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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Pi, Nature, and God’s Love

Gail:

A really great and informative read. Enjoy!

Originally posted on follow the light:

pi

Today is 3/14/15. Some have decided to call it Pi day (π), after the number. Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It is equal to 3.14159265358979323846… (the digits go on forever without repeating). π is infinite. Perhaps the reason this equation goes on forever is circles have no beginning and no ending. When I consider this mathematical concept I’m reminded that our Creator and His perfect love are infinite. God wants us to know this fact. So, our Creator has placed in nature ways to help us get to know Him. I discovered one of these ways when I opened up my Bible to read Genesis 1.

 Genesis 1:1–5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the…

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Meaningful Words

One of the 

important aspects

of our relationship

is that neither of us

needs to be

always right, or

always strong, or

always smart, or

always first.

We have enough confidence

in ourselves and 

trust in each other

that we can

be our real selves

at all times.

                                                                                        -Susan Polis Schutz

Thirty years ago, I hand copied this poem on a piece of notebook paper and gave it to my husband-to-be just before we married.  I came across it the other day and thought I would share.  Still loving these words…

Gail ♥ 

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Some Thoughts on Mid-life

I had an interesting conversation with my doctor this past week as I often do.  My doctor is one of the nicest, most caring and compassionate doctors I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.  As busy as he is (and he is terribly busy) he never rushes a visit and always takes time to listen to me and answer all my questions.  Known for his likable bedside manner, he has a unique way of making you feel like you’re his only patient for the day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about midlife crises.  I asked my doctor if there was really such a thing as a midlife crisis.  I was curious mostly because I had just started reading a book, When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd.  Many years ago I read The Secret Life of Bees by the same author and have always been interested in reading more books by Sue Monk Kidd.  So when I searched the Internet for more of her books, I came across this one.  It was described as her spiritual memoir and is about her midlife spiritual crisis.  Let’s just say it peaked my interest in the subject.

WhenTheHeartWaits-cvr

I remember my mother making the comment once during my teenage years that everyone experiences a midlife crisis and I clearly remember her saying that men and women tended to experience and deal with these crises in different ways.  I sure wish my mother was alive today as I would love to delve more into this conversation with her, but at the time, my teenage mind couldn’t seem to identify with anything she was saying. I was also interested in knowing if my doctor felt midlife crises REALLY existed because of a comment I remember a therapist making to me years ago.  I had used the term “Nervous Breakdown” in front of her once and she quickly said to me: “What’s a nervous breakdown?  There is really no such thing.”  I was a little dumbfounded as I had heard that term all my life.  When I replayed that conversation to my doctor, he furrowed his brow, shook his head, and said, “Well YOU know what you meant and I know what you meant– I think she was just splitting hairs or something.” He went on to say yes, that he believed there WAS such a thing as midlife crises and said he felt it was a time of questioning in a person’s life usually brought on by some major change– like kids leaving home, or a job loss, or a death–and it brings people to search for answers.   “It’s people searching,” he said.

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Personally, before I even asked my doctor, I believed in the existence of midlife crises because #1, all people (if they have the pleasure of living long enough) go through a midlife, and #2, everyone has crises in their life.  It’s inevitable.  It says in the bible that we will all have trials.  No ifs ands or buts– they are a part of life.  I happen to think that midlife crises are a normal part of life that we all experience.  I don’t look at it as a disease, but a normal life transition.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a midlife crisis as a period of emotional turmoil in middle age characterized by a strong desire for change.  Wikipedia had this to say about midlife crises:

Midlife crisis is a term first coined by Elliott Jaques referring to a critical phase in human development during the forties to early sixties, based on the character of change points, or periods of transition. The period is said to vary among individuals and between men and women.  Despite popular perception of this phenomenon, empirical research has failed to show that the midlife crisis is a universal experience, or even a real condition at all

Wikipedia goes on to say:

Midlife is also significant as a time adults come to realize their own mortality.   A mid-life crisis is experienced by some people as they realize they have reached a midpoint in their lifespan and experience conflicts or dissatisfaction within themselves because of unrealized goals, self-perceptions or physical changes as a result of aging or health issues.   Sometimes, a crisis can be triggered by transitions such as andropause or menopause, the death of parents or other causes of grief,unemployment or underemployment, realizing that a job or career is hated but not knowing how else to earn an equivalent living, or children leaving home. Additionally, when experiencing a mid-life crisis, people may reassess their achievements in terms of their dreams. The result may be a desire to make significant changes in areas such as career, work-life balance, marriage, romantic relationships, finances, or physical appearance.

It is thought that midlife crises in men are usually brought on by work or financial struggles.  In the USA, there is a stereotypical image of men in mid-life crises who go out and buy fancy red sports cars.  Midlife crises in women are often brought on by relationship problems or changes in the relationships in their lives.  Often women will sit down in middle age and have a good look at the different roles they play in their life (daughter, wife, mother, employee, etc.).  People who go through midlife crises often mourn the loss of their youth and will do things to make them feel younger which often involves taking some risks.  I guess that is why there is an increase in bungee jumping, sky diving, and extramarital affairs with younger people at this time.

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I can see how the stressors of midlife can bring on a midlife crisis.  For me in midlife, I dealt with a sudden incapacitating stroke my dad suffered while undergoing surgery (which greatly affected his mind AND his body), the illness and loss of both parents to cancer, the realization that my career in veterinary medicine, a career I dreamed of my whole life and trained for in school for eight years, was NOT the career I thought I wanted and definitely not a good match for me.  There was the death of friends– by car accidents and addictions….. ways in which I had hoped to never lose my friends.  There was a hysterectomy which occurred while I was still trying to decide if I wanted a third child, and the grief associated with that loss.  There was the loss of a pet who was like a son to me and the totally unexpected submersion into a grief such as I had never gone through before, not even with the death of my parents.  There was the beginning of my empty nest when my youngest went off to college which I discovered I wasn’t prepared for.  And let’s not forget normal aging and the loss of youth, menopause, and the associated problems and changes that the decrease in estrogen brings.  Am I undergoing a midlife crisis?  I don’t know.  All I DO know is I am searching for answers. I seem to have entered a much more contemplative stage of my life and I’m turning to God for answers.  I’ve become withdrawn in many ways which seems necessary for me now. I’m questioning my purpose in life and I’m dealing with fears and worries I’ve never had before.  I see much beauty in life but I also see more of the ugly and I see people becoming meaner, more selfish, and so much more unfriendly and it frightens me to near paralysis. I see people who are so glued to their phones and social media and they never seem to look up from those phones anymore to have time for personal relationships and real friendships anymore.  Life is more lonely and I ponder if maybe that’s my fault.  Perhaps.  So I withdraw more and more into my make-believe cocoon.  I’m learning to be still and it’s dark in here but as Sue Monk Kidd says, it’s a holy darkness.  I only hope that I emerge somehow transformed, better able to make sense of things.  I’ve even quit going to church while I search for these answers which seems totally nonsensical and illogical when I think about it.  I can’t explain that part but I’ve never felt more spiritual.

What are your thoughts on midlife crises?  Do you think they exist?  Please feel free to share your thoughts (and stories if you desire) in the comment section.

Gail ♥

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