Thursday, March 30, 2017

S'mores on Sunday

Last summer, when we were at our family cottage, my son fell in love with S'mores.  I had the idea (the crazy idea according to my husband) to make them at our house.  Have I mentioned we live in a townhouse with a sorry excuse for a yard?

First let me tell you something that I would give as advice to any bride to be.  Pick something out for your registry that's beautiful and your soon-to-be husband would never let you buy.  In our case, I picked out some beautiful crystal candlesticks.  We had some generous family friends who bought them for us and another generous family friend who bought us the "mega" size ones.  We try to light them at most dinners and I keep them on the table year round.  It's good to have beauty in your life around the clock, not just on special occasions.

Well, my crazy idea was to use some of the kabob sticks we have (Jamaican Jerk Chicken Kabobs is a favorite at our house) and to roast our marshmallows over the candlesticks.  We did this once in the fall, and my son and husband had fun.  My husband found the marshmallows and graham crackers fairly recently and said we needed to use them again.  During Lent, my husband and I have given up dessert, but as Sundays are "mini Easters" and a celebration of Jesus' Resurrection, we have dessert.  My husband decided he wanted to have S'mores for his first Sunday of Lent indulgence.  And so it began.  Apparently, our Lenten tradition is going to be S'mores on Sunday where we all sit around the table and slowly enjoy and indulge in the chocolate-marshmallow gooeyness and celebration of family.  I asked my husband as this tradition was developing if he still thought I was crazy.  "Crazy- yes, but kind of cool."  I guess I'll go with that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Emotional Eating

A wise priest yesterday explained Laetare Sunday, or the 4th Sunday of Lent on the Christian calendar.  It is the only other Sunday of the year, other than Gaudete Sunday, when Roman Catholic priests wear the color rose.  The wise Father said yesterday in colloquial terms, "It's for all of us who haven't been so great at keeping our Lenten promises or who have found that the progress we wanted to make didn't quite happen and the sins that we wanted to overcome still get in our way.  It's for all of us who get bogged down and would give up- it's a reminder that even with all of our weakness, mistakes and recurrent sins, we are still rejoicing because our Savior still rose for us to Redeem us all."  It's a reminder to "Don't Give Up".

As I stared down the box of biscotti I saw today in the kitchen area of the clinic,  I thought of those wise words.  I thought of how we all fall, and get back up.  I thought if I was thinking these thoughts, I should walk away.  Why did I so want that Biscotti, I thought?  For the same reason I enjoy chocolate and Starbucks and all matter of sugar and things that aren't really good for me.  Now, I'm not a health nut- I still enjoy delicious, fatty and sweet food, but I'm trying to train my body to not just eat when I'm having a bad day.  No, chocolate doesn't really make the fact that the day is stinking better.  No, McDonalds doesn't solve the fact that I got scratched or had to deal with a cranky person. I'm not a person with a weight problem per say.  I mean, I'm not a perfect weight, but that's not been important to me and I'm not overweight where I've ever had a doctor give me a lecture.  I don't care about the number on the scale, but I am trying to be more introspective about what I eat and why.

I come from a family and ethnic traditions where food = love.  Let me tell you- my Mom has always been good at showing her love with her cooking.  Cakes, brie cheese, a whole plethora of gourmet wonders have been a part of my life since I was little.  I went to college and ate donuts all the time and other convenience foods on the run.  I also was an athlete, so I could pretty much get away with eating whatever I wanted to eat in whatever quantity I wanted to eat it.  I went to veterinary school and this is where my 5 pound gain with big moments started to begin.  In veterinary school, I sometimes had 20 hour days and was studying a lot, so convenience food and junk food with little exercise (other than wrangling a few cattle and sheep) added some pounds.  Then, I did my internship.  Five pounds in one year.  When you are working a 5 pm - 10 am shift, you find out that the places that are open at 2 am mostly have fried foods.  You also have clients and people bringing donuts, chocolates and other wonders in (this was when I had my first real Cannoli).  Yep- 5 pounds in 1 year.

Then I trained for a marathon.  Well, one would think you would lose weight when you are in the business of running over 15 miles a day.  Apparently, I am not alone in learning that is not the desired effect.  You gain muscle and you gain an insatiable appetite and the feeling, "I just ran 15 miles- I can definitely treat myself to that burger and fries."

Thanks to nausea during most of my pregnancy, I actually lost weight, but quickly made that back up when I started eating on the go and trying to get sugar highs to get me through the late nights with a baby and then toddler.

So you can see how through introspection I have found a theme through my relationship with eating.  I can see this somewhat in my patients and their families' lives as well.  It is interesting to look at weight histories and to see how dogs and cats too go up and down.  Sometimes, its a medical reason, but oftentimes, it's whats going on in their owners lives.  Owners who don't have as much time for them give them more treats.  Owners who are unable to get out and take them for exercise is another example.  Cats that lose a companion and begin eating more (more often it's when a companion who stole all their food passes and they can finally get uninhibited access to the food bowl) is yet another.  Sometimes, pets eat out of boredom.

So while the above may be a conveyance of random thoughts and more than what you want to know about my relationship with food, I think we probably all have something in our lives that we kind of just fall into.  Be it sin, or the easiness of eating chocolate a little more regularly than we should, it's easy to fall into habits.  I'm realizing I fall into my habits when I'm stressed, annoyed or tired.  While it would be better if I wasn't being stressed, annoyed or tired, I realize reality and I realize my weakness.  Today, I had the strength to put that biscotti box back and think, "I will give up those empty calories that really aren't going to make my day go any better and I will celebrate Smore's Sunday with my family (I'll post more Friday about that).  It's Lent after all, it's only 40 days.  May God give you the strength to overcome your weaknesses and find the introspection you need to stare down your own biscotti and when all else fails, remember our Savior who died for all of our sins and failings.

Friday, March 24, 2017

My son made me cry today...

After a difficult day yesterday of taking my son to the dentist (yes, our fears have been realized that he would take after his father and bite the dentist) and saying, "No" to playing T ball on our main floor as well as several other ways I "failed" my son according to him, today he made me cry.

First, I should tell you about our struggle last night.  What started as a fit that I wouldn't let him play T-ball in the middle of the living room/dining room, ended up progressing"Grandma and Grandpa let me!"  (I'm not sure about that, so I won't throw them under the bus).  He was very unhappy about getting a bath and further unhappy about it not being in mommy and daddy's big bathtub.  He didn't want to take his clothes off.   He also informed me he didn't want mommy, he wanted Daddy!

 I locked him in the bathroom with me and sat calmly on the floor.  Time progressed and I still calmly explained how we needed to take a bath.  As I watched my three year old flail on the floor, (which made me think about how it had been a while since it had been scrubbed) I surprised him by showing him how the door stop makes a cool noise and movement.  This temporarily stopped the convulsions.  It's not lost on me that my dog, Dewey long ago would "fake seizures" to try to get out of wearing his special collar, my son practically mimics the movement, but it's not a seizure, but it does have a destructive effect on the environment.

As we both played with our respective door stops
and he calmed down, I pulled one sock off of him.  He was not pleased.  He tried to throw it into the bathtub.  I was not pleased.  He then somehow got it on the top of the towel rack.  I encouraged him to take the other sock off and throw that at the previous sock to try to get it down.  This didn't work for his objective, but as he tried to get his sock back (and got the other one stuck in another place) the encouragement to remove the rest of his clothing to try to get the socks back worked.  I had fun watching him problem solve how he was going to get his clothes back while I smiled inside that I had gotten him to get ready for his bath and to undress without him even realizing it and without an additional tantrum.

Anyways, I knew I wasn't his favorite parent yesterday (especially for the part where I had to hold him down at the dentist).  Today, as we were playing as a family, he found his American Flag and was demanding that I sing the National Anthem.  I told him, "I don't sing on demand".  He then looked at me with that childhood innocence and said, "Please sing beautiful singer!".  Yep, that made me cry.  He may be becoming a bigger boy each day, but he actually sees me as a  "beautiful singer".  He doesn't like when I sing all the time, he pretty much never likes it when my husband sings but apparently he has some respect for my musical ability and for beauty.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mom Hacks

So, I'm not an experienced mom with over twenty years of experience, or a mom of eight kids.  One might say I have no expertise on motherhood.  I'm fine with that.  For those of you who like to learn a little wherever you are (like I do) I will share some things that have made my life and sanity a little bit better.

1) Don't check Pinterest too often.  I try to only check Pinterest and Facebook once a week.  Enough to get cute and creative ideas, but not enough to obsess over the ways I am falling short (I mean, everyone knows that people only put the best of their lives on there- you don't see the warts and the amount of time and tears it took to get to picture perfect).

2) Still have fun doing creative things for your kids, but it's fine to take shortcuts.  On Valentines Day I kept seeing cute pictures of parents making homemade waffles and pancakes for their kids in the shapes of hearts.  So cute and precious!  I knew that with the other things I wanted to get accomplished over Valentines Day, I would have to pick making a wonderful homemade waffle (and the cleanup that goes with it) for my son over delivering valentines to the elderly in a hospice home.  I chose to throw an Eggo in the toaster oven and smack a heart cookie cutter into it.  My son loved it and still prefers his waffles without the crusts. "How mommy made it with a heart," he started insisting to my husband (we have graduated him to a baseball mitt cookie cutter now).  I'm pretty sure when he's older he will remember his mommy made heart waffles, and won't remember that it came out of the freezer.

3) Delegate.  I have come to the place professionally and personally where I am learning to delegate.  Professionally, I'm still pretty Type A (when animals lives are in the balance, I can't help but want to be in control), but when it comes to other stuff, I try to delegate.  I had gotten tired of seeing my son's baby book that I just never seem to have the time to put together.  It's one of those things I want to do for my son, but I know I'm not very artistically talented and my scissor skills are not the best.  I decided to tell my sister the best birthday gift she could give me was to put it together for me.  She's a teacher by training and has awesome scissors and creative skills in that area and just the feeling that I don't have a huge project that I'm probably never going to get to is a weight off my shoulders.

4) NextStep Toilet Seat.  I actually fell upon this little invention when I ended up crashing a friend's Rosary Group (we were supposed to meet for lunch but I got done with what I was doing a little early and she asked her group if my son and I could come over).  It was great to be surrounded by other faithful moms with young children, who don't judge you for saying a "Hail Mary" while wrestling your kid.  It was also cool to see this solution for people who have small spaces.  It is actually a replacement seat that has a smaller seat that goes on top.  The big people in the house don't have to move a dirty little training seat on and off the toilet and the toddler has a nice sturdy seat that just pops right down and magnetizes to the top.  It's pretty cool!

It's kind of funny- though I haven't been a mom for that long (4 years), I feel like some of my experience of being a pet parent and of being a supervisor to young people has kind of prepared me a little bit.  My most important mom hack is remembering- do what feels instinctively right and remember motherhood is composed of many small events- it's what happens overall that matters, don't sweat the small stuff.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Importance of Regular Exams- could save you money in the long run!

I see a lot of patients who only come in for vaccines.  Some dogs only get Rabies and Distemper Vaccines and not Lyme, Lepto, Bordatella and Flu which are also recommended dependent on the pet's lifestyle.  Or people who only bring their cats in for Rabies vaccines every 3 years.  Sometimes these people think the only thing veterinarians are for is for vaccinating their pet and euthanasia at the end of their life.  They really don't understand that just like regular tune-ups for your car, or taking good care of your own health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I have seen patients that come in to get vaccines, but I end up diagnosing serious illness, such as cancer or an immune mediated disease that the owner had no idea about.  When we diagnose these diseases BEFORE they have to go to the Emergency Room, we could help them save thousands of dollars, or give the pets extra time with their owners instead of "suddenly" dying at home.

Every exam I go into, I go into with an open mind.  I do not vaccinate until I examine the eyes, ears, joints, abdomen, heart and lungs.  I sometimes will go into an exam for vaccines and inform an owner that their dog is blind, has a serious ear infection or could benefit from a change in diet or an over the counter medication for allergies or another disorder the owner wasn't even aware of.  If we diagnose these problems early, it can not only improve the pet's quality of life, but also the owners pocketbook.

If 1 year of a dogs life is equivalent to about 3 years of a humans, it's not unreasonable as they get older, that we perform exams and bloodwork annually or semi-annually.  One of the things I appreciate about being a veterinarian is it is not cookie-cutter.  I could go in to vaccinate a dog and instead end up having a wide variety of conversations, putting on my oncologist, dermatologist or cardiologist hat and changing from a general practitioner who vaccinates to a diagnostician that investigates.  In some ways I can be like a detective, telling people things about their dogs they weren't aware of: Do I see salivary stains on the paws? - Allergies;  Do I see areas where the dog or cat is over-grooming or does their dog have a low heart rate and it's just because their athletic?  Sometimes people are astonished at how much I can tell them about THEIR lifestyle from their dog.  Does food = love in their household? - That's always a fun conversation.  Between nutrition advice to behavioral to tricks to keeping your cat from waking you up in the middle night, I can share a wealth of knowledge with you.  Sometimes people just want vaccines, but they don't know what they might be missing out on.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Be Positive

The other day we were coming home from our favorite taco place and I had brought new socks, a McDonalds gift card and card with shelter information.  As we went over to his bench, my husband and I looked puzzled as we did not see the smiling elderly man we were expecting.  We were disappointed.  I said where's ---- (the man shares his name with my son)?  A homeless man, James perked up and said, "oh, he was hit by a truck last Tuesday."  Well, my husband and I were shocked and were hoping our son would have no idea what that meant.  We talked briefly to James and apparently he was told his friend had left the hospital, but he had yet to return to his bench.  A mystery.  We told James our mutual friend was in our prayers and we gave him the socks and items and left for home.  We try to pray by name for the homeless we meet every night, to remember their names as we know God does.  We prayed for the man that night as we always had.

A couple nights later I got home and my son was playing with his sports action figures.  He was saying "the groundskeeper can't go to the game because he was hit by a car".  My husband and I looked at each other shocked.  I told my son getting hit by a car or truck was not a joke.  He understood.  "Did you say that because what we found out about our friend the other night?"  He shook his head yes- we told him that it was serious and that is why we still prayed for the man every night.  He looked at my husband and I with utter confidence and said, "I know he's all right", as if he had seen him himself.  My husband and I looked at each other and acknowledged that he may very well know more then we do.  Funny thing was, the reading I had listened to was something along the lines of, "out of the mouths of babes..."

On a lighter note.... the other night my son was being petulant and well, kind of bratty.  I told him I was disappointed in how he was behaving at the dinner table.  Without missing a beat, he replied, "be positive Mommy, be positive."  Well, it's hard not to crack a smile when your three year old tells you to "Be Positive".

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Talking to a Wall

I had a memorable interaction with someone.

Many months before, I had recommended they do something- and they didn't do it.  That's not really a shocker, happens on really a rather regular basis.  It gets to the point where some more polished, experienced clinicians, myself occasionally included, decide NOT to talk about everything we should, because talking to a wall is like talking to a wall.   

My husband doesn't always understand this, but it's really difficult to be a sane control freak in my profession.  When it comes to people, I don't even attempt it.  In this particular case,  I was happy I had written the discussion down.  The owner had said, "well you didn't give my pet that, slightly harshly as the current situation may have been prevented if my instruction had been followed.  It was somewhat gratifying to be able to point to the exchange in the record and she more humbly said, "oh, I guess I didn't do it."

I proceeded throughout that day to help the person with some difficult discussions.  From having my heart closed to the person, I opened it more and even though our exchange had started roughly, at the end of a tough day, that person was very grateful and said some wonderful words to me.  Yet another reminder that sometimes when you are talking to a wall, it's just because you aren't looking at the right spot.  There may be a door or a window if you just try hard enough.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

St. Martin de Porres

The following was inspired by reading a great book, called "Hounds of The Lord" by Kevin Vost.

Dr. Vost describes St. Martin not as a saint who changed the world on a grand scale with massive theological repercussions, but as a one-on- one saint and example of "active love and tenderness."  Learning about him is good for those of us who know that we aren't going to be the next great founder of a religious order.  He's a saint for those of us who, although we enjoy philosophy, we just aren't going to make it to the heights of Catholic theological thought.  Those saints are awesome to look up to, but it's also great to have a saint that shows us that sanctity simply lies in using our own gifts for God's will.

We all have the capacity to love, if we are open to the Holy Spirit and letting God's love grow in us.  He is one of the Dominican "lovers" that Dr. Vost speaks of who show us not only their influence on the global scale, "but in how they turned the simple and ordinary duties of their daily lives into hymns of God's glory and acts of mercy and love to all those they encountered."

St. Martin- The "Mulatto Dog"

Martin de Porres was born on December 9, 1579 and died in 1639.  He was the illegitimate son of a Spaniard and a freed slave of African origin.  He is the patron saint of Peru, of biracial people, those seeking racial justice, public health, public education and social justice and the patron saint of hairstylists and barbers.

Martin learned around the age of 12 the ways of a barber.  Apparently in that time period, the barbers also had surgical skills, dental skills and pharmacology and nursing roles (It's kind of interesting, even nowadays, your hairdresser may know a lot more about you than your doctor- they can see proof of lifestyle choices and ailments and even if you are pregnant through what your hair looks like- who knew?)

Martin's father had wanted him to be made a religious brother, but Martin was content to be a humble member of the order.  He lived a simple life.  St. Martin was a lay Dominican brother, so he did not formally preach, but his words and deeds did preach the gospel

St. Martin was a very gifted healer, and while the beautification process was occurring, numerous accounts of healing of all sorts of diseases were reported.  As Dr. Vost said, "he saw each of his patients not only as an illness or a limb or even as a mind-body whole, but as a child of God."  He aimed not only to heal, but to bring souls to Christ.

The next time you are scrubbing the floor or cleaning the toilets, think of St. Martin.  Yes, that might not be the most sanctimonious way to think of him but think of how he used these tasks as a means to provide for the needs of the poor and prayer for the healing of the sick.

Not only was he barber, pharmacist, floor cleaner, nurse and surgeon, he was also a veterinarian for the Dominicans and to the people of Lima.

There is some information to say that St. Martin may have been one of very few saints who had the gift of bilocation- this means to be in multiple places at once (wouldn't every mom like that gift).  He used this gift to possibly gain medical knowledge in France, and travel to Japan, China and Africa for ministry to souls- he had always wanted to be a missionary and it appears God may have helped him with this desire.

As a veterinarian, I was intrigued by the stories of Saint Martin's interventions- there was even one story where he had a dog, a cat and a mouse eating peacefully out of the same bowl.  This story may have had some significance in the harmony he sought to bring between races.

I personally loved the following story, as it remind me of my kitty.  Apparently, St. Martin would wake up early each morning to ring the priory's bell to call the brothers to prayer.  Apparently, a cat would work its way into Martin's room and pull on his garments until he woke up.  My own cat is an expert at waking me up in the morning, she even has gone to the length of pulling my eyelids open with her paws.  Makes me think that maybe I should use her initiative to make my days a little holier.

Also, for all those animal lovers out there- he had established a dog hospital at the priory- and was ordered to clear them out- fortunately he was able to move them to the house of his sister.

It sounds like his smile was also a window into his soul and many testimonies about his memorable smile were given at the time of his canonization.

A Saint for Vegetarians?

At the time of his final illness, he refused any medicines that were procured by the killing of animals.

A Saint who is Timely

Saint Martin was declared a blessed in 1837, not long before the Civil War and he was not canonized until 1962, the time of the great civil rights movement who Dr. Vost also aptly points out shared his name with another leader of African descent who had the name Martin.  Coincidence or Godincidence?

A great resource for this text was "Hounds of The Lord" by Kevin Vost, PhD.  Please consider reading more about St. Martin and numerous other Dominican saints in this wonderful book.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Embarking on Lent with some sports references...

Like a Kid in the Candy Store

As we are embarking on Lent and my son is getting older, he has been asking more questions.  I recently had to take a trip to our local Catholic bookstore to pick up the schedule of readings for the Liturgy of the Hours so I can try to keep up with my Dominican responsibilities.  (Yes, the Church year began in November and I picked up this calendar at the end of February- I never said I had my act completely together- but an attempt is being made).

It's kind of funny as I walked into the bookstore, I was kind of like a kid in a candy store- there were so many books I was interested in and wanted to read and a complete section on Tolkien.  I had to text my husband about this as he is a skeptic as how the Lord of The Rings Trilogy could possibly relate to Catholic theology.  Anyways, as I sought out the one thing I needed to buy, I picked up a couple others that seemed appropriate.  I got a book of Lenten readings for us to read as family at the dinner table and found child-appropriate books about Lent and the Stations of the Cross.

My son was excited to receive the books and wanted to read them at bedtime.

The Devil, Superbowl and origins of Lent

As we opened one of his books, I was interested that I actually learned more about Lent.  I had not known that early Christians started preparing for Lent with as little as a couple of days and then gradually went to the biblically relevant 40 days.  There was some other information in his book that brought new light to the preparations for Lent to me.

As I was reading, my son noticed the illustration of Jesus in the desert with the devil tempting him.  He asked me who was behind Jesus.  It was Satan.  I told my son that it was the devil, a bad guy and that he fought with Jesus and Jesus won.  Kind of like the ultimate sporting contest, like the Super Bowl for the World.  Jesus won to save all of us.

It may not have been the most theologically sound explanation, but my son got the understanding that Jesus fought the battle/competition of ALL TIME for us and He won and He will always win when it comes to the devil.  He's an awesome "athlete" and "good guy" who fights tough and kicks the competition.  There's a lot of beautiful theology that is so rich that we can discover and learn, but perhaps, occasionally as we get bogged down in life and the struggles, the questions of injustice and fighting for truth, sometimes this simplistic answer, "Jesus won and He will ALWAYS win" is all we really need to remember before the anxieties of the world try to confuse us away.