Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ma and the Quixocity of Life

Breaking with the Memory Lane reveries to bring some breaking news in the family about Ma, family matriarch.

Since Donnie's mother died in 1999, my mother has become the family matriarch. One sort of expects matriarchs to go on forever, and those who have read my book, Blest Atheist, certainly know that Ma was not a model mother but very abusive. Nonetheless, a mother is a mother, and a matriarch is a matriarch. One does not think about the death of either.

However, two days ago Ma, who has always been strong as a horse (comes from living on a farm), had a massive stroke that has paralyzed her right side and voice (extremely frustrating for her because she is a talker -- one listens, she talks). Today, the doctors determined that she cannot swallow and will need a feeding tube to live, but they are giving her the choice whether to have the feeding tube or not since she is coherent and can communicate by nods. There is also the complication that the surgery to put in the tube could be deadly because her high blood pressure is still not contained.

She was, at first, leaning against the tube but is now leaning toward it. The cboice is to battle on or rest in peace. It is rare that one really has a choice in which both versions are so different but can be right and natural.

While her 8 children would like to weigh in on the decision, of course, we are all giving her the space to make the decision without influence.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nikolina, A Few Years Later

I don't usually double-post, saving the Clan of Mahlou bog for the more detailed family issues and 100th Lamb for the more general topics, but there was a time when readers of this blog were following the story of NBikolina and so I am posting here the update I posted on the Clan of Mahlou.

I think when my logs got hijacked, Nikolina was still a toddler. Well, she is now in first grade! For those who have followed her from her Miracle Baby status at Stanford University Hospital through the hack date, I have exciting news.

She not only survived, but she thrived. She is a happy, pretty, bright little girl today who loves to ride therapy horses, does well in schools, handles technilogy with zest, and spins around in her wheelchair with zip. She actually can walk, but slowly, with hot pink braces.

School was a challenge medically, but the school invited my daughter-in-law to come to school all day every day in case of medical urgencies and emergencies, and that has worked. Nikolina is not overwhelmed by Mommy, because Mommy helps out all the classes yet is close by for changing ostomy bags or recognizing the need for a dash to the local hospital in Sacramento -- as y'all might recall, they were in the process of moving there when the blog went blank -- or a longer ride to Stanford.

As for all the rest of it, Nikolina leads a normal litlte girl's life: she has birthday parties and goes to birthday parties, loves her cat and big brother, visits Disneyland, plays with other kids, and anything else one would imagine as part of a child's life.

Never out of the woods but oh, so far from the beginning of the path...and so much more light shining through the trees!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Boots and Kids

I think all parents and teachers can relate to this:
A kindergarten teacher was helping one of her students put his boots on. He had asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn’t want to go on.
When the second boot was on, she was nearly out of breath.
She almost whimpered when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.”
She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as they worked together to get the boots back on – this time on the right feet.
He then announced, “These aren’t my boots.”
She bit her tongue rather than scream, “Why didn’t you say so earlier?” like she wanted to. Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off.
He then said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear them.”
She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, Now, where are your gloves?”
He said, “I stuffed them in the toes of my boots…

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

If you take Nexium...

Donnie has a theory that once you start seeing a doctor for one problem, it is all down hill from there. One problem becomes two, two become three...

I am not sure that I agree with this theory of progression, but I am not surprised that medicines -- chemicals we were not born with -- can have some unhappy side effects.

Recently, I was diagnosed with Barrett's Esophagus, a pre-cancer of the esophagus. Nexium, which controls GERD (apparently, half of my friends suffer from this; my own situation is that the GERD is a result of my 37-year-old hiatal hernia) and usually does a pretty good, at least for me, has some side effects, about which my doctor did not warn me, so I found out in an unpleasant way.

A few months ago, I had to have a root canal redone. The endodontist is unsure whether some of the root that had been resorbed would grow back up. Time will tell.

Then, during a routine cleaning and x-ray, the dentist discovered an empty space deep in another tooth and sent me back to the endodontist. He was puzzled. It was resorption. He told me he had no explanation for it, but he could state positively that treatment would be painful since I am allergic to painkiller.

Potential pain turned out to the least of my problems. (I say that with the treatment still pending...) I do not believe that there is "no discernible reason" for problems, so I did some research. It turns out that bone resorption (a good example is teeth) can be a side effect of Nexium.

Now, I am putting much calcium into my body to replace the calcium constantly being stolen by Nexium. Since I cannot give up the Nexium without risking cancer, then lots of milk and calcium pills are on my daily schedule.

Thought I would share in case any followers are also taking Nexium. Ask your doctor about possible resorption -- and good luck.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Blood of a Tick

I am not one of the most "aware" people in the world. In general, I am pretty oblivious to the everyday  matters of life. I guest that might qualify me as one of the most trusting people around. So, perhaps my reaction to a recent tick-cat interaction could have been expected.

One of the feral cats we feed seemed to have some kind of bump on her back. I explored, thought it was a burr, and pulled it out. It was a huge tick and splattered some blood on me and on the cat. So, since I have not progressed far beyond childhood (or maybe because I am apparently part cat), I licked it off without thinking about it -- it was just a little bit.

Then, out of curiosity, I got on line to see if there might be an after-problem for the cat from the tick. I found out that yes, there might be, but also there might be one for me. It is not recommended to drink (or lick) tick blood. (Now I find out!)

So, Donnie knows to watch for odd behavior in me (not sure he would recognize it, though) -- and to complicate matters, I get a typhoid shot on Friday (to prepare for Morocco).
Oh, well, it makes life interesting. I am a risk embracer, so it will be interesting to see what follows.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

It Only Hurts When I Can't Run: A Book Review

Unfortunately, my Mahlou Musings blog remains hijacked by Neoworx -- apparently, I have to pay for a premium plan for using the visitor counter before I can have my blog back. Not into blackmail, so I will move at least my book reviews to the 100th Lamb site, which has now fallen back into my eagerly awaiting hands. I will also post here some excerpts from my own books, as well -- things that I used to do on Mahlou Musings. Hopefully, followers there will find the things they liked there here. Of course, these two kinds of posts will be in addition to my regular posts, not in lieu of them. I will mark the MM columns with my tiger icon. At some point, I will explain why the tiger.

Before then, though, I want to share with you a remarkable book by a remarkable writer. The author is today a pastor, but she spent a childhood experiencing one abuse after another -- physical, emotional, and sexual, along with abandonment and neglect. One would think she would lose faith, especially since at least one of her rapists was a leader of her church. She did. She maintained her faith -- and grew up, serving as a remarkable example to all of us. Her faith gave her the resiliency to grow up to become not one of the lost but one of the leaders. As an adult, Gewanda founded Hope and Healing Corporation, serving the needs of the marginalized of society locally and abroad. She also started an organization to help young girls and teens suffering from low self-esteem and identify issues. She is also a featured concert soloist. Her natural talent in music has offered her the opportunity to minister and travel through the US, Canada, and Bahamas. In 2003, she was asked to speak to the highly military religious divides between the Protestants and Catholics in Belfast, Northern England. She hosted a weekly radio show called "Message of Hope" (directed toward reconciliation and healing of the family, community, spirit, soul, and mind). She occasionally speaks on radio shows today, and readers of her book can find out where she will next be speaking (or link to a previous broadcast) on the publisher's website:

Here is the publisher's description of It Only Hurts When I Can't Run. Abandoned, neglected, and beaten by a mother who really did care about her but suffered from her own demons and addictions, left with friends and relatives, as well as placed in foster homes, molested, and raped on more than one occasion, including by men considered upright, the little girl who grew up to become an educator, minister, and entrpreneur learned to survive by running away again and again. This heartbreaking and heartwarming story, told with courageous frankness, reveals a deep trust in God that, in the long run, prompted an unbelievable resilience, allowing a young girl, turned young woman, to forgive those who hurt her and to reach out to all those who hurt with a message of healing and hope.

Here is my reaction to the book. This book reaches the reader on a visceral level. It is difficult to put it down. Anyone who has been abused will empathize. Anyone who cares about little girls will sympathize. Everyone will marvel at how one little girl could endure so much and not only survive but also thrive and how one adult woman could offer such total forgiveness to those who had hurt her, especially her mother who died soon after the publication of the book but who, one might think surprisingly, gave permission to her daughter to publish it. Truly a remarkable story, a remarkable author, and a remarkable, if flawed, mother.

It Only Hurts When I Can't Run reached a highly popular level on the Amazon lists, to wit:
#4 in the Amazon Hot New Releases in the child abuse category
#8 Hot New Releases in the family relationship/abuse category
#47 Hot New Releases in the family relationship category.

It Only Hurts When I Can't Run is recommended by the US Review of Books and by MidWest Book Review.

ZhenyaThe illustrator of Gewanda's book is Zhenya Yanovich, a talented young artist who lives outside Moscow, Russia. Other illustrations he has done in general and for books can be found on his website, which you can view by clicking on his name above. He is also the CEO of Khronograf Publishers, a Russian publishing house (also described at his website).

St. Francis and Sula, Parish Cat at Old Mission

In my last post, I referred to St. Francis as the "inspirator" of Sula, the parish cat at Old Mission. Perhaps some thought that was because St. Francis is the patron saint of cats. Perhaps others thought that that was because the Franciscans built Old Mission. I imagine no one, or almost no one, thought I meant it literally. But I wonder...take a look at the picture above of Sula, seeming to be taking her daily orders from St. Francis on the mission grounds. (Snapped by one of the docents.)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sula, Parish Cat

Somewhat over two years ago, I related a story of how Sula, our parish cat at Old Mission, shown here in the Nativity scene this year, comes to confession. She also rarely misses a Mass,

Well, Sula has become somewhat famous these days. An article I wrote about her was published in the December 2015 Guideposts Magazine as "A Cat with a Mission." Guideposts synopsized the story on its website.

Then, this week, the Hollister Freelance (California paper) carried Sula's story in a touching piece, "Cat on a Mission."

Both articles had excellent pictures, including some that were not in the publications. If you find the Christmas picture endearing, check out these other two sites.

And, please, stand by. Sula is writing her own book, Surviving Cancer, Healing People: One Cat's Story (MSI Press), due out in February (or maybe a tad later). The purpose is to raise money to retrofit her mission home against earthquakes.

So, here is the proverbial ending: "more later."

Have a relaxing weekend -- and find some time to be with Sula's Divine Inspirator, the good Lord (and St. Francis).

Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday Morning Meditation #33

Now that I am back, I am going to try to pick up on some of the memes of the past that have meaning still two years later. One of those is Monday Morning Meditation. Maybe some day I will update and improve them and organize them into a book. For now, I am happy just to be back talking about these topics. So, since I left off with the Book of Second Kings, I am returning to chapter and verse where I left off before. This week, the first story, the next in line, is the story of Naaman, who was cured of leprosy by  Elisha.

Reading: II Kings 5: 1-27

Meditation: Sometimes, the details can be as importantor, at least, as revealing (perhaps of something else)as the point of a story. The story of Naaman is well known. The "bottom line" presented in the last couple of verses is also well known: the greedy, unthankful servant does not get all the goodies he wants but rather is infected with leprosy. That bottom line, however, is not what attracted my attention this Monday, Rather, it was something that is very common (at least, with me, and, I suspect, with many). When Elisha's messenger told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times and he would be cleansed, Naaman could not accept this at first. It was not what he expected of a prophet of God. (Sort of like Jesus not being what the Pharisees expected from a messiah.)

Having lived in Jordan and having spent time in and around the seemingly very ordinary (and, actually, nowadays drying up) Jordan River, I can understand why Naaman would not think that this river would have any "special" properties. Of course, it was not the river but how God used the river that mattered. (An aside: God has used that river a lot!)

This seemingly minor detail strikes me as equally important as the bottom line. This so often happens to me. I want/need an answer to something, or guidance, and God sends me an answer, but in a form I don't recognize or want to accept. Sometimes, it is a colleague telling me something I don't want to hear. Sometimes, it is a door that won't open, one that I keep trying when another, better is right beside it, and I am not seeing it. How I left Jordan is one such example. I had received multiple calls from the States, offering me a very good job to come back to California. However, I wanted to stay in Jordan. Suddenly, my job there dried up. I attempted to find another job there; all doors were closed although I was well known and had an excellent reputation. Then, friends tried. Same deal: all doors were closed. I was left with no alternative other than to accept the job in California.

Two aspects of the importance of that job became clear over time. One was for my benefit: it brought me back to the States at a time when my son, Shane, was about to become a father to two children, both with serious medical issues, now under control. I would not have been able to help him while being far away in Jordan. The other was for the benefit of the people at my workplace. I ended up as the senior manager there, and I have been able to help many. I know that is where God wants me, but that is a story for another time.

And that is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I retire to prayer, to thank God for the ongoing ways in which He keeps messaging me even though I don't always listen well, to ask Him to keep knocking (with my promise of trying to be better at opening the doors he puts in front of me), and to praise Him for His great love and persistence. After that, I will spend as much time as I can in contemplation, my favorite part of the day, letting God take over the direction in which my relationship with Him moves.

I will now leave you to your prayer and contemplation, but first, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:

Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I hope you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts.

For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs that follow the enumeration of Monday Morning Meditations on the sidebar of this blog and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

Wishing all a Happy New Year in 2016, and hoping to see some old friends on this blog, which I have finally been able to revive -- long story of frustrated efforts, learning more about technology, stolen sites, more frustrated efforts, and walking away to work on more productive activities. Then, voila, everything fell back into place, and I was able to get into this blog. Working on getting into the others and renewing old acquaintances.

Will bridge the two-year span in the next set of blogs, during the month of January.

In the interim, would love to hear all of your new year resolutions. My only one is to find the present and live in it. (One of my employees told me that I am perceived as someone who lives in the future, dedicated to bringing those living in the past into the present. I suppose that is true though I have not figured out whether this is a compliment or a complaint.) For now, I will try for a more "present" orientation, to enjoy the daily graces that God grants us and praying that He will shower you with those graces every day of 2016.