Swarm

This post is in response to the WordPress one-word daily prompt: Swarm

I remember a time many years ago when my children were small and the periodical cicadas emerged from the ground in droves.  I think it may have been 1998(?).  The periodical cicadas are the smaller cicada version and are black with red eyes.

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My sons— one in preschool and the other in 3rd grade, were in heaven.  We checked out books at the library and read all about them and my boys could tell you anything you could ever possibly want to know about cicadas or recite the whole cicada life cycle without batting an eye.  We stood for hours one night and watched a cicada attached to the underside of a maple tree branch emerging from its exoskeleton.  My kids went around for days collecting those exoskeletons in sandwich bags.

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Cicada exoskeleton

Our pet turtle, Snapper, was in heaven also.  I would put him out in his little swimming pool, and when the cicadas would haphazardly fly into the pool,  he was on them like flies on honey.  He would ingest all of them with the exception of the wings and eyeballs.  So after several hours, the pool would be full of little cicada eyeballs and floating cicada wings and one happy smiling turtle. I swear that turtle gained 5 lbs. that spring.

If you’ve ever looked at a cicada wing up close, it’s really lovely.  The wings have a shiny iridescence to them and they’re delicate and lacy appearing.  I saw on the TV one night that some smart crafty woman was collecting them and making earrings out of them. They were actually quite beautiful.  I saw the wings strewn around for weeks after the cicadas were gone…. in the grass, on sidewalks, on the driveway, and the edge of roadways. Everywhere.  I thought, at least she’s putting them to good use!

I remember my son’s 3rd grade teacher telling me that the school actually had to cancel field day when the cicadas were swarming.  It was over 100 degrees outside that day and extremely humid and the boys were zooming around catching the cicadas and terrorizing the girls with them and the girls were freaking out and running from them.  I remember the teacher telling me she was a nervous wreck and couldn’t wait for the darn things to disappear as the kids kept bringing them into the classroom cupped in their hands (and you know how loud cicadas can be) and setting them down on her desk.  So the cicadas won over field day as none of the kids were interested in playing games that day.

I went sort of crazy when the cicadas came.  We started doing just really silly things with the exoskeletons.  Don’t ask me why. I guess because, well… they were there and because they were so darn plentiful and mostly because it’s just plain fun to be silly sometimes.  There were cicada races.

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And cicadas getting eaten by dinosaurs.

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And yes, even a cicada tea party.

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Along with Cicadas, come cicada killer wasps.  Ever seen one? They are HUGE wasps and strong too.  I’ve seen one drag a cicada into its burrow with no effort at all.  I’ve seen them fly by carrying a cicada.  It’s amazing!  The female stings and paralyzes the cicada, then carries it back to its burrow and lays an egg (or eggs) on it.  The eggs hatch and the larvae then feed on the cicada for a couple of weeks, and then will spin a cocoon where they will stay until they emerge from the burrow the next summer.  A cicada killer wasp got in my screened in porch one day and landed on the screen and let me tell you, that was one intimidating wasp!  Check out the stinger on these things)!  It’s as big as the diameter of pencil lead.  Thankfully, they aren’t aggressive wasps and aren’t interested in going out of their way to sting humans at all.  Males, which are smaller than the females, don’t sting. Only the females do.  They rarely will sting humans if provoked— like if you step  on them or sit on them or they get tangled in your clothes.  I’ve read some articles that say their sting is nothing more than a pin-prick and other articles that say they’re extremely painful stings.  I don’t think I care to find out.  Just looking at the size of the stinger hurts me.  I have a friend who told me he was stung by one once and the pain was excruciating. He said the pain was over quickly but it was really severe pain when it stung.

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This was a cicada wasp killer that got in my screened-in porch.  The picture doesn’t do her/him justice.  This wasp was massive!

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cicada wasp killer in my porch

That was a spring  I will never forget.  I don’t think my boys will either.

Gail ♥

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Sunday Glory

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Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

Gail ♥

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Remembering a Genuine Friend

Back in the early 1990s, a veterinarian came to work at the clinic I worked at (he actually was hired to fill in for me while I was on an extended maternity leave but was later hired on full-time).  Prior to meeting him, Howard was described to me by someone who knew him well as the “Santa Claus type.”  He had a white beard, but physically, that was about the only comparison to Santa Claus that I could see.  But like Santa Claus, he was a jolly old soul. He laughed a lot and when he laughed, he’d throw back his head and laugh loud from his belly.  He was known as being a little eccentric but there was just something about his laughter that was contagious and you just couldn’t help but be happy when Howard was around. Clients, for the most part, adored him.  It didn’t take me long to learn that there was just nothing in the world that this man wouldn’t do for another human being.  He would, without a doubt, give you the shirt off his back.

I first met Howard late one night while working an emergency at the clinic.  A German Shepherd had come in with a paraphimosis and I was having a time with it.  A paraphimosis is the inability of a dog to retract its penis back into its sheath.  This German Shepherd was in trouble.  He had had this condition for hours (after breeding a female in heat)  before presenting and his penis had endured a lot of trauma.  It was edematous and abraded and very discolored and starting to slough in places.  And the poor pooch was miserable.  When Howard walked in,  I had just anesthetized the dog, cleaned up the traumatized tissues, and had applied a 50% dextrose solution to try to shrink the tissues back down to be able to replace the penis back in the sheath.  The sugar acts as a hyperosmotic agent to draw the fluids out and to shrink the tissues back down. After applying the Dextrose and using lots of lubrication, I had gently tried to replace the engorged penis back in the sheath but it wasn’t going.  Howard walked in and we introduced ourselves.  I was 8 months pregnant and I was fatigued and really starting to worry about this dog.  Howard looked curiously down at my patient on the table, and said, “What you got?”  I replied, “A very stubborn paraphimosis.”  His eyes lit up and he said, “Hey, I’ve never seen one of these before— would you mind if I hung around?!”  I told him by all means, I was more than happy for him to stay, that I was having a great deal of difficulty and would appreciate any suggestions he had.  So Howard grabbed a pair of gloves and jumped right in to help.  He suggested ice packs.  So we iced packed with no results.  Then we tried short ice water soaks.  That didn’t work either.  Finally, I went to our break area in the clinic and found several little sugar packets.  I just started sprinkling Pure Cane Sugar on this dog’s discolored, engorged penis, and the tissues finally started shrinking but we still could not get that penis back in the sheath.  I ended up doing an episiotomy of the prepuce and that did the trick.  Whew.  I catheterized the dog, did a purse string suture of the prepuce to prevent this from reoccurring, and gave the dog an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory injection.  I knew he was going to be one sore fella for a few days.  The next morning he was wagging his tail, urinating with no problems and eating and drinking well.  Dogs amaze me.

So that’s how Howard and I met…. over a paraphimosis-from-hell case.  And we laughed and joked about that for as long as we knew each other.  My husband and I became fast friends with Howard.  I think what I liked about Howard was that he was such a genuine person. He lived and breathed to help people.  Howard was so real, he was sincere, and he was honest.  There was nothing fake about him at all.  I don’t think I can actually say I know too many genuinely “real” or sincere people. Not like Howard anyway.  It seems to be a rare quality these days.  Sincere people do what they say and say what they mean. That was Howard. No fluff.  If he said something, he meant it.  If he said he liked your hair, your outfit, your make-up, well…. he did!   If he complimented you on something, he sincerely meant it.  He generally spoke his mind. Sometimes, this got him in a wee bit of trouble with his veterinary clients because if he didn’t like the way someone was taking care of a pet, he was very blunt with them.  And they didn’t always like that.  Like the time one of our clients with a little dog named Miss Twiggy was way overfeeding her dog.  The dog was severely obese with joint problems and a blood sugar that was heading towards diabetes. She had been counseled by every veterinarian in the practice about diet and feeding and had been told that she needed to cut back on the amount she was feeding or she was soon to have a diabetic dog. She always laughed when the dog’s weight issues were brought up and personally, I never understood what she found so funny about a morbidly obese dog.  Her dog looked like an engorged tick ready to explode.  Howard called her in one Saturday morning from the waiting room and watched the poor dog pitifully hobble into the exam room.  He shook his head while staring down at the dog and informed the owner that she was killing “Miss Piggy” with love.  The owner laughed aloud and corrected him on the dog’s name and said, “It’s MISS TWIGGY” to which Howard raised his eyebrows and replied in a very serious tone, “NO, IT’S MISS PIGGY!”  Let’s just say tactfulness was not one of Howard’s strong points when he felt an animal was being mistreated.

I always called Howard my walking encyclopedia.  He had a genius I.Q.  and there just weren’t many topics that he couldn’t carry on an intelligent conversation about.  I loved talking to this man.  He had done so much in his life— like fighting wildfires in California, and serving in the military.  He did three tours of duty as a Medevac pilot in Vietnam.  He went to veterinary school in his 40s.  He had this deep beautiful voice and sang in the symphony chorus.  We enjoyed discussing our  veterinary cases and I learned a great deal from him.  Not only about veterinary medicine, but about life. He had lived a few years in Alaska, loved it there, and often enjoyed telling about his Alaskan adventures.   There was nothing I couldn’t talk to him about. He went out of his way to lift other people’s spirits.

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Howard didn’t talk much about his service in Vietnam but from what he did share with me, I knew he had seen some terrible things.  I knew he had been shot down three times and received severe burns to his legs when he became pinned in the helicopter during one of the times he was shot down.  I remember one day thinking he was being a little harsh with a client who refused to vaccinate his dog for Rabies.  Howard clearly didn’t like it when owners didn’t vaccinate their pets against Rabies and he let them know it. The technician had felt he had berated the client.  I had to admit, I had witnessed this more than once myself and wondered if there was perhaps a more gentle approach he could take when discussing Rabies vaccines. So we talked one day.  And Howard told me a story about how he had transported a little naked convulsing Vietnamese child, whose villagers had hog-tied her to a pole (because they didn’t want to touch her) and placed her in his Medevac helicopter.  This little pre-pubescent girl was infected with Rabies from being bitten by one of the many stray dogs that roamed the village.  Her convulsions were violent and she died a short time later in that Medevac helicopter Howard was piloting.  And he told me he never forgot it and he relived the scene over and over again in his nightmares.  Because of that experience, vaccinating animals for Rabies was a very serious topic to Howard because he had seen first hand just how deadly Rabies is.  He witnessed how it tragically and violently and needlessly kills innocent people when there’s no reason for it to because it’s so preventable.  And so Howard didn’t mess around with Rabies and just didn’t take too kindly to owners who neglected to vaccinate their dogs and cats for Rabies.  He told me that he would never ever be able to get the face of that little Vietnamese child out of his mind for as long as he lived and when he told me that, I saw a flare of anger in those gentle light bluish-gray eyes of his, that was followed by tears brimming to the edge of his lids. But most of all, I saw raw pain like I’d never seen before. We never talked about it again. After that discussion, I understood more clearly his “harshness” with non-Rabies compliant pet owners.

In 2002 I had to go into the hospital for 2 days to undergo a pelvic reconstruction and a hysterectomy.  I was sad knowing I would never be able to bear anymore children.  I didn’t tell too many people I was having this surgery.  But Howard knew and he knew I was sad, and he was sad with me.  About 10:30 pm the evening of my surgery, after my family had all left for the night, a nurse tiptoed into my room with a beautiful vase of flowers.  With a big smile on her face, she said, “The NICEST man just left these at the nurse’s station for you.  He said he didn’t want to disturb you or awaken you.”  It was a beautiful vase full of mixed flowers with a sweet card.  I noticed right off all the daisies in the floral arrangement.  Howard had heard me casually say once that daisies were my favorite flower, and he had remembered.  It was such a sweet gesture on his part and I never forgot it.  He cheered up a very sad hysterectomized patient that night by his sweet random act of kindness.

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It was Howard who drove 50 miles to my house after knowing me barely a month when I had just come home from the hospital after giving birth to our second son. He brought the cutest stuffed dog for our son.  We still have that stuffed dog 24 years later. And he drove that 50 miles again one afternoon many years later, to put my old 16-year-old much beloved dog to sleep.  He did it with such compassion and tenderness on a blanket on the floor of my living room while I held her and unashamedly cried like a baby.  And after I had spent some time with my beloved old girl, saying goodbye to her, he tenderly lifted her limp and still warm body in his arms and carried her outside and proceeded to help my husband dig a hole and bury her.  That’s a true friend. He comforted me by telling me it was time and that I had made the right decision. When my dad collapsed from a bleeding colonic tumor and doctors told us he was anemic from his blood loss and may require a blood transfusion prior to his resection and anastomosis surgery, Howard was the first one at the Red Cross to be a designated blood donor for my dad who he had never even met.

Howard was just always thinking of others and doing for others.  If I sat down to make out a list of his kindnesses he showed to me and to others, it would be a never-ending list.   And that’s the honest to God truth.

Howard died tragically almost 7 years ago in a single car accident at the age of 66.  He was life-flighted to Vanderbilt Medical Center where he died 2 days later.  I didn’t learn about his accident until after his death.  He had donated his body to science and there was no funeral. I grieved hard over his death and I still miss him so much.  I miss his phone calls and his laughter, and his knowledge of the world, but I think what I miss most about him is the sincerity and integrity of his character that is not often seen in this day and age.  He was a true gentleman.  Always.  I always knew where I stood with Howard.  I could always count on him.  No matter what kind of mood I was in, I always felt cheerful and uplifted after talking to Howard.  He was so genuine and one of a kind. I consider myself blessed to have had such a sincere friend in my life.

Gail ♥

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Desire

Today’s WordPress one-word daily prompt: Desire

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Gail ♥

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February Reading

I wasn’t sure that I would reach my goal this month of reading 4 books, especially since February’s a shorter month and it was a busy month.  But I made it just under the wire and finished the third and fourth book just today on this last day of February!

Here’s what I read this month.

  1.  Come Rain or Come Shine– by Jan Karon

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This was book #11 in The Mitford Series.  My sisters and I just adore this series.  I’ve had this book on my shelf for well over a year and didn’t read it until now because I have not wanted this series to end (how’s that for a silly reason for not reading a book?)!  These Christian-themed books take place in the fictional town of Mitford, North Carolina.  They are about the life of an Episcopal Priest, Father Tim Kavanagh, and his friends and family of Mitford.  Oh, how I just adore Father Tim!  Come Rain or Come Shine features a long-awaited wedding between two of the beloved characters of Mitford.  I love these books because the characters are SO real, they are good clean books, they make me laugh, they make me cry, and they make me want to bring more kindness into the world.  Truly endearing stories that will warm your heart.  They are my go-to feel good books!  As a side note, I read that book #12 is coming out in September of this year…  I am so excited!  

2.  The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times– by Robert J. Morgan

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Using the biblical story in Exodus of Moses leading the Israelites out of danger from the Egyptian armies (when God parted the Red Sea), Robert Morgan discusses ten sound strategies for leading us from fear to faith when we experience trials in  our lives (and we all will)!  I really enjoyed this book, as I have enjoyed everything I’ve read from Robert Morgan.  He is fast becoming my favorite author.  I’ve read his blog from beginning to end and would love to meet him someday.  He pastors a church in my hometown and my sister and I are planning a visit to that church soon to hear him preach.  I would just love to meet him.

3.  The Thorn Birds– by Colleen McCullough

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I was 23 years old when the Thorn Birds mini-series came on TV.  I was in veterinary school but had come home (maybe for spring break or something?) and I remember my mother being glued to the TV watching this.  It seemed all my friends were watching it and talking about it. I think I read it was the second highest rated mini-series second to Roots (which I did watch).  I tried to watch The Thorn Birds and did watch a lot of it, but just couldn’t finish it.  I remember being turned off because I thought they put WAY too much make-up on Richard Chamberlain and I couldn’t figure out why in the world they would have done such a thing to a man.  That makes me laugh now, thinking that is the main reason I just couldn’t watch it on TV, but that’s the honest truth.  I liked parts of this book a lot. But it was a very depressing story full of one tragedy after another which made it hard reading for me. There was a lot and I mean A LOT of sadness in this book.  I liked most of the characters but it just didn’t seem that the characters acted very realistically to me.  I was glad I read the book, and parts of it I really enjoyed, but it’s not a book I would choose to read a second time.  I am a little interested in watching the entire mini-series now that I’ve finished the book.

4.  Married and Still Loving It:  The Joys and Challenges of the Second Half– by Gary Chapman and Harold Myra 

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I think I’m the only person on the planet who didn’t read Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages.  After reading this book, I definitely want to read it.  This was a nice book…. not a real in-depth book on marriage, but very practical and a very enjoyable and a quick read. The authors offer advice on how to make the second half of your marriage thrive.  They feature various couples who discuss their own marital journeys-both the joys and struggles.

Did you read anything interesting in February????

Gail♥

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Random Thoughts This Weekend

I had written a post last night about something that happened to me yesterday that had me quite upset.  But my WordPress site was not cooperating and it was not saving my drafts. Then when I was trying to download some quotes, it froze and then somehow I lost the entire post.  Sigh.

I’m in the middle of attending a 3 day veterinary conference right now and I was too tired last night to start the post all over.  Besides, I decided maybe it was God’s way of saying he didn’t want me posting those particular thoughts.  And I wasn’t feeling too good about the post anyway.  My commute to the seminar is usually  only a 45 minute commute but due to wrecks on the interstate yesterday morning, that commute turned into a two-hour commute.  And then traffic on the way home was bad once again (bumper to bumper for quite some time) so it was another 2 hour drive back home.  I’m not used to that.

This morning I left earlier and was very glad I did.  On the way to the conference, I drive over a bridge that goes over a lake, and this morning the water was so peaceful and calm, sort of like the peace I’ve been praying for.  And then I saw the most beautiful sunrise.

 

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I was having a nice long talk with God about what I was so upset about yesterday and what a gift he gave me.  He truly calmed my soul with the Peace that passeth all understanding. And I desperately needed that.  I felt like I heard the answers to prayers.  I just love when that happens.  I made a decision I have been needing to make for a very long time and I’m totally at peace with that decision.

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I’ve learned so much the last two days at the veterinary conference and for that I’m grateful.  Yesterday, I attended a half a day of feline lectures.  I also attended one by the DEA on controlled substances.  I learned that veterinarians are now the #1 go-to medical professional that drug addicts go to to get drugs (or attempt to get drugs from).  The DEA rep told a story and showed pictures of a dog who had been maimed by someone just so they could take it to the vet to get pain killers.  Sad, huh?  She said you can spot these people a mile away because they will just about always come in requesting Oxycontin or hydrocodone and if the veterinarian tries to dispense something else, they will quickly tell you NO, that their dog needs Oxycontin! The average veterinary client would never do that. Yesterday, I also attended a very good lecture on the latest updates on treating feline urinary blockages.  Since I have a cat with feline interstitial cystitis and just went through a trying time a few weeks ago with a friend when her cat, Buddy, blocked up, I was particularly interested in that one.  I also attended one on mosquito borne illnesses with the latest updates on Zika virus.  That one was an eye opener and quite scary!  But I learned a lot. Today, I attended lectures on canine heartworm disease.   Heartworm disease is transmitted in every state in the continental U.S.  Yes, heartworms are transmitted in Chicago and Arizona, and California.  House dogs are not immune because mosquitoes get inside your house.  The speaker said all dogs should be on year round preventative.  This guy’s passion was also veterinary medical photography and he showed some very interesting videos (of live heartworms moving in the heart– that one made me squirm so I can imagine how the poor dog felt) and photos of the damage heartworms do.  It’s a horrible, horrible disease.  Here in the southeast, heartworms are very prevalent and vets deal with them on a daily basis.  Here, if a dog is not on preventative, it’s going to get infected with heartworms sooner or later.  His research showed an advantage to using both a heartworm preventative and mosquito repellents.

This afternoon I attended a lecture on mindfulness and meditation.  The speaker led us through some mindfulness exercises.  I was either very tired after a big lunch, or I was extremely relaxed.  I dozed off and almost fell forward out of my chair!  That would have been embarrassing!

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Tomorrow I’m attending lectures on a topic I’m very passionate about and have a strong interest in—Pet Loss Grief— and in particular anticipatory grief.

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This is one of my favorite grief authors.  I read several of his books on grief when my parents died, and then found this one when I lost my beloved cat.  His books are very simple and easy to understand and he gives good suggestions.  And I need simple when I’m grieving.

Since I experienced profound anticipatory grief with both my parents ( who both had prolonged illnesses) and my cat (who I had to euthanize 3 1/2 years ago), I’m looking forward to hearing the lecture tomorrow. My cat was 19 1/2 so my anticipatory grief lasted quite a while!   I like the speaker and I think I’m going to learn a lot from her.  I hope so. There will also be topics on euthanasia and hospice care for animals which are subjects I have a strong interest in.  I’m also attending a lecture on feline lower urinary tract disease as it pertains to stress and metabolism so I’m hoping I’ll learn a lot.  I think tomorrow will be a very busy day but a good day!

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Gail ♥

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Sunday Glory

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Love and kindness are never wasted.  They always make a difference.  They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.  —Barbara De Angelis

 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

Gail ♥

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