Tag Archives: books

NOT Mr. Herriot!!

(If you’re not an animal person, bail out here.)

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In the 70s PBS had that show All Creatures Great & Small and I loved it. English countryside, small village life, vets in tweed. I went on to read many of the books placing those beloved actors neatly into their roles all through the 90s. I had lots of connections to animals then too, the kids were small and I did a jaunt as a humane educator. We’re a little further down the timeline and the kids are grown. I still have a small menagerie. A dopey Golden retriever named Luke (named because he was intended to be a healer), and two intense calico sisters, Maggie and Millie.

Moving to Belgium I suffered under a lot of delusions about what life here was going to be like. We are now at the six-month point. Many of the rough patches have been smoothed over, expectations lowered to ground level. On Saturday, it was time to have the two cats looked at and get their shots taken care of.

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Belgium has a very different standard of veterinary care than what is typical in the US. Vets come to the house to provide basic care. There is the option of taking your pet to the vet at his/her practice at his/her home office during surgery hours (open once or twice a week). Think 1950s. Think All Creatures Great & Small.

Believing the hardest part of this visit would be locating and catching Maggie and Millie, my husband and I restrained the two patients in an inescapable, internationally-certified flight container a full half hour before our Belgian Mr. Herriot’s arrival. And waited. Maggie was very good in the cage, but her nervous sister was stressed. Two cat fights and twenty minutes late, the vet arrived. Pleasantries exchanged, we got down to business. I reached in for Millie and was soon dripping blood as the cat flew up my chest, down my back, and behind the sofa. Millie is four and a high-strung cat, but I’ve taken her to the vet at least twice a year and never had that happen. Both cats received a feline leukemia shot and (I found out later) a rabies shot. Neither got the physical exam they should have. Granted, conditions were not good, but the vet did nothing to slow the process down or get to know the cats. Some pet owners may be aware that in the US we are moving away from yearly rabies shots because vets have seen concerning instances of cancer at injection sites hence the three-year rabies shot which my cats have. Belgium is behind the times and still requires annual rabies. The vet did not ask me if I wanted this, the cats’ three-year inoculation was still active, he just did it. So, I’m not happy with the experience with the cats for multiple reasons.

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Millie

Now, with regard to the dog. Luke has an on-going medical mystery since we’ve arrived in Belgium. It started one day when I watched him get down from a chair. It looked very much like a collapse incident I had seen with a previous Golden Retriever we had. In that instance, the dog had a vessel cancer and bled from the heart. Luke hit the ground, couldn’t get his legs under him, and fell to the floor. Because of the history with the other dog, I went and made him stay down. After a few minutes, he got up and was fine.

I talked myself out of it being anything more than maybe his legs were asleep and he hit the floor funny. Until. That weekend, a pet sitter observed an incident where Luke couldn’t get off the floor coupled with shaking, and general panic. The pet sitter was so concerned she contacted us in Amsterdam and we came home. In the US, I would have had the option of going to a 24- hour emergency veterinary facility (multiple ones in the Colorado Springs). Here- not so much. There is a mobile veterinary service that can come to your house and do x-rays, trauma surgery, etc. but my situation was going to require multiple specialties so it didn’t seem like a good option. An internet search revealed, a veterinary teaching hospital in Ghent (yay! – the only one on the country, maybe). Complying with their requirements, he had a full workup to the extent of their abilities and they found…nothing. Which could be good or which could require additional heart monitoring or it could always be a rare form of epilepsy or neurological problem. We were sent home with no answers except that making a video the next time it happens would be great. Anyway, we crossed our fingers hoping it was nothing serious and we’d never see Ghent University again. A couple of months passed and another pet sitter reported another incident. Now, I’m wondering if what we might be seeing isn’t a rear leg problem. Luke had a knee surgery about 18 months ago which healed fine. He has no lameness issue, but there are these incidents of him getting up or getting down on hard surfaces. Is it something quirky connected to the surgery?

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I need an orthopedic surgeon to take a look. Back to our Belgian Mr. Herriot. I ask him to recommend a specialist. He doesn’t know any, but he knows a guy who can do an x-ray. WTF??? (Shouldn’t any vet be able to do an x-ray? Not so fast, this is Belgium. I must lower my standards.) I press on thinking an internet search might be a better option than this vet. Since coming to Belgium getting Luke on a good grade dog food he will eat has been a challenge and he’s gained some weight. Luke is pudgy. I ask the vet for options. He says decrease the dog food 20% from what the package says. We have already done this to which he responds, “ah, then there is no solution.” I am underwhelmed by his problem- solving skills. Given Luke is seven and from a breed known for hypothyroidism, I expected him to offer a blood test if dietary changes weren’t working. Silly, silly me.

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Vet visit concluded. 100 Euro cash given (almost all interactions in Belgium are cash, including restaurants, hair appointments, etc.), no receipt, and the vet leaves. No jaunty smile, no tweedy jackets, no good- humored advice. I miss you Mr. Herriot, in more ways than one.

A later internet search reveals that there really aren’t any veterinary specialists in the country. It is illegal for vets to use any distinguishing titles or designations that might presumably mislead the public. I take this to mean that the profession has not reached a level where governing bodies have been established to self-police themselves. In the US, we have the American Veterinary Medical Association but here there is nothing comparable that I can find. At the EU level, there is a board of surgeons and there are three vets in Belgium who are listed as doing orthopedic work.

Be grateful for the veterinary care you can easily access if you are in the US (or the UK- it looks similar). Don’t take it for granted. I did. I thought all of Europe would have comparable service. It does not. Hug your pet today knowing you can get an array of pet specialists to help keep your special family member healthy! Heck, hug your vet too!

 

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The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

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This is a special book about healing and what it means to heal. At its core are two sisters who’ve had a falling out. The separation is painful for both of them. With the backdrop of a Kentucky flower farm, Rose is raising a severely disabled child alone. Ten-year-old Antoinette appears to have a form of autism that requires constant care but along with this disability comes a gift. Antoinette can connect to the vibrations of life and heal. A dead bird is raised. Flowers bloom before their time. Neighbors heal. When Rose becomes ill herself, she reaches out to her sister to come and help with Antoinette and the farm. But Lily has her own secrets and going back means she’ll have to confront them. Why does one little girl frighten her so much?

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I enjoyed the backdrop of the book reading it in a time when Belgium was dark, rainy, and in its pre-spring gray. The promise of a new cycle of life and healing is powerful. Can old relationships be healed? What does healing look like? What sacrifices will love allow? The descriptions of Antoinette’s abilities were intriguing as were the insights into the world of autism. Although I didn’t like the ending because the author took the easy way out, I’m sure many will find comfort in it.

 

 

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Well…life in Belgium

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I keep pushing this blog post off into the future hoping that with the passage of time some kind of perspective would give way to a new way of seeing things. I didn’t want to project a bunch of negativity, especially if what is happening is short-lived. It’s been two months now so obviously my feelings and impressions aren’t fleeting. Time for a check in blog and if you were hoping for a sunny, happy go lucky piece- abandon hope here. Once you read this, I won’t be anyone’s envy and you’ll all be glad you have not forsaken your Lazyboy recliner positioned comfortably before your hundreds of TV channels ALL IN ENGLISH!!!! Not that everything is TV. But how many of you can shrug off not having a phone or internet access for a month? My TV options are limited to BBC, CNN Europe, and a few channels that run old American movies. Nothing begins on the hour. We have no idea why. My husband jokes that it’s tied to the bus schedule (and it may be).

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I live in a French quarter on the east side of Brussels that is centered around a Catholic Church built in the 1930s. There’s a quaint town circle that holds a market every Wednesday morning. No joke- that is where I’m supposed to do my grocery shopping if I were living as a Belgian. I think this is a hold over from a bygone era because some of the young families sure seem eager to make use of the handful of VERY NEW supermarkets coming in. I do see a lot of old people at the village markets, but dual income families don’t have time to shop mid-day in the middle of the week. One of the major problems we have here is that stores are not open a lot. Many things close by six or seven on the weekdays and virtually nothing is open on Sunday. Remember the Blue laws (if you’re old enough to remember back to the 70s)? If you’re an American who hasn’t lived like this in forty years, it’s quite an adjustment. From what I understand, Germany and the Netherlands are not like this.

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The house we’re in dates from the 1950s. It has many odd features that have been eye opening. Every room has a door, every door has a key- each unique to the door. The basement has three interior keys and a locking mechanism designed by a former security official for the state of Belgium (absolute truth!). The windows have a tilting mechanism that allows “air from the garden.” Since they have no screens, we can’t even try them because the two cats would be out in an instant.There are heavy privacy shades that roll down over the exterior of the front and back windows. These are like those inner city store security systems you see in sketchy neighborhoods. Since I couldn’t bring my weight machine, these provide my upper arms with a daily work out routine. The staircases in the house are narrow, uncarpeted, and treacherous. Probably the most unique feature (?) to the whole house is the WC (water closet) on the main level. Upon entering the house, to the right (after climbing two stairs) is a small closet- like cubicle that houses a toilet. It is the only bathroom on the main living level and it means that all your visitors get to wash their hands in the kitchen sink. Now this would be okay if this house was a 1600s Dutch canal house before modern sanitation, but really?  The house was built in 1951!!!!

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Anyway, this blog has gone on and could go on rambling over eight weeks of hard earned experience. But I’d better give you all a break.

Here are some  of the things I’d give my eye teeth for (after weeks of searching here’s what we still can’t find):

breakfast sausage (for my husband, any kind)

chicken gravy (any form)

a plastic pitcher (to make iced tea)

ice cube trays

baby oil- gel

81″ length, sheer curtains

a shower curtain

raw hide chews (for the dog, no way am I giving him pig’s ears!!)

loose leaf paper

(all found at your local Walmart)

Future Blog Topics:

Laundry: The Persistent Nightmare

And You Thought You Knew Meat (why something labeled hamburger contains only chicken)

Who is Madam PeePee & Why Do I have to Pay Her?

How to Fry 2 Computers in 8 Weeks: (hey-the IT guy is here and speaks only French)

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The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose

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I wanted to read this book immediately after I read the premise.

Jac L’Etoile is a successful author and TV personality who hosts a show about myths. She comes from a long line of famous French perfumers, but she’s walked away from the business. It’s not until the business is in trouble and her brother goes missing in Paris that she returns to confront her past. Her mother’s suicide, a father suffering dementia, and troubling visions all connected with scent threaten to derail Jac from finding her brother.

Jac learns her brother has resurrected a family legend tied to an ancestor who discovered a scent created in Cleopatra’s time that could induce memories of past lives. Of course, Jac is highly skeptical of the idea, but as her own visions intensify bringing her closer to her dead mother, images of ancient Egypt and the French Revolution begin to emerge all calling her sanity into question. Evidence comes light that forces Jac to consider whether her brother may have been killed for Cleopatra’s secret scent. An esoteric society along with the Chinese government all have designs on the powerful perfume her brother was protecting. Interestingly, the brother’s only wish is to get the scent into the hands of the Dalai Lama who can use the memory tool as possible evidence for reincarnation.

I found the idea of scent as a possible device for unlocking past life memory original and irresistible. The visions/past life memory segments of the book were well done. The book reads like a thriller and that’s a plus for me. There is a romantic element woven in that’s kind of cliché but necessary for Jac to resolve her karmic past. I appreciate the author’s research into scent and the history of the perfume industry and did not find it distracted from the plot. I love that kind of detail! Unfortunately, two little details irked me. The Dalai Lama wears burgundy robes not saffron (saffron is worn by Southeast Asian Buddhists). There is also a lot made out of the Dalai Lama being inaccessible and unreachable by Jac’s brother which is not true. His Holiness travels and has a full calendar. He meets groups wherever he goes and he holds meetings in Dharamsala. I know people who have met the Dalai Lama so he is far from unreachable.

Overall, this is an interesting book that moves fast and keeps the reader’s attention while introducing a little known industry. While I didn’t realize it at the time, this book is part of a series on reincarnation by MJ Rose. Some of the reviews for this book indicate she’s hit her stride with this one.

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Arrival 6 Days!

Brussels.

(photo: Paul IJendoorn)

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FINAL DAY: Get Your FREE Book

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Download from Amazon:  https://goo.gl/O6Bvxq

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FREE: Into the Land of Snows

This is the only time I will be doing this promotion. Get your FREE Kindle copy from Amazon (now through Dec. 10th). Snuggle up by the fire and join Blake as he treks in the Himalayas. Happy holidays to everyone! (We have a house in Brussels and we’re moving in Jan. I’ll join you from Belgium in the new year.)

GRAB YOUR FREE COPY HERE:   https://goo.gl/O6Bvxq

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NOW IN PRINT! Elephants Never Forgotten

 

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Just in time for the holidays.

Order through Amazon: goo.gl/EKcVDB

What’s it about?      Jurassic Park meets Micro😉

A hundred years in the future, twelve-year-old Nigella receives a shipment from her deceased grandfather. Her inheritance is a herd of micro-elephants. While a lot of her friends have micro-pets, Nigella is at a loss on how to care for them. Why are her micro-pets so different from everyone else’s? What was her grandfather up to? With the help of her best friend, Kepler, the girls set off on an adventure to discover the truth.

Also available as an ebook.

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Interview on Muse & Ink

The fabulous Heather Rivera and I talk about the writing process.

http://us13.campaign-archive2.com/?u=849323df82516bcc67f6069e8&id=44dcf217ee

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The Science of Reincarnation

 

Physics of the Soul: The Quantum Book of Living, Dying, Reincarnation, and Immortality by Amit Goswami, PhD

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So judging from the title you know this is going to be a tough book. Intriguing- yes, but not a walk in the park. Amit Goswami is a theoretical quantum physicist and in the book he attempts to reconcile the science and metaphysics of reincarnation and immortality. Essentially he outlines a science for reincarnation and some kinds of paranormal phenomena. The structure of the book follows the ponderings of a scientist as he develops his theory. Although this is personal, I often lost track of the details as he set forth on one track only to reverse himself later. As a reader (without a PhD in physics), I’d rather have the bare bones of the theory without the intricacies of why he went one direction or another. No one should attempt this book as a first foray into the quantum world, but for those with familiarity with nonlocality and the double slit experiment, go for it. This adventure will include proving that The Tibetan Book of the Dead is correct. There is no way I can cover the entire book, but I’m going to outline some of our quantum scientist’s ideas.

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Photo:Philipp Roeli

The underlying paradigm shift that is required for us to understand this new science of reincarnation involves dropping the notion that matter creates consciousness. That is an outdated, old Newtonian idea. Consciousness is the basis of everything. It is consciousness that creates matter. The brain does not make us conscious. The brain is a receiver for consciousness. For most of you reading this blog, you long ago accepted that idea (so what else is new, you’re asking. Well, keep reading).

 

Goswami borrows from Indian medicine the idea that we have five bodies of consciousness. The first one (and the only one for materialists) is the physical body. Then comes the vital body made of vital energy followed by the mental body. The fourth body is the supramental intellect and the fifth is unlimited bliss (Brahma). Eastern traditions rely on the idea of chi or prana. Goswami thinks that acupuncture and chakra work, similarly and yet using different energy points or centers can both be effective because they are quantum in nature. They exist in possibility until the quantum wave collapses. (A fascinating idea that will drive a materialist scientist mad trying to figure out which modality is correct.) It is in the interaction of these subtle bodies outlined above which allows for the soul to survive and reincarnate.

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At death, the physical body dies along with classical memory. However, quantum memory (acquired through repetition and stored in the vital and mental bodies) and the subtle bodies continue to exist. According to Goswami, souls cannot grow spiritually once they shed the physical body because they lack subject/object awareness. Although this may upset some notions of heaven, it does give weight to the idea that a physical body has a purpose and that purpose is spiritual growth.

In this theory, people who have had near-death-experiences or out-of-body experiences have shifted their center of identity to the vital/mental bodies which could be a Samadhi experience (without ego) but haven’t actually died.

Drawing on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, after physical death we have opportunities to transcend (and return to the Quantum Monad), but most of us will miss those chances and return. In the in-between states, we have the ability to correlate and communicate with the child you will be. In Goswami’s theory, karma is not reward or punishment but rather contexts or themes we develop in one life which continue. Failure to learn the theme results in more opportunities in later lives to obtain that knowledge. Learning creatively with closure “burns” karma. Other people (quantum monads) can become entangled with us as either supporters or enemies to help us learn our themes. At the end of each life, we have the opportunity to transcend again.

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Art: by Kwakin1

There is a whole section devoted to ways to live spiritually. Goswami believes that our inner and outer expressions of creativity are key to developing a unique spiritual path. The book culminates with further musings on the evolution of the supermind, UFOs, and alien intelligences. Overall, this is a fascinating book! Find someone to talk to as you’re reading it. It provides great opportunity for discussion.

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