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!

Tisha B’Av

So, this was Mike’s “Freedom from chemo” week. Every 4th week he skips his trip to Emory. However, he still has the capsules, Revlimid, that he takes at home. He is supposed to take 1 capsule per day for 21 days, then stop for 7 days, and then repeat the cycle. He had to stop the first cycle after 5 days because he started to run a fever, and the second time he tried it he had to stop after 7 days because of a rash. He called Emory early this week and let them know the rash was (almost) gone, so he was given a green light to try it again; but they told him to stop the medication if he gets another rash. So, he started it again on Thursday. Last night (Saturday) he noticed an itchy raised red patch on his leg. He told Judy that technically it might not really be a rash, because it is only one spot. Also, it looked nothing like the rash he got last time from Revlimid. So, he will continue to take the medication unless he gets more spots, or another kind of rash; or a fever; or a cough; or blood clots. You get the idea. Mike is invested in taking Revlimid because he thinks it is a critical component of his “kill  the cancer” campaign. Let’s hope for good things for him. Thus far he has had good feedback on improvement from the myeloma, but no feedback on the lymphoma. That is about to change. On August 12 he has a repeat PET scan, which will give a report on how much the tumors have shrunk (if at all.) Once again, let’s hope for good things. Mike is very grateful that he has felt so well thus far on his journey. And, he wanted me to tell you that he is immensely grateful for all of your prayers, love, and support.

From sundown on August 10 to sundown on August 11, this year, the worldwide Jewish community celebrates a solemn fast day. The holiday is known as Tisha B’Av, or, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. The day is the culmination of 3 weeks of mourning commencing on the 17th day of the Hebrew month Tammuz. On that date in the year 70 CE the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem and began to slaughter the Jews and destroy the city. On the 9th of Av they set fire to the Holy Temple. This occurred 502 years, to the date, after the Babylonians destroyed the first temple. Other disasters in Jewish history occurred on the 9th of Av, including the fall of Betar in 133 CE, resulting in the butchery of tens of thousands of Jewish men, women, and children by the Romans, effectively ending the Bar Kochba revolt. On the 9th of Av in 1290 CE the Jews were expelled from England, and on the same date in 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain. (I hope I got all these dates right.) During the 3 weeks of mourning, traditional Jews abstain from listening to music, making significant purchases, or holding weddings. On Tisha B’Av it is customary to fast, pray, abstain from pleasurable activities, and in the synagogue the Book of Lamentations is read. Mike is not an observant Jew, so he does none of these things specifically. But, he marks the day in his prayers of the day. He is also aware that on every day of the calendar year some atrocity has been perpetrated against Jews. Furthermore, he is aware that Jews hold no exclusive monopoly on being victims of religious or ethnic hatred and genocide. But since he is Jewish, he does take special note of what has befallen and what continues to savage his brethren. The truth is that if one group is not safe then no-one is safe. Hatred and violence perpetuate more hatred and violence. There is much to be said for turning the other cheek, and for loving one’s neighbor as oneself.

Mike and Michelle were in Israel on Tisha B’Av in 1993, and visited the kotel, the Western Wall that supports the Temple Mount. It was quite an experience. In traditional synagogues people are still praying in the liturgy for the restoration of the Temple. For most modern Jews, including Mike, this form of worship would have no appeal or meaning. Mike doesn’t think that God really loves the smell of burning flesh of bullocks and lambs. But, after over 2000 years, it doesn’t look likely that the temple will be rebuilt.  I think it is worth noting that if you look around you won’t find the Roman empire, the Babylonian empire, the Spanish Inquisition, or the Third Reich. But it is hard to go anywhere in the world where the Jews cannot be found, even Siberia (See “the Adventure Unfolds”, May 4, 2019.) Jews have spread all over the world mostly because wherever they were living life had gotten too tough or too dangerous to stay. This has never changed and probably never will. One and probably the main advantage of the Jewish diaspora is that it makes it that much harder to get rid of them all, for whatever evil or wacky reason someone might have to want to do so.

It was 40 years ago, on August 2, 1979, that New York Yankee catcher Thurman Munson died in a plane crash. He was practicing takeoffs and landings in the small jet plane that he had purchased 3 weeks previously. He was  much admired by his teammates, friends, family, and baseball fans for his baseball skills, leadership qualities, and strength of his personality and character. His death was a shock to everyone who followed baseball at all.  Despite his 11 years of outstanding stewardship behind the plate for the Yankees, he remains unrecognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame. I personally don’t care that much  (remember, I am a cat), but it is a pet peeve of Mike’s. He has a very hard time listening to sportswriters pontificating on why some player or other doesn’t deserve to be in whatever hall of fame is being discussed. Mike would either abolish the halls of fame altogether or leave the voting up entirely to the people who actually played or coached the game.  I suppose in one sense sports are not really that important. But, if you think about it, sports are a much more civilized way to conduct warfare. If you are a Georgia fan you can get pretty worked up about Florida, but nobody in Georgia is going to raise an army and go across the border to rape, pillage, and slaughter Floridians, men, women, and children, and sell the survivors into slavery.

So, it is another day in Happy Meadows. As usual, there is not that much going on. It rained this morning. Some folks have gone to church. Michelle is coming over later. It will be nice to see her. Mostly, life is good. I hope all of you find it so. Until next time, so long from Happy Meadows, and may you all be comforted from whatever sorrows may have come your way.