Happy National Cat Day, Y’all!

So, here it is nearly the end of October and I realize that I failed to make you aware that the first full week of October was mental illness awareness week. The idea of having special days, weeks, or months to raise public consciousness about certain issues has its merits but it seems to me that it’s gotten out of hand. For example, did you know that October is also national breast cancer awareness month, national Down syndrome awareness month, health literacy month, healthy lung month, home eye safety month, pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, and sudden infant death syndrome awareness month?  We also have bone and joint health national action week from October 12-20; national health education week the 3rd full week of October; international infection prevention week October 16 – 22; and national healthcare quality week from October 17-22. We also have special days in October: world mental health day on October 10; world cerebral palsy day on October 6; national Depression screening day also on October 6; national Latino AIDS awareness day on October 15; world pediatric bone and joint day on October 19; international stuttering awareness day on October 22; and today, October 29, we celebrate world psoriasis day. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to be in favor, against, or just aware of psoriasis, but today is the day. I think  it is important to point out that this is not nearly a complete list for the month of October. I looked it up but I didn’t see an international bad dog day, week, or month in October so it must be some other time of year.

This would have slipped my mind completely except that Mike gets a newsletter every month from the diocese of Madison Wisconsin. It is from the Apostolate for persons with disabilities. This used to be called the Apostolate for the handicapped until they came up with a more PC title. It’s just a matter of time until it becomes the Apostolate for persons with special needs. They do good work in providing religious, recreational and other services for people with special needs. Every Sunday morning they do a televised mass for people who can’t get out. The newsletter has little articles of encouragement and information for people with special needs. These people could include the hard of hearing, the blind, or otherwise physically or mentally challenged individuals and their caretakers. The late Msgr. Thomas Campion was in charge of this apostolate for a great many years and did a very fine job with it. Mike has a connection here in that Msgr. Campion was a cousin to Father Tom Vickerman, a fellow that Mike was close to when he used to live in Madison years ago.

The bulletin from the apostolate for persons with disabilities mentions St. Dymphna, the patron saint of those who have mental illnesses. Mike did some research into St. Dymphna, and his opinion is that the quality of the information is poor. It may be so inaccurate that she may have never actually existed in the first place. But it doesn’t really matter. One reason for the questionable authenticity is that nothing was known to have been written down about St. Dymphna until at least 600 years after her death. She was said to have been the daughter of a small-time Irish king whose wife died when Dymphna was 14 years of age. By this point in her life, Dymphna  had already professed her Christianity and devoted her life to one of purity and prayer. When her mother died, her father set about to find a woman who was as beautiful and looked as much like his late wife as possible. Lo and behold, after searching the land who did he find living in his own house, but his 14-year-old daughter who favored her mother very much. Not wanting to be defiled by marrying her father, Dymphna escaped across the English channel to Belgium aided by a small group of friends led by her confessor, father Gerebernus. Eventually her father found where she was, sailed across the channel to bring her home, and chopped off her head when she refused to marry him. Yikes! Of course her little coterie of co-conspirators were likewise separated from their heads. This story is particularly repugnant to Mike because Michelle was 14 when her mother died. It is well known and  well accepted in our society that the job of the parents is to provide for the needs of their children, not the other way around. At least, not until the parents themselves are incapacitated. However, some people are so narcissistic that they cannot see that anybody other than they themselves are entitled to have needs, let alone have their needs met. So why shouldn’t Dymphna marry her father? He needed  her to satisfy his ego and assuage his grief. It was what she was there for. Really sick. People in power have a tendency to abuse it to satisfy their own egos. It wouldn’t be necessary for them to do that if they were secure in who they are. But a lot of insecure people develop impressive skills at grabbing power. A phrase that I have heard that makes a great deal of sense is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is why the founders of our country set up a system of checks and balances so that no one individual could become too powerful. Mike thinks that’s a very good thing, especially today.

Another curious thing about the whole Saint Dymphna story involves the idea of a patron saint. The Catholic religion speaks of the intercession of saints. The idea is that people who were especially meritorious in their lives on earth go to heaven where they pray for those of us who are still here on earth and are in need of answers to prayer. So instead of praying directly to God one could pray to a particular saint depending on the nature of the problem in question. The idea is not to ask the saint for the desired result directly, but rather to intercede with God on the supplicant’s behalf. Of course, any a good idea can be taken to ridiculous extremes. A few years ago when Mike and Judy were at the zoo in Lincoln Park in Chicago they overheard a woman telling her friend that she had prayed to St. Anthony for a parking space.

I don’t think there was anything new about the  idea of intercession of saints but it was established as official church teaching by the Council of Trent which met between 1545 and 1563. This council was convened during a period of time in which the Catholic Church was under attack by the Protestant Reformation. The church responded to these challenges by firstly, cleaning up some of the abuses that were correctly identified by the reformers, and secondly, making certain specific beliefs formally established as official Church teaching. It was at the same council that the doctrine of transubstantiation was made official church teaching. This is the belief that during the consecration of the Eucharist the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. Personally, I find this a hard thing to wrap my head around, but as a mystery, I love it.

Anyway, St. Dymphna is the patron saint for the mentally ill and also for incest victims. (A curious fact is that the city in Belgium that she fled to, Gheel, is the site of a remarkable story of a successful social experiment in managing the mentally ill by a community. People in the town take in psychiatric patients and make them part of their own families, sometimes for 30 years or more. The entire process is managed by the local psychiatric hospital. You might want to look this up and read more about it. It really is remarkable.) There are patron saints for just about everything. St. Apollonia is the saint you would pray to if you had a toothache. Her feast day is February 9. St. Martin is the saint you would pray to if you are an alcoholic wanting to achieve sobriety. His feast day is November 12. St. Gertrude of Nivelle is the patron saint of cats. She is also the patron saint of gardeners, travelers, and widows. Her feast day is March 17. And yes, there is a patron saint of dogs, Saint Roch, who is said to have been kept alive miraculously when he was starving in the desert by a dog that would bring him a loaf of bread every day. I’m not sure when his feast day is, but if you’re really interested I’m sure you can look it up. I don’t know what  is so hard to believe about the intercession of saints. It’s commonplace to hear of Guardian Angels. A lot of this gets into what you believe happens to a person’s spirit after they die. Some people think that it is just finito, that’s all she wrote. Most people however, and certainly all cats, believe that there is a life in the hereafter. Supposing that to be true, then the question becomes, do those who pass on have any contact with the world that they have left? Most people that I talk to, and all cats that I know, believe that this is the case. For example, I have heard Mike and Judy say that they can see the influence of Michelle’s mother in her being protected and finding her place in the world. I don’t have to understand this, but I believe that it is true; and that is good enough for me.

Oh, and by the way, I don’t think I mentioned that there is a national cat day. And guess what, it is October 29!! Happy national cat day y’all!  And you can count on it, I will let you know when there is more news from Happy Meadows. With everything going on in this wacky place, you shouldn’t have to wait long.

Sad times in Happy Meadows.

So, we have had  sad times in Happy Meadows. Three people in Mike’s world either died or had deaths in their family. This is always sad and distressing. It’s also unfortunate that deaths in families often have a tendency to cause old wounds between other family members to start throbbing and come to the surface. In healthier families, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are much more admirable and contribute to healing. With life being as hectic as it is, Mike only got to one of the 3 funerals. But he did make it to the homes of the other 2 grieving families after work this past Wednesday. Well, one of the visitations was at a funeral home. He left work at 5 o’clock and drove all over North Georgia practically. Comforting the bereaved is one of the most important of obligations emphasized by the rabbis, along with visiting the sick, freeing the captive, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and attending the dead to the grave.  Grieving families appreciate that you thought enough of them and their loved one to come and pay your respects.  Mike didn’t get home until after 9, exhausted. He had picked up sushi on his way home. (I admire Mike in a lot of ways but he’s far from perfect. I was very clear in my communication with him that a piece of salmon would be lovely. But let me tell you this about Mike, he doesn’t share his sushi.) One of the deaths was a young woman friend of Mike’s whose death was neither suicide nor overdose related. She was an addict but she died sober. In fact, the last few months of her life were some of her happiest. She had been born with a serious heart defect and had had a number of corrective surgeries. Mike says she got every second out of her heart  that she possibly could before it finally failed for the last time. She was a courageous and loving person, and she will be missed.

So, sorry to switch to such a mundane topic, but Jackson continues to pass hard poos as Mike continues to increase the amount of Metamucil he is adding to the kibble. The rest of us are passing the most excellent poos, but the Metamucil hasn’t changed Jackson’s internal behavior in the slightest. Mike says that he must have gotten this condition from Grandpa Moe. Mike’s father suffered from IBS and had a morbid preoccupation with his inner workings. Anyway, Mike and Judy continue to strategize and managed to get a laxative into him last night. Not long after he threw up an enormous hairball. He tried to act like it wasn’t his, and of course the rest of us weren’t talking, but Mike knew. Even this may have been helpful, though, if he had that much hair in his stomach.  Mike and Judy would like to avoid bringing him back to the Extreme Vet or even worse, the emergency vet. I will keep you posted as I promised earlier. I know you are perched on the edges of your seats (or commodes).

Mike is disgusted with his Google maps app. Although he (unjustifiably) takes pride in his sense of direction, he has come to occasionally appreciate the value of getting good directions and following them. It reminds me of the gag about why Moses and the children of Israel had to wander 40 years in the desert before they came to the promised land. You know the gag so I won’t give you the punch line. If you don’t know the gag, consider the context. Anyway, the woman who talks you through the directions has gotten quite inconsistent about when she is willing to talk. She typically will start at the very beginning, something simple like back down your driveway to the street, which of course you wouldn’t have known to do that if she hadn’t said so. And then when you’re actually there she tells you that you’re actually there. Nothing in between. So Wednesday when Mike went to the first visitation he managed to find the location but had to park about a block away because there were so many cars there. He walked down the hill until he came to the driveway and just as he was about to start up the driveway this female voice in his pocket said “Your destination is on the left.” Very helpful. Michelle suggested deleting it from his phone and then downloading it again. This makes sense. Sometimes Mike has to turn his computer off and then turn it back on again in order to get it to behave properly. Some days I have to reboot myself, so I get this. Now all Mike needs to do is figure out how to execute this complex task. I’ll keep you informed.

There has been some discussion that I’ve heard on the radio about some government official referring to his boss as a “moron”. I don’t think the reference was meant to be literal, just uncomplimentary. While I think that it’s important to be respectful to people, it would also be desirable if people could behave in a manner which is worthy of respect. The greatest challenge in any job is dealing with the other people who are there, and sometimes people let their anger get the best of them. Cats have the same issues but we resolve them easily and quickly. We either hiss, snarl, glare, make a big tail, fight, walk away, or some combination thereof. And we never carry resentments although we may remain wary of other cats, people, or dogs who have demonstrated that they might be dangerous or can’t be trusted.

Speaking of morons, people have cleaned up their language pretty well about other people with disabilities. When Mike was in medical school about 100 years ago moron was an actual medical term. It referred to people with an IQ between 50 and 70. Then there were the imbeciles whose IQ was between 30 and 50. Lowest on the totem pole were the idiots whose IQ was below 30. There were even institutes for morons, imbeciles, and idiots. These were places where families deposited their intellectually impaired loved ones. Today the concept of children with special needs is widely talked about and understood, and very much lacks the social stigma that these things used to have. Public and private schools both have developed the capacity to provide learning environments to accommodate children with special needs. And families are in general much more accepting of these issues, however challenging they may be. Mike’s older brother, Bob, today would have been called a special needs child. If folks had known then what they know now, he would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder, a form of autism. (Doctor Asperger actually wrote his paper in 1944, but it attracted little attention at the time considering what else was going on in Austria then. And it didn’t reach the English speaking world for years since he wrote it in his native language of German. It only surfaced in the US in the early 1990’s as far as I know.)Bob had a lot of trouble making friends as a kid but as an adult he figured out a way to make his life work. He married a lovely woman and raised a fine family. He was admired in his community. But as he was growing up his life and certainly Mike’s parents lives would have been much easier if there were resources available to help him adjust to a world that he had trouble understanding. It was a tragedy in more than one way. Mike’s mother had lost her own mother when she was 4 years of age and she didn’t feel loved or wanted by her stepmother. Her compensation in her own mind for this was to become the best mother in the world. Now, the only way to determine if someone is the world’s best mother would have to be to have the world’s best kids. While this is a burden for any kid to have to try to achieve, impossible really, it is totally impossible for a child with special needs who doesn’t understand the world that he lives in. Mike didn’t have much of a shot at perfection either, and trust me, he certainly hasn’t achieved it. All Mike’s father wanted was to have normal children. Mike has learned that when his older brother was born his father told his mother that she had to give him one of 3 names, Robert, Richard, or George. (Mike’s father hated his own name, Moses.) Mike thanks God every day that she selected Robert. Bob’s life was hard enough as a kid as it was. Mike had another kid in his class who had Asperger’s disorder whose name was George, and Mike remembers that this didn’t help things at all. Kids can be cruel. The other kid in his class who had Asperger’s disorder was named Kenyon. Kenyon was fascinated with trains and had taken pictures of every Chicago Transit Authority train car and bus that they had ever used. Kenyon had a paper route and got hit by a car early one morning and lost the use of his left arm completely. It hung at his side like a dead fish. It was pretty awful. The kids were nicer to Kenyon after that though.

Anyway, the guy who was supposedly referred to as a moron couldn’t ignore it. He said that he would be happy to compare his intellect to anyone’s and that he would win the contest. I think that anyone who has to brag about how smart he is is suffering from insecurity. If you’re smarter than everyone else just be smarter than everyone else, you don’t have to say so. The funny thing is, Mike says that what he heard the guy actually said was not that his boss was a moron, but that he was a fucking moron. He must have really been frustrated and lost his composure. I can understand that. Sometimes things get to be just a little bit too much and you just don’t want to maintain composure all the time. Just let it out, and damn the consequences.

Well that’s all the news from Happy Meadows for now.  Be safe, try not to be sad, and enjoy the lovely fall weather.

The Tale of the Constipated Cat 2.0

So, it has been another exciting week at Happy Meadows. Or maybe not so much. Well, for one thing Jackson has been throwing up a lot lately. He also started depositing nutmeg seed-like poos in the litter box again. So, Friday Mike and Judy took him to the Extreme Vet where they flushed him out and sent him back home. He is feeling much better now. One thing about cats, we will not let anyone know if we have a problem. It is instinctive self-preservation. Animals of prey will seek out sick or weak animals to hunt and kill. Doctor Brad recommended a new strategy to try to keep him from being constipated again. We will see how it works. I will let you know.

The other day Mike and Judy’s neighbor brought over some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and a big eggplant. They belong to some kind of produce club that sends them primo vegetables and fruits periodically. However, they don’t care for eggplant. So they thanked Judy for taking the eggplant and Judy thanked them for the cookies. Truthfully, eggplant is nothing that would interest a cat, but Mike and Judy seem to like it. She cooked it up and made ratatouille. It came in handy as Mike’s break fast meal when he came home last night from synagogue. Jewish people go to synagogue on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, and spend the day in fasting and prayer. That is, they do if they see the importance of it to themselves personally. Although Mike is not a religious person, this is a tradition that he observes. He says he does it because of all the generations of Jewish people who were willing to die to preserve their way of obedience to God. He thinks it’s the least he can do. It’s also character building to miss a meal once in a while. It’s hard to relate to the suffering people (or cats) in the world if you don’t get a little cold or hungry yourself once in a while. And there’s plenty of suffering of both the 2 legged and four-legged variety. Just look what is going on in Puerto Rico right now. I might be wrong about this but I think the American president said that he would help them out as soon as they sent a check. Or something like that. But back to the eggplant for a minute. Mike said that the eggplant that the neighbors rejected is the cornerstone upon which our ratatouille was built. I wonder what he meant by that.

I don’t think there’s that many Jewish people that live in our neighborhood. But I could be wrong. I know the Blumenthals and Lowensteins live here, but the Blumenthals are Methodists and Lowensteins are Episcopalians (see Fake Jews posted May 26, 2017). My observation about Jewish people is that they are not really that preoccupied with sinfulness.  Jewish Law can be summed up, according to Rabbi Hillel, by obedience to the Golden Rule…. treat your fellow man as you would hope to be treated. (Of course, one can get into more detail if one is so inclined.) So before asking God for forgiveness for any personal lapses that he may have experienced in the previous year, he is expected to make amends to his fellow man first. The other thing that interests me about God’s forgiveness is that it is sought by the entire community. I like the idea, and there is nothing in the cat world that would correspond to this sense of community. We might be missing out on something. The community part, not the forgiveness for our sins part. Because of our feline nature we cats are always living within the dictates of God’s Will. We lack the capacity to do otherwise. Even the cat behavior of “torturing the crippled mouse” is within God’s Will, even though people can’t understand it. Anyway, Christians have their own route to forgiveness and salvation, as do members of other religious faiths. What is true for you is not necessarily true for others. Some people have trouble with this notion, and this very thing has led to the worst imaginable atrocities in the name of religion.  It is like I was saying in my most recent post, that idealism that lacks compassion can lead to absurdity. (It is a good thing to charge $100 for a bottle of water in a critical shortage situation because it allows the marketplace to dictate distribution of resources.)

The ugly dog contest is coming up again in a few weeks. Joker is the reigning champion. Joker is the Donkle’s dog that is not a White German Shepherd. I like hanging out with him. He does have a goofy smile, I must say. There is a part of me that doesn’t like the idea of an ugly dog contest, but what the hell, it’s really all in good fun. And the dogs are too stupid to know the difference. When Mike and Judy were up in North Carolina not that long ago they ran across a place  called the ugly dog saloon or something like that. Mike took a picture. I was going through his photo gallery and ran across a picture of a dog even uglier than Joker. I’ll post it for you if I can figure out how.

The Ugly Dog Public House
An Ugly Dog

There, I did it. Look at those ears and that nose. Only a mother could love such a creature.