We got up horribly early to get to Emory for cell collection this morning. Everything went very well. They got enough cells today, so we don’t have to go back for another collection tomorrow, or ever for that matter. We are still on track for the bone marrow transplant on December 24. We want to thank everyone for their prayers and support without which we would not be doing so well, I believe. We saw a big red-tailed hawk on the way home. Mike believes that the universe sends the hawk as a sign that he has spiritual support. I am not so crazy about hawks, but I was in the car, so it wasn’t a problem. Please continue to send us your good thoughts and prayers, and while you are at it, send up some prayers for Mike’s good friend Ellis who had major surgery on Friday. We love you all.
So, yesterday (Friday) Mike went to Emory where they placed a catheter into his vena cava. I think that’s a big blood vessel. Probably so, because the dressing is a little on the bloody side. He will get it changed Monday. There are 3 thingies hanging down from the upper chest wall that they can use to give him 3 different infusions at the same time, or draw blood out. Gross! But he still has a good attitude. Mike says he has never been much for wearing jewelry, but the dangling thingies have a certain aesthetic to them. We will take a picture once the dressing is changed, but I don’t know if Mike will let me post it. We (that is, Mike, Judy, Michelle, and I) all met with Dr. K. this week. Mike signed a bunch of consents, and we asked a lot of questions. Mike had been advised by a friend to get a second opinion about the transplant. In a way, he already has a second opinion from Dr. B., who is treating the lymphoma, and she said to go ahead with it. Mike told Dr. K. that he wants the second opinion from him. Dr. K. was thorough and honest about the alternatives, and the potential risk and benefit of both doing the transplant and not doing the transplant. We are doing the transplant.
A word or two about second opinions. While generally speaking they are a good idea when contemplating a major treatment intervention, they are far from a gold standard. Two illustrative stories are worth telling. Mike had a patient who had severe back pain, and was advised to have surgery. She wound up getting 3 opinions, all recommending surgery, but all 3 recommending a different procedure. It was confusing and stressful for her, and it was up to her to decide. Eventually, she opted for the most extensive procedure, and Mike thinks it worked out well. He was able to get her off of her pain medication afterwards, which was a big accomplishment. The other story involves his late wife, Penny, who back in 1991 had a recurrence of breast cancer in a hip bone. Her doctor told her that she was in a gray area where the studies had not yet answered the question of what to do next in her circumstance, as far as chemo was concerned. He solicited opinions from the two top cancer treatment centers in the country, and got 2 different recommendations (opinions). He discussed them with Mike and Penny at length. Penny opted for the more aggressive approach, and unfortunately, the chemo knocked out her bone marrow and immune system, and she died of pneumonia after a long battle in intensive care. So, the second opinion is nothing more than an opinion, and not necessarily the right treatment option. I do think patients need all the information they can get before making such an important decision, so I am not saying they shouldn’t get a second (or third) opinion. Many patients are distrustful of their doctors, and shop around until they find a doctor who tells them what they want to hear. This is a fear-based approach, and as Mike always says, you should never make an important decision based on fear alone. Mike’s brother was like that. He went to doctors constantly, never followed their advice unless it suited him, and his poor self-care eventually cost him his life. It wasn’t entirely fear-based decision making in his case. He also relied heavily on denial, which as Mike wrote in a recent article he had published in the Atlanta Jewish Times, is more than a river in Egypt. The article was in the November 27, 2019 issue. It deals with the denial in the Jewish community about its own problems with substance abuse and mental illness. If you are interested, you can find the article at https://atlantajewishtimes.timesofisrael.com/sharing-stories-and-creating-community/ Denial is in fact an ego defense mechanism which serves to protect people from acknowledging painful or terrifying realities in their lives. Unfortunately, being in denial too often leads to people failing to take necessary action to prevent a personal or even community-wide calamity.
There is another thing I should tell you about Penny’s treatment. It involves one of Mike’s pet peeves. He doesn’t respect doctors who tell their patients that their previous doctor gave them the wrong treatment. The exception to this would be if that piece of information directly affects their subsequent care. Otherwise, it is just gratuitous to tell a patient that they had the wrong operation or the wrong medication. It is easy to offer a retrospective opinion after a bad outcome and, in Mike’s opinion, reflects badly on the opining physician. So, Penny had been in the ICU for about 3 weeks when her oncologist, Dr. G. told them that he had a long-planned vacation that he wanted to take. Mike told him to go. By that time there were many specialists involved in Penny’s care including a kidney doctor, an infectious disease doctor, and a lung specialist. Dr. G. had a covering oncologist, Dr. P., who would also be involved in taking care of Penny in his absence. One evening Dr. P. told Mike that Penny should never have had the treatment that she had received. Of course Dr. P. was unaware of the process that had led to the decision to opt for that particular treatment plan. Mike was offended by his statement. Some time later he contacted Dr. G. and told him what Dr. P. had said. He thought Dr. G. ought to know that he had been back-stabbed.
Tomorrow Mike goes back to Emory to have lab work and see if he has mobilized enough stem cells. If not, they will give him an infusion of another medicine to mobilize the stem cells from his bone marrow. Then on Monday back to Emory to start the cell collection and separation process. I will tell you more about that after I see how it is done. Mike plans on bringing a couple of good books. His friend, Bruce, gave him a book about the making of the atomic bomb. Mike is interested in the history of science, so the book should be interesting and terrifying at the same time.
Mike had breakfast with his friend Rev. Larry this morning. Mike asked him to visit him and pray with him when he is in the hospital. He seldom asks anyone to do anything for him. But, he did ask his friend Danny to take him to a 12-step meeting a couple of weeks ago when he was unable to drive (after the colonoscopy.) This is humbling him in a good way, I think. And Judy has just flushed his 3 dangling thingies with heparin so they won’t clot up. She is not squeamish, fortunately. Once about 6 or 7 years ago Mike had emergency surgery for an infected sebaceous cyst in his back. The doctor drained the cyst, and then sewed it up and left a drain in. A couple of weeks later he went up to Minnesota to visit his mother, and the whole damn thing broke open while he was there. He was grossed out beyond belief. He called his doctor who ordered antibiotics and wet-to-dry dressings. Judy went on line, viewed a You-tube video on wet-to-dry dressings, and changed his dressings like a champion. He healed up beautifully.
So, and most importantly, football is large this time of year. Marietta High School won their semifinal game last night, and will play for the state championship next week. Good for them. The University of Georgia plays LSU this afternoon for the SEC championship. Go Blue Devils and go Dogs! It is fun when the home teams do well, and a good distraction from real life. Oh wait, football is real life. Sorry. Well, that’s all the news from Happy Meadows this week except that you should know that the outdoor decorations have added cheer to the neighborhood, and the holidays are racing towards us madly. You will hear from me again very soon. Until then, be safe, be well, and be nice.
So, yesterday was Thanksgiving, and we all got together with Norm, Nancy, Wes, Rachel, Adam, and Jeanne and all the family that welcomes us each year. The food is always over the top, and the fellowship is superb. They even have a nice old dog, Dante. We are grateful for such good friends.
Monday and Tuesday were Emory days, for tests, conferences, and procedures. It was quite exhausting. We know a lot more than we had known, and will find out even more this coming Tuesday when we meet with Dr. K. Monday morning they drew 17 vials of blood from Mike. He had to beg for them to leave some for him (not really). We had a chance to see the lab where Mike will have the procedure in which his blood cells are separated. He will be in the bed in the lab for 5 hours or so, and then they will tell him if he needs to come back on Tuesday. This could go through Thursday. They have to give him medication so that his stem cells are released from the bone marrow where they can be collected and separated from the other blood cells. They keep and freeze the stem cells, and return the other cells to Mike. The medication might have unpleasant side effects. I hope not; we will just have to wait and see. Everywhere Mike goes he meets people who tell him they are praying for him. I know this will be a big help as there is power in prayer, even though we don’t always get what we ask for. In Mike’s meditation today the words for him to keep close to today were “Faith,” and “Hope.”
Monday afternoon Mike was scheduled for a bone marrow biopsy. Prior to the procedure Mike went to the bathroom to use some soap to help him remove his wedding ring. He washed his hands and was holding the ring in one hand as he was drying his hands with a paper towel. The plan was to dry the ring at the same time. Of course, I was there in the bathroom with him. As he was drying his hands I heard a loud “ping.” The ring had hit the bathroom floor. I didn’t hear any follow-up noises of the ring rolling around or settling in a spot on the floor. Mike and I looked behind the toilet, under the toilet, and all over the floor. No ring. I put my paws up on the side of the commode and looked inside. Mike looked too. There at the bottom of the bowl was a shiny gold ring. I looked up at Mike as he considered his options. So, what would you have done? Probably the same thing Mike did. He reached into the toilet and retrieved the ring. He was lucky it was within reach. He then washed his hands and the ring again thoroughly, dried off, and we returned to where Judy was waiting. She assumed possession of the ring, which now is back on Mike’s finger where it belongs.
You might remember that Mike will be admitted to Emory Hospital on December 24 for his bone marrow transplant procedure. We are doing our best to take each day as it comes. As we find out more about what to expect the anxiety level is going down. We had originally been told of extreme isolation procedures, including separation from the other cats for at least 100 days. This doesn’t look like the plan after all. Mike finds his cats comforting, Shayna Maidel especially, who likes to sleep on Mike. Early in the morning as Mike is starting to awaken he rolls onto his back. Shayna Maidel climbs onto his chest where she can feel herself softly rising and falling with each breath that Mike takes. He also likes to pet her when she is lying there on his chest. It is kind of sweet.
So, not much more for today, but you will be hearing from me shortly, I am sure. I hope it is not too cold where you live. Wherever you are, stay warm, be safe, and have faith and hope for good things. So long for now from Happy Meadows.
So, first let’s acknowledge Bill Russell, who played for the Boston Celtics from 1956-1969. During that span his team won 11 NBA titles. He had been elected to the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame in 1975, but refused to attend the ceremony or accept the award at that time. Very recently he accepted the award in a private ceremony attended by his family and close friends. He did so only after Chuck Cooper, who died in 1984, was elected to the Hall of Fame. Chuck Cooper was the first African-American drafted into the NBA (in 1950.) Russell has stated that he didn’t think he should accept the honor before those who paved the way for him were honored. It is so gratifying to know that there are still people with principles around, people who will stand up for what they believe, at personal cost to themselves. Mike has an attitude about Halls of Fame, as you may recall my writing in “Tisha B’Av” (August 4, 2019.) He just doesn’t like the idea of people making value judgments about whether other people are “good enough.” This, especially when other people could wonder about whether the people making these value judgments are “good enough.”
There is nothing new to report about Mike’s health, except that he had his colonoscopy this week. They wouldn’t let me in to observe the procedure, darn them. I did have the opportunity to observe the prep, however. My advice is, don’t have a colonoscopy. I’m glad they don’t do that to cats (or do they?). Next week he has a bunch of tests and meetings at Emory, so we will know much more soon about what to expect.
And in our top story, China has agreed to start importing chicken feet from the USA again, after a 5 year ban imposed because of a flu outbreak. This is a big deal here in Georgia, as we are the biggest chicken producer in the country, and the ban has been painful for producers of chickens who haven’t been able to get nearly what they got from China for the chicken feet. I think they have to sell them for fertilizer or something, for a fraction of what the Chinese will pay. Chicken feet are apparently a delicacy in China, where they are fried and served with a special sauce. Somehow, these savory morsels have not caught on in the US of A. Mike says his mother used to buy feet and necks from the kosher butcher and make chicken stock with them. Then she would fish out the feet and necks from the pot and ask if he wanted them, which he always did. What part of the chicken is better than the skin? Even if it is boiled instead of fried it is still yummy, I am sure. So, Mike has gone through quite a few chicken feet (and chicken necks) in his day. He says he always wound up with a pile of bones on his plate, toes and neck bones all mixed up together.
This reminds me of a story I have heard Mike tell. When he was in medical school he attended an anatomy lecture in which the topic was the wrist. The wrist is composed of a collection of bones, tendons, and ligaments which connect the forearm to the hand. The eight bones in the wrist all fit tightly together, comprising a unit which allows for passage of nerves, arteries, veins, and other goodies, and keeps the hand from falling off or flopping around. The eight bones are the navicular, lunate, cuneiform, pisiform, greater multangular, lesser multangular, capitate, and hamate. Each bone has its own distinctive shape. Some of the surfaces are smooth whereas other surfaces are rough, facilitating tendon and ligament attachment. Medical students are expected to recognize each bone, and to be able to name all the surfaces and points of contact on each bone. Human skeletons are available in the anatomy lab, both reassembled and also as unattached bones. Through their study medical students can become familiar with skeletal anatomy, and be able to understand how the body is supposed to function normally. The lecturer that day noted the different shape of each of the eight bones, and told a story of a medical student whom he characterized as not by any means the best student, but one who had developed a particular skill. This student could pop all eight wrist bones into his mouth, and on command spit out the correct bone as it was called. I imagine this demonstration was made more entertaining with the consumption of beer, the more the better. It was a frat-boy stunt if I ever heard of one. I also imagine something like this couldn’t happen in our era of correctness, nor should it. People might think twice before donating their bodies to science if they thought they might be thusly disrespected.
The relationship between our country and China has been testy lately. For years China has been stealing American intellectual property. The American president started a trade war with China, partly in retaliation, and partly based on his theory of economics, however eccentric it might be. The two countries have a long history of distrust and conflicting interests. Mike remembers the great ambition of President Nixon to be known as the president who broke the stalemate between the two countries. He recognized that in the 21st century China would be a force that would have to be reckoned with. A chance occurrence in 1971 set things in motion. There was an international table tennis tournament in Japan, and in the course of events one of the American players made a friendly overture to the Chinese team. It was warmly received, and led to an invitation for the American team to come to China. At that time the Chinese were the top players in the world, and the Americans were no match for them. But it was more about establishing relationships. Nixon went to China and met with Chairman Mao, both of them all smiles. The whole process came to be known as “ping pong diplomacy.” Mike says that through the opening up of trade in chicken feet once more, the hostile relations between our countries can be eased in what should forever be known as “chicken foot diplomacy.” I agree.
The Democrats were in town this week. Donald Donck is closer to making his announcement of what office he will be running for as the Fowl party candidate. Governor Kemp is closer to making his announcement on who he will appoint to the US Senate to take Johnny Isakson’s seat next year. He had invited people to apply for the job, and got over 500 names, mine not among them. Next November, though, that seat will be up for election, and I think Donald Donck is strongly considering entering the race. Stay tuned for exciting news on that front. I, for one, don’t see why a duck shouldn’t be taken seriously as a candidate for office, especially considering some of the humans who are now in office.
So, that’s all the news for now from Happy Meadows. I hope I didn’t gross you out with my wrist bone story. The worst thing that can be said about the story is that it is completely true. Next week is Thanksgiving. I hope you all have a lot to be thankful for. We certainly do here in Happy Meadows. You will be hearing from me again real soon. So long for now, and don’t forget to love your neighbor.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.