Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kids & insomnia

I think you'll be able to see what time I posted this, but I'll go ahead and disclose that it's 3:11 a.m. I went to bed at a respectable time --- about 10 p.m. I was tired too! When Judy joined me at 11 or so, she snuggled up and I went right on snoozing. Then all hell broke loose.

My nights are no longer a time and place of quiet solitude. (Except of course when I'm awake blogging at 3 a.m. Then there's nothing stirring.) At 11:45 p.m. tonight, a certain 5-year-old came padding into our bedroom crying because his legs hurt. We've had the doctor check him repeatedly and she assures us that Tommy is orthopedically sound. When I was young, I recall having shin splints, but nothing that reduced me to tears. So we're left to wonder if Tommy's frequent bouts are "growing pains," cramps, nightmares, or a convenient excuse to have Mommy come sleep with him. As he grows older, I hope he can better articulate the source of his discomfort. I believe he is hurting, but I don't know if it is physical or psychological.

Thanks to a microwave bunny beanbag and 1 1/2 teaspoons of ibuprofen, Tommy quieted down and fell asleep in his bed with Judy. Meanwhile, back in our bed, I was wide awake. So I busted out the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel and finished off the last 30 pages. At 1 a.m., I shut off the light, started to drift away... and I heard a bedroom door open & shut. More shuffling of little feet, and... enter Huston. "I have to go pee." Yay for big boy pants and big boy beds! How I long for the good ole days of crib confinement and a nice absorbent diaper. I got up and helped him turn on the light in the bathroom. Huston did great and used the toilet successfully. Just as I was ready to shut off the light and escort him back to his bedroom, he climbed right into our bed and occupied Judy's spot with a smug look on his face. How could I say no?

I have always found it difficult to actually sleep with others. After many years of practice, I am now more comfortable sleeping with Judy in the bed than by myself. However, I can't say the same for sleeping with my kids. Tommy is a big kicker. There is simply no way to get a restful night's sleep with him in the bed. (I don't know how Judy does it. I pity his spouse in 20 years.) Huston is more of a snuggler, so I worry more about squishing him if I roll the wrong way. So after 15 minutes of insomnia tonight, I threw in the towel and moved to the couch. For those of you scoring at home: Huston's bed is empty, Tommy & Judy are in his bed, and Huston is alone in our bed.

And here I am on the couch blogging at what is now 3:41 a.m. I actaully just yawned, so I am going to shut down and try to get some rest now. I just have to smile when I think of my little boys. They are sweet and loving and want to be with Mommy & Daddy all the time. It's amazing the things they think, say, and do. I'm glad that they are getting a good night's sleep. Maybe in a few years, I'll do the same.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Great news yesterday! Penny's cancer is benign! She has a benign iris cyst in her right eye (not a tumor). Her chest x-rays were repeated and there is no sign of tumors. they even ultrasounded her abdomen, which came back completely normal. The only major issue that was uncovered is a benign lipoma that is pinching her left sciatic nerve. The surgeon recommended a de-bulking surgery to take the pressure off the nerve. The surgery might restore the neurologic function to her left rear limb (she's dragging it a little bit).

Big sigh of relief!!! It's nice to know that even a veterinarian can assume the worst and be pleasantly surprised. I left a message for the surgeon today and Penny will probably have the mass resection in 2 to 4 weeks. Penny will do fine for the surgery because she's had anesthesia many times before. I still have her on pain medication and anti-inflammatories so she is much more comfortable now. I am so delighted that things are going to be o.k.

We're off to Florida for Thanksgiving after work today. We're driving to Savannah tonight and staying overnight in a hotel near the airport. Then we're finishing the drive tomorrow morning. Hopefully we'll get to Melbourne before lunch time. I'm assuming that Huston will be up at the crack of dawn, so getting an early start shouldn't be a problem. We're returning to Belmont on Saturday night.

I will be out of touch for a few days, but I wanted to share the excellent news. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Movie Day

The weather today was nasty. Cold, rainy, and decidedly "un-North Carolina." One of the reasons I moved down here was for Carolina blue skies! This fall weather is certainly not living up to my expectations.

Judy had to take Huston to a birthday party for another 3-year-old, so I asked Tommy what he'd like to do instead. Since we couldn't go outside, he said he wanted to go to the movies. The only new comedy for kids was Planet 51. All in all, not a bad movie. The Rock voiced the protagonist from earth... an astronaut who befriends an young alien on the planet he's been sent to explore. The alien's girlfriend is voiced by Jessica Biel. She's gorgeous in real life, but it's a little disturbing to see her cartoon likeness remade as a green alien with pouty lips.

Tommy said he liked the movie and it was good male bonding time. I'd like to spend a few hours alone with him every weekend. He's at the age where it's really a pleasure to hang out, and he has an amazing sense of humor for a 5-year-old.

I'll write more tomorrow when I get settled into my day.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


For most veterinarians, Saturday is a half-day of work. I paid my dues as an associate because my first mentor/boss is Jewish and Saturday is his Sabbath. So three out of four Saturdays for the first 5 years I practiced were spent in the hospital. I resolved that when I owned my own practice I would do things differently. And so I have.

South Point Pet hospital is only open the first Saturday of the month. I hire a relief veterinarian to work those four hours as a courtesy to my clients who can't make appointments during the week. It's not ideal, but it's a lifestyle choice that I really value.

Take today for example. Huston woke up about 7 a.m. when I would otherwise be preparing to head to the shower. Instead, we played in bed for 15 minutes. Then we got up and watched Playhouse Disney. I made breakfast: grits, eggs (over lightly), and toast. Of course, he earned potty candy because he peed in the potty like a big boy. Then we got dressed and headed to the Charlotte Buckeyes gamewatch at Strike City. While the boys played bumper bowling, Judy & I watched the Buckeyes beat MICH**** for the 6th year in a row. All of this happened when I might otherwise have been working in the hospital. While I prefer to be there when my clients need me, it means so much to be able to spend this quality time with my wife & boys.

When we got home, everyone except for Tommy got a nap. Then we spent the evening enjoying good food, good wine, and good times with friends who have kids the same age as T & H. It's such a pleasure to have adult time while our kids play together peacefully. No injuries or hurt feelings.

Now the house is quiet and I feel like I've made the most of my Saturday. I feel recharged and energized and there's still another day left in the weekend. Tomorrow will be a day of chores and rest. We're heading to Florida on Wednesday for Thanksgiving. So we have about 72 hours of prep time before the marathon drive. I'm looking forward to seeing my 89-year-old grandfather. Every holiday, every year is a blessing.

Time to read a little mindless fiction and head to bed. So far, I'm 4 for 4 in blogging since re-committing. A little pat on the back. Good night!

Friday, November 20, 2009


We found out today that our dog Penny has cancer. Everybody says that their dog is the most amazing dog. Obviously I'm biased, but Penny is truly extraordinary. After growing up with cats, Penny was my first dog and our first "child". She is eight years old --- the same number of years that Judy & I have been married. In fact, we celebrate Penny's birthday on our anniversary (September 8, 2001).

Her symptoms were very vague, but very telling. She started moving slower about a month ago. She's been less enthusiastic at times, but then her same old self at others. Last weekend, Judy noticed a strange black speck in her right eye. Then yesterday we noticed a lump on her left hamstring. Penny still eats very well --- in fact, that'll the best sign for when it will be time to perform euthanasia. When that dog won't eat, there is definitely something wrong. About two weeks ago I noticed a soft cough. Since P goes to the office with me all the time, I just assumed that it was kennel cough. But deep down, I knew better.

Penny is a Boxer-mix. Boxers are one of my absolute favorite breeds, but their Achilles heal is a penchant for cancer. I educate all of my Boxer clients: "If there is any new lump, I need to know about it right away." Well, I heeded my own advice, but the problem is, there are already tumors all over her lungs. The x-rays of her chest today show the evidence in gray-and-white. Little splotchy bumps surrounding her tracheal bifurcation. So just like that, cancer strikes again in our family.

Judy's father, Curly (Poppy to the boys), passed away last summer in eerily similar fashion. He was treated several times in Spring of 2008 for pneumonia and bronchitis. When he started coughing up blood, doctors became concerned. By the time they found the tumor in his lungs, there were also tumors in his kidneys, spine, and brain. Metastatic cancer. Judy said the words that sum it up best, "I hate cancer."

Judy is really worried about how Tommy will take the news. The loss of Poppy last summer, combined with the pet losses of our cat Yeager, my parents' two cats, and Judy's dog Lexy, make for a lot of death in a year's time. I told Judy that death is a natural part of life. It must be viewed as a beginning rather than an ending. Penny will not suffer. When she cannot get up, or refuses to eat, or can't stop coughing, I will not prolong her illness for my selfishness. She will pass away smoothly and peacefully into the great beyond. Her soul will touch mine again someday.

I know the boys will understand this and pray for Penny. They will laugh about silly things she's done and enjoy pictures of her licking their baby faces. But we will miss her dearly. And I just have to find a way to heed my own professional advice and "sage" wisdom. I hope I'm right.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

MICH**** Week!!!

Most of my friends and clients know that I went to The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine. I guess that's because almost every piece of outerwear I own has an Ohio State logo on it. And now my poor kids all wear Ohio State stuff too. Even my two-year-old, Huston, runs through the house screaming "O-H..." and gets upset if no one answers, "I-O."

We're less than 48 hours away from the 2009 version The Game, and the rivalry has seen better days. For the Buckeyes, quarterback Terrelle Pryor has not yet lived up to what I think are unrealistic expectations. The guy is 17-3 as a starter and a true sophomore, but some fans and most of the media feel that Terrelle is not yet the player he was forecasted to be out of high school. Personally, I don't think he has to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards per game in order to be successful.

However, criticism of Coach Tressel's conservative play calling may be valid. If Pryor is the most gifted athlete on the field, the Buckeyes have not yet found the magic formula for taking full advantage of his talents. Pryor has looked flustered and awkward in some situations where his raw athletic ability should simply be unleashed. I'm reminded of the Bull Durham line, "Don't think. It can only hurt the ballclub." It's almost as if the Ohio State coaching staff is more interested in Pryor conforming to the team's offensive system, rather than adjusting the scheme to fit his style of play. I think a reasonable combination of both strategies is the best approach.

MICH**** has not yet taken off in the Rich Rodriguez era. Two substandard seasons have left the Wolverines in the unenviable position of having to beat the favored Buckeyes in order to become bowl eligible this year. In addition, there have been allegations of organizational misconduct and an NCAA investigation. In Rodriguez's defense, he inherited a program that was in decline and whose recent recruiting classes were not ideally suited to his offensive scheme. So RichRod has had to rebuild from the ground up and the results on the field have been accordingly mixed.

All of the MICH**** hubris is still readily apparent. The players are confident going into The Game, yet this is a team that ranks ninth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (28.1 points per game), eighth in pass defense (235.5 yard per game), 10th in run defense (164.7) and ninth in total defense (400.2). Of course Ohio State has not lit the world on fire offensively, but one thing the Buckeyes seem to have rediscovered in recent games is how to run the football. Nevertheless this rivalry has demonstrated repeatedly over the years that records and stats don't guarantee the outcome. Ask John Cooper how many times the underdog Wolverines ruined his versions of The Game.

When I moved to Columbus in 1988, the Buckeyes were just wrapping up the Earle Bruce era. Coach Bruce compiled a 81-26-1 record in nine seasons at the helm of the Buckeyes, capping his career with an emotional win over a favored Michigan squad led by Bo Schembechler. Growing up in West Virginia, I was taught that Ohioans were "worthless nuts" and firing a coach with a 0.750 winning percentage seemed to confirm that theory. Then John Cooper arrived with his "it's just another game" mentality toward the annual rivalry. Despite a winning percentage above 0.700, Coach Cooper was fired due to a 2-10-1 record against the team up north.

I started veterinary school in 1994 and finished in 1998. During that stretch, the Buckeyes were a combined 41-10 and boasted stars like Eddie George, Terry Glenn, Orlando Pace, Antoine Winfield, Alonzo Spellman, Robert Smith, Dan Wilkinson, Joey Galloway, Rickey Dudley, Mike Vrabel, Korey Stringer, David Boston, and Shawn Springs. This is when I finally realized that Buckeyes football is a religion in Ohio and I became a devout convert.

Moving to the southeast has been tough for me when it comes to college sports. SEC football and ACC basketball dominate. Fortunately Ohio State is on t.v. nearly every weekend in the fall, but folks down here just don't get the OSU-MICH**** football rivalry. Most of my clients say, "Oh yeah, it's like Carolina vs. Duke." Ummm, no, not really. More than 100,000 fans have tickets to The Game in Columbus or Ann Arbor each fall, but many, many more simply come to town to tailgate and soak up the atmosphere outside the stadiums. Combined enrollment of Ohio State and MICH**** is over 90,000, compared to 35,000 for UNC and Duke. Two states (OH & MI) with a total population of 21,367,565 are literally at each others' throats on the third Saturday of November. Ohio State/MICH**** is unlike any other rivalry in college sports.

The other tough thing about living in the south is that SEC football has OWNED Big Ten football in the past 5 to 10 years. I'm sick and tired of hearing, "What happened to your Buckeyes in the National Championship?" Of course, there is rarely a head-to-head matchup outside of the bowl games and the bowls are played in warm weather venues. But there is no denying that the SEC plays a fast, aggressive style of football that often makes Big Ten teams look slow and antiquated. I wonder, however, what a November game in Columbus or Ann Arbor would do to the high-powered offenses of Florida, Alabama, and LSU. Credit to the Big 12 and the Pac 10... at least they've played the Buckeyes out of conference recently.

Judy and I are taking the boys to the Charlotte Buckeyes game watch at Strike City this weekend. We hope to see you there! I'm hopeful that the Bucks will come in focused and ready to take care of business. Coach Tressel never seems to overlook this game regardless of the teams' records or where they will be bowling. Let's hope Pryor and the Silver Bullets are listening.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A new commitment

So I have been inspired by my son Tommy, and a story I heard on NPR, to resume blogging. I hope to write at least a little something every day for the next 3 weeks. By then, it might become such a habit that it's second nature. At least that's what I hope.

I went to Tommy's school, Page Elementary, yesterday to have lunch with him. Tommy had asked me to come to his classroom to get him, but the school secretary insisted that I wait in the office. When Tommy's class came walking up the hall, I could tell by the look on his face that he was upset. It dawned on me that he thought I forgot about our lunch date. He thought I wasn't coming and he was going to have to eat with his class as usual. Suddenly, he noticed me and came running over. Instead of laughing and acting like a nutball (like he does when I come home from work), he just hugged me and got a little tearful. At that moment I realized just how special our relationship is and how much it means to him when I spend time with him.

The story on NPR was about an author who recommended to aspiring writers that they write something every day. This author believed that the written word is the most powerful contribution humans can make to history. Photos and verbal history are powerful too, but these media are far more likely to be misinterpreted or lost. When someone writes down their thoughts, they are preserved in their original form. It's a window into that person's soul that is far less likely to fade.

For my kids and my loved ones I'll write a little every day. I hardly think it will be profound literature or even worthy of print publication, but it's definitely my thoughts (for better or worse). Hopefully this will help Judy, Tommy, and Huston know just how much I love them.

I definitely need to say, "I love you" more often, be more patient, and spend more time with my loved ones. Tommy's reaction at lunch is the clearest message to me that my greatest gift is my time. In the words of John Lennon, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."