.  The way we fail.  The way we can't keep all the balls bouncing in the air.  As a small business owner, veterinarian, Lay Dominican, friend, family member and active member of my Church, and let's not forget my most important roles as wife and mother, I do a decent job.  I won't be getting an award for anything and I'm okay with that.

At the end of my life, I'm not going to look back and say, "I wish I would have spent more time cleaning," or "I wish I would have made Pinterest-perfect cookies."  I will look back and say, "I'm glad I sat at the beginning and the end of the day admiring the majesty of a Christmas Tree with my son and reading to him.  While I'm not using the above to be an excuse for all the things I can improve, (rest assured, I still carry a list with me of ways in my life I could get better and my husband may periodically remind me of some of them).  But instead of focusing on what I'm not, as this "Year of Mercy" has ended and we are moving into a New Year, I'll give a little mercy to myself and try to give more to others.  We are never enough, we are never perfect enough, that's why we are reminded that we NEED God, because we aren't enough on our own.  The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, remember, you are Freaking Awesome because He is BEYOND Awesome.  God has given us the gift of His Son.  This time that we celebrate this year and through Him who strengthens us, we may be "Enough" in Him.  Have a Happy, Peaceful Advent.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Who's The Boss?

As my husband and I were trying to have an adult conversation at the dinner table, my son commands, "Stop Talking!"  He was happily eating his nachos, but did not want us to have adult conversation.  I paused his almost ready to go tantrum and said, "Who's The Boss here?"  He was clearly trying to take over as the dictator that most three year olds are and I simply was trying to ask him a rhetorical question.  He paused, looked around and said, "Duchess!" (our cat).  Both my husband and I had to smile with that (my husband is always stating that the hierarchy in the house pretty much goes; Duchess, "the boy", Daddy, Dewey and then Mommy.

I did get my son to admit that HE was not the boss and that grown-ups are allowed to have a conversation from time to time.  It was kind of funny that this conversation came after an appointment I had earlier in the day which was a 4 year old Tortie.  She looked like a much fatter version of my geriatric kitty.  During the exam, she was hanging out on her "mom's" arms and I was writing.  All on her own, she jumped onto the table and parked it right up against me, prohibiting my writing.  I mentioned to the owners that that was just like my kitty and commented, "although it's strange, your Tortie doesn't have attitude."  They had never heard what is common knowledge in the veterinary profession, Tortoise shell cats are "Divas".  The owners commented and laughed, "Well, she normally is a Diva at home."  Aah, ok, she didn't miss the gene.