So, What Would You Have Done?

So, yesterday was Thanksgiving, and we all got together with Norm, Nancy, Wes, Rachel, Adam, and Jeanne and all the family that welcomes us each year. The food is always over the top, and the fellowship is superb. They even have a nice old dog, Dante. We are grateful for such good friends.

Monday and Tuesday were Emory days, for tests, conferences, and procedures. It was quite exhausting. We know a lot more than we had known, and will find out even more this coming Tuesday when we meet with Dr. K.  Monday morning they drew 17 vials of blood from Mike. He had to beg for them to leave some for him (not really). We had a chance to see the lab where Mike will have the procedure in which his blood cells are separated. He will be in the bed in the lab for 5 hours or so, and then they will tell him if he needs to come back on Tuesday. This could go through Thursday. They have to give him medication so that his stem cells are released from the bone marrow where they can be collected and separated from the other blood cells. They keep and freeze the stem cells, and return the other cells to Mike. The medication might have unpleasant side effects. I hope not; we will just have to wait and see. Everywhere Mike goes he meets people who tell him they are praying for him. I know this will be a big help as there is power in prayer, even though we don’t always get what we ask for. In Mike’s meditation today the words for him to keep close to today were “Faith,” and “Hope.”

Monday afternoon Mike was scheduled for a bone marrow biopsy. Prior to the procedure Mike went to the bathroom to use some soap to help him remove his wedding ring. He washed his hands and was holding the ring in one hand as he was drying his hands with a paper towel. The plan was to dry the ring at the same time. Of course, I was there in the bathroom with him. As he was drying his hands I heard a loud “ping.”  The ring had hit the bathroom floor. I didn’t hear any follow-up noises of the ring rolling around or settling in a spot on the floor. Mike and I looked behind the toilet, under the toilet, and all over the floor. No ring. I put my paws up on the side of the commode and looked inside. Mike looked too. There at the bottom of the bowl was a shiny gold ring. I looked up at Mike as he considered his options. So, what would you have done? Probably the same thing Mike did. He reached into the toilet and retrieved the ring. He was lucky it was within reach. He then washed his hands and the ring again thoroughly, dried off, and we returned to where Judy was waiting. She assumed possession of the ring, which now is back on Mike’s finger where it belongs.

You might remember that Mike will be admitted to Emory Hospital on December 24 for his bone marrow transplant procedure. We are doing our best to take each day as it comes. As we find out more about what to expect the anxiety level is going down. We had originally been told of extreme isolation procedures, including separation from the other cats for at least 100 days. This doesn’t look like the plan after all. Mike finds his cats comforting, Shayna Maidel especially, who likes to sleep on Mike. Early in the morning as Mike is starting to awaken he rolls onto his back. Shayna Maidel climbs onto his chest where she can feel herself softly rising and falling with each breath that Mike takes. He also likes to pet her when she is lying there on his chest. It is kind of sweet.

So, not much more for today, but you will be hearing from me shortly, I am sure. I hope it is not too cold where you live. Wherever you are, stay warm, be safe, and have faith and hope for good things. So long for now from Happy Meadows.

Chicken Foot Diplomacy

So, first let’s acknowledge Bill Russell, who played for the Boston Celtics from 1956-1969. During that span his team won 11 NBA titles. He had been elected to the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame in 1975, but refused to attend the ceremony or accept the award at that time. Very recently he accepted the award in a private ceremony attended by his family and close friends. He did so only after Chuck Cooper, who died in 1984, was elected to the Hall of Fame. Chuck Cooper was the first African-American drafted into the NBA (in 1950.) Russell has stated that he didn’t think he should accept the honor before those who paved the way for him were honored. It is so gratifying to know that there are still people with principles around, people who will stand up for what they believe, at personal cost to themselves. Mike has an attitude about Halls of Fame, as you may recall my writing in “Tisha B’Av” (August 4, 2019.) He just doesn’t like the idea of people making value judgments about whether other people are “good enough.”  This, especially when other people could wonder about whether the people making these value judgments are “good enough.”

There is nothing new to report about Mike’s health, except that he had his colonoscopy this week. They wouldn’t let me in to observe the procedure, darn them. I did have the opportunity to observe the prep, however. My advice is, don’t have a colonoscopy. I’m glad they don’t do that to cats (or do they?). Next week he has a bunch of tests and meetings at Emory, so we will know much more soon about what to expect.

And in our top story, China has agreed to start importing chicken feet from the USA again, after a 5 year ban imposed because of a flu outbreak. This is a big deal here in Georgia, as we are the biggest chicken producer in the country, and the ban has been painful for producers of chickens who haven’t been able to get nearly  what they got from China for the chicken feet. I think they have to sell them for fertilizer or something, for a fraction of what the Chinese will pay. Chicken feet are apparently a delicacy in China, where they are fried and served with a special sauce. Somehow, these savory morsels have not caught on in the US of A. Mike says his mother used to buy feet and necks from the kosher butcher and make chicken stock with them. Then she would fish out the feet and necks from the pot and ask if he wanted them, which he always did. What part of the chicken is better than the skin? Even if it is boiled instead of fried it is still yummy, I am sure. So, Mike has gone through quite a few chicken feet (and chicken necks) in his day. He says he always wound up with a pile of bones on his plate, toes and neck bones all mixed up together.

This reminds me of a story I have heard Mike tell. When he was in medical school he attended an anatomy lecture in which the topic was the wrist. The wrist is composed of a collection of bones, tendons, and ligaments which connect the forearm to the hand. The eight bones in the wrist all fit tightly together, comprising a unit which allows for passage of nerves, arteries, veins, and other goodies, and keeps the hand from falling off or flopping around. The eight bones are the navicular, lunate, cuneiform, pisiform, greater multangular, lesser multangular, capitate, and hamate. Each bone has its own distinctive shape. Some of the surfaces are smooth whereas other surfaces are rough, facilitating tendon and ligament attachment. Medical students are expected to recognize each bone, and to be able to name all the surfaces and points of contact on each bone. Human skeletons are available in the anatomy lab, both reassembled and also as unattached bones. Through their study medical students can become familiar with skeletal anatomy, and be able to understand how the body is supposed to function normally. The lecturer that day noted the different shape of each of the eight bones, and told a story of a medical student whom he characterized as not by any means the best student, but one who had developed a particular skill. This student could pop all eight wrist bones into his mouth, and on command spit out the correct bone as it was called. I imagine this demonstration was made more entertaining with the consumption of beer, the more the better. It was a frat-boy stunt if I ever heard of one. I also imagine something like this couldn’t happen in our era of correctness, nor should it. People might think twice before donating their bodies to science if they thought they might be thusly disrespected.

The relationship between our country and China has been testy lately. For years China has been stealing American intellectual property. The American president started a trade war with China, partly in retaliation, and partly based on his theory of economics, however eccentric it might be.  The two countries have a long history of distrust and conflicting interests. Mike remembers the great ambition of President Nixon to be known as the president who broke the stalemate between the two countries. He recognized that in the 21st century China would be a force that would have to be reckoned with. A chance occurrence in 1971 set things in motion. There was an international table tennis tournament in Japan, and in the course of events one of the American players made a friendly overture to the Chinese team. It was warmly received, and led to an invitation for the American team to come to China. At that time the Chinese were the top players in the world, and the Americans were no match for them. But it was more about establishing relationships. Nixon went to China and met with Chairman Mao, both of them all smiles. The whole process came to be known as “ping pong diplomacy.” Mike says that through the opening up of trade in chicken feet once more, the hostile relations between our countries can be eased in what should forever be known as “chicken foot diplomacy.” I agree.

The Democrats were in town this week. Donald Donck is closer to making his announcement of what office he will be running for as the Fowl party candidate. Governor Kemp is closer to making his announcement on who he will appoint to the US Senate to take Johnny Isakson’s seat next year. He had invited people to apply for the job, and got over 500 names, mine not among them. Next November, though, that seat will be up for election, and I think Donald Donck is strongly considering entering the race. Stay tuned for exciting news on that front. I, for one, don’t see why a duck shouldn’t be taken seriously as a candidate for office, especially considering some of the humans who are now in office.

So, that’s all the news for now from Happy Meadows. I hope I didn’t gross you out with my wrist bone story. The worst thing that can be said about the story is that it is completely true. Next week is Thanksgiving. I hope you all have a lot to be thankful for. We certainly do here in Happy Meadows. You will be hearing from me again real soon. So long for now, and don’t forget to love your neighbor.

Cats in the News

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

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

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

It’s All in the Pronouns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Whiskey in a Pod and Other Bad Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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