Wisteria Gone Wild

So, I overheard Mike telling Judy today that he worked for a fellow once who had 5 children. He told Mike that one of the kids took something to eat from the refrigerator without permission, and nobody was owning up to it. So, he lectured them about doing the right thing by thinking about what Jesus would do. Judy said Jesus would have probably upgraded the snacks. Mike says he thought the man should have been able to exercise his own authority, and not fall back on Jesus. And speaking of Jesus, Judy was reminiscing about a song that has the line,”He used to do acid, and now he’s found Jesus, but he still has that look in his eye.”

And this morning Mike heard the toilet flush in the guest bathroom upstairs. This is the bathroom where we have one of our litter boxes; and the four-leggeds are the only guests at the present time. What was unusual about this is that Judy was still asleep. So, Mike questioned us about the flushing. Thus far, no confession has been obtained. I personally don’t know who did it, other than I can say with great assurance that it wasn’t me. What I do suspect is that whoever flushed the toilet was the most surprised cat in the house, and ran like you know what out of the bathroom. It will be interesting to see if there are repeat performances. This could turn into a game.

So, it rained a while ago which we needed to wash the pine pollen off of everything. We are setting pollen records on top of our other strange miseries and goings on. What I can say for sure is that one rain is not going to wash away all the pollen, although the air is clear now. Mike says when he first moved the Georgia from Wisconsin, he thought people were exaggerating about the pollen covering everything, and lying about the clouds of pollen. He now is a believer. In fact, if the children of Israel were fleeing Georgia instead of Egypt, God could have led them with a cloud of pollen by day without having to work much of a miracle.

I have been talking about the spring flowers. Now the hawthorns and hydrangeas are in bloom, and so is the wisteria. Around the corner from our house in Happy Meadows is a wisteria vine that his climbed a fifty foot tree. This is what it looks like.


Incredible, right? I hope you get to see some beautiful spring flowers where you live, but I doubt if you can beat Happy Meadows.

Mike had the best experience last night! His Monday night men’s 12-step group has gone to a zoom format because of the coronavirus. The group has been going for over 30 years, and Mike has been involved with it almost from the beginning. He was introduced to the meeting by his friend Michael C., of blessed memory. Over the years many members have moved away, some as far as Oregon. Last night, because of the on-line format, there were 6 former members who were able to participate. When Mike saw their smiling faces it was almost as if he had died and gone to heaven. There were Chris C., Patrick C., Dave A., Norris N., Andy B., and Don B. along with the usual suspects who are still in the Happy Meadows area. Life is good.

So, not much more to report from Happy Meadows today. Please take care of yourselves, pray for world peace, and please pray for everyone in need of God’s grace (that would be everyone.) You will hear from me again soon. Bye, bye!

Doctor’s Day

So, it is another beautiful day in Happy Meadows. The cherry blossoms have started to fade, as have the pear trees and forsythia. On the other hand, the azaleas and dogwoods are coming into bloom. It is a lovely time of the year. I get out and wander farther than in the cold weather, and am catching up with some of my old feline friends (and making a few new ones.) Mike and Judy stay home except for their daily walks through Happy Meadows. Judy runs an errand once in a while. Mike stays busy on the computer. Yesterday he lost his mind and started deep cleaning like a banshee. He says he has nothing but time, and the house won’t clean itself. Not to say that the house isn’t clean as a rule. But he is crawling around on his hands and knees, getting behind furniture, and generally going where one doesn’t normally go. He says he found enough cat hair to make a new cat, but I don’t think we need another cat. I let him know in no uncertain terms.

So, today is Doctor’s Day. Mike says he has never thought much of Doctor’s Day. He says “Just go to work and do your job. Don’t expect adulation.” Generally, I would agree with him, but we both think this year is an exception. Doctors these days are literally risking their lives taking care of COVID-19 patients. Those not on the front lines are quickly accomodating to taking care of patients using telehealth technology, and responding to the crisis in many other ways. Even Mike, as low tech of an old guy as he is, is seeing patients remotely. He closed his practice last year, but still is the medical director of the Berman Center where they treat people with mental health and substance abuse problems. The idea of Doctor’s Day came from the wife of a doctor in Winder, Georgia, just outside of Athens, where the University of Georgia is located. Her name was Eudora Brown Almond. Her husband was Dr. Charles B. Almond. March 30 was chosen because it was the birthday of Dr. Crawford Long, also of Athens, Georgia, who is credited with being the first person to use ether as a surgical anesthetic. He first used ether on a surgical patient in 1842. He subsequently used it extensively in obstetrics, including on his own wife. The first Doctor’s Day was celebrated in 1933.

Along with doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel are also risking their lives every day treating critically ill persons with COVID-19. It turns out that there is a National Nurse’s Day as well. It is celebrated on May 6, the first day of National Nurse’s Week. The week ends with International Nurse’s Day, May 12, which is the birthday of Florence Nightingale. Florence Nightingale was an English nurse who became famous through her service during the Crimean War (1853-1856.) She was very organized, and probably her greatest contribution was her recognition of the importance of good hygiene and sanitation in the military hospitals. The death rate fell precipitously under her watch. It turns out that hand washing was a novel concept in those days, as was the sanitary disposal of sewage.

I think the Extreme Vet in Happy Meadows ought to get some recognition too. It turns out that veterinarians do also have their special days. World Veterinary Day is April 25 this year. Also, a company that sells health insurance for pets  sponsors Veterinary Appreciation Day on June 18. Mike and Judy have not taken out health insurance on us. Mike says he has spent more money on insurance during his lifetime than you can shake a stick at, and he is not buying health insurance for a bunch of cats. I don’t blame him. But, they do take good care of us. We probably get better care than if we were insured. This way, they can take us to Happy Meadows Extreme Veterinary Medicine, and not XYZ Vets. Also, if the doctor recommends a treatment plan we get it without worrying about whether it will be denied in favor of the el cheapo alternative. But  maybe I’m not being fair. There are probably some good plans out there. Don’t let me influence your decision. I’m just an opinionated black cat.

So, Mike saw in the Sunday paper (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) that Rev. Joseph Lowery died last week. He was a leader of the Civil Rights movement and a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King. There is a great write-up about his life in the paper. I suggest you read it if you haven’t already done so. When life offered him the opportunity to change the world, at times risking his own life (seems to be a theme today), he made the most of it. Thank you Rev. Lowery, and thank you to all the heroes of the Civil Rights movement. As a black cat, I can appreciate you.

Well, that’s enough out of me for now. Be well, be safe, use good judgment, and keep on praying. I love you all, and will holler out again soon from Happy Meadows. Bye, bye!

Little Chocolate Drops

So, there doesn’t seem to be much new to report on Mike’s health. At this point he is waiting for his specialty pharmacy to send him his new chemo drugs so he can resume chemotherapy. It will probably be another week or two. He seems to me to be doing fine, though.

A few weeks ago I shared some anecdotes about Mike’s mother, Bernice, (“Nothing Strange Here”, January 12, 2020) who has been described by Cousin Barbie as being “charmingly goofy.” Here are some more Bernice stories to lighten your mood.

Mike says he had a frustrating conversation with her about 55 years ago when he was in medical school. He doesn’t recall how or why the conversation began, but the topic of small African-American children came up. Back then they were little Negro children. Bernice referred to them in the conversation as “little chocolate drops.”

Mike recalls saying, “Mother, they are not little chocolate drops, they are little Negro children.”

His mother replied, “little chocolate drops.”

Mike tried again. “Mother can’t you say Negro children?”

“Little chocolate drops,” was her response.

Mike returned with, “Mother, I don’t understand why you can’t even say ‘little Negro children’.”

Bernice replied, “little chocolate drops.”

Mike was stricken with the absurdity of the conversation that he was engaged in, including his half of it. Mike’s mother was from the Cowl family, some of the most notoriously stubborn people to have ever walked the earth. Mike’s brother was as stubborn as Bernice. Neither Mike nor his father ever saw the point in trying to win an argument with either one of them. Moe Gordon was famous for saying, “Yes dear. Anything you say dear.” So, Mike dropped the conversation at that time. but the last laugh was on Bernice. Several years later Mike married Penny, a lovely African-American woman, and 9 months later they had Michelle, yes, a little chocolate drop.

Another peculiarity of Bernice’s was her fear of appliances. She lived at her condo for close to 30 years without ever getting up the nerve to run the dishwasher or the garbage disposal. And she wouldn’t let anyone else run them either. I’m sure I told you once before that many times when Mike went to visit them in Minneapolis he stayed with them and slept on the living room floor. His mother always insisted that he take a bath instead of a shower. She was afraid the water vapor from the shower would peel off her wall paper in the bathroom. The biggest problem about that was that it would have required someone to come in, clean up, and paint. Bernice didn’t want anyone coming into her place and making a mess. She was a neat-freak from the word go.

As Bernice was getting advanced in years and somewhat demented, Mike tried to get her to stop driving. For one thing, she was a menace on the roads, and for another, she had let her driver’s license and car tags expire. As far as the tags, her response was “They won’t arrest an old lady.” She had a better excuse for her driver’s license. Mike and Judy had taken her to the bank to straighten something out, and she offered to show her (expired) driver’s license to the banker for ID. He said he didn’t need to see it. Ever after that Mike heard that “The man at the bank said I don’t need a driver’s license.”

With considerable effort Mike got Bernice to go to her primary care doctor’s office for a check-up, and hopefully to have him tell her to stop driving. At that appointment the doctor told her that she has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s Disease, and rather than tell her to stop driving he said she needed to be evaluated by a driving instructor. Mike told her next time he came to town they would go to get her license renewed so she could take a driving test.  He came back about 6 weeks later and by some miracle, got her to the DMV where she failed the vision test. So, the next time he came to town he was able, by another miracle, to get her to her eye doctor. Mike sat in on the eye test which Bernice confabulated 100%. She had no idea of what she was looking at. The doctor came in, examined her eyes, and told her that she does not see well enough to drive. He said he would step out for a few minutes and let her discuss this with Mike. Mike asked her if she understood what the doctor had said. She said yes. Then he asked her if she was going to stop driving, and it was clear from her answer that she would not. They discussed it again with the doctor, and went back to the condo. A couple of days later Mike had to return home, and told his mother that he was taking her car keys, which he did. He thought about leaving a key in case of emergency with the resident manager, but decided against it.

The following Friday Mike came home from work mid-afternoon. He was very tired, and went up to take a nap. Around that time Bernice took a notion to go to the store and get a few things. She couldn’t find her car keys, and then remembered that Mike said he had taken them. She went to the resident manager and asked her if she had a key to her car, which fortunately, she did not. She went back upstairs to her condo to call Mike. Judy answered the phone.

“Hello,” she said.

“Judy, this is Bernice. Is Michael at home?” she said.

“He’s asleep,” Judy answered.

Bernice replied with an emphatic “Wake him up!”

Judy brought the phone upstairs, woke Mike up, and said, “It’s your mother, and she’s not happy.”

So, they had a conversation in which Mike calmly held his ground. Bernice threatened to get a locksmith to come and make her a new key, but never followed through. From that point on things with her went downhill. She both refused to ask anyone to go to the store for her or to take her to the store. She had a social worker from Jewish Family Services, but refused to let her come over. She had Meals on Wheels already set up to bring her a meal every day, and tried (unsuccessfully) to cancel the service. Mike tried to have a Life-alert installed, but she wouldn’t let the technician in to install it. She said she would call her cousin Helen if she had an emergency, a totally unworkable plan. It was clear that she was getting more paranoid. Mike didn’t see much alternative but to either try to get guardianship and have her committed, or to let her crash and burn. He suspected that the guardianship alternative would stir up a great deal of animosity, and also fail. Meanwhile, she was losing weight and getting weaker. One night she got up to go to the bathroom, and was too weak to get off the toilet. She was stuck there all night and into the next morning. Around eleven the Meals on Wheels guy came. When Bernice didn’t answer her door he got the resident manager who opened the apartment and found Bernice hollering for help, perched on the toilet.She called for an ambulance and called the social worker, who called Mike. Bernice never went back, but wound up living happily for a few years at Sholom Home in St. Louis Park where she had been a volunteer previously. It’s a shame that things deteriorated the way they did, but it is a cautionary tale about stubbornness. Determination is a good thing, but too much of any good thing is a bad thing.

So, our world is rapidly adjusting to such things as “social distancing,” “sheltering in place,” and transacting business on-line. The other cats in the house don’t notice much difference, because Mike has been home most of the time for about 6 months, except for the 2 weeks that he and I were at the hospital. I hope all of you are making a tolerable adjustment to the conditions, and that you don’t suffer too much anxiety over getting sick, your relatives and friends getting sick, or of running out of money and being homeless. I can tell you what I’m sure what you already know, that homelessness suits cats much better than people. Let’s all remember to pray for the world and everyone in it. And until next time, so long from Happy Meadows.

It Works! Who Knew?

So, in today’s paper there is a New York Times article that says that AA works. Well, more precisely, it says there is now scientific evidence that supports what has been obvious for years – AA works. A recent study out of Harvard reports on a Cochrane review of studies of the effectiveness of various treatments of alcoholism. A Cochrane review is a scrupulous analysis of published scientific articles on a subject, and the results can be trusted with a high degree of credibility. There have been problems proving the obvious – that AA works – scientifically. Scientists can design studies in which patients are randomly assigned to one or more treatment (or placebo) tracks, but can’t control the patient’s behavior. For example, a patient who is assigned to a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) track, or a placebo arm (e.g. watching vampire movies on Netflix) might still decide to go to AA. Also, funding sources might be more interested in funding a study that would hopefully show that their medication works better than placebo. There can also be disagreement about what constitutes success. On the one hand, AA would consider total abstinence success. Some patients might prefer not to quit altogether, but rather to moderate their drinking to avoid harsh consequences (health, legal, family, employment.) Some scientists might agree with decreased numbers of days drinking, or decreased number of drinks per drinking occasion, or decreased number of adverse consequences as success. Study design could reflect these differences. In the long run, such plans are ill-advised for the most part, but often do work for the short  duration of the study. Another issue is verification of abstinence. Study subjects might lie about or underestimate their drinking. Drug screening is usually part of the outcome study, but it can’t fully quantify the strictness of adherence to a plan of alcohol consumption/ non-consumption. Yet another potential confounder is the degree to which patients who attend AA actually utilize the program as it is designed. Patients who attend several meetings per week, get a sponsor, and actively work the 12 steps are more likely to experience success than those who limit their involvement to what they feel like doing or what makes them comfortable. Nevertheless, there were enough high quality studies in the most recent Cochrane review of this topic to allow for the conclusion that AA works better than any other single intervention. They estimate that it works for between 22% and 37% of attendees. This is not to argue that other approaches lack value. In his work, Mike has encouraged AA attendance, counseling, family therapy, and use of MAT (Medication-Assisted Treatment) as a comprehensive treatment approach. In the past 2 weeks AA attendance has been challenged by our current COVID-19 pandemic. Most meeting places in most parts of the USA have closed. Many groups are reorganizing themselves as on-line meetings, often on a zoom platform. This would work for regular members, but not for newcomers wishing to join the meeting. No doubt, ways will be found to solve these problems. There are also on line forums such as intherooms.com which run meetings all day long. This site also has NA and other 12-step groups. Also, meetings can be found in chat rooms at such places as aa.org. It will be interesting to see how this all works out. My biggest concern is newcomers who won’t be able to experience the hands-on welcoming warmth of the groups.

So, the world around Happy Meadows is getting more locked down every day. Most people are taking the danger seriously. I hope all of you do as well. Be well, be safe, pray for world peace, and pray that all people get cared for in these difficult times. So long for now from Happy Meadows.

We’re in the Same Boat, Brother

So, Mike had a chance to talk to Dr. K. 2 days ago, and the news was good.   Mike is classified as having a Very Good Partial Response to the stem cell transplant based upon a normal appearance of his bone marrow biopsy and dramatic reduction in the abnormal proteins in his blood. Dr. K. was happy, so we are happy. Mike will be resuming chemotherapy, and his medication has been ordered. Some of it is new, and most of it is what he was on before. We are choosing to view this as chronic disease management, and do not think of Mike as having a disease that is going to take his life. Mike has cancer; cancer does not have Mike. It is estimated that by 2030 in the USA there will be 22.1 million cancer survivors. Mike plans to be one of them.

The weather remains beautiful. I wandered by Big Fluff’s house yesterday. He was lounging in front of the garage, looking bored. A few feet away was his brother, a black cat named Underfoot, looking equally bored, if not moreso. When I passed by their house a few minutes later they had gone inside. There is a tabby cat that lives there also, but I rarely see her. Lots of people and their pets are out and about now, and many more people are home during the day, with schools closed and many people working from home. We had a huge pollen dump 2 days ago, so everything is covered in pine pollen, although nothing shows it quite so clearly as a black cat that his been rolling around in the grass.

Mike got a mailing from a group called Alley Cat Rescue, which was urging donations in order to save an African wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica. This cat looks like a domestic cat and may well be our progenitor. The main threat to this wildcat is hybridization with domesticated and feral cats. The solution is a major effort at TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release). This will decrease the number of fertile domesticated and feral cats in the habitat, and promote mating with their own species. Wildcats are threatened in many parts of the world. Mike and Judy recently saw a TV program on the Scottish wildcat, of which there might only be 3 dozen or so remaining. Maybe this is why in an hour program there was only about 2 minutes worth of footage, albeit shown over and over again. I also wrote some time ago about the Pallas Cat of Central Asia ( “A New Low in Demagoguery,” July 19, 2019.)

So, a word about the nastiness of people who are trying to racialize the COVID-19 outbreak. Spoiled Donald has referred to the “foreign virus”, and we have seen references to the “Wuhan coronavirus” and the “Chinese flu.” We have even seen this behavior on websites which are presenting educational material about the Holy Scriptures. Mike has called this out, but some people just don’t get it, or don’t care. This is a time when we need to be pulling the Family of Man together, not creating deeper divisions. Cats would never act like that. There is a verse from an old Negro spiritual that goes:

“We’re in the same boat, brother; we’re in the same boat, brother.

And if  you shake one end you gonna rock the other,

We’re in the same boat, brother.”

So, that’s all for now from Happy Meadows. Mike continues to get calls from friends every day, which we appreciate. He just got off the phone with Ginny from Florida. Oh, and tomorrow will mark Mike going 37 years without a drink of alcohol. He didn’t do it alone. Don’t forget to pray for world peace, and for everyone in need (that’s everyone.) Bye, bye!

A Plague on You

So, things are grinding to a near-halt in Happy Meadows and the area at large. I hope everyone gets through this crisis in one piece. We may have a once in a hundred years pandemic on our hands. The influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 killed almost 700,000 people in the US and over 20,000,000 worldwide. It killed more Americans than any war, other than the Civil War. And  most of the Civil War deaths were from infectious disease rather than combat. It is thought that 25% of the US population contracted the flu between 1918 and 1919.. One difference between the 2 epidemics is that young adults were highly vulnerable to severe illness in the flu pandemic, which seems not to be the case with the coronavirus. The influenza pandemic of 1918-19 was called the Spanish flu, even though there was nothing particularly Spanish about it. The disease ran wild in war-torn Europe, but because of press censorship, most countries withheld information. However, Spain was neutral, so much of the reporting about the flu came from Spain. By the way, the word “influenza” is Italian for “influence.”

Mike’s family was hit hard by the flu pandemic. His grandfather’s brother lost 2 daughters, both young married women, on the same day. There is a curious follow-up to this story. One of the women’s husbands remarried and had a family. Subsequently, his son married and had his own family. One of the sons from that generation and Mike both wound up in Atlanta and joined the same synagogue. They figured out their connection and have been close for many years.

A friend of Mike’s recently informed him that the pandemic of 1918-19 was caused by the bubonic plague, and that it , like the current pandemic, originated in China. This is a nice fellow who was simply misinformed, possibly by watching Fox news. Mike didn’t correct him because there were several other people listening, and he didn’t want to create discomfort. The bubonic plague is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis. It is spread to humans by the bite of the rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopsis. It can also be spread by close contact with infected people or corpses of people who died from the plague. There have been 3 pandemics of the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death because of the tendency of affected people to develop gangrene of the extremities, skin, lips and the tip of the nose prior to death. The first pandemic was known as the Plague of Justinian in 542 CE. An estimated 25 to 50 million people died around the Mediterranean Sea and eastward into Asia Minor. In 1347 the deadliest of the 3 pandemics of bubonic plague hit Europe, killing one-third of the population. The third plague happened in the latter part of the 19th Century. It originated in China or eastern Asia, and spread to port cities around the world including San Francisco between 1900 and 1909. Like other diseases that episodically run rampant, plague continues to maintain a low level of activity. In the USA, it occurs in rodents in the rural Southwest, leading to occasional human cases. Cases occur as well in parts of Asia, Africa, and South America.

Some people are focused on the origins of these pandemics, not so much out of scientific curiosity, but rather just to find someone to blame. These are typically xenophobes who need a scapegoat for troubles that they don’t understand. The Jews caught a lot of grief in the 1300’s because of their supposed role in the cause of the plague.

So, Mike is awaiting a call from Dr. K. to find out the results of his tests, and the plan moving forward. He was scheduled to go to the clinic today but asked to be able to communicate by phone, which Emory agreed to. Once we get more information you will be the first to know. Now is a time that we need prayer more than ever. We cats will do our part, but we all need to generate that good energy, two-leggeds and four-leggeds alike. You will hear from me again soon. Until then, be well, be safe, and be happy. So long from Happy Meadows!

Pi Day and the Ides of March

So, yesterday when I posted I failed to mention that it was Pi day. Pi is the Greek letter that is used to represent the mathematical constant which describes the relationship between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. The first 3 numbers of Pi are 3.14, which also represents March 14. The actual Pi number is irrational because it extends endlessly with no repeatable pattern. If you represent Pi as a fraction you get 22/7. If you use a calculator to divide 22 by 7 you get 3.1428571429. It stops there because the calculator won’t calculate beyond 10 decimal points. So, if you think about it there is no actual number that represents the exact relationship between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. As a practical matter, though, as I understand it nothing requires  accuracy beyond about 40 decimal points. And, having said that, it should also be pointed out that what I understand about it is just about nothing. As you may know, mathematics is an invention, by humans and for humans. Cats are not involved unless we get dragged into a thought experiment such as the Schrodinger’s Cat question (see Schrodinger’s Cat, July 7, 2019). It is also a fact that Mike doesn’t understand math either.He says that it is either intuitive or it isn’t. Grandpa Moe took elective math classes at the university for his own amusement, but he didn’t pass along that part of his brain to Mike. It may be just as well. Being an ignoramus in some areas is good for Mike’s humility, to the extent that he does have any.

And, speaking of special days, today is the Ides of March. The term “Ides” refers to a day of the month in the ancient Roman calendar corresponding to about the middle of the month. Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in the year 44 BCE. Julius Caesar was a Roman general and politician who transformed the form of government from a republic of sorts to a dictatorship. As such the Roman empire lasted until it finally collapsed in 476 CE. If you want to know about some of the worst brutality and depravity of which humans are capable, read about the Roman empire. Many people say that the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation was the Roman empire.

And now this: On page A21 of today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution there is a remarkable photograph of a line of hikers along a ridge on Mt. Everest. The picture was taken on May 22, 2019. Reading the accompanying story, one becomes aware of how insane the world has become, and the extent to which people will let other people die for the sake of money. I encourage you to look carefully at the photograph, and take note that no cats (or dogs either) are trapped in the queue. Mostly, the four-leggeds have much more sense than the 2-leggeds. It puts the lines at the grocery store and rush on toilet paper (“Interesting Times”, March 14, 2020) in a whole new perspective.

And speaking of cold, harsh conditions, even the Iditerod (“Racing Dogs and Viruses,” March 10, 2020) has now been affected by the corona virus. Officials in Nome are now asking people not to come for the race’s conclusion because of a positive test for the corona virus of a foreign pilot who had flown a cargo plane into Anchorage, went through customs, checked into his hotel, and subsequently reported that he had become ill. The race leaders are within 300 miles or so of Nome, so this isn’t the sort of event that you can cancel in the middle, like a basketball game. If you are interested you can follow the progress of the race on line.

It is a rainy day in Happy Meadows, so I have not been out and about much. Please be well, be sensible, and be safe. Pray for good things, because there is much need. Love to all. Bye, bye!

Interesting Times

So, it is a beautiful day today in Happy Meadows. Mike and Judy went out for a walk in the bluebird sanctuary, and of course, I went along. It was muddy in places from all the rain. There were a lot of other people there, some of them with muddy dogs. I promise you, I kept my paws free of mud, and my mouth free of feathers. We also walk several days per week in Happy Meadows. I see Big Fluff snoozing in his front yard almost every day. He is a big orange and white fluffy tomcat who shows no interest in what is going on around him. It’s okay, I guess, because he is way too big for an owl or a hawk to attack, the vultures can somehow tell that he is not dead, and the coyotes don’t seem to hunt around here in daylight. So, just go on enjoying your naps, Big Fluff.

COVID-19 is grabbing a lot of the headlines and news coverage. People with responsibilities are suddenly having to make major decisions that they never considered having to make until just now. We are now officially in a state of emergency both at the national and state level. That must be 2 states of emergency. All of a sudden, there are no more live sporting events. March Madness has been postponed and probably won’t happen. The Master’s, which is the biggest deal ever in Georgia, has been postponed until further notice. The lines in the grocery stores are extremely long, and a lot of items are disappearing from the shelves as fast as they are stocked, most especially, hand sanitizer, masks, and toilet paper. Toilet paper? Yes, toilet paper. Wall Streeters are as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. Mike was shocked to learn earlier this week watching the governor’s news conference that the entire state has the capacity to test only 25 people per day for COVID-19. As of yesterday they are up to 50. No wonder the numbers of positive cases in Georgia is so small. They are barely testing anyone. I hear they are planning to open testing stations in Walmart parking lots. (?????)

And speaking of COVID-19, Mike had a test last week that was reported as negative. He has had a low grade fever (99.1 or so) since Tuesday.  Mike has had a little cough, but it might just be his asthma. He hasn’t looked or acted sick. He is staying away from close contact with other people, both to not give anyone whatever he has, and to not get what they might have. He didn’t go to work this week, but will go if he loses his fever. Just no handshakes, hugging, sharing of pens, etc. He told his boychicks (Google it) not to come this Sunday, and Michelle will stay away this weekend as well. Strange times. God willing, it won’t get as bad as Mike thinks it might. This will depend on how diligent people are about hygiene. Maybe they should start licking their paws like I do.

Schools are closing right and left. Michelle will be teaching remotely for the rest of the semester. It is a new experience, and probably will work out okay, with some bumps in the road.

Mike has an appointment next week with Dr. K. but will try to do the appointment remotely. He says that if they want him to come in he will do so. But he is not scheduled either for labs or for a treatment. More shall be revealed.

Some of Mike’s friends have been sick. Please pray for everyone in need (that is everyone.) That is all for now from Happy Meadows. May we soon live in less interesting times. Bye, bye!

Racing Dogs and Viruses

So, there is nothing new to report about Mike or his health. He sees Dr. K. next week and presumably will restart chemo the following week. I will let you know of anything of interest that develops.

We had a supermoon last night that went unobserved, at least by me, because of overcast conditions. The March full moon is known as the worm moon, because of the reappearance of earthworms and their cousins that appear in early March, just in time for the hungry birds to not be disappointed. I hope you got to see it. This is a lovely time of year, when it gets warmer and flowers abound.

Another early March event is the Iditerod dog sled race. The ceremonial start was Saturday in Anchorage amidst much festivity. The teams mush to the first checkpoint 70 miles away, where the official race actually begins the following day. This year there are 54 teams competing, several of them first-timers. Mushers have to prove they can handle the responsibility of providing for their safety and that of the dogs by qualifying in other races. The race ends in Nome, generally 8-10 days after it starts. If you want to follow the progress of the race you can do so on-line. Alaska has had a great deal of snow this year, so much so that it could slow the mushers down in places. There are 12 female mushers entered this year, but no teams of cats. Have fun, y’all!

I have been hearing that 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution that gave the right to vote to women. It is hard for this little cat to believe that men denied the vote to women for well over 100 years. You read all the high-sounding expressions of principle by the founding fathers regarding inalienable rights and freedom and such, only to discover later on that in their minds these rights only were due to white male land-owners. Women still have to fight for their just due. Mike says that the average female department head in US medical schools earns $80,000 less per year than her male counterpart. But progress has been made. Mike says his medical school class at the University of Illinois only had 16 women out of 200 total students. He also witnessed rude hazing of female students by male faculty, a culturally condoned behavior at that time. Today women make up about 50% of medical school admissions. Still, academia is among the worst of all professions for denying women their equal rights and pay. The only worse profession is the military. Mike’s niece, Sharona, has become a national leader in the fight to advance the standing of women in the sciences. We are proud of her.

So, let me suggest that it is too early for you to get tired of hearing about the corona virus, Covid-19. You will be hearing a lot more about it before you will be hearing less about it. There are news bulletins daily, not only about new cases, but also about disruptions in peoples lives, cancelling of school and events, and of near-panic on Wall Street. Mike says it will have a direct impact on the lives of everyone, whether they get sick or not. It seems to be highly contagious, and Mike thinks the efforts to contain it are doomed to fail. Luckily, it will produce only mild illness in most people. However, Mike is in a demographic that makes him vulnerable to a much more serious, and possibly fatal outcome. Ouch! His age is against him as he turns 77 this month. He also has a chronic illness which may weaken his immune system. He isn’t acting that worried about it, but will take reasonable precautions. Prayer will help, as always, and make them for everyone, please.

So, I’m sure I will have much more to report on the goings on in Happy Meadows now that it is getting warmer and I am out and about more. Stay turned. Until the next time be well, be safe, and don’t forget to pray for world peace. Bye, bye!

Racing Pigs and Other Forms of Entertainment

So, we have a beautiful warm day today. We had a lot of rain last week and are promised a lot more next week, but today is indeed beautiful. I have been out a lot more today than I had been recently and enjoyed visiting with the neighbors and their animals. I hope you are enjoying this beautiful day as well. Unless, of course, you live somewhere where your day is not so beautiful. If that’s the case I’m sure it will be beautiful soon, so be patient.

Mike has completed all 3 tests to get his cancer re-staged. The first test was a blood test to see if his blood still contains abnormal proteins produced by one of the cancers. Then last week he went back to Emory and had a PET scan and bone marrow biopsy. Mike is very claustrophobic and the PET scan is difficult for him. He’s happy to report that he got through it and that the technician was very nice and helpful. Mike lay down on the machine and the tech used a sheet to immobilize his arms and legs. Just before the test was about to start Mike’s right eye lid started to itch like mad, and he tried to scratch it. It was then that he realized that he couldn’t move his arms. This threw him into a near panic, and he asked the technician if he could scratch his eye. So the tech freed up his arm and Mike scratched his eyelid but the experience had so unnerved him that he asked if he could get up and walk around for a few minutes. The tech was very cooperative and didn’t shame Mike, which he appreciated.  Eventually he calmed himself down and the tech put him back on the table told him he was not going to immobilize his arms, but that Mike would not be able to move his arms during the test. This worked out much better. Right afterwards Mike and Judy went to another part of the hospital where he had his bone marrow biopsy. They gave Mike some medication for the biopsy which knocked him out, and he remembers nothing about it. Judy drove home because he was not allowed to drive which is a good thing because he slept for 4 hours once he got home and then had dinner and slept all night.

We have the results on the PET scan. I’m happy to report that there was no sign of any residual lymphoma, so he is in remission from that disease. We are still waiting for the bone marrow biopsy report. However, blood tests show that there is a small amount of residual abnormal protein in his system suggesting that there may still be some cancer activity with the multiple myeloma. The amount of abnormal protein is about 8% of the level when he was first diagnosed, so that is encouraging. We meet with the doctor in a couple of weeks at which point we will find out what the next treatment plan will involve. Mike says that he expects to be put back on chemo. He’s not that upset about this because he’s already aware that he won’t be cured from either disease. As long as they are treatable he is thinking that he’ll be fine. He says it’s like having any other chronic illness. You just take care of it as best you can and do what your doctors tell you to do. Mike still thinks he’s doing as well as he is because of all the love and prayers that he gets from so many of you. We all thank you.

So, today is the 1st of March. We can say goodbye to black history month and hello to women’s history month. Mike just ran across a story that is worthy of representing either month. It involves PT Barnum who in 1835 ran across a fellow named RW Lindsey who owned (!!!) an elderly black woman whose name was Joice Heth. Lindsey claimed that Miss Heth was the oldest woman alive and had once been owned by George Washington. Barnum bought her for $1000. He had to borrow $500 in order to complete the purchase. He took her around to different towns and had her tell stories, mostly untrue, about her life. He claimed that she was 161 years old. Seven months after he bought her she died. On February 25th, 1836 there was an autopsy on Miss Heth at the New York City Saloon where 1500 people paid to observe the spectacle. We have come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go, it seems. I think this must be the point of observing especially designated months for under-represented and minority groups. There is a lot to be learned from history that’s can keep us from making the same mistakes over and over again. Or maybe not.

And in (close by to) Happy Meadows news, the racing pigs are coming to the Smyrna Spring Jonquil Festival. Several years ago Mike and Judy went to vacation in the Mississippi delta, where they attended the Blues Festival. They heard great music, ate great food, and were entertained by the racing pigs. The vendor had a racetrack in which he had 3 lanes arranged in an oval, around which piglets raced. The motivation for the pigs were the Oreo cookies they got at the end of each run. The announcement was in today’s paper. It is kind of stupid, but better than an old slave lady telling lies about her life. The other attraction in the street fair in Mississippi, that may not appear in Smyrna, was a guy who strapped a capuchin monkey onto the back of a border collie. The collie then raced around herding sheep. The thing that Mike remembers the most about this demonstration was the terrified look on the face of the monkey as he held on for dear life. There outta be a law. Maybe there is. Maybe that’s why they won’t be at the Smyrna Spring Jonquil festival.

Mike’s cousins Barbie and Tony dropped in for a short visit this week on their way back to Minnesota from Florida. It was a treat to see them. They are some of my favorite people. Barbie always has great stories to tell about the wacky people she knows.

So, there will always be more to tell. Stay tuned for more breaking news from Happy Meadows. Don’t forget to pray for world peace. We love you all. Bye, bye.