Things I’m Loving These Days

1.  Coconut Oil and Coconut Manna

I’ve finally made the switch from cooking with corn oil to coconut oil.  I’m one of those who loves coconut in everything and can eat the oil plain right out of the jar (coconut oil is a solid at room temperature).  The benefits of coconut oil are endless it seems (maybe that will be a topic for another blog post).  The Nutiva virgin organic coconut oil is 100% less cholesterol than butter!  Besides cooking, I’ve read that it’s great for hair, skin and nails.  I now put it in my coffee.  Coconut Manna contains the “meat” of the coconut which has been pureed.  It’s actually the same thing as coconut butter, just renamed.  This stuff is delicious!  I eat a tablespoon of it daily.  It’s also good in smoothies, sauces, and oatmeal.

coconut oil coconut manna

2.  Watching Golden Girls DVDs

This show is so hilarious and never fails to make me laugh.  I think I like it more now than I did when I watched it back in the 80s.  Maybe because I’m a golden girl myself now!  :)

golden-girls-dvd

3.  Rereading the Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I don’t think I will ever tire of rereading these, and besides, it’s fun reliving my childhood.

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4.  Mosaic owl night-light

I came across this little gem in Gatlinburg last fall.  My sweet mother-in-law purchased it and gave it to me for Christmas.  I’m loving it in my living room…. it has the perfect ambiance but is equally pretty when it’s not on too.

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5.  Latest pig mugs in my kitchen pig collection

My mother-in-law found this mug at Cracker Barrel.  Too cute!!

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My friend Abby, who knows I collect pigs,  gave this mug to me last Christmas (we were both born in the year of the pig). I love the size!

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Gail ♥

Posted in Things I'm Loving These Days | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Valuable Lessons Learned in a Veterinary Neurology Ward

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One of the scariest but most memorable rotations for me in veterinary school was small animal neurology.  Scary because the subject– neurology– was difficult in itself.  Scary because Dr. S, the neurology professor, had a reputation for being a pretty tough cookie. Students for the most part feared him.  He yelled curse words a lot, especially in surgery, until I thought the paint would come peeling right off the walls.  I think that in itself made a lot of people uncomfortable around him.  At the same time, he was highly revered for his knowledge and skills in the world of veterinary neurology.  Neurology had the reputation for being one of THE hardest subjects in veterinary school.  I had heard all the horror stories– all the students had– about how neurology flunked out a vet student or two every year.  We had rounds daily in Dr. S’s office, usually right after lunch, where he would project slides or a film strip (this was the 80s) up on the wall of some poor wretched animal suffering some neurological disease.  There in his small office, where it felt like there was no escaping, we’d be quizzed for hours.  I’ll never forget him pointing randomly at any student in the room with his pointer and saying loudly, “LOCALIZE THE LESION!”  And trust me, you better be able to localize the lesion to the correct place in the nervous system or you’d wish you’d never been born.  I’d usually exit that tiny office sweating and shaking.  No lie.

In the mornings we would usually have rounds where we would walk through the neurology ward where the patients were housed, and discuss the various cases.  Among these patients were epileptics, animals with brain tumors, animals with intervertebral disc disease, spinal cord injuries, head and brain injuries, post surgical neuro cases, etc. Any case pertaining to the nervous system was found here.  And there was always Joey, the beloved gray and white tabby cat who lived at the veterinary college in the neuro ward.  Joey’s mother had contracted feline panleukopenia (also called feline distemper) while pregnant with Joey and his littermates, leaving Joey with a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia.  This is a type of brain damage where there is a lack of development of the cerebellum, which is the coordination center of the brain.  The cerebellum coordinates voluntary movements, posture, and balance.  Joey had a lack of coordination and had intention tremors.  He could stand and walk but was very ataxic (incoordinated) and would fall and roll around a lot.  I guess you could say Joey always appeared drunk.  Yes, Joey was there in the neurology ward as a teaching case, but after a few days of close observations, it didn’t take me long to see that old Dr. S dearly loved this cat.  I can’t tell  you how many times I walked into the neurology ward where Joey was housed to find Dr. S standing at Joey’s cage talking to him and giving him a rub down or a scratch behind the ears.

I remember the day during rounds that a student asked Dr. S why someone didn’t just put poor ole Joey out of his misery.  I could almost see Dr. S’s hackles rise at the thought.  He told the student to go over and pick Joey up.  The student did.  Dr. S then asked, “What do you hear?”  The student replied that he heard loud purring to which Dr. S replied, “Ah…. the sounds of a happy kitty!”  Then Dr. S told the student to go get Joey some food. When the food was put in the cage, Joey devoured it, intention tremors and all.  Joey could eat. Joey could drink.  Joey could get into his litter box where he could urinate and defecate. He could climb out of his litter box.  Joey could sleep and Joey could love.  Joey certainly wasn’t lacking in attention and he got A LOT of it from both students and technicians, AND Dr. S.  The technicians often brought Joey a fresh sprig of catnip to put in his cage from the many catnip plants they grew.  Joey always looked like he was under the influence of catnip anyway, but he loved the stuff.  Sometimes a technician or student would take him outside to roll around in the grass and to get some sunshine.  He loved that too.  Dr. S felt that Joey, despite his nonconformities, had a good quality of life, was happy, and enjoyed his days.  Joey knew no other way of life.  He was not in pain.  He was born with incoordination and intention tremors and this was life as he knew it.  And you had to admit, Joey was one heck of a great teaching case who provided valuable information to any veterinary student who took the time to observe him.  No student ever mentioned Joey and euthanasia in the same sentence to Dr. S again.

I remember one particular slow day in the rotation.  The other students were down in the student lounge reading up on cases.  I decided I would go visit and play with Joey a while. I found him with dried cat food around his face from the hearty breakfast he had just enjoyed (he often needed help in cleaning himself due to his lack of coordination).  I removed Joey from his cage and decided to give him a bath.  I placed him in the tub and gently wet him down with warm water and soaped him up with the shampoo.  Unlike most cats who despise baths, Joey seemed to love his.  I was standing there and rubbing the soap suds all over his little body, when Dr. S walked in the ward.  He approached the bathtub and stared down at little Joey, who at this point looked like a drowned rat.  I never knew how to read Dr. S and I was thinking that perhaps he was going to reprimand me for bathing Joey.  I was wrong.  Instead, he commended me.  He told me that in all the many years that he had taught at the veterinary college, that he had never once seen a student take the time to give Joey a bath.  He smiled, gave Joey a rub under the chin, told him to enjoy his bath, and started to walk away.  After a few steps, he turned around and said, “Thank you Gail, for taking care of Joey and taking the time to show him some love.”  I thought I even saw a tear glimmering in one of his eyes.  My neurology professor taught me something valuable about compassion that day and I think I started seeing Dr. S in a whole new light from that day forward.  In his own strange way, he taught this budding veterinarian that we must show compassion to all of God’s creatures, even those who “are different.”

I remember early on in the neurology rotation that Dr. S told the students that it was in this rotation that we were most likely to witness “pain in the eyes.”  And I also remember him telling us that once we saw it, we would never EVER forget it.  To be honest, I didn’t really comprehend what he was saying that day but asked no questions and didn’t give it much more thought after that.  That is, until the day it happened and I witnessed EXACTLY what he had tried to get across to us– seeing pain through the eyes. And he was right.  I never EVER forgot what that looked like.  And I never saw it again after veterinary school.  I don’t think I can even describe it verbally, but I knew it when I saw it.  Suddenly, I understood everything Dr. S had tried to tell us.  And I’m 100% sure that if I ever see that look again, I’ll know it.  There are different kinds of pain that people and animals experience, but I think there’s something about neuropathic pain that tops all other pain.  I can say that from experience after my bout with trigeminal neuralgia many years ago.  On a scale of 1-10, that pain was definitely a 10.  The patient I witnessed this “pain in the eyes”in was a very sweet black and tan miniature dachshund who had taken a flying leap off the owner’s sofa and who presented paralyzed in the rear and dragging its rear legs.  Deep pain response was absent.  A herniated disc was suspected (dachshunds are probably the number one canine breed predisposed to this).  After radiographs and myelography (where a contrast dye is injected into the spinal canal to be able to tell exactly where the herniated disc is), the dog was immediately taken to surgery.  Early spinal cord decompression is imperative in these cases. The prognosis was guarded in this particular dog since it had no deep pain response.  The owners and referring veterinarian had done everything right in getting the dog to the veterinary school within a few hours of the event so that surgery could be performed before too much time had passed.  Thankfully, the case had a very happy ending, and the next morning when I walked into the ICU ward, I found the little dog already bearing some weight in the hind legs and wagging its tail.  It stayed at the veterinary college for a while  and received IV dexamethasone to reduce the inflammation and edema of the spinal cord, pain medications, and later physical therapy.  It was one of my most memorable cases while in school.

I often find it ironic that the rotation that I dreaded the most in small animal clinics, and the one where I abhorred the subject matter the most, was the rotation I learned the most in.  I think I learned a lot during that two weeks– not only about small animal neurology, but about people, animals, and the importance of compassion.

Gail ♥

Posted in Animals, Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary school | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fifteen Things I Miss Most About My Mother

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It seems the older I get, the more I think about my mother, especially around Mother’s Day.  She’s been gone over 8 years now.  I was thinking about her while driving to the store today.  I have to be honest in admitting that I dread walking into the grocery store around Mother’s Day.  It’s like getting sucker punched in the gut as once again, I’m hit with the reality that my mother’s no longer on this earth.  You never really get used to them no longer being here, or I sure haven’t anyway.  In the store, there’s the Happy Mother’s Day balloons, and the extra flowers they have sitting out in front to catch your eye as you walk in the store, the Mother’s Day cakes I see as I pass the bakery, and the Mother’s Day cards in the greeting card aisle.  All of that somehow makes me feel cheated because there’s no longer a mother around to buy those things for.  On the way home today I started thinking about some of the things I miss most about my mother.

  1. Her smile, which was genuine and beautiful.
  2. Her voice and especially that southern drawl she had.  How she’d call me on the phone and when I’d pick up and say hello, I’d hear, “Dahlin, it’s mother.”
  3. Her cooking and watching her stand at her avocado green stove.
  4. Watching her watch Jeopardy on TV and  how she could answer every single blasted question.
  5. Listening to her talk about “the olden days.”  I wish now I would have asked more questions.
  6. Watching her put on her make-up and how she puckered her lips and did that soft whistle of hers.
  7. Discussing the daily crossword puzzles with her from the local newspaper.
  8. Listening to her tell stories about her many adventures working as a hostess at the Grand Ole Opry for 27 years.  She could have written a book.  And oh, how she made us laugh with those stories.
  9. Her kitchen collection of roosters and chickens, and how happy they made her.
  10. Hearing her sing at night when she loaded the dishwasher.
  11. Her wit and how she could make total strangers laugh.
  12. Being with her on holidays.
  13. Sitting next to her in church.
  14. Her random acts of kindness…. like how she would take a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies to the fire station and the firemen down the road.
  15. Going to eat at The Ole Dinner Bell with her.

Sometimes I want to shout out to people who still have their mothers to not take one single moment for granted.  Enjoy every waking moment and spend what time you can with your mother because she won’t always be here.  And when she’s gone, you’ll miss her like crazy.  Even if your relationship is a little rocky and not always ideal and you get on each other’s nerves sometimes, make an effort to honor her in a way that you’ll have no regrets when she’s gone.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”  (Exodus 20:12)

Happy Mother’s Day.

Gail ♥

Posted in Grief, Motherhood | Tagged , | 6 Comments

FAQ on Canine Influenza from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Many of you may have already seen articles in the news about the Canine Influenza outbreak in the Midwest.  Here is a link about Canine Influenza from the AVMA which does a great job in answering commonly asked questions.   Please be careful what you read on the Internet and be aware that there is a lot of false information floating around out there.  Make sure what you read is from a reliable source!!  If you still have questions, always contact your veterinarian.

https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Control-of-Canine-Influenza-in-Dogs.aspx

spaniels

Gail ♥

Posted in Animals, dogs | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Missing Mother

As I have done every year for the past several years on April the 13th, I’ve thought about my mother. Today she would have been 89 years old.  That’s hard for me to believe and I find myself wondering what she would look like now, what kind of physical shape would she be in, etc.  She’s been gone over eight years now and I miss her.

I missed her tonight when I used her Revere Ware stock pot to make my spaghetti.  I missed her yesterday as I held a blouse of hers in my hands.  I miss her when I see books that belonged to her on my bookshelf– some that I’ve read and others that I can’t bring myself to open.  I miss her when I find myself missing my kids and hating my empty nest and wonder if she ever missed me like I miss my sons.  I miss her as I look around my kitchen and see her rooster figurines that used to adorn her rooster kitchen.  And I remember how she loved them so and how after she was diagnosed with cancer, she said to me one day with sad and pleading eyes to please not throw her roosters away when she died.  I missed her this morning when I realized there was no mother to take a birthday card to, or buy a present for, or take flowers to.  I remembered with a pang of guilt, how she was always so hard to buy for on her birthday and how I never looked forward to birthday shopping for her.  I remembered how I dreaded taking her to the store.  Now, I’d give anything on this planet to be able to have her here to buy her a card or take her some flowers or just go BE with her on her birthday.  I’d even gladly take her to the grocery store.

I always hated it after my mother died, when people would ask me if I was close to my mother.  I never knew how to answer that question.  I always wondered if I was somehow not supposed to grieve her as much if I said I wasn’t close to her but if said I WAS close to her, did that give me permission to open the floodgates and mourn her with all my heart and soul?

I loved my mother.  She was very smart and witty.  She was a good mother and always involved in taking care of her three daughters which she had all within three years of each other.  She was a room mother every single year that we were in elementary school. She volunteered at our schools and was active in the PTA.  And when we weren’t in school, she drove us around to all our many activities– ballet and tap classes, music lessons, swimming lessons, etc.   As are all mothers, she was busy.  She tried hard to teach us right from wrong and to always be honest.  I lost count how many nights she was up with a sick child–checking temperatures and trying to get high fevers reduced, or cleaning up vomit, or changing the sheets on one of our beds.  And oh how she could cook.  She was ALWAYS up early on school mornings cooking a huge breakfast for us on her avocado green stove, packing school lunches, and then cooking big dinners every night.

There were times in my grown up years when my mother and I didn’t always get along but I suspect that happens in all mother/daughter relationships.  There were times she hurt me and hurt me deeply and I’ll admit, I had to work hard to forgive her for some of those times.  I remember at my veterinary school graduation, one of the biggest and happiest days of my life, when we were at a reception after the hooding ceremony eating cookies and drinking punch.  The graduates were allowed to take their parents and families on a walk through the veterinary college.  I was excited to do this.  After all, I wanted to show my parents where I had spent the last 3 years of my life working my rear end off.  When I suggested that we take this tour, my mother blew up at me, informed me her feet were KILLING her and that all she wanted to do was go back to the hotel.  I guess I couldn’t hide the obvious disappointment on my face and she knew she had hurt my feelings because she ended up going on that tour.  A few weeks later at my wedding reception, she pulled the same stunt, and came up to me and asked if we could “get this show on the road” as she was tired and wanted to go home.  It was my wedding reception and I was still greeting people!  My. Wedding. Day.  I was so deeply hurt by her actions, that I left the reception hall and went to the back of the sanctuary where I stood in the dark and let the tears flow hard.  Many years later, while seeing a therapist for counseling, I related these stories to the therapist.  The therapist told me that it sounded as if my mother for some reason liked to rain on my parade.  I had never thought of it that way but I think she was right. And for the life of me, I don’t understand why my mother felt the need to do that.  I’ll probably never understand.

My mother developed multiple cancers and the two years before her death were filled with taking her to doctor visits, chemo treatments, to Vanderbilt to see specialists, to the hospital for CT scans, blood work, laboratory tests, etc.  I had quit my job to be a full-time stay-at-home mother so I was happy to take her for her appointments.  One day that stands out in my memory was a day I had taken her to her oncologist.  I think it was only our second visit with him.  She mentioned to him at that visit that I was a veterinarian. As always, his next question was, “Where do you practice?”  I proceeded to tell him that I no longer practiced, that I had quit work many years back to stay home with my children. I no sooner had gotten those words out of my mouth, when I noticed my mother’s head hanging in shame, her eyes glaring at the floor.  When we were driving to the next oncology visit, she point-blank told me that she didn’t want me to say that again.  I was puzzled because my mother had always seemed happy with my decision to stay home with my boys and had always been supportive of that decision.  So I asked her what her suggestion was for what I SHOULD say?  She said, “Well, just say you do veterinary relief work or something” (I had done relief work for a short while but was no longer doing that).  I asked my mother: “So you want me to lie?” She squirmed in the car seat and looked out the window, never saying another word.  Truth be told, I had never felt more hurt by my mother.  She was ashamed of me and she let it be known.  A child never wants to feel that their parent is ashamed of them, even when they are grown.  I fought the tears back that entire day and a part of me still wrestles with that conversation with my mother and the fact that I never continued the discussion with her or that I never defended myself. But I never EVER regretted my decision to leave my job to become a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes we have to pick our battles and arguing this matter with my mother, a woman who was dying of cancer, just didn’t feel right.  But here’s the thing.  I always, ALWAYS knew my mother loved me.  I knew it when I was young, and despite the times she hurt me in my grown-up years, I still always knew.  And when the cancer had ravaged and weakened her body until she could no longer speak, I still knew because I saw that love in her eyes.

My mother puzzled me in more ways than I can count in her last months and I even questioned the doctors about the possibility of a metastatic brain tumor. They (her doctors) never felt it was worth pursuing since she already had been diagnosed with three different cancers and they knew it was ravaging her body.  The doctors didn’t want to know but I did.  It would have explained a lot.  I guess I find some relief in choosing to believe it WAS a brain tumor causing her odd and sometimes belligerent behavior in the end.

For the most part, I have very happy memories of my childhood.  And of course my mother was a big part of that childhood.  I spent a lot of time with my mother during the final months, weeks, and days of her illness.  She had bad days but also many days where she was very lucid.  We had the chance to talk about a lot of things on her more lucid days that we probably would never have talked about had she not been dying of cancer. And for that I’m grateful.  I’m also grateful that I could be with her when she was breathing her last breaths and that I was holding her when she died.  She had said so many times over the course of her illness that she was afraid of dying alone.  I’m glad I was with her although I had known for some time that she was never alone in that hospice room of hers.  I know I took my mother for granted when I was young and even some when I was older.  Maybe we all do that and it’s only after they’re gone that we realize how much we did truly love them and how much we’re going to miss them.  There are days I miss my mother more, like holidays and her birthday.  I miss her like crazy today, on her birthday.

My mother shown with her three daughters (I'm the youngest sitting in her lap).   1959

My mother shown with her three daughters (I’m the youngest sitting in her lap).
1959

Gail ♥

Posted in Family, Grief | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blessed By an Elderly Stranger

When I was a child, I was afraid of old people.  I don’t know where exactly this fear came from and I’m quite sure I hid this fear from my parents, as knowing both my mother and father, they would have done everything in their power to rid me of this irrational fear.  I vividly remember as a small child, my mother pushing me around as I sat in grocery store carts, holding to the handle with my small chubby hands and kicking my dangling legs.  I remember being frightened when old people would approach me and pinch my cheeks or pat my head. I was particularly scared of elderly people in wheel chairs, or those carrying canes or walking with the aid of walkers.  I wanted to disappear and I wanted no part in interacting with them.

My great-grandmother had what we called “senile dementia” back then, and I remember as  a little girl, I watched her play with dolls.  I remember as a young child of four or five, going to visit my grandmother and great-grandmother and how my great-grandmother chased me down the hall trying to hit me over the head with her cane because I had picked up her Casper doll.  It so happened that I had the exact Casper doll at home. It was a talking Casper doll (made by Mattel in the early 1960s) and I was merely trying to point this out to my great-grandmother.  But she wanted no part of me touching or holding her dolls.  Yes, I was terrified of her and I avoided her like the plague.  I remember a time when my mother brought my great-grandmother home from the nursing home to stay at our house a couple of nights.  I recall my great-grandmother seeing the red-leafed ornamental shrub outside our living room window blowing in the breeze and calling my sisters and me to come see the giant turkey.  Not understanding her dementia, my young sisters and I thought she was both peculiar and funny.

Somewhere over the years, I got over my fear of elderly people.  I’m not even exactly sure how or when it happened but am just thankful that it did.

One day last week I was in a Belk’s department store standing in a check-out line.  There were three people ahead of me.  There was an elderly woman being waited on, and behind her and in front of me, two young teenage girls who were occasionally chatting with each other but who were mostly self-absorbed by the cell phones in their hands, totally oblivious to their surroundings.  Walking around us all was a sweet little gray-haired elderly woman.  She was thin with a slightly stooped posture and bluish-gray hair and was wearing a maroon sweater.  Her fragile appearing skin was covered with age spots and wrinkles and she appeared to me to be in her mid to late nineties.  I assumed the elderly woman being waited on was her daughter.  There seemed to be some dementia affecting the woman and she walked up to the two teenagers and stared at them.  She looked down at their phones, then up at their faces, and back down again at their phones.  She looked at the clothes they were holding and stooped to examine their shoes.  She moved in a little closer and looked up and down at them while they were talking as if she were trying to understand or maybe even trying to get their attention. She wrung her hands  in a nervous-like manner.  The teenagers paid her no mind, ignoring her like she wasn’t there.  Something about that made my heart ache a little. Then she turned to me.  I smiled when my eyes met hers.  She looked me up and down as she had the teenagers. She looked at the blouse and slacks I was holding in my hands. She looked at my purse. Moving in closer, she looked at my shoes.  She got even closer and  looked up into my eyes.  Again, I smiled.  I spoke to her.  I looked into her eyes and said, “Hello, how are you today?”  She grinned a wide toothless grin.  She moved in to give me a hug and then grabbed my arm and rubbed the sleeve of my fuchsia colored polka dot shirt, looked me in the eye, grinned wide and said, “Honey, that’s just so pretty on you!”  I smiled and said, “Oh, thank you so much!”  She continued to smile.  By then her daughter was finished checking out, and grabbed her arm to escort her away. As she was shuffling away slowly and holding on to the arm of her daughter, she turned back around to look at me, straining in a child-like manner to see me again.  I smiled and waved goodbye to her and again, she flashed her adoring toothless grin.

That sweet little old woman had made my day.  I felt sad for the two teenage girls who had ignored her–the ones who couldn’t seem to take their eyes off of their brightly colored neon smart phones.  I couldn’t help but feel that they had missed something big that day.

Gail ♥

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An Irish Prayer

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An Irish Prayer

May God Give you…

For every storm, a rainbow, 

For every tear, a smile, 

For every care, a promise, 

And a blessing in each trial.

For every problem life sends, 

A faithful friend to share, 

For every sigh, a sweet song, 

And an answer for each prayer.  

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