Regarding flies and dead mackerel

I know, Regarding Flies and Dead Mackerel doesn’t exactly whet the appetite, does it? But neither does this presidential election cycle, frankly. People who know me know that I generally enjoy the political seasons as they come, and thankfully, go. I work the angles with online news subscriptions to lock in lower weekly rates for just enough months that drag me kicking and screaming through the US presidential elections in November every four years.

In my view the Mac-daddy online rag is the New York Times. A true news junkie, which I’m not, could disappear after one click and be gone for days in the Times. In addition, I also do flybys of The Washington Post to see what stories they’ve missed this time, The Onion, in a feeble attempt to regain my sanity and The Guardian, which, like a mirror, reflects what it sees without the dizzying hype and self-drunkenness of its counterpart cousins in the US.

Today, within less than two months of ending (hallelujah!) what certainly will go down as the most bazaar, political season in history, I’ve become almost certifiable. I find myself starving for substance, for anything that remotely resembles relevant facts that I can take with me into the voting booth on November 8.

It took me awhile, but it’s finally happened.  I’ve come to hate CNN, which is why I keep their news app at the top of my home screen. When I’m at the gym I strive for balance and discipline. I force myself to tune in Fox News and smugly declare to the buttons in front of me that keeping an open mind is essential—for five full minutes, until I realize that I’m peddling way too fast and despite a death grip on the handlebars, I’m sliding to the left and about to crash to the floor, whereupon I retreat, desperately pressing arrows that take me back to CNN’s anything but A New Day with Chris Cuomo and their mathematically balanced political pile of talking heads.

Meanwhile, the guy looking all buff to my right in his matching US Flag sweatband and matching workout shirt, Regarding flies and dead mackerel. cat with fur like Donald Trump(that somehow looks redder than I remember the flag looking), who’s also a “townie,” which means he knows everyone’s business, including mine, that I’m a Quaker and retired social worker-type with liberal leaning bumper stickers to prove it, politely smiles at me while shaking his head. Fortunately though my trump card with this guy is that we both know that I that worked with his nephew a decade ago and so we move on to the next machine with mutual smiles.

There. I feel better now.

Regarding flies and dead mackerel. hillary-clinton-caricaturePeople who know what to expect here at Rise This Day also know that I generally, usually, earnestly, almost always try to avoid politics and the whole vexing swamp of political discourse—mostly because the topic just seems to suck all the good air out of whatever room we’re in. Yet a few good and observant folks who visit here have also noticed in my Rise Up Quotes section that I have a page called “Weathering Political Seasons” that contain, in my view anyway, pithy observations by others about all things politics without being partisan.

To spare your index finger the stress of clicking around (hopefully that’s the finger you were thinking of using) I’ve included my Weathering (withering?) Political Seasons quotes in this post for your convenience (okay, and my pleasure). I hope that you enjoy them.

Regarding flies and dead mackerel

I don’t believe there’s any problems in this country, no matter how tough it is, that Americans, when Americans roll up their sleeves, can’t completely ignore.
– George Carlin

What used to be called liberal is now called radical, what used to be called radical is now called insane, what used to be called reactionary is now called moderate, and what used to be called insane is now called sold conservative thinking.
– Tony Kushner

On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
– H.L. Mencken

Sometimes I wonder if the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.
– Mark Twain

A tyrant is always setting some war in motion so that the people will be in need of a leader.
– Plato

He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.
– George Bernard Shaw

He is brilliant but corrupt, like a dead mackerel by moonlight, which shines and stinks.
– Aaron Burr, describing a contemporary political figure.

Those who would give up essential liberty to gain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
– Benjamin Franklin

If you tell a big lie enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
– Joseph Goebbels

Same old pile of crap, just a new swarm of flies.
– Will Rogers (who else!)

________

Text by K. Lee. Images via the Internet. (As far as I know, you can’t buy the cat. But the interest is huge.)

 

 

Seeing Eye to Eye

Today’s story, Seeing Eye to Eye, would not let me rest until it found its own way into words. It’s a slice of time and change between two lives and where they intersect and learn new ways of moving forward.

Most everyone has either overcome or learned to cope with health and wellness challenges in life. And I can say with equal parts of gratitude and just plain luck, that my journey, thus far at least, has not experienced anywhere near the kinds of serious and life-changing health issues that many people face and live with constantly day by day.

For years my eyes have been my personal battleground. I’ve had glaucoma in both eyes for almost 30 years, but thanks to medication and infrequent laser surgeries, the impact of glaucoma upon my day-to-day routines has been manageable. A far greater concern is the retinal occlusion I have in my right eye. To control swelling capillaries that severely reduces my vision, I receive eye injections about every 15 weeks or so. The procedure isn’t fun, but it helps to retain my eye’s vision for which I’m truly grateful.

When seeing suddenly changed…

Last summer, after what should have been routine cataract surgery in my right eye, something went wrong. The stitches bled and my cornea swelled and buckled and the pain was so intense it forced me to leave our annual Quaker conference in an ambulance for the hospital E.R. After seven hours of I.V. pain meds and special eye drops the pain and pressures dropped enough for my wife, Betty Ann, to drive us home in the middle of the night, abandoning any thoughts of returning to our conference.

Early the next morning I was sitting in my ophthalmologist’s office for more eye treatments. As painful as that whole episode was, I was relieved that the E.R. doc saved my vision in that eye. Still, Betty Ann and I, now back at home, found ourselves missing very much our spiritual community of fellow Quakers some 200 miles away.

Here’s where things get strange

Seeing Eye to Eye. Gracie.sm-1
Gracie, at 2 years-old

Within three days after arriving home, we noticed that our dog Gracie’s left eye had become cloudy and then quickly turned blue. While I was keeping back-and-forth appointments with my own ophthalmologist and retina specialist, Betty Ann was traveling with Gracie to see an animal ophthalmologist 35 miles away.

I continued to heal, but the news for Grace was not good. She had suddenly developed glaucoma, causing her to lose her vision in that eye. We decided not to remove her eye and instead treat it with glaucoma medication three times a day. The freaky thing was that her medication was the very same eye drops that I use, too. For the next 12 months Gracie’s medication worked and she showed few negative effects of getting around with vision in just one eye.

To be honest, it was hard not to conclude that Gracie had taken a personal “hit” for me. Within less than a week the vision in my eye was saved and Gracie’s was lost. Of course, intellectually, that doesn’t make sense. It was just a coincidence. Or was it?

The seasons changed and before we knew it we were back in the middle of summer one year later. My glaucoma remained in check, and scheduled eye injections to treat my retinal occlusion kept most of my vision intact in my right eye. We were packing up and preparing to attend our Quaker conference once again, this time looking forward, hopefully, not having to leave suddenly like we did last year.

Google Calendar Entry-1A day before we were scheduled to leave for this year’s gathering of New England Quakers I let Gracie out to do her business before heading to bed. She went out and came back in on her own as usual. A half-hour later we went to bed, but we were aware that Gracie was still downstairs, when ordinarily she would have been two steps behind us heading up to our bedroom. It sounded like she was banging into things downstairs so I dashed down to investigate. To our horror, it quickly became clear that Gracie could not see at all.

The next morning we were back in the animal ophthalmologist’s office to discover that Gracie now had glaucoma in her right eye, too. On top of that, the meds were no longer controlling the pressures in her left eye that went blind the year before. At first we hoped the meds would work and that she’d get her right eye’s vision back. But sadly, within a few days, Gracie lost any chance of regaining her vision in that eye, too, as the optic nerve was now damaged just like her other eye. She was now totally blind. We were devastated, in shock and in disbelief.

Here we were, one year later almost to the day, after my close call with my own eye and Gracie losing vision in her left eye—and once again, on the cusp of leaving for our annual Quaker gathering. It seemed surreal. Since Betty Ann’s role at this conference involved running a large program with many children and staff, and I had back-up folks in place to step in to attend to ministry as the pastoral counselor, we decided that I would stay home and Betty Ann would attend our annual gathering of fellow Quakers. I will admit that my wife had the harder assignment. I at least had the advantage of caring for—okay, hovering over, our four-legged brave dog, hour by hour, while Betty Ann could only worry from afar.

Despite a rigorous treatment plan Gracie now had glaucoma in both eyes, and was completely blind. Worse yet, the medication was not controlling the pressures and rapidly increasing pain. We had two choices. The first was never under consideration. In order to control her mounting pressure levels, both eyes had to be removed immediately in order to eliminate the pain she was clearly in. Making that decision was hell. And it was the correct decision. Fortunately, we had the means to pay for the surgery and the time to help Gracie heal. Gracie’s diseased eyeballs would be removed and replaced with silicone prosthesis, leaving her own corneas and irises intact.  I dropped her off for the surgery on a Friday morning and had all I could do to make it back to the van before starting to cry.

I picked her up just four hours after having both her eyes removed. Just four hours! The ophthalmologist vet, Dr. Dennis Donohue, said that Gracie would be better off recovering at home. It was hard to believe, but when I returned to pick her up, she was wagging her tail and hopping up and down, obviously very happy to “see” me! Of course she had to wear the “cone” around her head until healing advanced, but she did better coping with it than we did, or I did, to be honest. The same night that Gracie came home, Betty Ann also returned from our Quaker gathering. Their reunion was, well, beyond words.  Within minutes “Nurse Betty” was back. I knew it, and most especially, Gracie did too.

Seeing Eye to Eye. Gracie post-op-1
Gracie, 3 weeks post-op

At three weeks post-op Gracie is making good progress in recovery. She’s off the “cone of shame,” as they call it, and some of her meds are being reduced as well. She’s already learned to “map” the house and navigate steps leading in and out. With assistance, she’s getting the hang of going up and down the narrow, steep stairs leading to our bedroom.

But the dog who loved a good off-leash romp along the beach and through the dunes or who bounded full-tilt around the yard chasing squirrels, who sat sitting up and looking out in the front seat of the van for a ride across town, of course, has changed. She moves more cautiously (thank goodness) but deliberately and with amazing determination to get to places she can no longer see. And she loves just as much riding in the van and exploring on-leash new and familiar haunts, knowing that the guy on the leash’s other end uses his eyes and voice (“watch it! Or “step” and “back up”) to help her avoid sudden obstacles or danger. And all the while Gracie is teaching me new lessons and has me wondering.

Would I, if I ever lost my vision, be as courageous, or learn new ways of living as quickly and with such a “let’s go” attitude that Gracie clearly possesses? I’m not so sure.

Over the past few weeks Betty Ann has helped me to be less fearful of providing for Gracie’s care as we nudge, and she strives, to do almost all of the things she did before going blind. In just a span of barely three weeks, Gracie began maneuvering with ease around the house unguided, and now goes outside, with one of us following behind, off-leash, to do her business, to sniff around and to lie down in the shade to catch the waves of smells that waft by.  Just over the past few days Gracie has relearned where the Invisible Fence “line” is and miraculously knows how to avoid it. Not even a month post-op, this four-year-old black wonder signals her desire to go outside, alone, and find a shady spot to stretch out for a nap.

New ways of seeing

On one hand all this may seem like a minor moment in the grand scheme of worldly concerns. But it’s a slice of our world at the moment.  The recent challenge of caring for one of God’s creatures, named Gracie, has brought not only change for her and us, but for me with my own eye issues, a new understanding of the phrase “seeing eye to eye” and embracing what is new and what matters most.

Gracie seeks assurance and love above all else with her heightened remaining senses of hearing, smell and awareness of touch from whiskers and hairs all over her body. I’m satisfied that I’ve got the love part down just fine, but chuckle to myself knowing that my eye-to-hand coordination is not what it once was, that I bag my head all over the place and that I sometimes reach for a magnifying glass with its built-in light so that I can read the fine print with my two eyes still working best they can.

In the meantime I get to use up, in my own eyes, the glaucoma meds that Gracie now no longer needs. How weird is that? And how lucky, too, am I?

Text and photos by K. Lee

Notes:

I’d like to give a shout-out to Paula at Blind Dog Support, a Web site packed with very useful resources, forums and support from other owners of blind dogs. Anyone who finds themselves suddenly caring for a blind dog should check this site out.

 

 

What’s On Your Don’t Do List?

So what’s On Your Don’t Do List?

We all have lists and most of the time our lists consist of things we need to do, must do, want to do or wish that we could do. There are apps galore out there to help us create and manage our lists. I’ve got mine, and I’m sure that you have yours, too!  But what about Your Don’t Do List? I’m guessing that you, as I once did, may never have thought about creating such a list. Today’s post, “What’s On Your Don’t Do List?” explores the value of naming, listing and perhaps (Oh no!) dealing with some of the real things that we wish we didn’t do, or, really don’t have to do in the first place.

What if, by creating our own “Don’t Do List” and adding one or more things to it that we would truly like to stop doing, that it helped us to begin whatever kind of change that we seek? Sometimes just committing such things to words, even when it’s hard, or it hurts to do so, is the best place to start.

Certainly this is not a new concept. Yet I was reminded of it by a recent Daily Question at Gratefulness.org. Then I remembered the following story from someone I’ll call “Carrie,” from almost a decade ago. Carrie was a former client, then a former student intern in a children’s support program that I ran for many years. She had just finished her first year of college, a disastrous one at that, when she called and asked me for help:

Carrie’s Story

Carrie arrived at my office out of breath. She came in, sat down and slowly calmed down as we shared what was new since last seeing each other a year ago. Then Carrie reached into her shoulder back and pulled out a clipboard.So What's On Your Don't Do List? Clipboard

“I have a list,” she said. I have started a don’t do list of all of the things that I need to stop doing so I can get my life back under control.” She then rattled off about fifteen things on her list and said, “Can you help me decide where to begin?”

Let’s just say that Carrie’s list contained a rundown of things that first-year college students frequently do that typically lead to poor grades and poor choices. I was struck more by the sheer honesty of what she had written and revealed than I was of the items themselves.

“That’s a huge list!” I said. “It’s too much to tackle all at once.”

We went through each thing on Carrie’s “Don’t do list” and identified which made the most sense to work on first. We started with two easier things on her list to address and decided to meet in a week and see how it went.  Then we tackled two tough ones and one more after that. With each successive thing that she stopped doing she scribbled it out with a red felt tip pen so that it was hard to read what was written before. Soon, the summer ended and Carrie headed back to college.

But Carrie’s idea, her determination and the concept of her “Don’t Do List” stayed with me long after Carrie moved on with her life. I even used it as an exercise in my teen support group for several years thereafter.

And what about us?

What might our own “Don’t Do List” look like? Would there be one, three or a dozen things on our own list too? Can we be totally honest with ourselves, as brutally honest as my former client appeared to be? And I get it that there may well be some things that some of us would like to add to our own “Don’t Do List,” but that they’re too private, to personal, perhaps even too shameful to ever write down using a pen or a keyboard. But if we know what they are we can still list them front and center in the privacy of our own minds, can’t we? That’s a start, at least.What's on your Don't Do List? Decide how to live

As I explored with Carrie years ago, here’s a bullet-list of questions that I offer as a place to begin:

  • Take a day or two to begin creating your own Don’t Do List.
  • What things do I do that are not mine to be doing?
  • What things do others seemingly expect me to do?
  • What consequence comes from stopping this thing?
  • What benefit comes from stopping this thing?
  • What things am I doing that cost me the most?
  • Am I still doing things that my parents expected me to do?
  • Are there things that I do that I know are just wrong?
  • How might I feel after stopping this thing?
  • If I lower the things on my Don’t Do List, what new thing or new joy might soon have room to take root?

Don’t let the following get in your way

I can’t do it. (You can! Click HERE for some inspirational nuggets!)
People will be mad at me. (So.)
Nobody else can do it but me. (Really?)
It needs to be done right so I’ll do it. (More really.)
People will be happy if I do it, so I should. (Are you happy doing it?)
Remember the phrase, “don’t should on yourself!” (It’s a recovery term… they’re experts!)

Final thoughts

Need a bit more encouragement? Consider visiting My Rise Up Quotes section here at Rise This Day, and read Making Sense of Change, a page of quotes devoted to change!

Besides, what do you have to lose? It’s your life and your future! Let me know if I can be supportive in any way with a note in the box below. Remember, I have my list too. We all do. Cheers!

Text and images by K. Lee

Mr. Perry’s Chickens

Thirty years ago we moved into our present suburban home and quickly discovered that we were literally surrounded by four families all bearing the same last name. Three generations in fact.  Mr. Perry Number One, as I think of him, the clan’s eldest member, borders our place to the north and is the focus of my story today called Mr. Perry’s Chickens.

For decades, Mr. Perry was notorious throughout town for the menagerie of ducks, geese and chickens that he meticulously cared for on his property.  Whenever he whistled and talked to then, they’d respond in turn the way farm animals do. The geese would announce the arrival of every visitor who comes calling on Mr. Perry’s side of the hedge. Every now and then one of his exotic breeds of ducks would take off down the runway of his backyard, and, supposedly unable to fly like their wild cousin counterparts, would muster up enough head wind to clear the hedge and go flapping-quacking across our back yard and land with a thud, clearly out of gas, on the far end of our property. As a farmer in my younger years and having worked with many kinds of farm animals the whole enterprise of clucking, quaking, honking and the more than occasional crowing rooster was a symphony that I enjoyed greatly.

Mr. Perry's Chickens
Okay. Bought this one at a craft fair and easy to keep!

Yet it was Mr. Perry’s chickens, by my observation, that he clearly appeared to cherish the most. His days began and ended with feeding his pampered birds and cleaning their coop. Midday, if the weather was conducive, Mr. Perry could be seen sitting beside his garden and with a watchful eye giving his chickens free-range access to his entire backyard. Happy hens could be seen “dusting” themselves in a dry corner of his garden while the smart-Alec rooster was strutting his stuff to and fro. That scene was a steady midday ritual, until that is, when the hawks moved in and made our neighborhood their new home that came complete with a local delicatessen.

Mr. Perry, even while working in his garden just feet away was no match or deterrence for the silent fly-by snatch and go raptors. That luxury, for the chickens that is, soon became too costly. Fortunately, the chickens had a spacious and clean outside enclosure attached to their coop completely surrounded by wire as a safe-guard from any and all predators, with wings or paws, looking for an easy meal.

The realities of advancing age slowly took its toll on the mini-Perry farm next door. Reluctantly, but over time, Mr. Perry reduced his feathered population to just keeping chickens. And then, near his 90th birthday, Mr. Perry decided that the time had come to even let go of his beloved chickens. The coop, once a center of bird-chattering life and commotion, one day, was silent.

On our side of the hedge life rolled on. There were family gatherings to host, grandchildren whacking soft-sided baseballs and shooting “Stomp Rockets” off into the air. Occasionally some of the balls, Frisbees and rockets landed in Mr. Perry’s yard. A day after our family get-togethers Mr. Perry kindly lobbed them back into our yard. Once, one of the stray rockets landed cross-ways on top of the wire enclosure that once sheltered Mr. Perry’s chickens. I couldn’t quite reach it by stretching over the hedge, until the wind blew the Stomp Rocket down into the pen. Leaning over the hedge I had to fish around with my hand to extract the rocket out of the weeds that had quickly grown in where the chickens once clucked and scratched about.

Mr. Perry told me once that he missed “having a reason” to go down to his chicken coop during the day, which he said gave him exercise. But having had the pleasure of seeing this man over the years fuss over and tend to his feathered friends, I knew that what he really missed was more than exercise. I understood. And frankly, it was sad to hear.

When you work with animals and crops on farms there are sounds and smells that become embedded in the heart and memory even after leaving agriculture to pursue new careers. Earlier this spring, near dusk, I was retrieving misplaced playing balls around the hedges and bushes along our property line when I faintly heard what I thought was a familiar sound. I thought it was just me, running “old tapes” in my mind, until I heard the sound again, this time more clearly than before. I stood up and listened again, this time for a sense of direction. As I moved closer to the north side of our property, sure enough, I was hearing the collective little peeps of baby chickens coming from Mr. Perry’s chicken coop! The little shed was silent no more! A few days later Mr. Perry told me that he indeed decided to get more chickens. He said, “Got twelve pullets, two varieties, and one little guy, a rooster. I miss them.” I missed them too.

Mr. Perry's Chickens-2
Chicken coop door.

A week or so later I spotted Mr. Perry, in his 95th year, pushing his walker through his yard in the direction of his hen house. He’d push along, then stop and rest on the walker’s built in seat, and continue on like that until he reached the coop and entered through the squeaky wooden screen door. The little chorus of “peeps” were quickly changing from chirps and off-key clucks as the lone young rooster sounded like an eleven year-old boy uttering sounds in one pitch and ending his sentence in another.

Yesterday, Mr. Perry shouted out a hearty, “Hello neighbor!” with a wave to catch my attention. When I turned to look, he was—and get this— pushing an ancient manual push-mower with one hand and pulling his walker along with the other! He’d do this, mowing a patch of green grass about four-feet, then sit down to rest, and then get up and do it again.

“So what are you doing?,” I asked, as he leaned over to scoop the fresh-cut grass into a bucket.

“Get’n some salad for my chickens, He said. “They need somethin’ green in their diet every day.”

And I thought, he’s 95 years old, pushing a hand mower and feeding his chickens. Of course I am going to have a good day.

 

Mr. Perry's Chickens
He’s working on it. Give him time.

Text and images by K. Lee. And thank you also for visiting.

 

A moment of curbside kindness

A somewhat dramatic kindness was extended to me just yesterday. My wife and I labored to get a monstrous air conditioner onto a hand truck and out of our basement and set it on the curb with a sign reading, “free-works great!” As I explained to the first man who stopped by to check it out, it’s just too heavy for my wife and I to heft up into a window anymore, and especially for me with my chronic back pain issues.

a good day to find an air conditioner

The second man who stopped had already backed his hatch-back up within inches of the rare find when I noticed him standing beside the air conditioner and scratching his head. As I walked over to greet him I noticed that he only had one arm and he was clearly trying to figure out how to get the thing up and into the back of his car, and hoping, I supposed, for someone to come along and help him.

I guessed that the man, whose name was Victor, was about ten years younger than me. He was wiry, soft-spoken and determined to get that large heavy unit home and installed in his living room on what was expected to be a very humid and hot summer day.  When I told him that I wasn’t supposed to be lifting heavy things like this and it was the main reason we were giving it away, Victor was clearly disappointed, because, as he told me, it would be nighttime before he could return with his son to pick the thing up. He feared, and I think that he was correct, that the air conditioner would surely be gone if he had to return.

When I told Victor that I could, when necessary, lift things in place but not walk with heavy objects at all, I could tell that he was crafting a plan in his head. It was clear that this was a man who was accustomed to challenges like this regardless of having just one hand and one arm to tackle a task.

I felt like a jerk

Rightly or wrongly, I felt like a jerk. Here I am, all limbs intact, and I can’t even help this guy? If he leaves and returns later, I will either have to get the unit off of the curb and hold it for him until he returns, which would be double the work for me and my wife, or, put a “sold” sign on the air conditioner and hope that someone else wouldn’t come along and take it anyway, especially on such a hot day.

“Wait,” I said. “I have an idea. I can lift up one end and get it to here,” while pointing at the tip of his bumper.  Victor’s face lit up with renewed hopes of getting his find home and installed in his window. Then he paused, his hand on his waist saying, “I don’t want you to hurt yourself, though. Maybe you shouldn’t?”

“I should be fine if I just lift it to here,” I said, determined that I wasn’t going to disappoint my new friend at this point in the process.

One, two, three…

“Okay then,” Victor said. “On three…” I thought that with only one arm, Victor’s lifting power would be less regardless of his rugged physical appearance, so I braced myself for an even heavier lift, just in case. But I was wrong. Very wrong. The moment we both started to lift, Victor grabbed “his half” of the unit halfway to my end and came up with his knee to where his other hand might go if he had one. He had a third of his body, twisting on one leg, under the thing by the time we reached the tip of his trunk. In fact we went right up and over the bumper itself! Victor nudged the unit safely into place and with sweat dripping down the sides of his face, he closed the hatch of his car, turned and shook my hand, saying, “We did it!”

A moment of curbside kindness

In truth there was barely a ‘we’ in the whole operation. Victor, obviously determined to spare me an injury, had a plan all along. By his adroit maneuvering, he had in effect given me far more, an invisible gift and a clear act of kindness. As Victor drove away I thought that, in this situation, it was obvious to me which one of us had the greater limitation.

A moment of curbside kindness

Text by Kevin Lee

Note: This story was inspired by the Daily Question on July 16, 2016 at Gratefulness.org that asked, “what kindnesses have I experienced.”