Category Archives: illness

What the Lord Hath Given…

You know how that Bible lesson goes, right? What He hath given, He can also take away. And the Bible doesn’t suggest He ever owes us any explanation. God is subject to capricious whims, apparently.

This is part of the reason why I often have doubts about the fairness of most religions. How do you worship that which is cold, uncaring, and capricious? And yet, to say there is no God above… or below… is anathema to the way I was raised and the fundamental structures of my moral and inner self.

If there is no God, then why is there any life at all? Life is complex and intricately ordered. How can that be if the universe is random and mindless? Physics already says all order is headed for eventual chaos. Our chance to control the climate crisis and save the planet is now down to seven more years. If we don’t get our act together before 2027, we are doomed. What is the need for order at all? Why do you need to have a counterpoint to chaos if there is no underlying point to the whole process?

Philosophical questions like this are why what I really am is a pure and simple agnostic. I am open to all possible answers. But I have no scale to weigh any of it.

One way that the Lord is taking things away right now is through the capitalist system worshipped by wealthy and greedy men. Especially the Septuagenarian Mutant Turtle currently in charge of the Senate. He and his billionaire mutant overlords don’t want to raise the national debt to help ordinary people through the Covid crisis and the economic chaos it caused, even though they were fine with ballooning the debt in 2017 to give tax breaks to billionaires and corporations while actually raising taxes on pensioners like me.

My house is falling apart. I can raise no extra income because of the pandemic. And the bank is making noises about balloon payments and raising the specter of homelessness for the four of us.

Muckman! Ta-ta-ta-tah! He who slays evil with the foul stench from his unwashable armpits.

And, of course, the biggest thing God may soon take away is my very life. I am having problems with high blood pressure, fainting spells, and numerous symptoms that could easily be interpreted as the onset of Parkinson’s, the disease that took my father’s life. Of course, going into the clinic to find out for sure could financially sink me, as well as infect me with Covid and kill me even though I previously survived my son’s experience with the disease without becoming infected.

This January and February are expected to be the worst part of t the pandemic that we have yet experienced.

But this little exercise in philosophical whining and complaining will, in the long run, do nobody any good. I don’t blame a God for my troubles because of the atheist in me. I know difficult times lay ahead for everybody, not just me. And just as Muckman, the superhero, turns his unfortunate condition of nearly-deadly body odor into his super-power for fighting evil guys, I need to turn my misfortunes into something good.

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Filed under angry rant, artwork, commentary, grumpiness, humor, illness, Paffooney

The Surprises We Are Made From

I was amazed when I awoke this morning, not stuffed-up and apparently dying. I really expected this last bout of flu to be the end of me. I figured I had only lasted this long by sheer luck and the grace of whatever gods really do flit about us and don’t ignore us completely. I figured Covid would claim me by the end of this week. After all, I have COPD, genetic heart issues, high blood pressure, and diabetes. But if it was Covid 19, which most likely it was not, it turned out to be one of the milder flus I have endured in the last decade. Yesterday, the fifth day, was the worst day. And, like has happened more than fifteen times since 2008, the following day sees me feeling almost completely better. I had H1N1 twice according to the flu tests I took. Once for each f the strains of that particular epidemic. I have had severe bronchitis three times, and spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia once. The biggest surprise was that I hadn’t succumbed to this whole awful virus business before now. Every extra day I am given is a new surprise.

I had some other surprises. I got the results back from a book review I requested through the Pubby book-review cooperative I am working with. The Pubby author’s desktop had told me the review for Magical Miss Morgan was going to be a four-star review. The actual review, once Amazon approved it, was actually only a three-star review. The reviewer was apparently a former teacher who took issue with some of Miss Morgan’s classroom decisions and also objected to some name-calling in the book. Name-calling? The only name-calling I recall comes from students making jokes about unpleasant teachers’ names, and some fairy racial slurs used against other fairies. The fire-wisps are known for a lack of intelligence since their bodies are literally made of magical fire, leading inescapably to the whole race being hot-headed.

I am not upset about the poor rating. I expect some people not to like my books for any number of reasons. And it is refreshing to see a reviewer giving a specific criticism and proving she actually read the book. That is much better than the reviewer of Recipes for Gingerbread Children, a book about a Holocaust survivor who makes her peace with the world by telling fairy tales to children, who gave it five stars for having “very good recipes for gingerbread cookies.” That faker not only didn’t read the book, he didn’t even look at the basic information in the review request.

It would’ve been nice, though, if Pubby had been more accurate about reporting the number of stars. That’s not the kind of surprise I really enjoy, even if I did learn from it.

The third surprise I had today was how easy it was to reclaim my Hulu account. I have been paying for it right along, but I lost access to it when the last TV in the house burned out its screen. I couldn’t transfer it to my laptop because I was sharing the account with my eldest son who doesn’t live in our house anymore. I could not change the password because he was still using it, and the account would not recognize my laptop without changing the old password. Finally, a month after my son got his own account, I was able to reach Hulu programming once again by resetting the password. I was really surprised that a months-long problem was dispatched in less than ten minutes.

Surprises, both good and bad, actually shape our lives. The performers I used as illustrations all entertained me by surprising me. I learned things from them my whole life… and I am still learning from them. In Chaplin’s case, I even learned from the surprise of who he turned out to really be. Not such a mice man. I was also surprised by how good of a person Fred Rogers turned out to actually be. And it is surprising how much Red Skelton’s difficult life and heart-felt comedy actually helped make me be the kind of man I came to be, whether you think that is good or bad in itself.

And that is all I have to say abut that. Surprise!

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Filed under humor, illness, insight

The Sickening…

Today I am totally bloogelbombardoed. Seriously, there is not a better word for how I feel at the moment. I have a viral infection with no fever. Just body aches, a bad case of the blahs, and sinuses that won’t let me rest, or even stop leaking out the nose for more than fifteen seconds at a time. My trash is full of used Kleenex and toilet tissue that took over when the Kleenex box ran out.

I have to seriously worrywarticize the whole problem because my wife and daughter have returned from the Florida Disney World Reunion of the Filipino Sisters during the Thanksgiving Week, which they technically should have canceled due to Covid Crisisism.

I am staying warm, trying unsuccessfully to rest in bed, and drinking lots and lots of Mickenlooney Go-Juice (the Mickian words for Diet Dr. Pepper.) Fortified and warmalized by frequent cups of sugar-free hot chocolate. Carefully monitoring how close or how far I am away from deathualization.

But here’s why it shouldn’t actually be Covid 19. No fever. Good sense of smell. No vomiting. No breathing problems that weren’t there already before I got sick.

Still, my plan is to get tested if I am still sick after Friday (the seventh day after exposure and the fifth day of feeling bloogelbombardoed.) My wife will be mad at me for it, because it will put her on homebound quarantine again from school and her classroom. But, I figure that is a fair enough thing, because if I am Convidinated, either she or my daughter, the Princess, brought it home to me. Just because you may be asymptomatic, that doesn’t make you virus free.

If it is the pandemic virus, then so far my body is handling it rather well, underlying conditions and all. I know that could change quickly, and this post may be my swansong singy-thingy, my goobye-seeyalater to the world. But I hope not.

Did you learn any Mickian words from this blog-posty-thingy? If you did, I hope you never try to use them. It’s not that I hold a copyright or anything, but these words are generally frowned upon by the society we live in. And I have it on good authority that factory warranties of these words have all expired, so they might break down, blow up, or just generally make English teachers and editors mad. Oh, and Kleenex is not emboldicized because it is NOT a Mickian word. Some stupifyingly stupid corporation is guilty of that wildly Mickianesque weird spelling. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

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Filed under health, humor, illness, Paffooney, word games, wordplay

Softly, Slowly… and with Regret

Many things are coming to an end. My father’s life is almost over. He’s in hospice care sleeping most of his remaining hours away. I myself don’t feel so well. I may have escaped Covid 19, at least for now, but I am still at risk for heart and brain trouble, possible heart attack or stroke. And the whole world may be ending in one of several ways.

The climatologists watching the release of methane gas from the Siberian permafrost are now reporting a massive release of gas over the summer, as much as 500% higher than predicted by climate change models. That cuts years off the time we have left to mitigate the disaster, if it is not already too late.

And the pumpkinhead dictator that refuses to admit he lost the election is continuing to make dealing with the environmental issues and the current pandemic harder and harder as he wastes more time on petulance and greed and treasonous actions.

I am not going to say I believe the world is ending. My world is ending, no matter what is probably going to happen to yours.

I am going to say I believe the only time that is relevant to me is right now. And I am ill. It only matters how I do what I can still do to live a good life and make the world a little better for having allowed me to live in it

I am not suicidal. I have two books I am working on at the moment, and two more books I hope to do after that. My family still needs me for as long as I can hang on. But I am not going out of my way to try to extend my own life. If I have the option, I’d rather die at home in bed than in an expensive hospital. And if my heart gives out before this day is over so be it. I’m satisfied with the life I have had.

There are those who believe I will suffer an eternity in Hell for what I believe… or don’t believe. Some of those are in my own family. But if Hell is real, well, the people there are all the really interesting ones. Heaven and harp-playing is boring unless God is more of a liberal than he seems in the Old Testament.

Anyway, I softly, slowly make this promise. I will not give up. I will continue to do and be precisely what I should be doing and being. And you can take that promise to the bank. Of course, they will laugh at you. I am bankrupt and literally have no money. But you have my word. And my word is more golden by far than the word of that Cheeto in the White House.

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Filed under Depression, illness, Paffooney

A Welcome Dawn

After the night I had, with Parkinson’s symptoms, chest pain, fainting, and loss of both perception and short-term-memory abilities I was happy to record this sunrise.

I thought around midnight that I was having a stroke. I lost about an hour’s worth of time, not with passing out or with sleep, but with unwanted time travel. I remember checking the clock and seeing 3:25 a.m. and then, after my next dizzy-stepping trip to the bathroom, my stupid, lying eyes saw 2:20 a.m. So, I doubled-checked, even resetting my phone to be sure, and all three time displays agreed that I had traveled back in time. Of course, maybe it was me misreading the earlier time. Yet, I am in the habit of double-checking every trip, once upstairs and once downstairs, and I distinctly remembered the 3:25 blinking on my phone. So, my mini-stroke may have been unwanted anomalous time-travel instead.

Never-the-less, I did not die in my sleep as per expectation. I was glad to see that Biden was ahead of Trump and only not the official winner because the Trumpalump and his terrible Trumpkins would act like trolls and break stuff if the victory in the election went to Biden only on the basis of… you know, more votes, both ballots and electoral college electors, and the math that proves it.

Anyway… I am still here. And with luck, tomorrow too.

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Filed under humor, illness, Liberal ideas, politics

After the Last Chapter

Yes, I have reached a snag in the novel-writing process. I am definitely at the end of the story. The crisis point is past. The characters who have to die to resolve the central conflict are dead. The characters who needed to be rescued are already rescued. I have probably less than a thousand words left to write. But I still have to tie the knot in the end of the plot to keep all the main ideas and themes from pouring out and floating away with the wind. I need the final scene and a memorable end line.

And, I am ill. My chest hurts. My head hurts. And I have needed to sleep every time I have settled down to write it. What happens if the old Grim Reaper shows up again with a sharper scythe than he had on his last visit?

I don’t know

what comes after the last chapter. I don’t know it for the book I am writing, nor for the life I am living.

I freely admit that I have no confidence whatsoever that after I die I will wake up in Heaven. Baptists have told me I will go to Hell for not believing what they believe. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have assured me that there is no Hell for me to wake up in and be eternally tortured in. But they also tell me I get no Paradise forever because I stopped believing what they believe. I have repeatedly said in writing and conversations that I am a Christian Existentialist. And I have explained that I think that makes me an atheist who believes in God. That leaves me, more or less, as an agnostic, not knowing anything until it’s proven to me, and realizing that nobody can prove it besides the God that I believe in but who doesn’t exist.

Our lives are like a book.

Things happen before the book is opened and you begin to read, but they are not technically something that the book contains within it. And when the book is finished and you close it, the story is complete. But the book still exists even when it’s closed.

I am not concerned about the fact that my story will end. But with both the book I am working on and the life I am living still unfinished… well, I hope both stories will be finished.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, illness, novel writing, Paffooney, religion

Up and Down, Good and Bad

Lepperd Girrrrl, Jungle Princess

I am in quarantine because of my son’s COVID-positive status, so naturally I am hyper-sensitive to the possibility that I could get the virus and die in just a few days. This morning I woke up to a cough, headache, and sinus drainage that immediately set off alarm bells. Time to start living my last days on Earth…. again.

But I have been thinking about canceling the Pubby subscription I bought before the free ten-day trial period ends tomorrow and they charge my bank account for the whole year. So, before calling an ambulance prematurely and setting the house in a panic, I checked Pubby. One of the two reviewers I thought were both going to stiff me on a review I had earned came through and posted a review. And it was a very literate and convincing five-star review. I was basically thrilled and felt vindicated enough that the other nagging worry felt better too.

This link takes you to the reader-review page.

So, then I took my temperature yet again and got 37.1 degrees Celsius. 37 C is, of course, normal, a fact that I had to look up and then convert to Fahrenheit myself just to be sure. So, I have not had a single instance of fever since long before the quarantine began. And, I was also able to discern that these are the exact same symptoms I had at the end of June that made me go get a COVID test that proved I was negative for the virus after the doctor assured me that taking the test was only a precaution, and I didn’t really have coronavirus symptoms. I still have medication for the allergic reaction I had last time, I remembered trying to do the same clean-up yesterday that I had done the first time I had that reaction.

Since we are on a watch for severe symptoms anyway, I decided to wait until I have a fever or shortness of breath. Exactly what the doctor would tell me to do anyway with the situation whether a test came back positive or negative. I am saving money for the doctor’s phone-call consultation, and saving myself another long trip and long wait in a long, long line. Especially when I don’t feel well enough to drive, and don’t want to risk a healthy family member to drive me. So, while I am sealed in my room waiting to die, I will continue to write and read and try to get more books reviewed. This may be my last day alive. But I am happy and the world looks good even though the Republican National Fear-fest continues to threaten a Trump-family dictatorship.

Oh, and I am continuing to scan artworks as my scanner has temporarily forgotten once again how much it hates me after tax time.

A way to access my artwork from this blog with a simple Google images search.

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Filed under artwork, book review, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, illness, Paffooney

Doom Looms… Yet Again

My number two son is coronavirus positive. All four of us who live in the house are now under quarantine for fourteen days (at a minimum). I have six incurable diseases, three of which; diabetes, hypertension, and COPD, the virus uses as the window to climb in and assassinate you.

We are not supposed to share a bathroom with the ill person, which is hard to do with only one bathroom. Nobody is seriously considering peeing outdoors.

We are all now wearing masks in the house. Well, except for my wife who insists she can’t breathe with a mask on all day (though she does it for her job as a Texas school teacher.) And she is a diabetic too.

What are the chances that I will still be alive in two weeks? Well, I am proceeding with the idea that I have a zero percent chance myself. I will do what I can to swim with the current. Like a good Taoist, I will not try to change the natural order of things. I have been retired now for six years, not by choice, but because of health problems. I am actuarily supposed to be dead five years ago. Heck, I had the H1N1 virus twice (both strains). The fact that I am still alive now means that I am very hard to kill.

So, I am expecting to die soon, but doing everything in my power to paddle the boat to safety in the raging river of Doom, Gloom, and rumors of Boom.

But my regrets are few. It has been a very good run. I have had a lotta laughs over 64 years. I taught for 31 years. I have written 16 novels and one book of essays. I am about halfway finished with my next novel.

I have to thank Walt Kelly’s Pogo for allowing me to steal these illustrations.

My next novel is called The Wizard in his Keep. It is about three kids who are orphaned by a car wreck, then rescued by a family friend. Their weird “Uncle” Milt Morgan has been helping to create a virtual-reality computer game called The Legend of Hoodwink. He takes them to live inside the game world. And there they discover that things have gone terribly wrong for the computer game and the company that designed it. And it’s possible that the game has been contaminated with real magic somehow. And there may no longer be any way out of the game ever again.

This book may well be my own Mystery of Edwin Drood (the last, unfinished book by Charles Dickens.) It is somehow perfect, then, that this novel was inspired by The Old Curiosity Shop, and has many Dickens references in it.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, family, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, illness, Paffooney

I’m More Alive Today Than I Was Yesterday

Yes, I use that picture to illustrate the character Milt Morgan, but it is actually me. I drew it from a school photo from grade school. And yes, that means a color photo from the 1960’s. I am now 54 years older than I was when that picture was originally taken. Being that old… not ancient, but a senior citizen, means I am not as far from the day I will die as I am from either the day I was born, the day this picture was taken, the days I graduated from high school and college, and even the day I got married. Especially since I am ill with 6 incurable diseases and conditions and living in the midst of the 2020 pandemic with anti-health President Trumpalump still in the White House.

Yesterday I woke up with my left arm numb, a sharp pain in my left armpit, a heaviness and pain in my chest, and a throbbing in my temples.

Yes, I know. I promised my family I would go to the ER if I had those Heart-Issue symptoms again.

But the last time I went to a doctor on a Saturday with those same symptoms, my EKG sent me to the ER, who charged me two hundred dollars out of pocket and sent me directly to the hospital. After more than a week of tests, drugs, and worry… no heart indications, stress test passed, and the general consensus among specialists that it was the arthritis in my rib-cage and the arthritis in my neck, near the spinal chord that caused both the anomalous EKG and the numbness in my arm. They got the same heart-warning EKG readings while I was hooked up to a machine that showed I was definitely NOT having a heart attack.

So, yesterday I gambled with my life. I stayed home. I finished my book of essays and published it on Amazon. (At least, if I died, I would leave behind one more product of wit, wisdom, and autobiography from a total idiot.)\

This morning I was better. It is not a hundred percent certain that I won’t drop dead from a heart attack or stroke, but my pains yesterday were definitely from sleeping for too long on my left side with an arthritic rib-cage. Arthritis doesn’t kill you by itself. Only when it masks the pains of something more deadly and disastrous.

So, I lucked out. And I have another finished work. It is Laughing Blue, a book of essays from this goofy little blog. Along with illustrations that I feared wouldn’t all be compatible with Amazon’s file-size limits. I appear to have been 100% victorious on that gamble too.

The book is now live on Amazon. Whether you can actually buy it or not, I don’t know yet. So, I will wait to post a link until I am sure.

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Filed under autobiography, health, illness, Paffooney, publishing

Beloved

Teachers are not supposed to fall in love with students. Of course, when the school district tells you that, at the beginning of the year, they are talking mostly about high school students, and they are talking exclusively about romantic love. I have never had a real problem with that rule. Romantically, little half-brained and totally immature middle school students are downright icky. Especially the walking, talking, and sometimes farting middle school boys.

But schools, even though they can’t really say it, and some administrators don’t believe they want it to be so, they want teachers to have “teacher love” for students. That means, in a vaguely defined way in administrative brains compatible with the real meaning of “fully funded,”that they want teachers to become surrogate mothers and fathers to students, the kind of love you have for an orphan you have adopted because you can plainly see they need someone… anyone… to love them and care for them… no matter how ugly they might be on the outside.

“To be a good teacher, you gotta learn to love ugly,” Head Principal Watkins said to us all for the two years he managed to love our faculty. And he meant it. I was not the only teacher I heard him tell, “You are a wonderful teacher because you care about kids.” And he meant it. Not like most principals.

But when you see a picture of David, the way he was back then, you can see he was not ugly. Just his situation was ugly.

He was one of six kids that lived with his single mother in the housing project for low-income families. His mother had, at the time the principal called me into his office, been cited by authorities twice for neglect of her children.

“Mike, I know you have mentored and helped several kids outside of school. And we have a boy coming into your seventh grade class that we would like for you to help out however you can. We know you went through the whole social-services and foster-parent training from San Antonio. And David Gutierrez could really use a bit of a boost from you,” the Head Principal told me behind closed doors.

Boy, was that ever an understatement. I was spending considerable time hanging out with the pretty blond reading teacher. The first time I cooked for her, fried hamburgers and instant mashed potatoes, David had a plate already at the tiny table in my little apartment. And, skinny little thing that he was, he ate three quarters of all the food I had badly cooked. Annabel didn’t mind. And not because the burgers were burnt and the potatoes were runny… I am still not a great cook. She would become David’s second mom for those next three years. She gave him as much if not more “teacher love” than I did.

He was not a good student in any of his classes. But he was an adequate reader, and he actually improved noticeably in the time he was hanging out with us.

But he gave us a turn during that first fall when he got sick. He had the seventh grade History teacher first period every morning. And one day in October he reported to class all listless and red-eyed, And Mrs. Finch was a sharp and capable teacher, knowing what drug problems looked like, and what they didn’t look like. She sent him to the nurse. It was a fever of one-hundred-and-three degrees. The parent was called, but the parent didn’t answer. So, immediately after school Annabel and I took him directly from the nurse’s office to the doctor. And after it was determined he had a bad sinus infection, we took him to my place and put him in the spare bedroom (all apartments on North Stewart Street were two-bedroom, but there was only one of me.) Annabel stayed with him while I filled the prescription for antibiotics. We got him dosed and rested at least before his mother returned from her cleaning job in Laredo, sixty miles south. We told her everything that happened. And she took him home. His two older sisters took over nursing duty.

But when the school contacted the doctor, it was explained that the infection was severe mainly because David was malnourished and dangerously anemic. Of course, that was evidence of neglect and had to be reported.

In order to avoid having to give up custody to the State his mother moved him to Laredo, closer to her work. Both of the older sisters, Bunny and Bea had advised their Mom to give him to Annabel and me. But, of course, we were not married and in no position to become his actual parents.

So, David spent two months in Laredo, calling me every night from a pay phone. His grades in school tanked. He was miserable and lonely.

The problem was worked out in David’s family. His older brother sent money every month to his two older sisters. And Bunny had a job and kept the apartment in Cotulla for herself. So, as a compromise, since Bea was already living there with Bunny to attend high school, David came back to live with them, along with his younger sister. They returned to the school where all their friends were.

Through the rest of David’s seventh grade until the end of high school he was like a son to me. He was constantly at my place, playing computer games, watching VHS movies, and charming my girlfriend. (Annabel had the apartment next door for three of the next four years.) I played games with him. I fought with him about getting his homework done. I basically did the Dad-thing for him, something no other man had ever been bothered to do. In later years he would work as a substitute teacher for me. He would introduce me to new girlfriends. And the last time I saw him, in Uncle Moe’s Mexican Restaurant, he introduced his pregnant wife to me and my wife.

In Hebrew, the name David means, “Beloved.” Hence, that’s the only part of his name in this essay that is real.

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Filed under autobiography, humor, illness, kids, Liberal ideas, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching