Tuesday, March 31, 2015

THE AFTERMATH OF ILLNESS

Tom's diagnosis of colon cancer rocked us both.  The weeks while we waited for the processes leading up to surgery to be completed were difficult, but we tried to keep busy and distracted, and we mostly succeeded.   The news after the surgery was surely as good as could be expected: the tumor was small, and the nearby lymph nodes were cancer free, and there was joy in Butlerland when Tom came home. 

Then, within a few days, came Tom's loss of appetite and vomiting.  I knew something was very wrong when I saw the greenish-black bile, but x-rays in the doctor's office were inconclusive as to whether there was an obstruction.  The vomiting continued, and Tom was readmitted to the hospital, and it was determined that there was an obstruction, a complication that never happens, but leave it to Tom... 

Tom is recovering nicely now, probably doing a bit too much too soon, but, so far, he appears to have done no harm to himself.  I told him if he has to go back in the hospital, I will not visit, but that's not true.

All of the above took a toll on both of us, and, though Tom seems the same, I'm sure the experience changed him, but in a way I can't yet see.  What I do know is that I have not yet regained my emotional equilibrium, such as it was, since the surgery.  I've thought about why I'm not yet my old self, and, indeed, somewhat accepted the fact that I may never be my old self, because life is change.

My one conclusion thus far is that when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 29 years ago, I looked my own death in the face, and I was changed.  The word "cancer" has a way of concentrating the mind wonderfully on the reality that humans, including me, are mortal.  I've been blessed with 29 years of life after the dread diagnosis, and I'm most grateful for the years, every one of which seems a gift.

But (and it's a huge "but") I had not faced Tom's mortality in any real way until now.  The good news is that I've come to realize in a way that I didn't before how much he means to me, but the not-so-good news is that the reality is scary, and my emotions, which are almost always near the surface, are out of kilter and somewhat flattened and kept at bay.  What to do? 

When two people live together for 53-plus years, the rather minor annoying habits of the other can come to loom rather large in daily life, so I've determined not to call Tom's attention to every little annoyance and to make a general attempt to be kinder and less of a scold.  In other words, don't sweat the small stuff.  And be kind.

In time, I hope to recover emotional equilibrium, and I believe I will, but, in the meantime, I'm thankful for each day Tom and I have together, and I will try to be kind, and not just to Tom.  I will often fail, but I hope I don't give up trying.

When certain Christians ask, "Are you saved?" I answer, "Yes, every day."  And that's true, some few days just to get out of bed.  A strength that seemed to come from beyond me carried me through the stressful period, and I trust that same source, God in Jesus, will carry me the rest of the way.  You see, I believe salvation is about here and now, for today, and not so much for the sweet bye-and-bye, because I have no idea what happens in the sweet bye-and-bye.  But I have today, for which I'm grateful, and I believe God is with me, with us, to give us healing, strength, and courage.

Monday, March 30, 2015

MOONRISE KINGDOM

Earlier in the week, I watched the delightful, poignant, funny, sweet movie, "Moonrise Kingdom". The cast includes Jared Gilman, as Sam, and Kara Hayward, as Suzy, the 12 year old pair who run away together and cause concern and mayhem in the lives of the adults who are responsible for them. The two young actors shine in their roles. The stellar actors in the other roles are fantastic - Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton, an embarrassment of riches, yes? Suspend disbelief (which is easy to do), and enjoy a very good time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

PEOPLE IN THE LOUISIANA HEALTH CARE COMMUNITY ARE NOW NERVOUS

Are doctors and hospital administrators just now noticing lots of "ifs" in Jindal's health care budgets, or is it just now that they are willing to speak out?  I've been waiting.
The Jindal administration’s proposed health care budget relies on more than $500 million in funding that is contingent on several things happening first — and that’s making people in the health care community nervous.

“We have great concerns that it’s really not achievable,” said Paul Salles, who heads the Louisiana Hospital Association, the professional group representing most of the state’s hospitals.

“It’s something on paper,” Salles said, but “it leaves us really exposed to dire straits.”

“To say there are a lot of contingencies would be an understatement,” said Jennifer Marusak, governmental affairs director for the Louisiana State Medical Society, a professional association that represents physicians.
And they're just now getting nervous?  For years Jindal's budgets have relied on bait and switch, use of one-time funds, and contingencies that may not happen to fill the annual budget gap.
“It’s a mess,” said Berkeley Durbin, who heads MedicineLouisiana, a statewide physicians group.

“I don’t think anybody thinks that’s real. I don’t know where we find the money,” Durbin said, adding that he doesn’t consider legislative passage of the tax credit changes to be a sure thing.
I haven't believed Jindal's budgets were real in years.  Where have they been?

Jindal cares not a whit about the people of Louisiana, but only about his overweening ambition to become president of the United States, which we now know is highly unlikely, as Jindal hardly registers in the polls of likely GOP candidates.  He hopes to leave office before a complete and obvious collapse of the state health care system and other institutions and programs, leaving the state in dire straits and the next governor to clean up the mess.

Also, as I have said many times before, Jindal could not have destroyed or damaged institutions and programs in Louisiana single-handedly.  A compliant legislature was necessary to complete the plunder.  Jindal is not the only Louisiana official to sign Grover Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes.
Thirty-two elected officials currently serving in the state and federal government have signed "no new tax" pledges with the group, according to the Americans for Tax Reform website.

Every Republican member of Louisiana's congressional delegation -- except Garret Graves -- has committed to it. Twenty-six members of the Louisiana Legislature have also taken the oath.
How anyone can still be surprised that Jindal's budgets are little more than flimflammery is beyond me, but welcome aboard, doctors and hospital administrators.  Better late than never.

Friday, March 13, 2015

THOUGHTS FROM A MUSHY BRAIN

Many of you already know that reading David Brooks' columns in the New York Times turns my brain to mush.  His latest on Friday the 13th is no exception, so if I sound a bit strange in this post, you know why.  About the Hilary Clinton email story, I think it's much like Whitewater; there's no there there. Suppose she had used two email accounts, the State Department account for business and a private account for personal correspondence.  She could have deleted the emails in her personal account at any time. Besides, Colin Powell did it, and the Cheney/Bush maladministration did it, too.

Brooks once again presents the false equivalency between the president's actions and the actions of the Republicans in what may be one of the worst Congresses in history in terms of getting anything done and blocking every policy of the president, simply because it's his, even when the policy originated in the Republican Party.  His repeated use of the technique is quite annoying and mush-making for my poor brain.
All the informal self-restraints that softened the brutality of politics are being torn away. It’s like going to a dinner party where all the little customs of politeness are gone and everything is just grab what you can when you can.
It seems to me that Obama has been pretty damned polite in the face of ugly and shameful personal attacks and insults that demonstrate a complete lack of self-restraint from certain Republicans and a shocking disrespect for the office of the president.  And they call themselves patriots and claim Obama doesn't really love America!  Who is it that doesn't love America?

But the worst of the column is in the following two paragraphs:
The only way to reverse the protocol crisis is to create policies that can win bipartisan support. If the next president gets the substance right, the manners will follow.

Can Hillary Clinton do this? Is she strong enough to rise above hostility, to instead reveal scary and vulnerable parts of herself so that voters feel as though they can trust and relate to her? We’ll see. 
Which policies of substance would those be, David, that would be win bipartisan support and inspire a polite response from Republicans?  Dream on.  The model for Obamacare is Romneycare, which Mitt Romney (R) signed into law when he was governor of Massachusetts.  Was that sufficient to blunt the opposition?  Lawsuit after lawsuit to have the program declared unconstitutional instigated by Republicans is your answer.  If Clinton announces she will be a candidate for president, we will see drama on steroids, as we saw throughout Bill Clinton's presidency. 

The present attacks on Clinton are all about Benghazi and trying to catch her in some heinous dereliction of duty that caused the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, and the two Marines in the diplomatic facility in Benghazi.  Republicans seem to suggest in a roundabout way that Clinton may have attempted a coverup about Benghazi by deleting her personal email correspondence.  Benghazi! Benghazi!  Benghazi!  The story will never be over for them, though the matter has been thoroughly investigated by Congress, and we will hear about it from Republicans till kingdom come, either overtly or covertly, as in the email flap.
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.
While I admit the Clintons attract drama as flypaper attracts flies, I'd like for Brooks to name  a Democratic candidate for president who could work with the present Congress and inspire them to practice good manners.  Also, is Brooks strong enough to reveal scary and vulnerable parts of himself so that readers feel as though they can trust and relate to him?  

Monday, March 9, 2015

"BOYHOOD" - THE MOVIE

This past Saturday, I watched Richard Linklater's wonderful movie Boyhood and enjoyed it very much.  The film is clocked at 2 hours and 44 minutes, but it didn't seem that long because I easily slipped into the groove of the pace, which is admittedly sometimes slow, but never boring.  Patricia Arquette, who plays the boy's mother, Olivia, in the movie, is excellent and Ethan Hawke, as the father, Mason, Sr, has done some of his best work with Linklater in this movie and in the Before trilogy.   I wonder how the writer/director could have known that the acting talent of the star of the film, six year old Ellar Coltrane, as Mason, would hold up so amazingly well throughout the 12 years that the filming took place.  Perhaps he didn't and took a chance anyway.   Linklater's daughter Lorelei plays the role of Mason's older sister, Samantha.

Linklater has done and is doing amazing and innovative films such as in the terrific Before trilogy, in which he takes up the stories of the characters at intervals of 10 years, with the principal actors aging in real time between filming.  And now Boyhood, with the actors aging, but not in real time, rather in scenes filmed over a period of 12 years and integrated into a single very fine film.

As with the earlier trilogy, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, Linklater invited the actors to collaborate in writing the script, which developed as the movie was being made.  As a writer/director, Linklater appears be quite sure of himself and his talent to film without a finished script and to allow such close collaboration by the actors, resisting what must be the urge of most auteur filmmakers to have complete control of their projects.

Note: Not about the movie, but about me.  During some of the scenes of Mason and Sam in their teen years, I was uneasy, because I had flashbacks to the years when we had three teenagers in the throes of adolescenthood, which made the film quite difficult to watch.  Those were not the easiest times in our lives.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A ROUGH RIDE TO A HAPPY ENDING

O Lord, your compassion is great and your mercies are new every morning: We give you thanks for giving Tom both relief from pain and hope of health renewed. Continue in him, we pray, the good work you have begun; that he, daily increasing in bodily strength, and rejoicing in your goodness, may so order his life and conduct that he may always think and do those things that please you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer)

Tom had surgery this past Wednesday to remove a small malignant tumor from his colon. The section of the colon where the tumor was located was removed and the ends stitched together. All went well with the surgery, and he is making an amazing recovery. Thursday evening, I rejoiced at the good news that the pathology report showed that the lymph nodes removed during surgery are all free of cancer, and he will need no further treatment. He came home Friday morning.  We've had a rough ride to a happy ending.

Thanks be to God, the doctors, the hospital staff, and the wonders of technology of surgery by robot...with a doctor standing by, of course.

Tom's recovery continues apace. Scarlett, the Cat, is a wonderful nurse and sleeps by his side every night. She's glad to have him home. I am, too.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

PATHETIC LUST

Most of the worst stuff Jindal’s done lately has flown under the radar, so here’s a primer for those of you who haven’t paid much attention to the Louisiana pol since 2009, when he blew his State of the Union response by reminding everyone of “30 Rock’s” Kenneth. While Jindal still hasn’t formally announced his intention to run for president — and hasn’t even launched the pro forma exploratory committee, either — his desire to live at 1600 remains one of Louisiana’s “worst-kept” secrets.
Jindal flies under the radar only if you don't live in Louisiana. We are a backwater, and the national press doesn't pay much attention. With the assistance of a compliant legislature, the governor has plundered the state, destroying institutions and programs and leaving destruction in his path that will take years to rebuild, if the will is ever here to do so.

Worst governor ever and a man with so little awareness of the world outside his circle of sychophantic followers that he doesn't appear to know that his pathetic lust for the presidency, at the cost of the people in Louisiana, has zero chance of becoming reality.

Monday, January 19, 2015

WHAT TO SAY ON MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY

Icon of Dr King by Tobias Haller.

Today I'm sad that racism is still such a presence in our society. What would Dr King think if he looked around today? I expect he'd be rather sad, too. Though voters elected President Obama twice, the presence of an African-American in the Oval Office seems to have forced racism from the dark crevices and corners where it always lurked into the light of day in a way that surprised many of us. I don't know what else to say, for the few words I've written came very hard.

Collect for the Feast Day of Martin Luther King
Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last; Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION

Since, I'm already on record, at least on Facebook, as one who does not make New Year's resolutions, I go on record now with a change of mind. Thanks to Tim Chesterton, for inspiring me to start a list of books read in 2015. Why haven't I done this before now? I hope I remember to keep the list current.

I have now finished rereading Marilynne Robinson’s Home for the third time. Late last year, I’d read Robinson’s newest novel, Lila, which includes a number of the same characters as her two previous works of fiction, so I wanted to check back with my friends. All three of her 21st century novels, the two mentioned above and Gilead, are masterworks, or so I believe. If there is a finer writer of fiction in this century, I don’t know who it would be.

I was only a few chapters into Lila when I knew I would read the book again. There is so much to savor in Robinson's exquisite writing, that it's impossible to fully appreciate her work in one reading...or two or three, for that matter. Jack Boughton, as portrayed in Home, is one of the great tragic characters in 21st century fiction, and Glory, Jack's sister, and their father, the Reverend Robert Boughton, follow close behind, not quite so tragic as Jack, though all too human and real and weighted with sadness. In testament to Robinson, all her principal characters come alive to me and seem like people I know.

Robinson's books are beautiful, but I would not say they are happy books....more like life with ups and downs...and more downs. I come away sad, but not without hope, and lifted out of present depressing realities. As a Facebook friend said, her writing always allows for the possibility of redemption for her characters.  The depth of Robinson's religious sensibility is quite evident in her writing, but she never preaches.  Even now, on the third time around for Home, I find myself going back to reread certain shining passages. I'll reread Gilead next, and then back again to Lila.  Note that all Robinson's titles are a single word.

I could probably make a list for 2014 without too much difficulty, but maybe it's better to make a new start.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

IT'S STILL CHRISTMAS - DAY 8 - FEAST OF THE CIRCUMCISION

ANGELICO, Fra
Circumcision
Museo di San Marco, Florence
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

(Luke 2:15-21)
Collect
Eternal Father, who gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Fra Angelico's painting depicts quite clearly the circumcision of Jesus.  When I was growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, the church celebrated The Feast of the Circumcision, which was a holy day of obligation, meaning that we were required to attend mass.  As a child, I had no idea what circumcision meant, and, when I asked, I was told it meant Jesus' name day, which I suppose was less embarrassing for adults to explain to a child than the true meaning.  The feast is is now commemorated as the Holy Name of Jesus, at least in the Episcopal Church.  As the passage from Luke shows both names for the feast are correct.  In the title of the post, I used the old name from the Roman Catholic Church, because I believe the feast is better named for the circumcision of Jesus, which emphasizes his Jewishness, which seems to be played down in parts of the Christian Testament.  In fact, certain passages in the Gospels, especially John's Gospel, seem to be downright antisemitic, which puzzles me, since Jesus was a good Jew throughout his entire life.  Yes, I know: Context, context, context, but still...

Note: I missed Day 7 yesterday.

Image from the Web Gallery of Art.