Where’s Dr. Mary?

Rumors of my disappearance are greatly exaggerated.

Major life changes should not be made in the first year after the loss of a spouse. In April, I found out I had been accepted to law school starting in July. I deferred due to my husband’s illness and death. I plan to attend next summer. I will graduate at 60. Cool. Conventional wisdom says I’m nuts-gone around the bend with only one oar in the water.

My life transition continued when I sent our beloved horses away to be cared for by my sister for the duration of my studies. Given the weather we’ve had recently, Arizona beats their standing in mud, snow and cold here. I spent two weeks in Tucson riding in the sun, consulting with their new vet, seeing friends and family, and setting up funds to support my equine snowbirds. Going with our hospital system to accept the Baldrige Award in DC was a great distraction as well.

People have stopped calling, sending cards and flowers, making food or inviting me to share a meal or go for a hike. Time’s up I guess, but grieving is a full time job. You make plans, but can’t do them at the last minute because you fall apart. My golf buddy came over one afternoon. I was weeping. She asked what had set me off. Waking up.

I can’t get over that people think I’ve left town. A friend called recently to say she’d been having coffee with her niece, a former student, talking about me. Someone overheard the conversation and told her I’d moved to Texas.

So often people ask me when I’ll write something for the newspaper again. My last piece was about putting my dog to sleep. It was printed the day after Earl died. The Wonder Husky went ahead to greet him. Writing is a good opportunity to say I’m still around.

Winter is toughest on those who grieve. I detest winter holidays. Calendar dates dictating you should be merry and social don’t work for me. Please be kind and remember your grieving friends. Don’t wait for them to call you if they need anything. They won’t. They can’t.

I plan on returning to Fort Fun where I’ve lived forty years. It just won’t be to the historic home we rented from Earl’s mother. I’ll find a horse property that is next to a natural area instead of a drunken student neighborhood. I’m still a veterinarian (newly licensed in Texas,) the first one ever admitted to my law school. I’ll have a newly minted JD, and who knows, I might even become a brand inspector just for fun.

The Wonder Husky crosses the line

Last night, I took the Wonder Husky upstairs to visit her Dad. Earl was recovering from some needle biopsies and wasn’t feeling too hot.

Huskies shed year round, so the two we’ve had in our 27-year marriage have not been allowed past the kitchen. They get the family room and the kitchen. They were trained to not go past the kitchen floor onto the dining room carpet. It’s a guilty dog that goes past the border. They also aren’t allowed on the furniture.

Keli was better at this, and we removed the baby gate when she was still a pup. Tipper at 12 still needs the physical boundary. She sneaks into the living room to leave a doglog if we are not watchful. When the carpet was new two years ago, she christened it with her own champaign.

Tip looked guilty as I took her across the boundary yesterday. It was tough for her to get up the stairs. She is getting arthritic which is sad, because the ever-present, smiling Husky “let’s go!” attitude is still there. Her spirit is willing, but the body is reluctant.

When she came back downstairs, I recalled her most ridiculous sneaky dog antic. Years ago, I felt that Tipper was crawling onto the couch in the family room for a nap when we weren’t home. I would come home from school and feel the couch, which was warm to the touch.

One day I decided to test my theory. When I got home from teaching school, I crept through the bushes and sneaked quietly up to the family room window. Sure enough, there on the couch, Tip was snoozing with the cats. I knocked softly on the window getting her attention, waving at her as if to say, “Busted!”

In the time it took me to unlock the doors to get in the house, not only was Tipper in her crate, but she was faking sleep and “woke up” to greet me. I had to hand it to her, that was one smooth trick.


Today was a snow day for Fort Fun. We were warned, and for once, the weather reports were correct.

I looked out the window at 5 am, and it was lightly snowing. The blizzard-defining winds came later. The weather was a perfect excuse to stay inside, read, watch DVDs and get some household chores done.

While doing the laundry, we also changed the sheets on the bed. Out of the west window, we could see Hannah and Scoot frolicking in the corral. Scoot was frolicking, I guess, Hannah is in season. I object, in the world of humans, when guys are called studs, but women are called sluts. I gotta admit that when she is in heat, Hannah is indeed a slut. Mares have a very definite expression of their estrus cycle. They flag their tails at what a vet school professor called ‘boy horses.’ They dribble urine, ‘wink’ their genitalia and nuzzle and nip at boy horses. Now Scoot is indeed a boy horse, but he was snipped at the age of two. He is always attracted to a pretty mare, but he can’t do anything about it. Poor boy. My Black Non-Stallion. Studly Can’t Do Nothin’. It’s also a crap shoot riding a mare in heat. Hannah usually is glad to get out and blow off a little steam with a nice romp in the mountains. But not today in zero visibility.

Earl and I always make the bed slowly, because invariably we have hysterical feline help in the form of Matthew, Frank and Cowboy Joe. This morning, we rolled Frank up in the sheet he was on. He escaped. Matthew, the Top Cat, got under the sheets. He loudly protested when Earl patted him from the outside. “Rooowwwww.” Frank saw an opportunity to torment his tormentor. He pounced on Matthew, still underneath the sheets. Had Matt been above and Frank tried this, Frank would have gotten a kitty beating from the orange boy.

The Wonder Husky was in Siberian Heaven. She stayed outside all day, and came in late in the afternoon. By then, the winds had died down, but the snow was still falling steadily. At least she didn’t escape into the blizzard as she did in 2006. Find that post and read about my canine escapee.

A snow day can give one respite from the rushed world of everyday living. It is an excuse to stay close and enjoy being home. We remind our pets that they are here solely for our amusement. They never fail to fulfill their job descriptions.

A pig story for flu season-truth IS stranger than fiction

After mentioning Brad Pigg, the pot-bellied pig owned by the nice lady who rehabbed Scooter after his surgery last year, I got to thinking about two true pig stories I always told my students during fetal pig week at school. Since it’s flu season, perhaps this one will do for now. It is the story of a girl whose mother was eaten by pigs. How about that for exciting junior high kids?

A vet student in the class ahead of mine told the story to me. Her friend lived on a farm in Nebraska. The girl went off to school leaving Mom home with the flu. When you care for livestock, you can’t just have them skip a meal while you sip orange juice and chicken soup, now can you? Anyway, Mom went out to feed the pigs, fainted and fell into the pigpen. Pigs are omnivorous eaters, so they ate her. I suppose the girl came home and looked for her mom. “Mom?” “Mom?” “MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!” True story. Pigs, especially sows, can be vicious.

Expect the unexpected

Frank had a reprieve yesterday. He was scheduled for a bath with C.J. I put the brothers in the cat room at ten in the morning for Frank’s scheduled bath. One o’clock came and went.

I called C.J. She said two obnoxious dogs that took up her time had gotten her schedule off the tracks. She also said she was dealing with possibly putting her horse down today or tomorrow.

We agreed that she could come at 5 or after, so she could get caught up and Earl and I could go to the health club. We got home in plenty of time to wait for C.J. She never did show. At 6, I called her to tell her it would be best to reschedule, and that she should care for her horse. Frank will get his bath eventually. So what if he spent all day locked in a room? He had heat, water, a stereo, and the company of his brother. Not such a bad life.

Sometimes things we don’t expect sidetrack us. Earl came downstairs this morning and said that his recent skin cancer site had popped open, two days after suture removal. He was on the way to the dermatologist. He didn’t anticipate having another lesion removed two days before we went to Florida so he could present his research at a veterinary sports medicine conference. The surgery line was from his eyelid all the way down his cheek. He had a tremendous shiner. In a dark conference room, it was not noticeable. The sutures were removed when we came back, and next he had the surgery on the other tumor, the site of which opened up this morning.

Life hits us in many ways. You never know what’s going to happen. I just try to be pleasant. Sometimes I am not successful, but I work it. 

Merry Christmas!

Yuletide cheer from frozen Chicagoland. Gail and I got out of the driveway yesterday and had a wonderful Italian dinner last night with her mom, who is my first cousin, cousin Barbara and her husband, Rod. Yummy dinner.

Before dinner, Gail and I went to the Fannie May store. No, not the mortgage place, the chocolate store. Fannie May is my absolute addiction in life. No one makes better candy. Credit card is now limp from my treasured purchases.

At least while here, I have my cousin-dog, Gracie to pet. Gracie is a senior dog as Tipper is. Mostly Rottweiler plus something else. Gracie misses her family, my cousin Michael and his crew, who went to England for the holidays. Gracie’s Auntie Gail spoils her rotten, and I think Gracie enjoys being pampered.

I miss my crew, and Earl, who is eating at a friend’s house. This is so much better than last year, when I was staying at my friend Jean’s house, going back and forth to Porter Adventist Hospital, where Jean was dying of cancer. I left for home on the 26th, because I had to have a crown put in, and Earl had a doctor’s appointment. Jean passed away early in the morning of the 28th.

I miss my buddy. It sounds trite, but after what she went through, I know she is in a better place. More later.

Blessings to you and yours.

A nice place to visit but……

Happy holidays from Chicagoland!

I woke up to a mini-blizzard today, just enough to remind me why I don’t live here any more. I left for college at 17 and basically never returned.

Earl is fortunate to have stayed home to tend the animals and prepare for his presentation. For many years as a race track veterinarian, Earl studied race track surfacecomposition and their relationships to injuries of greyhounds and horses. He worked for the State of Colorado as the animal welfare veterinarinan. His job was to see that the racing animals were properly cared for. Occasionally, there were animal rights groups that picketed the tracks, but having Earl as their target was dead wrong. He was the guy that maintained a standard of care for the animals. If there has to be racing, a vet like Earl is needed to ensure proper treatment of animals.

One time, he told me he was going on a raid. There was a group of people holding illegal horse racing on a ranch. I went ballistic! Investigators with guns going onto private property? Busting up illegal gambling? No way. He assured me that he would stay in the car, and when everyone was captured or disbursed, he would check the animals. He had quite a story to tell when he got home.

Earl retired from the State of Colorado over a year ago, but is still working on his study. At least we get a trip to Florida for the presentation.

Da Bears beat the Packers in overtime here in Chi-town last night. I guess being from the area has its benefits. I guess if the Cubs can’t win, at least Da Bears can! There was a piece in the Tribune of drafting “Da Coach,”  Mike Ditka, to be the next governor. Works for me. I’m back in the land of twisted politics, and how I enjoy reading about it in a real newspaper.

Got the blues? Walk a dog.

The cold continues here in the West. The sun came out, so I harnessed up the Wonder Husky and we hit the road. Sunshine here tends to negate low temperatures.

Walking a dog is a super way to enjoy the sunshine even when bundled up like an Eskimo. Tipper and I toured the neighborhood delightfully deserted due to the exodus of college students for semester break. No worries right now about the dog pack up the street.

After Tipper went back in her dog pen, I spent some time with Hannah and Scooter in the corral. I brushed the Baby, who loved a good rub in her tickle spot. She kisses me by touching my hand with her tongue.

Scoot got his long, velvet coat cleaned as well. His skin biopsy spots are healing, and his hair is growing in. No news about the cause of the patches yet, but it seems to be a self-limiting condition as no new lesions have formed.

There is nothing like being out in the sunlight doing something you enjoy to ward off the blues. It was great playing with the horses.

I’m downloading a 99-cent movie rental to put on my iPod right now. It’s pretty cool to watch a movie that way, but it takes three hours to download. I’m off to Chicago tomorrow to hang out with my cousin, Gail. My golf buddy, Diane, called me and said she and her husband drove through a blizzard to get to her mom’s house in the ‘burbs. Oh well, I guess I will be reminded why I no longer live there.

Be sure to get out into the sun whenever you can this winter. It’s a great way to elevate your mood.


The Midlife Crisis Queen publishes her first book!

Laura Lee Carter’s brand new book, The Midlife Crisis Queen’s MIDLIFE MAGIC: Becoming the person you are inside! has been published. Congratulations, Laura Lee!

I started reading this book while contemplating going outside in six-degree weather and snow. I think I’ll read the book!

Laura’s book is a positive outlook on middle age, and how changes in our lives are not as horrible as we think they are, but they can be the impetus for a better life.

As one who has had many life changes, I can tell you this book talks directly to the reader. The book has quotations interspersed in the text. I particularly like J.K. Rowling’s quote: “Rock bottom became the solid foundation I built my future success upon.” Good words from a woman who was a single mom on assistance when she sat at a café to write the first Harry Potter book. Rowling has enjoyed much fame and success, and is richer than the Queen.

Best wishes to my friend Laura Lee, the Midlife Crisis Queen