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.

King Farouk

So, Mike had his visit with Dr. K. at Emory Thursday. He has been advised that there has been no further improvement in the myeloma, and that it is time to resume the chemo treatment that had caused his skin to break out. They will start at a much lower dose. Mike is not worried, and will involve his dermatologist, another Dr. K., as needed. Mike continues to feel fine and does not appear to be sick in the slightest. There has been a new development, though. Mike is starting to get styes, and it is thought to be a consequence of one of his chemo drugs. He sees his ophthalmologist next week. Stay tuned for updates.

Last night Mike, Judy, the other 3 cats, and I were watching the Great British Baking show on TV. They were making a pastry known as stollen. This is a German pastry traditionally made and eaten during the Christmas season. This brought to mind an incident when Mike was in high school, and was at a friend’s house one Saturday after lunch. He and Ed were friendly but not close friends, and Mike had not been there before. Mike’s parents were also somewhat friendly with Ed’s parents, an engaging and well-traveled couple. Ed’s father, Leon, was very obese. That afternoon he came home about 3PM with an enormous collection of pastries he had just acquired from his favorite bakery. The family invited Mike to join them, and proceeded to consume vast amounts of said pastries, one of which was a stollen. Mike had never heard of stollen, and doesn’t ever remember having stollen since, nor has he acquired a huge appetite for pastries as a result of that incident. Mike recalls a story his father told him about Leon that occurred when the couple was traveling in North Africa. I think they were in Morocco, and Leon saw in the morning paper that King Farouk was visiting the country. Leon hired a carriage, rented clothing similar to what the king might have worn, and toured the city waving at people. He has a grand time. Mike says that he can’t imagine anyone doing anything like that today. This event must have occurred during a time when the king was increasingly unpopular after world War II. Ultimately he was overthrown and forced to leave the country in 1952. So, it is not hard to imagine Leon, appearing to be Farouk, and completely unguarded, inviting a bullet from an opportunistic politically motivated assassin. But, no such thing happened, fortunately, and all he got was a fun afternoon and a great story. Farouk was notorious for his lifestyle which included prodigious eating, all night gambling at casinos, lavish vacations, and collections of coins, art, concubines, and what must have been the largest collection of pornographic materials in the world. While he was disgustingly self-indulgent, at least he wasn’t the murderous sort of monarch that has appeared in history all too many times. His was the sort of life-style that appears in the complete absence of meditation. People who pray only, to the exclusion of meditation, can become trapped in the bondage of their own egos and not be able to see beyond themselves. A cat would never make a mistake like that. Although we do have healthy regard for ourselves, probably too much so, we see the value in love of our fellow creatures. I hope that you all learn how to meditate if you haven’t already done so. It will bring you a measure of peace in these angry and stressful times.

So, that’s all for now from Happy Meadows. Be well, be safe, and enjoy your weekend. I will talk to you again very soon.

Is this what retirement is like?

So, today was a Thursday with no chemo. No Mike and Judy getting up early and stumbling out of the house when it is still dark outside. Mike says it is like being on vacation today. If this is what retirement is like, he could get used to it. He and Judy went for a walk today at the bluebird sanctuary. He also has read, vacuumed, cleaned a toilet, went to the post office, paid bills, had lunch with a friend, and gone to the store. I avoided all of these activities, devoting myself mostly to napping and occasionally shifting my position slightly. Bluebirds could be interesting, though. He and Judy are going out for dinner later, and to get bagels. Mike’s niece, Sharona, is coming tomorrow from Seattle for a quick visit. This will be a treat. We are crazy about Sharona, and all of the nieces and nephews. Yesterday Mike’s staff surprised him with a retirement party. It would have been a bigger surprise had he not been standing next to Judy’s phone that morning when it made that notification sound. He glanced over at the phone where the reminder said “retirement party.” “What could that be, I wonder?” he thought. Not really. But the lack of complete surprise didn’t diminish his enjoyment at all. Many of his colleagues came to his office at noon. He got presents, lunch, cake, cards, hugs, and a lot of love. Judy brought me to the party, knowing full well that I wanted to come, and deserved to be there. Michelle took pictures, but I was off snooping at the time, so no pictures of me to show you. But I will post some pictures maybe next week, if they are available. I saw Mike get a little red-eyed at one point. It was kind of sweet. Mike is not completely retiring, but he is closing his practice and referring all of his patients out to other doctors. He will continue his work as Medical Director at the Berman Center. This won’t keep him busy more than 1-2 half days per week. He says he is going to spend his time reading, writing, working in the yard, cleaning out the basement, going to lectures, and taking up golf again. He will also get more involved in the community support groups that he attends, and see more of his friends. Most importantly, he and Judy will get more time to be with each other. They are really cute when they are together.

Mike just finished a book that Michelle got for him, maybe for his birthday. I don’t exactly remember. It is by Terrence Hayes, and is entitled “To Float in the Space Between,” and subtitled “A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight.”  It is a signed copy to Mike by the author. Very cool. On the other hand, Mike was only barely understanding a lot of it. He does not easily navigate the world of literary criticism, and most of the authors and poems mentioned in the book Mike has not read. The book purports to be an analysis of Knight’s poem, “The Idea of Ancestry,” written, I believe while Knight was in prison. Knight’s heroin addiction made a mess out of his life. Mike says he isn’t very good at understanding poetry which seems to be a form of expression which uses words to hint at what the writer is trying to say, instead of actually just saying it. But then, if the writer just says it, it is no longer a poem. Or so it seems.

Hayes very early in his book makes reference to “Pale Fire”, a novel by Vladimir Nabokov. He suggests that his book will be similar in the sense that while writing an analysis of Knight’s poem, “The Idea of Ancestry,” he will be talking mostly about himself and his own life. You may never have read “Pale Fire”. It is a novel structured as a 999 line poem by a poet he calls John Shade. The final 1000th line has not been written, ostensibly because the author was murdered before he could complete the poem. Naming him Shade is his first clue that there is no real John Shade, as a shadow has no substance. Following the poem is extensive commentary by a man,  Charles Kinbote, who says he was Shade’s across the street neighbor. By the time of the novel, Shade has been murdered, and Kinbote has taken possession of his manuscript.  Kinbote interprets the entire poem to be about himself, and broadly hints as he delves into his commentary that he is the exiled king Charles of Zembla.  Mike says he was a third of the way through the book before he figured out what what happening. The novel is in Time magazine’s list of the best 100 novels. It has been the subject of very extensive commentary. In Mike’s opinion, the entire novel is a farce in which Nabokov is playing  a complex intellectual game with his readers. There is no John Shade, no Charles Kinbote, no Zembla, no poem, no nothing.  Mike is going to give the book back to Michelle, at least for now, for her to read. It is right in her area of study, the Black Arts movement. Now that Mike has all the time in the world he might read more poetry and expand his mind some. I won’t say that he needs the mental exercise, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt him any.

The computer guy is coming Saturday. Once he finishes setting us up I will be able to post pictures again. I have 3 from the party that I want to put up, and we have some of our frogs at the bug buffet on our front stoop. One of the frogs, Gerald, got into the house a couple of years ago and took up residence under the toilet seat. Michelle was house sitting for us at the time. Let’s just say that the first time she saw Gerald on the toilet she acted quite surprised. If Gerald was surprised she couldn’t tell. Personally, I give frogs all the space they want. I do enjoy listening to them at night, though. My favorite is the Cope’s Gray Tree Frog. Go on line and listen to a You Tube recording. You might like it.

So, the ducks and geese that congregate on Richard Donkle’s pond are getting ready for their political convention. With all the news about the Democrats and their many presidential candidates, and all the candidates for lesser offices of both parties, they want to join in the excitement. I was over there earlier today. Donald Donck seems to be emerging as the party candidate.  I was talking with Waldo, the spokesgoose for the Fowl party. He says Donald has changed his name from Donald Duck to avoid confusion with the Disney duck. Waldo says one of the issues to be decided is just what office Donald D. will run for. Stay tuned.

Well, that’s all from Happy Meadows for now, except to say that I started this blog 2 days ago, so it is now Saturday. Sharona is here, and we are enjoying out visit muchly. Have a fun and safe holiday weekend. Pray for yourselves and your loved ones. Say extra prayers, please, for our friends Norm, Nancy, and Brenda. Bye, Bye!


Higher Power, the horse

So, another week has gone by. Mike went for chemo Thursday, again with no problems, except that he doesn’t sleep well for a couple days afterwards. Maybe tonight will be better. Our hard drive is dying, so Mike had a computer guy come over to set up an extra computer he had at the office. It is sort of half-way done. He is coming back to finish the job in a week, after Mike gets whatever he has to do done. As Roseanne Roseanadana said many times, “It’s always something!”

Here’s an item from Monday’s paper, the August 19, 2019 Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Headline: “9-1 shot Higher Power wins $1M Pacific Classic and Breeder’s cup berth.”

“The 4-year old colt Higher Power took command turning into the stretch Saturday and won the $1 million Pacific Classic by 5 1/4 lengths at Del Mar, Calif., making John Sadler the first trainer to win the Grade 1 race in consecutive years with different horses. Higher Power earned an automatic berth in the $6 million Breeder’s Cup Classic this fall. Ridden by Flavien Prat, Higher Power ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.43 at the seaside track north of San Diego. Sent off at 9-1 odds, the colt paid $21.20, $9.40, and $7.40.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the custom, Higher Power is a phrase commonly used in 12-step programs as an alternative to using the word God by those who prefer to do so. The phrase comes from the second step which reads “came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” I suspect that the owner of Higher Power, the horse, is a 12-stepper of some description. I just thought you might be interested, or even mildly amused. I am (mildly amused). Mike thinks that reliance on a higher power is a good bet.

So, in today’s paper Gracie Staples has an article about black men’s health. She talks about Atlanta urologist Doctor James Bennett, and about all the work he has done to promote the health of black men in Atlanta. He tells the story of civil rights icon Rev. Hosea Williams who had been diagnosed with kidney cancer and who was encouraged to go to Johns Hopkins for surgery. Instead he had Dr. Bennett do the surgery. When asked why, he said he remembered all the beatings he had suffered at the hands of white police officers, and of his fight for equal rights for African Americans. He told Dr. Bennett, “What was that all about if I didn’t have faith in you to do the surgery?” Mike recalls that years ago when he was in Birmingham visiting with his late wife Gena’s family, they were over at a cousin of Gena’s grandmother. Harvey was talking about the fact that he went to a black doctor for his medical care. Furthermore, he said he would go to a black doctor even if right down the street there was a better white doctor. Not everyone agreed with him, but I get it. It was timely that Mike saw the article and thought about cousin Harvey, because he had just been thinking about Harvey’s daughter, Brenda, and that he owed her a call. She had contacted Mike a couple of years ago and they talked about getting together, but it still hasn’t happened. He just called and left a message a few minutes ago. She and her husband still live in Birmingham, I think. I don’t know how far that is from Happy Meadows. I hope they can come for a visit. I always like to meet with family. And speaking of family, we are getting a visit from Mike’s niece, Sharona, in a few days. We are all looking forward to it. Her son Mo is getting married in Colorado this weekend to Zoe, a lovely girl, and Mike and Judy didn’t go. He is not traveling while getting chemo. I can’t say that I blame him.

And this from Spoiled Donald, the Chosen One.  Greenland?  Really?? What about affordable health care? Well, never mind. Why do I even get started? Mike always tell me not to get political in my blog.

I guess I will leave it at that for today. As you maybe can tell, not much is happening in Happy Meadows these days. We have had a hot, dry summer, and are ready for a break. School has started, and football is nigh upon us. Let’s hope that we get some good rain, cooler weather, and that everyone’s team wins. Be safe and be well. So long from Happy Meadows.


A good report

So, Mike had his PET scan Monday and went for chemo and met with Dr. B. today. She told him there is dramatic improvement in the lymphoma, close to full remission, but not quite. She was very pleased, because at this stage  (3 months) into chemo, and not being able to take the revlimid, it is a better response than we could have expected. I know his doctors are great, but I also know that the reason he is doing so well has much to do with all the love and prayers that come his way. There was a time in his life when he would have been very skeptical about the idea or reality of positive spiritual energy, but he has learned through life experience to become convinced otherwise. He says he started to cultivate a relationship with God about 50 years ago, so with an honest effort it would have been impossible to fail to make progress, especially with his attendance at religious services, spiritual readings, practice of a 12-step program, and thousands of hours of talking with others also seeking a spiritual path. I think all this prepared him for a unique experience. I don’t think I have told this story before. He had an experience that reinforced his connection with positive spiritual energy to a profound degree. Of course, he could have blown the whole thing off, but he was ready to receive what came his way. If I have told it before it won’t kill you to hear it again.

In 2010 two people he was very close to were dealing with terminal cancer. One was Michael C., a wonderful man who Mike sponsored in AA for many years. Mike is certain he got more from Michael than the other way around. But, how would you measure such a thing? Michael had metastatic prostate cancer. I will talk about Michael more another time. The other man was Mike’s brother-in-law, Joe B.  Joe was Mike’s late wife’s (Gena’s) brother. He had pancreatic cancer. Once Joe was sick, in early summer, Mike called him every day and went to see him every week, down in Jonesboro, an hour each way. Joe was a heavy cigarette smoker, so much so that if you called him and got his voicemail you would hear, “Hello, hello, hello. this is Smokin’ Joe.” That entire 6 months, until Joe died in December, Mike was smelling cigarette smoke in places that nobody was smoking, including at his office where nobody else could smell it. This would occur at random times, several days per week. Mike continued to smell smoke until after the memorial service which was held in early February. Then it stopped. That spring Mike’s brother, Bob, started to lose weight, and eventually was diagnosed with lymphoma. He had a lot of other health problems, and was negligent about getting treatment. His family made a heroic effort to get him to Israel to honor his wish to die there. Mike got a call Sunday October 2, 2011  only a few days after Bob arrived in Israel. He was in a nursing care home/hospital, he had developed respiratory distress, and was on life support. Mike made plans to travel to Israel, and left on Wednesday, Oct. 5. He had a layover at Kennedy airport in New York, and while sitting at the gate at 10:30 PM, waiting to board, he caught a powerful aroma of cigarette smoke. He was very early for his transatlantic flight, and there was nobody else around. And, of course, smoking wasn’t allowed there anyway. Mike wasn’t sure what to think about this, but he did think about it. His plane arrived in Israel the following afternoon. Mike’s niece, Ayala, met him to take him to her house. She told him that her father had died early that morning. Mike asked what time he had passed, and she told him it was 4:30. Given the 6 hour time difference, Mike realized that it was at the exact same time that he smelled the cigarette smoke. He still isn’t certain what he should conclude about this. but, he believes there may have been actual communication to him from some source of energy. He does not know who or what was the source of the communication. He figures maybe one day he will find out. He says it was a moving and meaningful experience, and makes him think he is doing something right in this world. I was not yet around, so all this is very second hand. but don’t forget, I am a cat, and a black one at that. Don’t underestimate the spiritual awareness that we cats are endowed with. Cats simply are more naturally spiritually aware than people. What comes to us naturally and completely, people have to work at to just get a glimpse. Mike says he could do better with his spiritual practice, and believe me, he could, but he at least is open to it, and makes it part of his daily life. Specifically, since May he has asked God every day, in addition to asking God to make him the best person, husband, father, friend,doctor, and sponsor that he can be, to also make him the best cancer patient he can be. And when people tell him they are praying for him, which happens every day, he looks at them, thanks them, and tells them it is working.

Well, I’ll leave it at that for now. I thought I should send out this good news quickly. As for the other goings on in Happy Meadows, there will be plenty of time to keep you informed. Until then, be well, be safe, don’t be angry, feel the love, and be nice to your cats. And I suppose to your dogs as well. Peace!

Misery to Joy in 6 Short Days

So, Mike went back to Emory for an infusion 2 days ago. His blood counts continue to improve, and he feels well. He had to stop the Revlimid a week ago because it doesn’t like his skin, nor does his skin like it. The rash is also much improved again, and he says it doesn’t itch now. This coming week will be informative on the lymphoma side of things. He has a PET scan Monday, and will get the results from Dr. B. on Thursday. Or maybe he can get it sooner from the patient portal, which he now knows how to access. He was making the mistake of entering the word “doctor” in front of his doctor’s name, and got a “no results found” message. That makes sense. Why would you refer to your doctor as doctor? Stay tuned for breaking news.

Every once in a while Mike gets a bright idea. He is better on the creative side than the actual selling side. His best idea came out of his work with chronic pain patients. He came up with an on-line patient education program for pain doctors to use in their management of patients. The patient would get a link to go on line and go through a set of about 35 power point slides. The slides talked about medications used for pain management, including both opioid and non-opioid formulations. They discuss correct use of medication, potential risks and side effects, and regulations governing their use. There was also information about drug abuse and addiction. Patients would be able to access the program, and after reviewing the slides take a 10 question test on the material. They could then submit the test results to the pain management doctor, where it could go into their electronic medical record. Thus, the doctor would get documentation that the education has been completed, an important risk management measure, especially if there is a subsequent problem with the patient’s medication usage (including accidental overdose). The patient would get a thorough and understandable education about their medication, and could go back and review the material at any time. Mike was going to charge a small fee to the doctor for this service. The cost was less than it would have been for the doctor to have his/her staff do the education and document that it was done. Mike found the doctors that he approached resistant to the fee because insurance wouldn’t cover a patient education service, so it could not be recovered. They also felt that there would be complaining from patients if they were asked to pay. A few doctors did use the system, and liked it, but he could never get it going on a large scale. It would have required a greater investment of time and money than he was prepared to expend. He has shut the program down, but it is ready to go if someone else wants to try to run it. Not likely, in my opinion, and he has made no effort over the past year to generate any interest. C’est la vie.

So, in another newsworthy item, the Dallas Cowboy’s star running back, Ezekiel Elliott, wants a new contract paying him more than any running back in the league. I only mention this because of what the Cowboy’s owner, Jerry Jones, was quoted as saying about the situation. His statements are remarkable and noteworthy for their word-salad approach to giving reporters a quote.  According to the agreement between the team owners and the players union, Elliott is bound to his rookie contract for 2 more years, so he has to struggle along at around $2,000,000 per year. His only recourse is to not show up, and hope that the team wants him badly enough that they will renegotiate the contract.  When asked about when he might be concerned that Elliott is not playing, Jones was quoted as saying,”I don’t see a point months into the season. While we’re not there right now, there are some lines there. And they do bite when you don’t play. I don’t have a time that I’m looking at that is a concern.” What does that mean? Or this: “As far as doing something that would disrupt and shake the base of our plans for how to keep the talent we’ve got here and how to do that, I’m not about to shake that loose over that concern.” What? How does one explain how a successful businessman, who must be very intelligent, can use the English language so poorly. My theory is that he constructs his sentences for public consumption deliberately in such a way that they mean absolutely nothing. This way he can give reporters a quote but not be held to the quote because it doesn’t mean anything. Why a reporter would publish such a muddled collection of words is a good question, but I guess they just report what is given to them. The commentators have been analyzing the situation for weeks, opinions flying everywhere about who is right, and who has more to lose. Mike thinks that Jerry Jones has way more to lose than Ezekiel Elliott.  Dallas has not been to the Super Bowl since 1996, when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17. I don’t think Jerry Jones is getting any younger, and Mike thinks the Cowboys need Elliott to get back to the Super Bowl this year. Elliott is bound to make more money in his football career than he will ever know what to do with, unless he throws it away like so many athletes do. But as I said, I really don’t care. It doesn’t affect me one way or the other. I’m just a little black cat who sort of minds his own business here in Happy Meadows.

And by the way, it should be mentioned that International Cat Day was this week. Or should it? Every day is Cat Day, in my opinion. You might want to check back to my post “Happy National Cat Day Y’all” (October 29, 2017.) That is the same post that I talked about St. Dymphna, who, in an entirely different context was brought up by Michelle in a conversation with Mike this week. How random is that? And in a follow-up to my blurb last time about Tisha B’Av, it is worth noting that this sad day is followed 6 days later by Tu B’Av (the 15th of Av). This year it is sundown of August 14 to sundown of August 15. Tu B’Av is an ancient holiday that was celebrated during the time of the second temple. It was a date in which unmarried women were found matches with eligible husbands. In modern Israel it is celebrated in a way similar to Valentine’s Day here in the USA. Misery to joy in 6 short days. What a great progression.

So, that’s enough, or more than enough for now. It’s another hot sunny day in Happy Meadows. Mike and Judy are going to have lunch with their friend Brenda today. She is having her own battle with cancer. Pray for her if you do that sort of thing. It creates good energy. Have a blessed day. Until next time, so long from Happy Meadows!