Category Archives: illness

What Is Making My Ears Bleed?

Don’t panic. I’m okay. Or if you don’t like me at all, don’t get overly happy in anticipation. I actually know why my ears keep bleeding. It is the skin on the top and sides of my ears peeling off and bleeding because of moderate-plaque psoriasis. I just like the way that title sounds. All dripping with ill omens and horror-movie anxiety. I am not becoming a zombie or anything. I just look and feel like one.

I am feeling a little bit old and pointless, what with the pandemic worsening in Texas, my father’s health deteriorating in darkly concerning ways, and the upcoming decision about whether or not I get to return to Iowa this summer. It’s definitely in doubt this year. My parents are both octogenarians and there is the risk of carrying virus anywhere near them. Not to mention the risk of death the virus presents to me. And I am feeling ill. Not with Covid 19. I have no symptoms of that. But I have a stomach virus. My psoriasis is fierce. And I do not have the physical energy to drive myself all the way to Iowa. The prospect of not being able to go home again for another year is weighing heavily on my soul. That is why I have been busy with maudlin posts about dead movie stars like yesterday’s post.

There’s a certain minimum amount of time needed for re-connection with my roots, my childhood, the people and places that gave rise to me. The picture above is one of my Great Grandmother, Nellie Hinckley. She is one of the founders of my world. A Goddess responsible for giving life to my mother’s side of the family. She passed into the World of the Remembered in 1980, when I painted this picture. Soon my parents will be joining her and my grandparents from both sides of the family in that world where everything is summed up in old photographs. And I shall surely follow soon… if not proceed them. I wonder if anyone will lift a brush to Remember me?

And yet, no matter how it turns out, I have much to get on with. I am not done telling stories. I have had little success in selling my books so far. I can barely give them away. But the work of it gives my life just enough purpose and meaning to keep me alive longer than the insurance industry, my Texas teacher retirement plan, and the mortuary companies of the world would like me to. But, I promise to continue frustrating them further.

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Filed under family, feeling sorry for myself, humor, illness, Iowa, Paffooney

My Brother’s Keeper

It is a Biblical question. After Cain killed Abel, God came asking for Abel’s whereabouts. And Cain stupidly answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Stupid Cain! Did he not know that God already knew the answer?

And stupid God. Why did he ask a question to which he already knew the answer? And why did he ask stupid Cain whom he must’ve already known was stupid?

But the answer to the question in this bit of Biblical moral mythology is supposed to be, “Yes, Cain. You are your brother’s keeper.”

So, why am I, a confirmed Christian Existentialist (an atheist who believes in God), trying to tell you something from a Biblical story?

Well, the matter is simple. As I will very likely die soon from Coronavirus (which I am not yet infected with, but, you know, the kindness of fate…), I am trying like heck to impart what little wisdom I have gathered in my life so that I may leave something behind me that has worth.

This current pandemic is itself a demonstration of the truth behind the claim that I am my brother’s keeper.

I wear a mask everywhere I go now because a mask protects not only me but it also protects others from me. After all, I have no access to testing. I may have the virus and just not know it. Then my exhalations would contain droplets of water that have viruses swimming in it. The mask, combined with six feet of distance, keeps my exhalations from reaching the lungs of uninfected others, and potentially slaying them as Cain did to Abel.

It is because of Texan prejudices against mask-wearing and social distancing that I know I will probably be infected before this pandemic is over. And my diabetes, blood pressure problems, and previous difficulty with bronchitis and COPD insure that I am not part of the 80 percent of people who will survive the virus. I will get pneumonia and die.

When I suggest, however, that we should each take on the responsibility for the safety and well-being of others, I do not mean that we should become a zoo-keeper, and keep them all safely in cages (the Senator Cruz method of keeping Mexican immigrants safe). You cannot presume to control the thoughts and behaviors of others. You must only adopt the way of love and brotherhood. You put the interests and needs of others before your own. You lead by example, not by decree.

Before you start complaining in the comments about how stupid I am in this essay because I blaspheme against God, and at the same time don’t see people for how they really are, remember that I used to be a school teacher. You don’t do that job because you want to be rich and powerful. You do that job for love of others… specifically, other people’s children. And it is true that everybody has their bad points. Everybody is thoughtless, or wicked, or deeply troubled at times. But everyone also has qualities about them that make them beautiful, or kind, or noble, or selfless, or… well, the list of good things I have seen and nurtured in other people’s children is far longer and more profound than the bad things. No matter who they are, no matter what color or culture or religion they are, my brothers and sisters and their children have worth.

So, here I am, declaring that I am, most definitely, my brother’s keeper. (And unlike Cain, I did not kill him. He and his wife live along the Texas coast, near Houston. And they are not in a cage.)

And here is the question most critical to my survival…

Are you your brother’s keeper too?

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Filed under humor, illness, Paffooney, philosophy, religion, wisdom

A New Song

I have been feeling ill for three days now. Every morning I wake up feeling that I must’ve caught the Coronavirus. Head all congested, body aching, chest hurting and giving me breathing difficulty, and possibly fever…

And yet, every day, my head clears, my chest stops hurting. No fever is detected. Who knows? I have lived yet another day.

I have honestly been treating every day as if it were my last. I have been doing that for six years now. One day at a time. I have convinced myself that it is the only way to live. Careful of my fragile mortality, yet savoring the music of every single day.

Who knows if tomorrow will be another day? I will do as I must tomorrow if tomorrow is given, and I am thankful for today.

In my time living every single day as my last one, I have written a number of stories. This is one of the good ones that I cherish. It has nudists and Nazis in it. It has gingerbread men (and girls) in it who magically come to life. There are also fairies. And one old German woman with some stories to tell to children. It is built of the sweet memories and cookies and milk from my own boyhood. And it may offend some people. But everyone who will admit to me that they read it, loves it. I love it. Twitter nudists think it represents naturism well.

And the next book I write, if I can string together enough last days at 500 words a day, will be nothing like it, completely different, and maybe better.

And so, on the chance that today really is the last, here is the wisdom that I would leave behind as my legacy.

Words, if chosen wisely, have meaning. And meaning, applied to life, is a priceless treasure. But only if you give it away when you find it.

All people are worth knowing. The unpleasant ones have even more to teach you than the ones who love you. But do not fail to make time for those you love.

Live in the moment. Sing your best. Dance whenever you can. There’s no time like now. At least until tomorrow becomes now.

Hopefully this gift of wisdom is enough for now. If it isn’t, then may the next day make me wiser so that I will do better.

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Filed under gingerbread, humor, illness, insight, inspiration, Paffooney, philosophy, wisdom

What Will We Become?

Davalon, Tanith, and George Jetson

What we are undergoing right now is actually a part of the process of Evolution. You know, that evil science-lie that the devil created to distract us from the incessant worship of God Almighty. Or as non-fundamentalist Christians who don’t read the Bible as a book of Science might think of it, the theory that Charles Darwin created to explain the observed factual evidence of how living things change over time to fit into new environments and new circumstances. That heretical idea that has been promoted by such heretics as highly trained biologists, environmentalists, geneticists, and other scientists qualified to test and re-shape science-based theories that come about through experiment, recording new observations, correlating new data to old data, and changing the theories to fit the new paradigm, which will also be re-examined and adjusted through the Scientific Method.

Yes, Duck-people! We are all going to turn into Duck-people when the pandemic is over. Amorous and risque Duck-people who don’t wear pants.

But it should be obvious enough to anyone who doesn’t think like Trumpkins and evangelicals do, that the survivors of the Coronavirus Pandemic will have to evolve when the plague is through with us. For one thing, we may have to evolve beyond handshakes. For another, we have to stop thinking of the human race as “Us and Them” and start treating each other as if we were all the same, had the same human rights, and had the same basic value to society. Now that I have thought about it a bit more, I’m not sure we can say that it would be a good thing to turn into Duck-people. That might be a bad move if the next pandemic is another bird flu. But we can’t help but evolve into a species that has developed natural resistance to Covid 19. Natural selection will see to that. Though, you should keep in mind that all natural selection isn’t based on just physically getting ill and not dying of the viral infection. Behavioral adaptations are a part of evolution too. Many will survive because of social distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing. I personally hope to be among those.

I really doubt that we will need to evolve the way Johnny did in this old illustration. But I am fairly certain we need to continue to evolve in matters of “Loving thy neighbor”. We have to get out from under the life-shorting notions that profits are more important than people’s lives. We have to do away with a system where power is given to those with the most money rather than those with the most moral character and depth of understanding.

Modern middle school classrooms have already evolved into this. But maybe they need to evolve further still.

Now, obviously, this was all written as a humor-post, because that’s what I do. But that doesn’t mean my ideas are all hair-brained… or even hare-brained. Yes, the rabbit pictured above is supposed to be me. You are welcome to argue with me, but I believe most of what I have said here is not only funny and weird… but true.

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Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, illness, metaphor, Paffooney

The Truth is…

  • The truth is… this pandemic will not be the end of the world even if it is the end of me.
  • The truth is… if we don’t learn some fundamental things about ourselves, the whole world won’t survive very long after the pandemic is over. We have only a few short years to get our environmental act straight.
  • The truth is… the people who are most in control of our world have far more than their reasonable share of the wealth and power in this world, and it is not fair and healthy for our society.
  • The truth is… too often it is the selfish, narcissistic people of the world who rise to the top, and they have no compassion or regard for the rest of us.
  • The truth is… we have to change things. And violence is not the most effective answer. But besides extraordinary acts of heroism and ultimate grace from unnoticed individuals, it may be the only answer we have left. The good things Obama tried were mostly shouted down and defeated by the corrupt and greedy among us. The power of the vote may have been completely undermined.
  • The truth is… wisdom only comes through time and hard experience. If you don’t face hardships, you will never learn how to deal with hardships. That is the gift we are being given by this pandemic.
  • The truth is… our leader at this moment is a criminal. He has stolen wealth from the American people and wrecked parts of the government that are essential to the American way of life as we have always known it. And in his incompetence, he has done things and failed to do things that have caused people’s deaths in this pandemic.
  • The truth is… Trump needs to be prosecuted and put in prison once we have removed him from office.
  • The truth is… if we don’t do something to solve these problems and fix these things, we don’t deserve to survive as a species.
  • The truth is… the Truth is sometimes a very hard thing to hear.

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Filed under angry rant, battling depression, health, illness, Paffooney, politics

Obligatory Viral Thoughts

This is the updated version of my cover for the novel I am writing. Can you tell? The change is a small one. I have now passed 25,000 words and I’m still chugging along full steam. It is like the story is writing itself. That is usually a good sign. But I reserve the right to be monumentally wrong and fatally stupid. Writing this novel could be a mistake. I never wrote a story with this many naked people in it. And it is not erotica nor pornography. It is about nudists, not sex fiends Like the novel The Baby Werewolf, it talks frankly about nudity and mentions sexuality, but there are no sex scenes in the story. Will readers get the difference? I don’t really know… because I’m stupid sometimes.

But I am thinking way overmuch about the Coronavirus too. Like everybody else sequestered in their homes, manacled by worry, and absorbed in Netflix and Disney Plus.

I am definitely watching too much of the news broadcasts from basements and family rooms as even newscasters, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel are staying at home and social distancing.

It has led me to believe that critical things will happen because of what stupid people will do next. Mardi Gras and Spring Break partiers who refused to listen to recommendations from responsible officials are all bringing viral infections back home to infect their loved ones, and their grand parents whom they must no longer love. The Governor of Florida is refusing to lock down his state, and the Lieutenant Governor of Texas is recommending we open up the economy and let old people like me sacrifice their lives so the stock market goes back up.

The solution will be simple too. Stupid and racist people voted Trump into office. He will get them all into churches for Easter. They will all infect each other, and most of them will die. Trump will not get re-elected because stupidity killed his voting base.

But what do I know? I am sometimes very stupid too.

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Filed under angry rant, artwork, being alone, feeling sorry for myself, humor, illness, novel plans, Paffooney

Living in the Upside Down

Well, I have now paid property taxes for 2019, exhausting all the money I have earned by substitute teaching this school year. I am not broke exactly, but all the money I still have is now already spent. There are more days in almost every month than I have funds to actually pay for them. I am not broke, but I am breaking.

And Washington is debating giving us money to help us make it through trying times. But I don’t anticipate “us” actually includes “me”. “Us” is mostly a matter of rich folks when they use that word in Washington.

But I have been busy. I continue to write away on A Field Guide to Fauns which is basically a book about naked people… specifically about sad naked people and the happy naked people who try to cheer them up. It is about nudists in a nudist park in Texas, I have also been walking the dog, which means bagging poop and yanking on the leash whenever she wants to run out in front of cars and Bubba-trucks and get squished under Bubba’s tires. And I have been talking by phone with relatives in Iowa and Missouri.

The Princess and I, while delivering the tax payment to the drop-box, noticed that Braums’ Ice Cream store had their dining room open for a number of patrons. Most of the food businesses are doing drive-up orders only. But, apparently, somebody has to feed the stupid people of Texas. After all, how else are they gonna spread viruses and kill off all those danged kale-eating liberals and old people?

You have to get rid of us somehow, right? And that “us” definitely includes me, even though I hate kale.

But there is no “normal life” anymore. Was there ever any? I am legitimately asking. I was a teacher my whole life, so I had to get used to “abnormal” and “chaotic” long ago.

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Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, illness, Paffooney

You Are Not Alone

Well, here I am now. Shut down and quarantined, not because I have Covid 19, which I don’t, even though I can’t prove that. Rather, it is because I am a high risk individual. Coronavirus could kill me easily. And also because the world is shut down around us. No school. Officially for this week, but probably for the rest of the school year.

So, what will I do now? Well, write more on my novel, of course. But this is not the 19th Century. There are ways to reach out to friends and family instantly, by phone, or Skype, or Facebook, or instant messenger… And you need to check on them. Keep them from feeling isolated and alone. Especially if, like me, you or any of them are at risk from this pandemic. We are not living in the days of the Black Death or the Spanish Flu. We are able to actively connect with others to keep the depression monsters at bay. And no one gets physically sick from a phone call. (I honestly hope that is the truth.) I talked with my octogenarian parents last night, and texted my 60-something sister just to talk and reconnect. My daughter talked to her grandmother in Iowa. My number two son has online friends in Europe and South America. We have family in the Philippines. And I can write this blog post for you. How is your family doing? Do you know somebody that is at risk? Reach out to them. It may be the phone call that saves their life, and then the invention of the telephone will be validated and justified.

And hopefully, with the use of modern communication devices, you won’t infect them with anything, and they won’t infect you. Not even Mr. Grupp.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, illness, inspiration, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Dear Daddy, Don’t Die!

Two weeks ago I let my car drift too near the curb of the street. I hit a curb-corner at the edge of a driveway and something there punctured the passenger-side tire. It was a financial setback. I had to buy a new tire.

But what it really cost me, was the confidence of all three of my children that I can still take care of myself. They were united in threatening to take away my driver’s license and treat me like an invalid.

It was a bit of an over-reaction to what actually happened. But God has it in for me. The challenges to my continued survival seem to never stop coming. At this writing I have six incurable diseases. Diabetes, hypertension, COPD, arthritis, psoriasis, and an enlarged prostate. On top of that, I am a cancer survivor. Skin cancer, 1983. My father has Parkinson’s and it is severely slowing him down. It is also a disease I am beginning to show symptoms of. God hasn’t killed me yet, but not for a lack of trying.

Personally, I am worried about my own frequent bouts of stupidity more than anything else.

Sure, I have diabetes and not enough income to get insulin thanks to pharmaceutical profiteers (another term for blood-thirsty pirates) But I have learned since 2000 to battle it with proper diet. It has been working. And it still does.

But I can be stupid, too. I hate being left out of restaurant trips to SpringCreek Barbecue or Chili’s. But the temptations to eat myself into a coma is always there right in front of me. My wife always eats food that will kill me and even offers me some. (She is not trying to kill me for my money, though. She knows I am bankrupt. That’s why she has to pay for these little family outings that she invites me to. And there are no huge insurance checks in her future if the mashed potatoes get the better of me.)

Arthritis is hard to live with too. My kids worry that my gas-pedal knee will seize up when I am going 55, or my break-pedal leg will fail to move when I need it to when the inevitable Dallas-area killer grandma is driving beside me in the next lane in her black BMW, thinking seriously about how to kill me and make it look like my fault on the insurance claim. I learned long ago to drive with extreme defensiveness in Texas. But still I can be stupid too. Like when I don’t watch the lane’s squiggles and curves hawkishly like I didn’t do two Sunday nights ago.

So, I have to be less stupid for more of the time. If not… if I die on the road some god-forsaken night, my sons are going to kill me. Even if they have to dig me up again to do it.

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Filed under family, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, illness, Paffooney, psoriasis

The Pain That Sharpens My Edges

I am ill again. No apparent reason. Just headaches, body aches, and a pain in the chest. Day-after-day sort of pain for a sufferer of diabetes and arthritis. But pain is a reminder that you are still alive. It grabs you by the collarbones and shakes you with the realization that whatever you are going to accomplish will be done over, under, or around the difficult obstacles thrown in your way. So, I better pick myself up and get going.

On with the battle, in spite of the wounds.

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Filed under healing, health, illness