Cats in the News

So, it has been a week of cats in the news. First, my cousin from New Jersey created a sensation on Monday Night Football when he scored a touchdown, and then ran into the stands like a Green Bay Packer to the cheers and adulation of the fans in attendance. The event was broadcast in all its exciting detail by the announcers who cried out “TOUCHDOWN” as he crossed the goal line. Then later in the week an article appeared in the Washington Post and across the country about Quilty, the cat who would not be contained. Quilty is the cousin of the other 3 cats who live here, all part of the Tabby Nation. Quilty lives in a no-kill, no-cage shelter in Houston, Texas, and has mastered the art of opening doors. Every morning the volunteers would arrive to see cats all over the place, with the door to their room standing wide open. A little sleuthing revealed Quilty as the culprit.  In truth, there is nothing unusual about this, as all of these types of shelters have cats who figure out how to open doors that have those pull-down handles. The problem is solved when they change the handle out to one that requires a grip and turn of the handle. What made the story is that Quilty became a bit of an internet celebrity. He even made it onto the NPR quiz show “Wait, Wait!” this morning. There is nothing better than a smart cat.

Now, for news about the Big Cat. Mike has been given a date to go into the hospital for his bone marrow transplant. He will be admitted on December 24, receive his heavy dose of chemo, and get the transplant on December 26. Nothing of importance will happen in between those dates. Just kidding. Between now and then he has a lot of testing and meetings with the transplant team. I am happy to report that he is tolerating the 10 mg dose of Revlimid well, and that his chemo Thursday was uneventful except for the 1 hour and 45 minute drive home from Emory.  He usually has chemo in the morning, but they scheduled him this time in the afternoon, so we started home in the middle of the afternoon rush hour, which by the way, lasts longer than an hour. I may not have told you this before, but I always go with Mike when he gets his chemo. Nobody there seems to mind. I also plan on going to the hospital and stay with him during his time there. I plan on sending out frequent reports on the progress of his adventure into the medical wonder-world. We are all a little nervous, but not too bad, really. We have everything going for us: Mike’s health is otherwise excellent, we are being treated at the best clinical cancer center in the Southeast, and we have a ton of prayer energy underway. For those of you who are reading this and sending up your prayers, don’t forget to pray for Judy and Michelle, too. They need the love as much as Mike does. We have been reading the Prayer of St. Francis and meditating on a line each day. The thought for today is “Where there is sadness, joy.” We match this line with “enthusiasm” as our daily positive attribute to carry forward. It seems to help.

So, we hope you all are positive about your lives and enthusiastic today. We know many of you have struggles of your own, as do your loved ones. May all be comforted. That is all the news today from Happy Meadows, but you will hear from me again very soon. Bye, bye!

It’s All in the Pronouns

So, the time change is taking some getting used to. Not for me, of course. Nothing looks that different, except for Mike going to bed at 8:30 and getting up at 5. And yawning all day. But, he will adjust. We had the local news on Saturday and heard the remarkable statement that starting Sunday there would be 1 less hour of daylight….. and this from a professional meteorologist. I wonder what Crackerjack box he got his degree from.

Saturday Mike sat in front of the TV and watched an entire football game. This rarely happens. It was the annual match-up between the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators. I guess it was a good game, and it came out the way it was supposed to, judging by Mike’s smug, satisfied expression at the game’s conclusion. Go Dogs!

I’m not sure how to put this, but Mike is in a state about pronouns. It seems that certain people have established as normative that it is perfectly reasonable to go through life as either a non-gendered or an other-than-assigned-at-birth-gendered person. There are multiple permutations of this phenomenon. Probably the simplest to explain is that some boys decide that they are really girls on the inside, and want to have their gender reassigned, with or without  corrective surgery. Or, that some girls think they are really boys, and want their gender reassigned accordingly, also with or without surgery. Usually there are hormone treatments that go along with these gender manipulations. This has led, at times, to incongruous situations in which, for instance, people who look like men are getting pregnant and having babies.

Less easy, at least for me to explain, is that some people object philosophically to the idea of gender assignment. These people may not wish to be referred to as either “he” or “she” for whatever reason. What works better for these people is “they.” Some people, Mike included, find it awkward to refer to one person with a plural pronoun. Nevertheless, I think the movement has momentum. The American Psychological Association, in the most recent edition of its style manual, has endorsed the use of the singular “they” in scholarly writing. In fact, to some extent the singular “they” has always been in common use, as in, for example, “A person should always eat their vegetables.” This is acceptable because of the awkwardness of saying, “A person should always eat his or her vegetables.” Or, “One should always eat one’s vegetables.” According to the style manual, the singular “they” is to be used in 2 situations. One, when the individual being discussed prefers to be referred to as “they.” And two, when a generic person whose gender is unknown is being referred to, or where their gender is irrelevant to the context. (That is really three situations, but I will let this go. I don’t want to appear to be too critical, even if I am.) The term Mike has heard for this non-assignment of a gender is “non-binary.” The theory is that gender is learned, rather than biologically determined. Mike’s friend, Steve, told him he has heard that some parents don’t assign a name to their babies. They then expose them to traditionally male and female toys, clothes, activities, and so on, and let them choose who and what they want to be.  Steve thinks all such children should be named “Pat” to allow sufficient leeway for subsequent choices. I think children need to be told what to do, a lot, if they will ever achieve functional adulthood, but nobody asked me. In Mike’s world he is encountering patients who are transgender and/or non-binary, so he is just going to have to make the adjustment to the new reality.

But it is not just that we have to get used to “they”, “their,” and “them” as singular pronouns. A whole new group of words has been added to the lexicon. Consider the terms :”ze,” “xe,” “zir,”ve” “ey,” “per,” “hir,” and “hen.” Oy, vay! You can consider them, as I just suggested, or if you want to know if they are real words, and what they mean, you need do no more than look in the latest editions of standardized dictionaries. If you object to such words as just being made up, here is another thing to consider: All words are made up. To illustrate, consider the difficulty Eve and the snake would have had conversing with each other if they hadn’t gotten together first and made up a few Hebrew words. Adam must have been in on this as well.

You may have heard of a custody case in Texas where a minor child wanted gender-reassignment surgery. The parents did not agree on this.  One parent along with the child sued the other parent. The judge ruled, wisely, that both parents have equal custody, so the 3 of them are just going to have to work it out for now. Never missing an opportunity to make Southern people look foolish, a Georgia legislator has announced an intention to introduce a law that would subject a doctor to imprisonment for performing such surgery on a minor. The topic opens itself up to much ridiculousness and ridicule. Nevertheless, there is a core group of people to whom this business is important, and they deserve to be taken seriously. What Mike doesn’t like is being judged by the non-binary militants. He says he is working on it, so give him a break. He is following a daily prayer and meditation practice which includes the Prayer of St. Francis (See “It Is What It Is,” October 24, 2019) The prayer calls for Mike to seek to understand rather than be understood, and it looks like he has started using it just in time. Hang in there, Mike. And, if the phenomenon of non-binary cats ever becomes an issue, you can be my role-model for tolerance and understanding.

And lest you think that this is an entirely new to the world issue, history is full of stories of cross-dressers and others who did not accept their assigned gender roles gladly. You may recall the theme song from the old sit-com, “All in the Family,” a song bemoaning the disappearance of the “good old days” when “girls were girls and men were men.” Possibly we are experiencing another case of the more things change the more they stay the same. But enough of this.

So, I mentioned a while ago that the Fowl Party is putting up Donald Donck as a candidate. He still hasn’t decided what office he is going to run for. Judging by the above discussion, Happy Meadows may need a grammarian. Or, he might consider offering to run for the US Senate. You may or may not know that our Senator, Johnny Isakson, is retiring mid-term because of health reasons. The Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, has the responsibility of appointing someone to serve out Senator Isakson’s term. Governor Kemp has invited applications for the job, and has received over 500 so far, but to date, none from the Fowl Party. He is much more likely to name a Republican, but these are strange times, so you never know. I know this much: he will be hard -pressed to find a finer person to serve the state of Georgia than Johnny Isakson.

Well, that is all the news for now from Happy Meadows. Except for this: today is the 80th wedding anniversary of Mike’s parents. Mike says they were lovely people who were very devoted to each other, and enjoyed many happy years of marriage. They also were what people are now calling “old school,” and were very much in charge of Mike and his brother. The boys were raised; they didn’t just grow up. All the same, Mike is pretty sure he would never have chosen to be a girl, even if given the opportunity to do so. He just isn’t that interested in shoes. So, until the next time, be well, be happy, and always count your blessings. Bye, bye from Happy Meadows.

 

Whiskey in a Pod and Other Bad Ideas

So, when Mike went to sleep last night he was in Atlanta, and when he woke up this morning he thought he was in Chicago. The temperature dropped by over 40 degrees. This morning I saw that retired greyhound, Josephine, walking with her guardians, wearing an orange, black and white coat. I didn’t get close enough to see the figures on the coat, but it was no doubt Halloween-themed. And speaking of Halloween, last night was weird in another way. It being All souls Day, or Halloween, the streets were crawling with goblins, little characters from movies, and other assorted creatures, all carrying pillowcases or large pumpkin-shaped baskets. Some were kids from Happy Meadows, and some were bussed in from who knows where. It was not a good night for a little black cat to be nosing around, so I stayed in. Mike and Judy answered the door and gave out candy for hours, it seemed, while we were all cooped up upstairs. They were afraid that if they kept opening the door the other cats would get out, a thing that has never happened, ever. They only leave the house in a carrier, to see the Extreme vet. They don’t even show interest in trying to get out. But, I’m sure if the door is left standing open, curiosity would get the best of one or more of them. Better not happen.

One day this past week, I think Tuesday, was National Cat Day (See “Happy National Cat Day, Y’all'” October 29, 2017.) This is an absurd designation for a day. Cats are special every day, and require no special recognition. Or looking at it another way, cats are so special that no amount of recognition would adequately represent our specialness. I could see having a National iguana day, or a National ferret day. Even dogs are too special to be limited to one day of recognition per year. Maybe they should have a month. Maybe they already do.

So, Mike had his chemo yesterday, and got some indication of a plan. Unless something changes he will have his stem cell transplant by the end of the year. I am going to the hospital with him. It should be interesting, and he will need me to keep him company, and to document his experience. I hope he doesn’t get too sick. So far his chemo has been a breeze, relatively speaking. I will keep you posted.

Let’s get back to me ranting about misuse of the English language. Last time I was spouting off about trite language (“It Is What It Is”, October 24, 2019.) I saw in the sports page this week the following quote by a prominent local football coach: “The misnomer there is that I don’t want the game in Jacksonville.” Misnomer is a term reserved for the incorrect use of a term, not the incorrect expression of an idea. That would be a misconception. So, the sentence properly expressed would be, “The misconception there is that I don’t want the game in Jacksonville.” However, this is a lie, because elsewhere in the article he clearly states that he opposes playing the game in Jacksonville. So he is not being truthful, and relying on bad English usage in the process. And, he makes more money than the local governor, and way more than the Chair of the English department of his institution.

So, the expression, “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League” no longer applies. For one thing, Washington is no longer in the American League. As near as I can tell, the Washington Senators relocated to Arlington, Texas in 1972 and became the Texas Rangers.  Washington was finally and deservedly graced with a new major league baseball franchise when the Montreal Expos, a National League team, relocated there in 2005. They were renamed the Washington Nationals. They didn’t finish in first place in the National League this year, but did earn a wild card into the playoffs, which they won. They just won the World Series, beating the Houston Astros in 7 games, all won by the visiting team, an almost unimaginable circumstance. The Houston team also has a history of moving around, but without ever leaving Houston. They began as a National League expansion team in 1962, the same year that the New York Mets began their existence. Houston was known as the Colt .45s until 1965 when they moved into the world’s first domed stadium, the Astrodome, in 1965. Houston, as you I am sure are aware is the home of NASA, which was new and exciting in those days, working as they were on the moonshot. So, the team changed their nickname to the Astros. In 1994 they were moved from the National League West division to the Central Division. In 2013 they were moved to the American League. This last move was apparently never explained to Mike, who thinks they are still in the National League. You can imagine how confusing this World Series was to him. The Astros, by the way, are the only major league baseball team to have won a pennant in both leagues. Now that is special.

I understand that a manufacturer of Scotch whiskey has introduced whiskey in a pod, presumably so that the consumer no longer has to go to the trouble to pour the whiskey into a glass. This is the latest in a series of products produced in pods including coffee, vaping devices, and laundry detergent. I see many disadvantages to the whiskey concept, however. What if you want your scotch over ice? What if you want to have it in a mix? What if you are civilized and enjoy sipping your drink? This is a good example of just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And another sad fact is that this is just one more product in the world of alcohol that Mike won’t get to experience. He swore off in 1983 and has not partaken thereof since. He says if he relapses it sure as hell won’t be with a whiskey pod. Other innovations he has missed out on include wine coolers, ice beer, Coors light, exotic martinis, and flavored vodka (see “The End of the World,” May 26, 2018.) Too bad, Mike!

Mike seems to be enjoying his semi-retirement, having eliminated over 80% of his work load by closing his practice. He does miss his patients, though. Now that he has more time for other activities he is reading some interesting books, some of which I will mention from time to time, and maybe toss you a pearl once in a while.

Getting back to the weather, we finally got some more rain. It is funny hearing people complain about the rain even when we need it desperately. It’s just like everyone was complaining (myself included) about how cold it was this morning. So, as usual, not that much of interest going on in Happy Meadows. I’m sure that will change, in some totally unexpected way. If it does, you will certainly hear about it from me. Until then, be safe, be happy, and resist that urge to try that bleu cheese pod about to hit your local grocery store (just kidding. Go ahead, try it.)  Au revoir!

It Is What It Is

So, Mike and Judy had company over the weekend. His late brother’s  2 oldest daughters, Ariela and Sharona, came to visit, one from Seattle and the other from Israel. I like them a lot. Mike has a very nice family. Michelle came over and enjoyed “cousin time.” Today is Thursday, the one Thursday of the month that he doesn’t have chemo. He goes for a meeting with his doctor next Thursday, and maybe will have a better idea of a plan going forward. We are very optimistic of a good outcome, and I’m sure you all are as well. I can tell that you have been praying for Mike. I feel the energy. Thanks a bunch.

Mike has started to use the prayer of St. Francis in his meditations every day. Did you know that the prayer was not authored by St. Francis of Assisi? In fact, it is little more than 100 years old, first appearing in 1912 in France published anonymously in a spiritual magazine, La Clochette, by a Catholic group called La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe, “The Holy Mass League.” It became popular during the period between the World Wars. The first appearance in the English language was 1936 in the book, Living Courageously, by Kirby Page, a minister affiliated with the Disciples of Christ. In his book he attributed the prayer to St. Francis.  Who knew?

Mike is reading a book called “Political Suicide” by Erin McHugh. It is timely given the apparent determination of certain political figures to self-destruct. Mike says that some people learn nothing from history, and that if anything guarantees that a scandal will end the career of a politician it is a clumsy cover-up of the scandal. Thank you Richard Nixon for being Exhibit #1 of this truism. My favorite story, because of its effect on society, is the one about G. Harrold Carswell,  a native Georgia boy. After a rapid rise in the judicial ranks, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by the above-referenced President Nixon. Nixon had first nominated Clement Haynesworth of South Carolina, but his nomination failed to be approved. Nixon wanted a conservative Southerner, and Carswell seemed to fit the bill. The seat was available because Abe Fortas had just stepped down from the court amidst a scandal, so the senators were closely looking for improprieties that would disqualify a candidate. Senator Ted Kennedy waylaid Carswell in hearings with questions about how many of his former law practice clients had appeared before him when he later presided as a judge over a case. Also, it was brought out that 58% of his judicial decisions had been overturned on appeal. Then he was sunk by his racist views. Years earlier he had been interviewed when he first ran for public office in Georgia  (he lost) in 1948. It was reported that he said “I am a southerner by ancestry, birth, training, inclination, belief, and practice.I believe that segregation of the races is proper and the only practical and correct way of life in our states. I yield to no man, as a fellow candidate, or as a fellow citizen, in the firm vigorous belief in the principles of white supremacy, and I shall always be so governed.” So, his nomination was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 45 yeas and 51 nays. He went on to be involved in a couple of scandals that in the interest of decency I won’t go into. The absolutely most interesting thing about this story, is that the judge who eventually took the vacant seat was Harry Blackmun a liberal judge who authored the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, probably the most important decision of the Supreme Court in the past 50 years. The decision was 7-2, so it is unlikely that a Haynesworth or Carswell appointment would have changed the outcome, but it is interesting to speculate about it.

So, Mike has been grumbling about trite or hackneyed phrases lately. He hears them everywhere: talk radio, the news, newspapers, conversation with others. One of his pet peeves is “obviously” (see “Obviously,” May 30, 2017.) He saw “obviously” and “probably” used in the same sentence referring to the same thing in the sports page this week. Another coach said that his quarterback who is injured is “probably doubtful” to play on Saturday. This from a football coach who might be making more money than the president of the university, and is certainly making more than the governor of his state.  Some of Mike’s favorite phrases to hate are “at the end of the day,” “first and foremost,” and “last but not least.” Let’s try something. First and foremost, if you push the envelope you obviously will discover, in the end, last but not least, that no matter how far you push the envelope it will always remain stationery. And as they say, it is what it is.

So, that’s all for now from Happy Meadows. Hopefully, next time we will hear from Waldo, the Fowl party spokesgoose for Donald Donck, (see “So this is what retirement is like?,” August 31, 2019) who is considering running for political office, if you can imagine a duck going into politics. Stranger things have happened, and maybe we will be able to report on some of them from right here in Happy Meadows. Be well, be safe, be nice, and be happy. I will certainly try to as well. Bye, bye.

A Quick Update

So, Mike had a great report from his latest lab work, and he has not developed a rash this time taking the Revlimid. I think this is encouraging. I know you will think so as well. We have company this weekend. Mike’s nieces are visiting, one from Israel and the other from Seattle. He has a lovely family. I will have more to report later, but wanted to pass on some good news.

A Big Tsimmis

So, to start with, Mike’s chemo Thursday was uneventful. The infusion center was very busy.  Again, Mike is grateful that he feels so well. Thanks for all the love and prayers.

Mike stayed home from High Holiday services this year to minimize his exposure to viruses. He is avoiding big crowds of people whenever possible. He watched the services on the computer, wearing a prayer shawl given to him by his friend, Robin. Her church prayed over the shawl before gifting it to him, and he remains on their prayer list. Despite what is in the news, and the dreadful example of behavior exemplified by some of our politicians and other leaders, most people are loving and wonderful, I am happy to say.

Mike just finished his friend Rev. Jerry Gladson’s book on Job. It is entitled “Touched by the Hand of God.” Years of research and effort went into the book. Ultimately, the question of why bad things happen to good people in God’s world goes without a satisfactory answer in Job. Mike finds the characterization of God particularly problematic. First, He boasts to his heavenly underlings about how much Job loves him. Then, He accepts a bet from Satan that if Job loses everything his devotion wouldn’t change. Then when Satan goes back to God to ask if he can afflict Job with some dreadful illness because he is holding strong God says Satan can do whatever he wants as long as he doesn’t kill him. When God finally gives Job His answer to why it all happened, He basically says “I’m God and you’re not,” as if that justifies anything. Thankfully, the idea of God has evolved over the last 2500 years or so. We cats have a much clearer idea of God, and much better communication than y’all. But, y’all keep on trying, please.

Mike and Judy went to temple last night for his brother’s yahrzeit. This is the anniversary of a death of a loved one who is remembered in the worship service with the recitation of the Kaddish (see The Kaddish, April 1, 2018.) It has been 8 years since Bob died. There was just a small group for the service, but the intimacy was appreciated. A potluck dinner was held afterwards. Judy made a tsimmis, which is a baked dish consisting of sweet potatoes, apples, prunes, carrots, brown sugar, and schmaltz (chicken fat.) It was delicious, according to Mike. Nothing much to eat if you ask me, but sometimes people put meat in it, usually flanken (short ribs), I think.. I understand that a common Yiddish expression for making a fuss is to “make a tsimmis” over something. As in, for example, the Democrats are making a tsimmis over Trump trying to get the Ukrainians to help him dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

So, a small group of students at Georgia Southern University disgraced themselves by engaging in a book burning this week. The book in question was by Cuban-American author Jennine Capo Crucet entitled “My Time Among the Whites: Notes From an Unfinished Education.” She had come to the University to give a talk about her book and her experiences and ideas. Ms. Crucet was treated rudely by some students, and authorities moved her that night to another hotel for her safety. As I say over and over again, people are very angry right now.

Book burning has quite a history. There are essentially two potential motivations for the practice. One is to destroy the ideas so that they are lost to history. This has occurred in the past, but it would be impossible today. The other reason would be symbolic. Public burning of books can serve to have the same psychologically intimidating effect as a lynching. The Nazi sponsored German Student Union engaged in this practice during the 1930’s, mostly books by Jewish authors. It has been said that if you burn books eventually you will burn people. This has proven to be the case.

If you are interested you might want to check out the 36th chapter in the book of Jeremiah, where a document burning is recorded. According to the account, the prophet Jeremiah dictated a prophesy to his scribe, Baruch, the son of Neriah, to be delivered and read to the Judean king, Jehoiakim.  The king didn’t like the prophesy (the Babylonians would conquer Judah) so he ordered the scroll burned. Baruch returned to Jeremiah, who dictated another scroll,and added more on to it, probably more bad news for the king. In China book burning goes back at least to the Qin Dynasty around 210 BCE.

The Christian church has a remarkable history of book burning. One example is of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who convened the Council of Nicea in 325 CE to settle Trinitarian doctrine once and for all. Many of you are familiar with the Nicene Creed which was written at that time, and which you might recite in your Sunday liturgy. After things were agreed upon he issued an edict ordering the burning of books espousing non-trinitarian doctrine. People who kept these heretical books rather than turning them in for burning would do so at their own peril. It was a capital crime.

In the middle ages there was a belief that in order for Christ to come again the Jews would all have to be converted to Christianity, and the temple would have to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. From time to time local authorities would set up  public disputations with rabbis hoping to convince them of the error of their religious beliefs. These public debates generally resulted in the rabbis losing and in the burning of Jewish books. It must be said that the proceedings were rigged against the rabbis. The Spanish Inquisition was based, in part, on the notion of getting the Jewish religion abolished to make way for the Second Coming.  The Jews either had to be converted or killed. Other than the Nazi led holocaust, the Inquisition was the greatest disaster ever to befall the Jews, a great many of whom were put to death by fire, along with their books. Some would list the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans as the second most devastating incident in Jewish history. At the time it was, but the religion evolved of necessity into something much more suitable to the perpetuation of the Jewish people, as things turned out.

Here is what I think. If you disagree with someone, say so respectfully, and have cogent arguments advocating for what you believe. That is where it should end, unless your opponent tries to kill you, deny you the right to pray according to your own conscience, or deny you some other basic human right. It is remarkable how important it is to some people for other people to think how they think or believe what they believe.

And, regarding some people thinking that other people should be the way they think they ought to be, let’s look at homosexuality for a minute. Yesterday was National Coming Out Day. Let’s just respect that we are not all the same, and that we don’t know what is best for people who we may not understand. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle of choice, but rather a biologically driven way of being. Judge not lest you be judged.

So, not much else is going on in Happy Meadows right now. Please permit me to make a suggestion. Just for today, try to be the best person, dog, or cat that you can be. Our code must be love, tolerance, patience, respect, and forgiveness. Give it your best shot. By the way, Gracie Bonds Staples has a good article in today’s paper  (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) about forgiveness. You might want to check it out. Until the next time, be well, be safe, and try not to make a big tsimmis over anything.

 

The “Crotch Cams”

So, today Mike went to Emory for his regular chemo. Everything seems to be under control. He will continue on the same dose of Revlimid for another month, so that is encouraging. Right now, there is no rash. He sees the eye doctor tomorrow. The doctor will say “Perfect!” and “I don’t need to see you again.” Good deal.

Monday Mike brought home 2 carloads, the last of what he had at the office that he is not going to leave there for the next tenant. The last 2 items in his hamstermobile were a microwave oven and a copier. They both went to the basement, the microwave first. When he put it on the shelf he noticed that there was a trail of liquid on the floor, all the way from the garage to the shelf. Opening up the microwave door, he found a Chick-fil-A coffee cup lying on its side. There was still a half of a cup inside, so it could have been worse. Someone, not Mike, had apparently heated the coffee and then forgotten about it. I know it wasn’t Mike because he doesn’t trade at Chick-fil-A because of a homophobic corporate position publicly advanced by one of the Cathy brothers. Frankly, they can get along nicely without Mike’s business, and Mike even has a friend whose father owns a couple of franchises. They are very nice people. But it is nothing personal. You just have to do with you think is right. It’s a matter of integrity.

But back to to unloading. The last item was the copier. It was bulky and heavy. Mike saw no reason to hold it perfectly upright as he carried it, but he does now. As he stepped from the kitchen to the first step of the basement stairs he felt something slippery under his shoe. Looking down, he saw a large puddle of black toner. Oh, no! Holding the copier upright, finally, he cautiously carried it down the stairs to the basement and set it down on the floor. Looking back, he saw black shoe prints and small puddles. He took off his shoes, one of which was soaked with toner on top, and both had toner on the soles. The one sock was soaked as well, so he took it off too. Upstairs Judy was assessing the damage. There was toner all the way across the kitchen floor from the garage. The garage floor and car were not involved in the mess. I have to tell you, most women would not have handled this situation as well as Judy. She just started cleaning. Mike helped too, of course, following Judy’s advice on materials and technique. She never once said a negative word to him. Other people could take a page out of her lesson book on human relations. Luckily, the kitchen floor is restored to its former self except for a little grout staining which is not really noticeable unless you are short like me, and I don’t care. The basement floor will probably clean up. The stairs are probably permanently stained and will have to be painted when all is said and done. Oh well. Nice going, Mike. (See, I am not as nice as Judy. I might as well admit it.)

Spoiled Donald is losing his mind. His behavior of lying, attacking his critics verbally, and ranting and raving about the Bidens has escalated and is now completely over the top. He seems to have no respect for the legal protection afforded the whistle blower, and wants him/her outed so he can personally confront/attack the individual. He thinks criticism of his behavior is treasonous. As Mike said when Spoiled Donald announced his candidacy for president of the USA, he would make a much better dictator than a president.I say let the Congress investigate what happened, and he should just do himself a favor and shut up about it. He is acting, paranoid, rageful, deceitful, and well, spoiled. Everyone felt sorry for the poor president of Finland who was sitting next to him at a news conference when Spoiled Donald was foaming at the mouth about the Ukrainian thing instead of being a gracious host to his guest. As I said in the last paragraph, oh well.

And now let’s talk about “crotch cams.” In the latest kerfuffle resulting from the incursion of technology where it doesn’t belong, at the latest track and field championship event held in Doha, Qatar, sponsored by the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) cameras were installed in the starting blocks. A spokesperson for the organizer of the event explained that the purpose was to capture the “explosion of energy” as the athletes started the race. Apparently watching them break from their starting position from a side view is insufficiently interesting. Viewers were treated to views of the athletes that were regarded by some as unflattering. One of the athletes, at least, had advance knowledge of the invasion of privacy and wore his “lucky underwear.” He finished second. The spokesperson said “We have noted some specific feedback…and we have confirmed we have appropriate measures in place to protect athlete privacy during the process of selecting images for the broadcast.”  In other words they are going to keep doing it, but will have a privacy officer in the truck to decide which shot shows too much crotch. They will still have all the crotch shots in the can, however, and I bet they won’t destroy the offending images. A better statement from IAAF would have been, “What a stupid idea. the person who thought this up, and the person who approved it have both been fired. Sorry. Let’s all have some falafel.”

So, other than rotten weather, nothing much is happening in Happy Meadows. We keep hitting heat records every day, and it doesn’t rain. What is with a high of 98 degrees in October? As I suppose you all know, Mark Twain was famous for saying that “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” We now have many intelligent people telling us that we can do plenty about it, so how about it, y’all? If anything of interest happens around here I will be sure to let you know. Be well, be safe, and try to stay cool and hydrated. So long from Happy Meadows.

Welcome 5780

So, in just a few minutes the year 5779 draws to a close, and we welcome 5780. Mike is avoiding crowds, so he is not going to temple in person this year. He will watch services streaming from his synagogue on the computer. He is feeling quite well, and the rash is much improved, as are his eyes. Thanks for all your prayers.

Mike finished the book about the history of Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore. It is entitled “Jerusalem, the Biography.”  He says it reads easily. What is not easy to take is reading about the horrible suffering inflicted on innocent civilians by the kings and assorted military rulers. You read about one massacre after another. It seems that for some people, the more passionate they are about their religious beliefs, the less tolerant they are with those who hold alternative beliefs, and the more willing they are to torture and kill them for their “wrong” thinking. Some of this type of killing has to do with revenge for past atrocities, some with pure hatred of the “other”, and some seems to be just because they can. So it isn’t really all about religion. Some of it is about acquiring and maintaining absolute control, wealth, and power. There is an innate potential for cruelty in some individuals, and some such people have the personality characteristics to assume great power. One of the Jerusalem kings had a practice of mutilating people who displeased him. During his reign, it was commonplace to walk along the streets of Jerusalem and see people with their noses cut off, or people with only one eye, one ear, one arm, or some combination thereof.  Part of what is distressing about this mayhem is that it doesn’t seem to be that difficult for authoritarian rulers to get people under their command to kill, mutilate, or otherwise torture other people. You would never see a cat treat other cats like that. If I am completely honest, though, some cats do have a tendency to play with their furry little victims before they kill them. That is not too pleasant. I have a theory about this. Maybe this only happens when the cat isn’t really hungry, because its people feed him, and it is just acting on its genetically driven instinct to hunt. Or maybe not.

Last night it started to thunder and rain just as I was getting home. Everything went dark up and down our street. Mike and Judy got out some electric battery powered candles so they could see where they were going, and they kept on reading just as if nothing had happened. The lights came back on just as they were turning in for the night. Mike was up later than usual. He and Judy had gone out for the afternoon, and he was very tired when they got home. He lay down in bed, fell asleep, and didn’t move for 3 hours. But, he is fine today. He keeps bringing stuff home from his office. Yesterday or the day before he brought his big club chair home. He went next door and recruited his neighbor, Eugene, to help him get it upstairs. Eugene is a very nice man, and was happy to help. Mike brought his desk chair home today, which he handled by himself. The office is closed. Everyone has moved out to other locations to continue their practices, except for Mike, who has closed his practice. He admits to being sad, but life brings change, and the time for change is sometimes now. Mike’s friend Norm assures him that he will love retirement. Probably so. I hope so. Mike will continue working a half day per week at the Berman Center, so he is not going to be completely retired. He may need to be careful not to let this get to be too much. You may be familiar with Parkinson’s Law which states that the amount of work expands to fill up the available time. I don’t think this will apply in Mike’s case. He will hopefully have enough sense to limit his hours. I will keep you posted.

It has been very hot and dry in Happy Meadows this summer. I think we have broken the record high for the day nine or ten times this month. We have failed to reach at least 90 degrees on only 5 days, and we are way behind on rainfall. Mike has been watering the front lawn, and so are a lot of the other Happy Meadows neighbors. I hear people talking about climate change. I think it is real, but I hear other people talking about it as though the idea is a hoax. The feelings held by some people on both sides are strong. People find the stupidest things to get mad about. I was watching the television earlier this year when there was some big weather disaster somewhere. I heard Spoiled Donald, a climate change denier, assure reporters that “We’re going to have a great climate.” Give me a break.

Speaking of Spoiled Donald, I heard him say that he had a “perfect conversation” with someone recently. It was “the best conversation.” What does that even mean? I can tell you what it means. Everyone is getting angrier and angrier, that is what it means. How about chilling, y’all. If everyone would spend 5 minutes a day meditating we would all be a lot better off.

So, that’s it for now. May you all have a safe, healthy, and blessed 5780. Until next time, so long from Happy Meadows.

# 100

So, Mike went for chemo Thursday.. He broke out in a rash again after 6 days on the lowest dose of Revlimid. He wants to continue the medication anyway, and for now, that is the plan. The dexamethasone that they gave him as a component of his chemo has helped, and he has a prescription for a medrol dosepak which he will take, if necessary, next week. Yesterday morning he saw an eye surgeon who did a minor procedure on his right upper eyelid, which hopefully will take care of the stye. He goes back in 2 weeks, and if the stye in the left lower lid persists he will treat that one as well. Mike still thinks he is getting off very easy when it comes to chemo side effects. Nothing serious, and no nausea. Your continued prayers are appreciated.

So, I think I told you that we have a weekly AA meeting at the Happy Meadows clubhouse. Sometimes I go with Mike, not because I need an AA meeting, but because I am both friendly and nosy. When I came home yesterday afternoon one of the ladies who attends the meeting was there, along with her husband. They had asked to come over and ask Mike’s advice about their 10 year-old daughter, Sydney. Sydney has severe behavioral problems and they were at a loss about where to turn. Mike was just getting them some coffee when I got there.

“Here you are, Cindy,” said Mike, “skim milk and Sweet and Low.”

“Thank you”, she replied, setting the cup and saucer on the coffee table. She sat on the couch. James selected a chair across the room from her.

“This is yours, James,” said Mike, “Black coffee.”

“Thanks, Mike,” said James.

Mike sat in his chair where Jackson immediately jumped up on him. Shayna Maidel jumped up on the arm of his chair, maneuvered Jackson out of the way, and started making biscuits on his tummy. “So what is going on?” Mike asked. “How can I help you?”

They both hesitated momentarily, but James spoke up.

“It’s about our daughter, Sydney,” he said. “We’re having terrible problems with her.”

He stopped and took a sip on his coffee. Cindy sat holding her cup, trembling.

“What kind of problems?” Mike asked.

“Well,” said James, “she has always been somewhat slow in her development. She does poorly in school as far as her grades are concerned. She has trouble making friends and getting along with the other children. And for several months her temper tantrums have been wearing us out. You just never know when she is going to lose it. It can be at school, but more often when she gets home. And we are taking a chance when we go to a store or go out to eat with her. She can throw herself on the floor and start howling like a banshee, kicking and screaming, and she can throw things. You should see the looks we get. And, she is making life miserable for our son, James Junior. He is 13. He isn’t getting nearly the attention he needs from us, and he avoids coming home as much as possible. After dinner he retreats to his room and doesn’t come out unless he is hungry.”

“Have you discussed this with your pediatrician?” asked Mike.

“Yes, we have,” replied James. “She referred us to a child psychologist who met with us, examined her, and did some testing. “Dr. Simmons is her name. She said she thought she had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and suggested a few things for us to try. And she sent us back to Dr. Fahey for a prescription for ritalin.”

“So, did you get the prescription for her?” asked Mike.

“Yes, we did,” he replied.

“And,” Mike asked, “did the medication help?”

James paused and sighed. “Well,” he said, “In some ways it did. She did concentrate better on her school work. It had been impossible to get her to focus on her homework when she got home from school. That improved. On the other hand, she was up much of the night at times, and her behavior was sometimes more difficult to deal with. She was destructive of property, left the refrigerator door open, and left the front door open after she decided to take a walk at 2 in the morning. She let our cat out.” He glanced over at me, and I returned the stare.

“Did you call Dr. Fahey and let her know about this?”  asked Mike.

“Of course,” James replied. “She tried a different medication. It was Focalin, I think.” He glanced at Cindy who nodded her head. She was on the verge of a meltdown herself. “That was no improvement at all. So, she referred us to a child psychiatrist, Dr. Jablonski.”

“I know him,” said Mike. “He is a good doctor. What did he say?”

“He called Dr. Simmons and asked about the test results. Then he sent us back to Dr. Simmons for more testing. Then we met with him again. He had stopped all medications until he could get a better fix on what was wrong.” James paused and looked at Cindy for a few seconds. “Then he said he thought Sydney was bipolar. He said this would explain her meltdowns and mood swings. He put her on some different medication.”

And?” asked Mike.

“And, she had trouble staying awake at school. And, her behavior didn’t improve noticeably.” James stood up for a minute, paced around for a few seconds, looked out the window,  and then sat back down again. “We love Sydney so much, but she is wrecking our lives. I am not getting enough sleep. I have a stressful job. When I am work Cindy calls me in distress almost on a daily basis. Thank God she hasn’t started drinking again. I don’t know how much longer she can take this.”

Cindy spoke up for the first time. “James, I am not going to start drinking. I wish you would trust me.” She looked down again.

“Cindy,” Mike asked, “if you don’t mind my asking you this, when did you last drink?”

She continued to look down, hesitating, but then she replied without looking up. “It was about 3 months ago. I drank some vodka for 2 or 3 days. Before that it was probably 6 or 7 months.”

Mike looked at James. “Did you know about this?”, he asked.

“No,” he said. “I suspected it, and I asked her if she had drank, but she denied it and I let it go. I guess I should have insisted she tell me if something had happened.”

Mike looked back at Cindy. “I know Sarah is your sponsor. Does she know about this?”

“Yes,” said Cindy. “I tell her everything.” She glared at James, who met her glance briefly and looked away.

Mike continued. “Are you on any medication?” he asked.

“I get Prozac from Dr. Hayes, my gynecologist. And he gives me Xanax,” she answered.

“Xanax could become a real problem,” said Mike, “if it hasn’t become one already. I strongly suggest you see an addiction psychiatrist and get properly medicated. Do you know of Doctor Rasmussen?”

“I know several people in the program who see her,” said Cindy.  “They say she is very nice. I just didn’t think my problems were that bad that I needed to see a psychiatrist.”

James made a sound that was somewhere between a groan and a snort. Cindy glared at him again. Mike continued.

“Cindy, were you drinking when you were pregnant with Sydney?” he asked in his gentlest voice. He looked directly at her, but took a couple of quick glances at James. Cindy started to cry, and nodded her head quickly a couple of times.

“I tried to stop, and I did cut back some,” she said. “I have always been afraid that Sydney’s problems are all my fault.” She sobbed uncontrollably. Then she looked at Mike. “Do you think it is possible that I have done this to her? I could never forgive myself, and I don’t think James could ever forgive me.” Now her head was moving from side to side, and James got up and sat next to her on the couch. He took her hands in his.

“Come on now Cindy,” he said. “Whatever the problem, we need to face it together.”

Mike took a bit of a deep breath, and said to them both, “While it is important to make a proper diagnosis, the reason is to prescribe the proper treatment. There is no value to assigning blame. What happened in the past is in the past. Let’s proceed one step at a time. Have you ever heard of the Marcus Autism Center? It is affiliated with Emory University.”

“Do you think Sydney might be autistic?” asked James. “I have wondered that myself. In fact, I had asked Dr. Jablonski that very question, and he didn’t have a definite yes or no.”

“I don’t know what the diagnosis is,” said Mike. “She could be autistic, bipolar, ADHD, or she might have a disorder they are calling FASD, or Fetal  Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. This is something that not too many people know how to differentiate from the other things we have talked about. Or she may have some combination of disorders, including autism. The best approach would be to get an expert evaluation.”

“Would they be able to make a diagnosis of FASD at the Autism Center,? asked James. “Or do they just treat autism?”

“I think they have the expertise to make a correct diagnosis, ” said Mike. “And they have the resources to put together a plan of care that should get things moving in the right direction in your home. You are being challenged by a child who needs your help in a big way. I’m glad you came to talk to me. Help is available, and you can’t let your fear, anger, guilt, or any negativity get in your way. Blaming is out of the question. There is no place for blame in relationships.”

“Thank you,” said Cindy. She had stopped crying. She looked around the room. “You have nice cats.” By now Ladybug had joined us, and had jumped up on the couch next to her.

“We do love our cats,” said Mike. “They improve the quality of our lives. You mentioned that you have a cat.”

“Yes,” said Cindy, “we have Molly. She is very sweet, but she is afraid of Sydney right now. It breaks my heart.”

James stood up. “Come on Cindy,” he said. “We have taken up enough of the doctor’s time”

“Mike,” said Mike. “Please call me Mike.”

“Mike it is then,” James replied. He extended his hand and Mike took it in his grasp. “I will let you know how it is going with us. Thanks for your advice, and for the coffee.”

“You are more than welcome, said Mike. “I have some other ideas, but we can talk later after you have taken these first steps.”

Cindy gave Mike a hug, and she and James left. I went upstairs, relieved myself, and had some kibble. Then, it was time for a nap. After my nap, Mike and I put this blogpost together. This one is a milestone blog, the 100th since I started almost 3 years ago. It has been fun, and I am not even close to running out of things to talk about. I hope you are enjoying the time we spend together. Stay tuned for more from Happy Meadows.

 

The Deed is Done

So, Mike has seen his last patient at the office. It happened was this past Wednesday, today being Sunday. So far, nothing seems to be that different.  The next day he went for chemo, as usual, and Friday he went to the Berman Center, as usual. Tomorrow, though, when he doesn’t have to go to the office, that will be different. Except, he says he is going to the office to pack up some things, and probably because he can’t stay away. Mike says he has always wondered who his last patient at the office would be. It turned out to be a very nice lady that he has seen for several years, helping her with her chronic pain and depression. She was there with her husband, as usual. Her husband has always been very protective of her. He is the man who managed to get to Mike’s office on Snowmageddon Day, when nobody could get anywhere, a few years ago. She needed a prescription, and he got it for her. That was the day that Mike was trapped overnight at the office. I think I have already written about this.

Mike, Judy, and Michelle met with the genetic counselor at Emory on Thursday. The information given was useful, but much is still unknown about the genetics of his situation. The best thing that Michelle and other close family can do is live healthy (diet, exercise, no smoking, etc.) and have regular check-ups. They should do that anyway, and most of them are conscientious about their health. The counselor said if research turns up new and relevant information she would contact Mike about it. Also, he started that other chemo medication again Friday night. It’s the medication that he had to quit before, twice because of a rash, and once because of a bad cold. He is on a lower dose, and determined to stay on it this time. By the way, his eyes are much better, thanks for asking.

So, the Georgia Bulldogs made short work of the Arkansas State Racers, yesterday, 55-0. But the real story was the support that bulldog Nation showed to Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson, whose wife, Wendy,  died recently after a battle with breast cancer. Usually the color one sees when looking at the stadium filled with fans is red, with all the fans wearing their team-colored red jerseys. Yesterday, though, was a “pink-out.” It was proposed a few days ago that everyone wear pink to the game, and the idea spread through social media. The dogs have a history of supporting breast cancer awareness. A charitable organization, “Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer,” was founded by the parents of a Georgia football player. The team got behind the charity, and they have raised a lot of money for a good cause. Mike is a big sports fan, but what he likes the most is how sports can bring out the best in people’s character.  This is not always the case, however. Here in Georgia, and probably elsewhere, it is getting harder to recruit and retain referees for high school sports because of the abuse the officials have to take from some parents and coaches. Come on, folks, give it a rest. Sportsmanship trumps winning all day long, if you ask me.

Did you see the harvest moon last night? I sure hope so. It was stunning. Things like that make you realize how remarkable is the world that we live in. It has given me something to meditate upon for a while. I hope you all have a wonderful week. We send you much love from Happy Meadows.