Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Month: October 2014

In which I discuss my dog’s health.…ish) update to talk about my dog. Yesterday was dominated by our trip to the vet. For one thing, the trip itself was anything but quick. I love our vet, but she’s all the way out in Bixby (a neighboring town, about a 25-minute drive from where we live). We’d made our appointment for 11 AM, and took pains to arrive a bit early, only to find the place shut and locked. Unfortunately, our phones only work with a wifi connection, so we could neither check to see if they’d left a message about rescheduling nor call someone to find out what in the what was going on.

But since we’d driven so far to get there, we weren’t about to just turn around and go back home, so we waited. About 20 minutes later, the vet’s SUV rolled up and the entire staff piled out like scrubs-wearing clowns, apologizing and explaining that they didn’t know anyone was coming and thought they had time to go get everyone’s flu shots.

We were tempted to get angry and be like, “…isn’t that why we make appointments?” But we opted to see it as an exercise in patience. And it’s a good thing we didn’t pitch a fit, because it turned out that the assistant did indeed call and leave us a message, which for some reason never showed up on our end, telling us that she was moving us to Wednesday because one of Pete’s meds wouldn’t be in stock until then.

Anyhoo. For those not in the know, Pete, our 6-year-old Chihuahua, started having seizures about three years ago. This year, they’ve gotten frequent enough for us to decide to medicate him. Trouble is, he also has elevated liver enzymes and a low thyroid, which the vet believes may be causing the seizures. Either way, since anti-seizure meds are hard on the liver anyway, we have to treat the liver and get it down to normal before we can start him on those.

“You guys go on and see the vet without me. I’m good right here.”

So in addition to a daily thyroid pill, he also recently did an antibiotic regimen for his liver, and we’ve had him on Denamarin (a combination of Sam-E and the active ingredient in milk thistle) for a couple of months now. He’s also taking Val-syrup, a B-vitamin complex with liver fractions.

The vet gave him a check-up and drew his blood (which turned into a somewhat traumatic ordeal for Pete when she had trouble finding a vein), and then we had to wait around some more for the test results. Which is actually kind of fun, because the inside of this place is basically a free-range domestic animal zoo, with dogs and cats everywhere, a baby (and somewhat bitey) Flemish giant rabbit, and even a pot-bellied pig to keep us entertained.

Finally, the results: no improvement. In fact, his liver levels were slightly higher than before, and his thyroid was about the same.

So she renewed his meds and wrote us a prescription for Royal Canin hepatic formula dog food and told us to switch him to that. Problem is, we have strong reservations about putting him on that stuff. Royal Canin/Hill’s Science Diet foods are kind of notoriously not nearly as good for dogs as they claim to be.

After we finally got back home, I spent the rest of the day being kind of obsessive about research. I didn’t find anything that made me feel better about feeding him that Royal Canin stuff. So now we’re considering switching him to a home-cooked diet, but we still need to do more research and figure out if that’s really something we can both afford and make time to do. In the mean time, we’ve switched him over to Blue Buffalo, which is much better quality than that Rachael Ray stuff we’ve been feeding him. The variety we picked out has liver-friendly ingredients. We’ll also start giving him only filtered water, and keep up our efforts to get him slimmed down (he’s lost a full pound since the beginning of the summer. He still has one more to go). We may just keep giving him this food until his next liver check, and then if there’s no improvement, we’ll switch to homemade.

Dear readers, do any of you have experience with this? Have you had to battle seizures and/or liver problems with your pets? Do any of you feed your dogs a homemade diet? I’d love to get your input in the comments.

PS – if you haven’t yet entered to win free copies of both my short story collection Midnight Snacks and the horror anthology Dead Ends, there’s still time to enter!

And in case you missed it from our last trip to the vet, here’s exactly what Pete thinks about keeping his appointments:

How the Satanic Panic Almost Ruined Halloween of our favorite things to watch this time of year is the “Hilloween” episode of King of the Hill. In this episode, traditional Halloween-related activities come under assault from hyper-conservative religious (and litigious) types who assert that Halloween is a satanic holiday. Soon, satanic panic pervades the whole town and Halloween is called off and trick-or-treating is banned. Children are instead sent to the “Hallelujah House,” where they’re allowed to wear costumes as long as they’re “Christian” in nature and are subjected to a spook house display of real-life “horrors” like teen pregnancy before being thoroughly evangelized.

Refusing to bow down to the hysteria, Hank Hill and friends protest by marching through town in their Halloween costumes, violating the trick-or-treat ban and the citywide curfew and in the process reminding everybody what Halloween’s really all about in our culture: candy and good, clean, innocent fun. Pretty soon, the whole town is marching with them, and they march right up to the Hallelujah House to collect their children and give them a proper Halloween.

Before I go any further, I want to point out that one of the things I appreciate about this episode is that it’s not presented as “those crazy Christians” vs. more level-headed non-believers. Anyone who watched this show with any regularity would know that Hank Hill and company are church-going Methodists with a love of God, Country and Texas. So it’s more like ONE overzealous Christian against a whole town of Christians who are usually more level-headed but nevertheless get caught up in the hysteria.

Anyone born after, say, 1985 might watch this episode and find it funny because it seems so absurd and over the top. But to anyone who grew up in the Bible Belt and lived through the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, it’s funny because it’s true.

Halloween took a weird, dark turn during the ‘80s. When I was a little kid during most of the ‘70s and the very early ‘80s, Halloween was one of the best times of the year. My neighborhood at the time was a true community, with a volunteer fire house that acted as a meeting place and a Ladies’ Auxiliary that organized neighborhood events. One of those events was an annual Halloween party at the firehouse. They set up a spook house for the older kids, and had costume contests and candy for the younger kids. Once it was over, everybody went trick-or-treating through the neighborhood. It was safe, and fun, and nobody gave a single thought to Satan.

Then one year my mom decided we weren’t putting up any Halloween decorations. Why? Because Satan. By this point, the county had installed a government-run fire department a few miles from our neighborhood, and the volunteer firehouse had been shut down and the Ladies’ Auxiliary disbanded, so the yearly parties were already a thing of the past. But trick-or-treating was still a big deal, so thankfully our mom backed down from forbidding us to dress up or trick-or-treat. She was one of the only mom’s who did, though. I had a hard time finding friends to go out with me on Halloween night that year because they were all being taken to “Hallelujah parties” at their churches.

This went on for a number of years. My mom continued to forbid us to put out Halloween decorations, although she still let us dress up and have our fun. I sat through a lot of sermons and lectures from youth group pastors about the evil origins of Halloween. At some point, nights out trick-or-treating started to end with a trip to the emergency room to get our candy x-rayed to make sure it didn’t contain needles or razor blades. Giving out baked goods or anything unwrapped or homemade became verboten because they might be laced with poison. We made sure to keep our black lab put up because Satanists apparently loved to sacrifice animals with black fur. Walking around the neighborhood to trick-or-treat became deemed unsafe because we were all targets for satanic kidnappers, so we started seeing station-wagons and minivans full of kids being shuttled from house to house.

Somehow, this…

… was supposed to be a gateway to this. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Through it all, I remained stubborn like Hank Hill. I refused to stop trick-or-treating or dressing up. For me, Halloween was about dress-up and make-believe and fun, safe scares and getting a sugar high. I failed to see how any of that glorified Satan. I still do.

I’m happy to see that, for the most part, all of the fear around Halloween has abated, and the holiday is a lot more like what it was when I was a kid. I still hear grumblings from time to time about Satan and Druids and pagan origins — but I also hear that stuff about modern Christmas and Easter traditions — and one local mega-church has a big-budget version of Junie Harper’s Hallelujah House that draws a big crowd every year.

But overall, it seems like everyone’s relaxed, and Halloween is more popular than ever. I drive around town and see churches advertising pumpkin patches and trunk-or-treat events. Walking through my neighborhood, I see plenty of houses and yards that have been spookified for the occasion. Even my mom has her grandkids and great-grandkids out for hot dogs and trick-or-treating every year.

Matt and I have our own Halloween traditions, which involve carving pumpkins, munching on popcorn and candy and watching John Carpenter movies in between handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. And you can bet our house is covered in Halloween decorations (although we still need to do something with the front porch).

What about you guys? Is Halloween one of your favorite holidays, or do you have reservations about it? Are you old enough to remember the Satanic Panic, and did it ruin your Halloweens, too? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

And if you haven’t seen it, try to spare 25 minutes or so to watch “Hilloween.” You’ll be glad you did.


On coping with fear. And zombies.

I was planning to write something this week about clowns and why they’re so dang disturbing; but the truth is, I’m too distracted by real-life horrors this week to be much into the fun kind.

Yesterday, Matt and I learned of the passing of a Facebook friend, who was killed in a motor scooter accident. Apart from making us both really sad, it’s also made me hyper-aware of my own mortality and how there are no guarantees that we’ll reach old age. This is coming at a time when I’ve already been managing a certain amount of anxiety about the state of the world, which seems to be getting scarier by the minute.

The thing about living in Oklahoma is that all of the scariest threats seem far away. We’ve always felt insulated by virtue of the fact that we’re well inland and we’re a state that not many people outside of Oklahoma care about or even give much thought to. Of course, we have tornadoes, and those are scary, but that type of weather doesn’t occur here all year long. Tulsa has its fair share of violent crime, but we take reasonable precautions to help ensure that we won’t become victims. But when we watch things like terrorism and deadly epidemics on the news, we feel horrible for the people who are living with it, but also thankful that it’s all so far away an not part of our daily lives.

Except that these things have started to encroach on our own back yard. Recently, down in Moore, only about two hours away, a woman was beheaded by a recent convert to Islam. And now Ebola is starting to make the rounds down in Dallas, only a six-hour drive from here. And a 30-minute flight, which seems much more significant in light of the fact that the second nurse who’s been diagnosed with Ebola took a flight from Cleveland back to Dallas the day before she began showing symptoms. Dallas is a hub through which at least half of the flights from the Tulsa International Airport pass through, so there’s a high probability that there were people bound for Tulsa on that plane with her.

I’m not trying to scare-monger. My point is that these are anxiety-inducing times we live in, especially if you have an over-active imagination, as most writers tend to have. It’s important to have a way to deal with that anxiety and channel it in a healthy direction instead of becoming paralyzed with fear. One way I deal with it is to turn my focus to make-believe horrors. It’s much more fun to think about how I’d survive a zombie uprising than to think about how to avoid catching scary contagious diseases that make you bleed out of your face-holes.

Zombie plan

(via Infocult)

Of course, as a person of faith, the primary way I deal is to give it all to God. After confessing my fears and meditating on the promises of scripture, my anxiety invariably gives way to peace. But it’s easy to forget to do that, and to get wrapped up in the moment and fixated on what I could be doing to mitigate perceived threats. It’s also easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in these moments. Ultimately, though, I trust that my life and the lives of those I love are in God’s hands, and that I don’t need to be afraid.

What about you, dear reader? What’s pushing your anxiety buttons lately? How do you manage anxiety and fear? Do you have a zombie plan? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

On juggling acts, letting balls drop, and the power of No

I’m slowly coming to accept that I can’t be all things. For instance, I can’t be a best-selling author (okay, I have a long, long way to go to get there, but the climb up that ladder takes a lot of work), run multiple businesses AND be a first-rate housekeeper. I also can’t be an aspiring best-seller, run my businesses, be a sort-of-okay housekeeper (at least the laundry gets folded and put away and the dishes get cleaned), AND accept every invitation to join or attend every local writer’s group, business networking group, or author’s event that comes my way.

"What's that? One more ball to keep in the air? Sure, no problem!" Photo courtesy of Victoria Pickering via Flickr.

“What’s that? One more ball to keep in the air? Sure, no problem!” Photo courtesy of Victoria Pickering via Flickr Creative Commons.

There is only so much time in the day, and you have to pick your battles.

The Bible talks about two sisters named Mary and Martha (if you haven’t heard of them, they had a famous brother named Lazarus. You know, the guy Jesus resurrected after four days in the grave). Martha, the older sister, is a type A personality, very responsible and always trying to take care of everybody. Mary, the younger sister, is more laid back and makes time for the things she knows are truly important.

Chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke tells us about a time when the sisters were hosting Jesus and (presumably) his disciples. As Jesus was preaching to those who had come to see him, Martha was busy in the kitchen, bustling around to make sure there was enough food and refreshments for all the guests. I can imagine that Martha’s last name was actually Stewart and that she was going to a lot of trouble to make sure everything was impressive and perfect.

Meanwhile, Mary was in the living room, camped out at the Lord’s feet and listening to his teachings.

When Martha saw this, she became full of anger and resentment. She felt overworked and overwhelmed and couldn’t believe Mary wasn’t getting off of her butt to help out.

As soon as she had an opportunity, Martha approached Jesus to voice her complaints. She revealed that her frustration wasn’t only directed at her sister, but also at the Lord himself. She pointed out that he saw how hard she was working to make all of the guests comfortable, and he never even said a word to Mary to suggest that maybe she should get up and go help.

Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t appreciate everything Martha was doing, but the fact is, no one asked her to go to so much trouble. Jesus knew that the time of his earthly ministry was running short, and Mary realized that hearing his teaching while she had the chance was way more important than serving an elaborate meal when a tray of cheese and crackers would’ve sufficed.

This reminds me of the time I put on a baby shower for one of my sisters. I went all out for that shower. Don’t get me wrong — I had fun doing it, and I don’t have any resentment about all the work I put into it. But I realize that I created a lot of extra work, not only for myself but also for those who’d volunteered to help out. I wasn’t satisfied with store-bought cake or cupcakes, or even using a mix — I had to make everything from scratch. I opted for an elaborate non-alcoholic Sangria recipe instead of a can of Fruit Punch. I even made most of the decorations myself. Of course, the shower was a big hit and everyone was duly impressed, but really, everyone would have been just as satisfied if I’d taken several shortcuts — they probably wouldn’t have even known the difference — and I and my helpers would’ve been a lot less stressed by the time my sister and the guests arrived.

I used to be more of a Mary. When I was younger, I was all about taking shortcuts, and it wasn’t that difficult for me to make time for the things that were truly important to me. But somewhere along the line I morphed into a Martha, always staying busy, creating unneeded work for myself as I tried to impress people with what a hard worker I am, always being available, trying to prove my reliability and strong work ethic.

Meanwhile, I was neglecting relationships and my own health, as well as my writing and the furtherance of my own dreams.

I’ve been trying lately to go back to being more like Mary. It’s not easy. It involves getting focused on what’s truly needed and letting a lot of things fall by the wayside. It also involves saying no a lot, which is always difficult. What if the person asking gets offended? What if they don’t understand? Should I explain all the reasons why this request will place undue hardship on my life? What if they get angry and don’t like me anymore?

For the record, I’ve learned that Oprah was right: “No” is a complete sentence (I’m not often in the habit of quoting Oprah, but she had a few gems). There’s no need to explain unless asked, and even then, I find that “It’s just a really bad time” is usually explanation enough. That covers a multitude of reasons, from financial difficulty to an overbooked schedule to needing time to rest to simply not wanting to do it.

So what about you? Are you more of a Mary or a Martha? How do you deal with being stretched too thin and saying no? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.