Sweet Home Alabama

There’s a lot to be said for taking a vacation without a surly teenager along.  So when we cheerfully packed our thirteen year old son, Darion, off on a youth retreat to Ridgecrest in North Carolina on July 4th, Doug and I decided to treat ourselves to a few days of “doing what we want to do” without having to listen to the complaining.  Let me just say that Darion is very good at being thirteen.  And God bless our youth leader who braved a ten hour drive both ways with a van full of teenagers!  We don’t pay her enough.  As we cheerfully waved off the group departing from the church parking lot, we cried, “We’re free!”  Of course we said this silently to ourselves because there were actually people present who were going to miss their kids.  Go figure.

Within a couple minutes of seeing the tail lights of the van move out of sight, we hopped into the truck and set out to see some things we had always wanted to see as we hustled through Alabama on our way to somewhere else.  It seems we have spent twenty-eight years on our way to somewhere else and never had the time to stop and see anything along the journey.  And without Darion, we could see each and every waterfall and hike each and every trail we wanted, exploring nature in the way it was meant to be enjoyed.  We could actually hear the sweet songs of the birds and the chirping of the cicadas without the endless barrage of “Nature is stupid!  I hate hiking! How far do we have to go?  I’m tired.” Loud melodramatic teen-aged angst sigh.  “How many more stupid waterfalls do we have to see?  I just want to go back to the hotel and watch TV.”  For some reason, Darion fails to understand that if we wanted to watch TV we wouldn’t pay $100.00 bucks a night in a strange city to do so.  In fact, we wouldn’t even have to leave Valparaiso.  Somehow, his endless tirade of dissatisfaction tends to spoil the ambiance of communing with God’s creation.

We also got to eat at establishments other than our son’s usual culinary preferences of “drive through” with a large order of fries, without sulking and the announcement of, “Fine!  Then I’m not eating!”  I suppose his not eating is somehow meant to punish us, but I’ve never understood why.  Truly, if he kept his word, we’d save money.  Unfortunately, he always capitulates, as pretty much every restaurant carries chicken tenders and fries.  But oh, for a few days, we relished the sweet taste of our selfish pleasures.

Not only were we able to enjoy nature, we were also able to visit historical areas, such as the First White House of the Confederacy and Old Town, Alabama, which would no doubt have been deemed “boring”.  I was able to cross one more item off my bucket list—touring Helen Keller’s home and seeing the outdoor drama, “The Miracle Worker,” performed on the grounds.  The play alone was phenomenal and completely worth the trip.

We also got to see the only Coon Dog cemetery in the country.  (At least I think it’s the only one.)  Don’t laugh at me.  Some people like to go antiquing or to art museums on vacation.  I enjoy quirky things like the Coon Dog cemetery.  And although the visit was done more as a lark, we were surprised to see several other visitors there.  So apparently I’m not the only oddball out there.  My husband, being the good sport that he is, indulged me in this fifteen minute fantasy.  It was either that or two days shopping at the outlet center in Foley.  He chose wisely. I was a little disappointed to find out that the movie, “Sweet Home Alabama,” was mostly filmed in Georgia and the Coon Dog cemetery in the movie was not the actual one, but rather a movie set based on the real thing.

Now for some reason, our teenager, who is embarrassed to tears when we breathe the air in his vicinity, felt the need to call us at least a half dozen times a day—like when he awoke at 6 am, when he ate every meal, when he was on a break, or before he went to bed at 11 pm.  He was always quite concerned about where we were and what we were doing.  And he doesn’t even have his own phone, which necessitated the humiliation of having to borrow one from his friend to call his—gasp—parents!  (Yes, we are cruel and abusive parents who have ruined his existence by denying him his personal cell phone rite of passage.)  As tempted as we were to say we were in the midst of shipping all our worldly goods to Bali with no forwarding address, we resisted the urge and assured him we would be home before he returned.  (After all, Bali isn’t that big.  He could probably find us there.)

Sure enough, we were back to greet the youth when they arrived home the following Tuesday night and our son is back to his usual uncooperative and churlish self.  We are wondering how much we would have to bribe the youth leader to take a longer trip next year.





The Suspense is Killing Me

Why is it in a suspense novel or movie, the protagonist always does something extremely stupid to put himself or herself in a life-threatening situation?  Of course we all know the lead character will be rescued or something otherwise miraculous will occur at the last possible minute, because lead characters, after all, don’t die (or even become critically injured).  Never mind that the other bit players all met their demise; nothing untoward will happen to the main character.   This is supposed to enhance the suspense and drama, I suppose, but I can’t get over the fact that nobody in his right mind would ever do what these people do.  So why do writers think these are realistic plots?

I’m talking, for example, about the person who seems to think blackmailing a killer is a good idea.  It never seems to occur to this person that the murderer has already killed somebody and killing him, too, wouldn’t be that big a deal at this point.  But in his mind, there’s no way the killer would think to come after him.  The killer will happily and forever dole out massive quantities of money in order for the witness to keep his mouth shut.  Yeah, and pigs fly.  So why is this such a common thread in mystery and suspense plots?

Then there are the people who believe confronting the killer in order to make him turn himself in is the best way to go, because, after all, one doesn’t want to rat this person out to the police and possibly have him get upset with you.  No, you schedule a meeting with the killer—often in a secluded setting— tell him everything you know, assure him you’ve told nobody else what you saw, and end with, “I know you will do the right thing, but if you don’t turn yourself in, I’ll have to.”  Well.  That should put the fear of Hades into him.  By the way, how long do you wait before turning him in?  Do you hire a body guard in the meantime?  No, because there is no way the killer would ever harm you!

Okay, so these less than brilliant characters have effectively and naively managed to eliminate themselves from the rest of the story, as well as the gene pool.  Now comes the protagonist, who up until the end has managed to display a modicum of common sense and stay alive.  But for some reason, towards the end of the story, he (she) feels the need to check out something in a deserted location on her own, without telling anybody where she’s going, without taking a weapon, and usually in the middle of the night.  Oh, and by now she has run her mouth enough that the killer knows she’s on to him, so he just has to waylay her.  It is guaranteed she will walk into a trap.  There will be no cell phone service or her emergency contact number will go to voicemail.

Once she’s trapped, the killer doesn’t just shoot her and be done with it, like he did his last five victims.  No, now for some reason, he decides to spill his guts.  He confesses, for a full twenty minutes,  everything he did and why he did it under the interrogation of the trapped lead character, who, by the way, should really be trying to think of a way out, rather than concerning herself with the motivation of the killer.  Then, when time has run out, the killer orders the lead character to go somewhere else so he can kill her there, as if where they are standing isn’t good enough.  That’s when the rescuers, going off nothing more than a “bad feeling,” manage to track down and find the trapped protagonist who is out in the middle of nowhere, just before she is marched away to be executed.  Or, if the writers want to really spice up the action, the lead character will suddenly notice something like a box of fireworks right next to her and using the cigarette lighter she just happens to have with her (even though she doesn’t smoke) manages to light up the box, effectively enabling her to escape.  Then when she has made it safely away from the killer, the rescuers miraculously appear.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the same plot over and over again?  Surely people are not really that stupid, or that lucky.   Perhaps I should change my genre of writing and delve into suspense.  But I’m afraid my characters would not be very interesting.  They would either do the smart thing, run to the police and let them handle things from the start, or end up like me—hiding under the covers with the blankets pulled over their heads.  There is only so much one can do with this scene.

Chocolate: It Isn’t Just for Breakfast Anymore

There was a recent Pickles cartoon in which the husband says to the wife, “You know what, Opal?  You are a chocoholic.”

She answers, “That’s not true. I could live without chocolate.  I could get along just fine without chocolate.  Everybody around me would suffer, but I’d be fine!”

For some reason my husband found that cartoon hilarious.  I have to say, he knows me all too well.  Early in our courtship I told him not to waste money on flowers.  One can’t eat flowers.  Chocolate, however . . .

I have always felt there was just something a little wrong with people who claim not to like chocolate.  Either they’re lying or aliens from another planet.  In 1753, Linnaeus designated the tree Theobroma cacao, which translates to “cacao, food of the gods.” Well, if chocolate is the food of the gods, who am I to argue with its supremacy in the world of us mortals?

Besides, chocolate has health benefits (which, of course, I always knew, but recent studies have confirmed).  100-grams of milk chocolate is an excellent source (over 19% of the Daily Value, DV) of riboflavinvitamin B12 and the dietary mineralsmanganesephosphorus and zinc. Chocolate is a good source (10–19% DV) of calciummagnesium and iron.

In addition, here are proven health benefits of dark chocolate from Healthline:

Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health.  A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the RDI for iron, 58% of the RDI for magnesium, 89% of the RDI for copper, 98% of the RDI for manganese. It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

  1. It is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet.
  2. The bioactive compounds in cocoa may improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.
  3. Raises HDL (good cholesterol) and protects LDL (bad cholesterol) from oxidation.
  4. Observational studies show a drastic reduction in heart disease risk among those who consume the most chocolate.
  5. Studies show that the flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it from sun damage.
  6. Cocoa or dark chocolate may improve brain function by increasing blood flow. It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine.

So, now that I’ve pointed out how important chocolate is to our health, welfare, and being, people would be crazy not to indulge.  I mean seriously, it’s a lot more enjoyable than Romaine lettuce and we are unlikely to get Listeriosis from eating chocolate.  In case you are still skeptical, here are 21 proverbs pertaining to the food of the gods:

  1. Chocolate doesn’t ask silly questions. Chocolate understands.
  2. When life gives you lemons, throw it back and ask for chocolate.
  3. When life gives you chocolate, eat it all and tell no one.
  4. Chocolate comes from cocoa, which is a tree. That makes it a plant.  Chocolate is a salad.
  5. Chocolate is great. It gives you energy which can be used to go buy more chocolate.
  6. I make chocolate disappear. What’s your superpower?
  7. Chocolate is the Answer. Who cares what the Question is?
  8. Chocolate is nature’s way of making up for Mondays.
  9. I’m a woman of many moods and they all require chocolate.
  10. For some there’s therapy. For the rest of us, there’s chocolate.
  11. Chocolate is my new health food. I eat it because I feel like I might die if I don’t.
  12. Life is short. Eat chocolate.
  13. Give me the chocolate and nobody gets hurt.
  14. Forget love. I’d rather fall in chocolate.
  15. Stop trying to make everybody happy. You’re not chocolate.
  16. Save the planet. It’s the only one with chocolate.
  17. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, unless it’s chocolate.
  18. A chocolate a day keeps the bad moods away.
  19. There is no “we” in chocolate.
  20. You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy chocolate. And that’s kind of the same thing.
  21. And my favorite: I could give up chocolate, but I’m not a quitter.

Baby on Board

I was looking for something on the internet and got side-tracked, as I often do, into looking at something else which caught my eye.  It was a site for funny bumper stickers, one of which read, “Adults on Board.  We Want to Live, Too.”  This caused me to chuckle, as I have often wondered just what the point was of those “Baby on Board” decals.

The Baby on board signs are believed to date back to the 1980’s when they were first put on sale by the Safety 1st Corporation. Although it is said they can alert emergency services to the presence of a child, their original purpose was to encourage other motorists to drive carefully in the presence of a car carrying a child.  However, one survey claims that the Baby on Board stickers have caused one in twenty accidents.  I’m not sure what that statistic was based on, but some sites have indicated that depending on where the decals are placed, they can potentially obscure the driver’s view.  In fact according to a poll of 2000 drivers, 46% viewed these decals as a hazard.

I have to admit when I see one of those decals, I don’t automatically think, “Oh, goodness, I need to stop driving like an idiot and exhibiting road rage because there’s a baby in the car ahead of me.”  Perhaps, though, I need to stop tail gating as I just closed the gap with the car in front of me in order to read the “Baby on Board” decal. Of course, hopefully, I’m driving carefully, anyway, and the fact that there is a baby in the car ahead of me doesn’t improve my driving.  I suppose I could go so far to say that perhaps knowing there is a baby in the car ahead of me might actually make me more nervous and more likely to have an accident—kind of like in school zones where my eyes are so focused on my speedometer to be sure I’m not going 21 miles per hour instead of 20 that I miss seeing the pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Then I got to thinking.  Maybe the benefit of the “Baby on Board” stickers isn’t for the vehicle sporting them,  but for all the other vehicles around them.  “Baby on Board” could mean a potentially sleep-deprived driver or a distracted driver who is fumbling with one hand on the backseat floor board for the dropped pacifier.   Or it could mean there is a shrieking infant who is rendering the driver a literal nervous wreck.  From this perspective, “Baby on Board” decals could be a warning that it may be safer to steer as far away from these vehicles as possible.

Now the pet owning public has taken this one step further with “Dog on Board” decals.  So now I’m even more confused.  Does that mean if I run into the back of the vehicle in front of me, the dog on board will jump out and eat my face off?  Or does it mean I need to be wary because the dog hanging way out the driver’s window may fall out into the road and cause an accident?  Not that the driver with the co-driving dog in his lap would be distracted, if say, the dog suddenly jumped up in front of him to bark at the dog riding in the back of the pick-up truck in front of him.  But I suppose the decals have the same intent as the “Baby on Board” decals, in that people around them should drive more carefully knowing there is a dog in the vehicle.  (To heck with the people, there is a dog in that car!)

Perhaps someone needs to come up with a decal saying, “Frazzled parent with four screaming kids in the car.  If you know what’s good for you back off!”   Or “Pet parent with three yapping dogs that are driving me crazy!”  As for me, I’m ordering the sticker I found on Amazon.  “No Baby on Board.  Feel Free to Crash into Me.”







To Men Everywhere – You’re Welcome

Some fun things to do when you’re bored:


  1. Send a random text saying, “I hid the body.  Now what?”
  2. Go through the drive-through of a fast food restaurant and order a diet water.
  3. Ask your husband/boyfriend if the outfit you are wearing makes you look fat and watch him squirm.

Speaking of ways to make a man squirm, there are a few key words/phrases that all women utter and if the man to whom they are uttered is unaware of their true meaning, he can be completely blind-sided and never know what hit him.  At the risk of being declared a traitor to my gender, I will attempt to enlighten men everywhere as my charitable act of service to the more clueless sex on Father’s Day.  (You don’t have to be a father to partake of my gift.)

  1. FINE. Okay, guys, this does not mean what you think.  “Fine,” especially when spoken in a snarky voice means, “I’m not listening to your stupid side of the story anymore.  I’m right and you just need to shut up.”
  2. NOTHING. Beware of this one.  When a woman says, “Nothing,” she actually means “Something really big and you’d better figure out exactly what it is post haste or you will suffer the consequences.”
  3. FIVE MINUTES. This means literally nothing.  Do not set your watch.
  4. WHATEVER YOU WANT. Trust me, she does not mean what ever you   She means you’d better be smart enough to choose what she wants, which you should automatically know.  Otherwise you don’t care about what she wants, which translates into you don’t care about her.
  5. THAT’S OKAY. This is usually said in response to an apology you are making to her about some bone-headed thing you did/said, or failed to do/say.  Do not let out a sigh of relief.  This does not mean you are off the hook.  All is not forgiven and forgotten.  It means she is too angry to discuss it right now, but this discussion will rear its ugly head again when she figures out how to make you pay for your mistake.
  6. IT WOULD BE NICE IF… This is not a suggestion. It is an unconditional demand.  Be wise and just do it!
  7. DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. She has asked you to do something, but you failed to do it and now she is going to have to do it herself.  Do not, at this point, ask any questions or jump in to do whatever it is you didn’t do.  It doesn’t count now.  You will get no points and may come out with a net negative score in the relationship department.
  8. DO YOU HAVE TO DO THAT NOW? This means stop whatever you’re doing because you are doing the wrong thing at the wrong time and need to prioritize your activities according to what she wants you to do right now.
  9. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Whatever it is you are doing, you’re doing it all wrong.
  10. GO AHEAD. This is not permission.  This is a dare.  Do not fall into this trap.
  11. This means “no.”  Easy enough, right?
  12. WE NEED TO COMMUNICATE BETTER. This means, “You need to learn to agree with me.”
  13. ARE YOU LISTENING? This means, “You are not listening and nothing you do or say at this point will make any difference.”
  14. This argument is over.  You lose.  This is similar to “fine.”
  15. LOUD SIGH. How can you be so clueless?
  16. NEVER MIND. No, you don’t have permission to dismiss the problem.  Do the exact opposite.
  17. I’M NOT UPSET. Don’t you believe it!  She’s really upset and you need to figure out why.
  18. I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. This means, “I don’t want to talk about it until I have enough ammunition to burn you later.”
  19. WE NEED TO TALK. You’re a dead man!
  20. I LOVE YOU. This last one you’ll have to figure out on your own.  I can’t give away all my secrets.



Real Doctors

Sometimes I don’t think physicians, or as I call them, “real doctors” (RDs) have a clue how easy their jobs are compared to veterinarians.

For example, with the possible exception of pediatricians and possibly psychiatrists, how many of them have to worry about being bitten, scratched, urinated and defecated on, kicked, knocked down, or having a patient escape from them?  They generally don’t need assistants to hold their patients down so they can examine and treat them.

And why do real doctors get a pass for not knowing everything that is wrong with a patient in a fifteen minute appointment? Whereas veterinarians are expected to diagnose and treat everything from kidney failure to scabies—in dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters, horses, etc.—while trying not to injure or get injured by our patient (and for a modest fee, I might add), real doctors farm out their patients to “specialists.”  Therefore if I am at my orthopedic doctor for knee pain, he will not check out the rash I have on my arm, necessitating another trip to another specialist.  Neither will my eye doctor examine my teeth.  As if that isn’t frustrating enough, there are specialties within specialties.  I once had to wait with my father after a follow-up with the ophthalmologist who performed his cataract surgery for another four hours to see the ophthalmologist who could lance his eyelid sty.  Seriously?  I mean I wouldn’t necessarily expect the cataract doctor to lance my father’s hemorrhoids (even if he did go to medical school and supposedly studied all that stuff), but couldn’t a cataract specialist lance a simple sty?

In addition, real doctors don’t ever have to mess with lab work. They send you to a lab where they don’t have to get personally involved in order to have blood drawn or urine testing. It’s not like us veterinarians trying to extract a half-teaspoon of blood from the moving target cat who is all claws and teeth, only to get a nasty-gram from the lab stating, “insufficient sample.” I challenge the R.D.’s to get a blood sample from a parakeet or an IV catheter into a half pound kitten.  Hah!  I can do it!  And have you ever seen a real doctor following his patient around with a urine cup hoping to get a sample?

R.D.’s are also fortunate in that they only have to know the anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology for one species.  Veterinarians have to remember not to give penicillin to guinea pigs, ivermectin to turtles,  or Tylenol to cats.  We also have to know that rabbits and horses can’t vomit, birds’ blood sugar is much higher than mammals, and dogs don’t have clavicles.  Oh sure, R.D’s have to know demographic trends, such as African Americans are more likely to have sickle-cell anemia than Caucasians, Asians have a high incidence of diabetes, and most prostate cancer occurs in males.  But big deal.  Veterinarians also have to know the trend within species, such as sighthounds are more sensitive to certain anesthetics, small dogs generally have more mitral valve disease than large dogs, and splenic cancer is more common in large dogs.  Parakeets, as opposed to African Gray parrots, do not feather pick for behavioral reasons, and malaria is common in tropical penguins. Persian cats are more at risk for polycystic kidney disease than the general cat population.  I could go on, but you get the drift.

It would have been much easier for me to go to medical school than veterinary school, as the ratio of acceptance for qualified applicants was 1:3 for medical school, versus 1:8 for veterinary school.  But then I would have to work on people.  And we all know people are gross.  Sometimes while treating my patient, I’m glad I’m not the owner’s doctor.  Plus people carry contagious illnesses.  If I had to treat germy, coughing, sneezing, vomiting, bleeding, icky skin lesions, or infectious disease patients, I would have to wear a Hazmat suit.  And with all the bodily fluids I frequently find myself covered in from my patients, I am thankful my patients are not human.  Animal blood, urine, vomit, and feces are one thing.  Human is quite another.  Besides, where people are concerned, I’m not all that compassionate with stupidity.  I’ve watched Untold Stories of the ER and frankly, if I were the treating physician, I’m afraid I might just let some of the idiots die and remove them from the gene pool.

You know, all things considered, I think I’m happier doing what I’m doing, even with all the challenges.  Sometimes I even get a healthy, snuggly puppy or kitten patient to make my day.  The R.D.’s can have the yucky humans.  Besides, as I’ve always maintained, real doctors treat more than one species.

Cold Blooded

Have you ever noticed that for any given couple there is always one person who is hot natured and one who is cold natured?  It seems like this is the rule in any pairing of people.  I am cold natured.  I am like those old skinny people who wear long underwear and sweaters in 90 degree heat.  I can’t stand being cold.  Winters in Ohio were pure torture for me.  I hated being cold. I hated snow.  I hated driving in snow.  I hated shoveling snow.  I hated scrapping ice off my windshield.  I hated having frozen toes and fingers. I hated biting winds which took my breath away.  I hated my farm animal rotations in the dead of winter.  This is why the minute I graduated from the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine I moved to Florida.  In retrospect I probably should have moved even further south, like to Miami, where the temperatures don’t dip into the thirties for even a day or two.  But I don’t speak Spanish.

If it were up to me, I probably wouldn’t live or work in air-conditioning.  (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating slightly).  But it seems like every office, store, restaurant, or other public building cranks the air down to arctic in the summer.  If the temperature is comfortable to me I can guarantee everyone around me is roasting.  I couldn’t wait to go through the “change” and have hot flashes.  At least I would finally be warm!  Alas, I didn’t even experience that!  I sometimes think I’m part reptile in that I have to park my body in the sun to allow it to heat up my blood.

We lived in Indonesia for two years.  Indonesia is right on the equator, so it is like August in Florida year round.  Like most places in a third world country, our house didn’t have air-conditioning.  The few air-conditioned buildings were rarely cool.  But other than the rivulets of sweat running down my back while baking Christmas cookies in the 110 degree heat of our oven-warmed kitchen, I rarely minded the heat.  It was just difficult rolling out the chilled dough quickly enough before it melted into congealed blob on the kitchen counter.

People who live in the south and complain about the heat are an enigma to me.  Why don’t they move to Alaska, live in an igloo, and be happy?  And people who vacation in cold climates, like ski resorts, are just plain crazy, in my book.  Vacations, by definition, should involve a sunny beach with warm ocean breezes.

So, of course I married a man who is always hot.  I will be snuggled in my flannel pajamas, robe, knee socks, and wrapped in a blanket, and he, in his shorts, T-shirt, and flip-flops will say, “Is it hot in here to you?”

Silly question.  If it is ever hot to me I must be on the wrong side of Heaven.

“Uh, no.  I was going to ask you to turn up the heat.”

Dual control electric blankets are a marriage saver for the incompatibly hot/cold natured couple.  My side can be toasty warm—even in the middle of July—while his control is never used.  When my side is finally worn out, we can flip the blanket and I can use his side.  This usually works great except for the times when the blanket gets put on upside down.  I’ll wake up cold, turn on the electric blanket control and wait for the sweet warmth to envelop me.  A few minutes later I’ll still be cold and I will crank up the setting.  At this point, in my sleepy fog, I can convince myself I’m getting warmer.  But it still isn’t quite enough, so I bump it up even more.  Meanwhile, my poor husband, blissfully snoring away on the other side of the bed, is baking to a nice golden brown.  Eventually he will realize he is being cooked alive, throw all the covers off, and bellow, “Did you turn my side of the blanket on?”  Oops.  Unfortunately, this happens more frequently than one might think.

There are a lot of ways in which a couple can be incompatible.  But taking religion and politics out of the equation, I believe the next biggie is thermostat preference.  Next time around I’m making sure I marry someone who suffers from hypothermia.  If he’s also old, rich, and sick, I’ll take that as an added bonus.