Sunday, February 28, 2021
Salute one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.
— Romans 16:16
By now, those who read my Sunday religious posts probably know that I grew up and am a member of the Church of Christ. It is a faith that I adhere to, and I hope that it will someday follow the teachings of the Bible fully and openly accept LGBTQ+ Christians as members. Most Churches of Christ do not at this time, and I believe it is one of their greatest faults along with their prohibition on women in leadership roles. However, this is not the point of this post today. I wanted to talk about growing up in the Church of Christ in rural Alabama. I grew up in a small country church with around a dozen members, half of which were my family.
The Church of Christ is a simple church with a simple set of beliefs based on the New Testament of the Bible. The church teaches that the process of salvation is achieved through the following actions:
- One must be taught appropriately and hear the Word of God.
- How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So, then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:14-17)
- But without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
- He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)
- And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commanded all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)
- And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” And Philip said, “If thou believe with all thine heart, thou mayest.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:36–37)
- Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)
- But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
I do my best to follow each of these daily. I also try to follow the Golden Rule: "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Likewise, Luke 6:32 says, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” I also follow the Greatest Commandment as given to us by Jesus in Matthew 22:37–40: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” I believe in the simplicity of love and faith to guide my Christian life.
I learned this in my little country church from the various preachers we had while growing up. In the earliest years of my life, we had two preachers that alternated every other week and preached at a second church. We had one preacher who was not kind to people who were not church members, like my mother, who was a Baptist. This preacher nearly tore the church apart before he was asked to leave. After that, I remember we got a young seminary student from Faulkner University (a Church of Christ university in Montgomery). I thought he was one of the most gorgeous men I have ever seen. He was so handsome and charismatic. I hung on his every word. It didn’t help that I was going through puberty at the time and had an erection at the drop of a hat. I always dreaded him finishing his sermons because it meant that I’d have to stand up and sing the song of invitation. I was always so embarrassed that I had an erection every time I had to stand up. Come to think of it today, while puberty may be to blame for part of that, carnal thoughts about the attractive young man who was our preacher probably had something to do with it as well, but I digress.
There were rarely any surprises at our church. Things ran relatively smoothly every Sunday to a particular routine. We all had our regular places to sit in church. My family sat on the left side of the church behind the song leader and his family. The song leader sat in the front pew, and his wife sat in the second. Behind his wife sat my parents and my sister. I usually sat in the fourth pew next to my grandmama and, before he died, my granddaddy. My aunt sat in the pew behind us. On the church's right side, the preacher sat on the first pew, and his family sat on the second. Behind them was the lady for whom the church was built. Various neighbors of hers either filled the pew beside her or behind her. Her husband, who had donated the land and built the church, sat two rows behind her.
I mention the couple who was instrumental in building the church because when they got married and moved into the house, they would spend the rest of their lives in, the wife said, "Everything would be perfect if I had a church close by." Even though her husband was a Methodist, he knew his wife valued her denomination and set out to find a church that needed a new home. He found one a few miles away and offered to donate land a build them a new church. The church accepted, and his wife had a church within walking distance to her house. It was a simple white church, initially just one room with outhouses behind the church and a fellowship table on the grounds surrounded by pine trees. As I got older, they expanded the church to include a Sunday school room and bathrooms, though the Sunday school room never saw any use as a classroom. That was my small church.
At age 13, I was baptized into the church along with my sister one Sunday night. At first, my duties at church became reading the lesson's texts (sermon) that Sunday, much like I post a Bible verse at the beginning of each Sunday post. Soon, our song leader's emphysema made it increasingly more challenging to lead the song worship, so I was asked to take over. I was maybe 14 or 15 when this happened. I remained the song leader until I graduated college and moved to Mississippi for graduate school. I was a terrible song leader. I could barely carry a tune, and I only knew about a dozen or so songs well enough to lead the song worship. Usually, I would start the song, and the lady the church had been built for would really lead the song worship. I always thought they should have just let her lead the singing instead of me. She was much better. She was also the de facto church leader, though no one would admit it. The men of the church would meet to make any decisions, but nothing would actually be done without her informal approval. She also prepared the Lord's Supper (Communion) every week. I truly loved that woman; she was so sweet and so kind and loving. As she got older, she declared that it was too much for her to wear a dress every Sunday when she felt more comfortable in pants, and she never wore a skirt or dress again to church. She always wore pants.
As the church grew larger, we eventually doubled in size. After I left for graduate school, we had a new church member take over as song leader. I had other duties in the weekly service, which I continued to do when I came home from Mississippi. I served communion alongside my father. Originally, my granddaddy and father served communion, but after my grandfather had a heart attack walking into church one Sunday morning, he rarely returned to church after that, claiming that he had bladder issues and did not want to disturb the service by getting up to use the bathroom. So, I took his place serving communion.
Our services were simple. Before the service started, we would usually catch up with each other, i.e., gossip, but it was never malicious gossip that I remember. At precisely 8:45 am each Sunday morning, the song leader would call our service to order, and we would sing two songs, usually the first and last verses of the song. We always remained seated for these first two songs. Then the service would be turned over to the preacher for the main prayer, although sometimes that honor would be offered to a special guest if we had one. After the prayer, the song leader would instruct us to stand. We would sing another song before the preacher would stand and make his way to the pulpit and give a sermon, usually lasting around 30-40 minutes. As he finished his sermon, he would call us to stand for the song of invitation as he stood at the front of the church to welcome anyone who wanted to join the church and be baptized. After the song of invitation, my father and I would stand and go to the communion table where my father would say a prayer before I would pass around the unleavened bread, which was the representation of the Body of Christ. After I had passed around the bread, I would return to the communion table and offer my father the bread, and we would eat the bread together. Then he said a prayer for the "fruit of the vine," which represented Christ's Blood, and I would pass it around just as I did for the bread. When I returned to the table, we also drank from the small communion cups that usually grape juice. (Occasionally, the woman who prepared the communion would run out of grape juice and substitute her homemade muscadine wine, much to everyone's surprise. She never warned anyone ahead of time.) Then my father would hand me a wicker basket that had been with the church since its beginnings. (It was still stamped on the bottom with 5¢.) My father would return to his seat (I returned to my seat too before I became song leader), and I would call for any announcements. Then, we would stand again and sing the first verse of the closing song before my father gave the closing prayer.
After the service concluded, we would usually gather outside the church and socialize for a bit before we all headed home. Usually, my Sundays after that consisted of my mother cooking a large lunch, which she sometimes started before leaving for church. On special occasions, we would go out for lunch. Because we often got out of church by 10 am, we were fortunate to be able to eat lunch out at 11 am when the restaurants opened and before the "church crowds" arrived. We did have Sunday night services for a short time, but with such a small congregation, it was not worth it if only a few people attended. Eventually, we discontinued Sunday evening services. We never had Wednesday night services as many southern churches did because my family went to my grandparents' house for supper on Wednesday nights. We also rarely had Sunday school, even though we eventually added a classroom to the building. We tried a few times, but it was never very successful.
It was a simple church with simple people who cared a great deal about one another. Most of the church members from my formative years have now passed on: the song leader, the couple who established the church, and my grandparents. My parents have moved away, as have my sister and I, so my aunt is the only family member to still attend the church. My sister even became a Baptist, much to my father's horror. I think he took the fact that I was gay better than he took my sister becoming a Baptist. Ironically, my parents now attend a Baptist church. However, my mother claims that it's Baptist in name only as it's made up of community members where they currently live and comprised of people from many different Protestant denominations.
I don’t know if this description of my church upbringing is interesting to anyone, but because of the love amongst my church's members, my primary philosophy of love and acceptance was formed, despite some of my parents' more discriminatory beliefs. Except for the preacher who nearly broke up our church with his insistence that anyone who was not a member of the Church of Christ was going to hell, very little judgment was ever practiced within the church. I mentioned the incident a few weeks ago about the current preacher's sermon on the evils of homosexuality and another sermon on gambling. Our preachers have always focused on being a better, more loving Christian, which was always most important to me.
Saturday, February 27, 2021
I am very fortunate to have a primary care physician who is such a wonderful and caring person. He is very good at listening to me and discussing every aspect of my health with me. While these are characteristics of any good doctor, I have had doctors who did not care as much for their patients. For those doctors, a patient was just a job. However, my current healthcare team is very different. They seem to genuinely care about what is best for my health.
Friday, February 26, 2021
I have said this numerous times, but Republican politicians are some of the most repugnant Americans. As the Biden administration continues to support LGBTQ+ rights, Republican homophobia and transphobia are becoming very apparent. Republicans have been using transgender women as the scapegoat for their opposition to LGBTQ+ rights. They have repeatedly denigrated trans kids and student-athletes and accused the parents of trans people of being neglectful or abusive. First, thirteen Republican Senators voted against Pete Buttigieg's confirmation as Secretary of Transportation. None, as far as I know, gave a reason, and when I wrote to my former senator Richard Shelby, who I have always been told has a gay son, to ask why he voted against Pete, I was given a non-answer about how he carefully considers all nominees he votes on. I believe that most of these thirteen senators, including Shelby, voted against Pete because of his sexuality. While silent homophobia is bad enough, the outspoken homophobia and transphobia of some Republicans in Congress are beyond abhorrent.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a joint hearing to confirm Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Vivek Murphy and Dr. Rachel Levine, who is transgender and is the current surgeon general for Pennsylvania. Most questions focused on the government’s response to COVID-19. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) decided to go on an anti-transgender tirade when questioning Dr. Levine, ranting about how Congress should ban gender-affirming health care for transgender kids instead of left up to families and doctors. Paul started by saying, “Genital mutilation has been nearly universally condemned. Genital mutilation has been condemned by the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund.” He went on to say that genital mutilation is egregious because “it is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.” If he wanted to compare bottom surgery to genital mutilation, he was badly mistaken. It’s almost unheard of for minors to get bottom surgery.
In fact, everyone talks about puberty blockers being used so that trans youth can have more time to understand themselves before puberty permanently affects their bodies. Paul then turned to the subject of puberty blockers and cited the American College of Pediatricians, an SPLC designated hate group that promotes anti-LGBTQ+ bias. It is often confused with the American Pediatric Association, the real professional association for pediatricians that urges parents of trans kids to “listen, respect and support their child’s self-expressed identity.” Paul remarked that “80 to 90 percent” of children with gender dysphoria “will experience resolution,” a euphemism for stopping being transgender. This statistic is fake, but Paul said it anyway at a Senate hearing. Paul continually attacked Dr. Levine in the hearing.
If Paul wants to rant about genital mutilation in children, he should support the campaign against infant circumcision. I will not say that circumcision should be prohibitive for those of the Jewish faith; after all, Republicans are always claiming to believe in religious freedom. Circumcision took hold in the United States in the late 19th century, spread through the “modernization” of medicine. A few prominent doctors, including John Harvey Kellogg, advocated the surgery as a cure for paralysis, epilepsy, venereal disease, even mental illness. Throughout the Victorian era, it was extolled for its virtue of cleanliness and as a cure for masturbation. Circumcision is the only common genital mutilation in the United States. Most of the rest of the world has quit following the practice or never advocated it in the first place. If circumcision should continue, it should be reserved for cases of medical necessity.
Then there is the always "pleasant" Marjorie Taylor Greene, who held up all of Congress’s business in a destined-to-fail attempt to stop the LGBTQ+ Equality Act from passing the House. Greene called the Equality Act “DISGUSTING, IMMORAL, AND EVIL.” One of her colleagues found an excellent way to show her contempt for Greene's opposition to LGBTQ+ rights. Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) put up a transgender flag across the hall from Greene’s office so that she’d have to see it every day. Newman tweeted, “Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door.”
Our neighbor, @RepMTG, tried to block the Equality Act because she believes prohibiting discrimination against trans Americans is “disgusting, immoral, and evil.”— Congresswoman Marie Newman (@RepMarieNewman) February 24, 2021
Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door 😉🏳️⚧️ pic.twitter.com/dV8FatQFnx
Greene, who the House voted to strip her of her committee assignments due to her support of violence against other House members, put up a hateful sign in response that said: “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE. ‘Trust The Science!'” In a tweet, Greene noted that the Equality Act would "destroy women's rights and religious freedoms." She posted a video of herself smirking at the camera while slapping it on the wall. Making Greene’s sign even more insensitive is the fact that Newman’s daughter is transgender. On the House floor, she called her daughter the “strongest, bravest person I know.”
The Biden administration stated support of the Equality Act, a landmark piece of legislation that would establish LGBTQ+ civil rights protections in federal law. The measure passed the House yesterday. However, the Equality Act faces an obstacle in the Senate as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) refused to co-sponsor the bill and won't say why. She has previously co-sponsored it but apparently is pouting because the Human Rights Campaign endorsed her Democratic challenger in the last election. Collins claims to be “a strong believer in LGBTQ rights,” yet, she doesn’t want to give us the federal protections we deserve.
Our community often continues to face discrimination, harassment, and violence at work, at school, and in public accommodations. H.R. 5 would amend existing federal civil rights laws to expressly include nondiscrimination protection based on sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), providing security and equality to LGBTQ+ Americans in accessing housing, employment, education, public accommodations, healthcare, and other federally funded services, credit, and more. The Supreme Court has already ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that employees are protected from discrimination based on sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equality Act confirms the implications of Bostock for other discrimination laws, consistent with the President’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, issued January 20, 2021, and further builds on Bostock, thereby securing such protections once and for all for LGBTQ+ Americans across Federal civil rights laws. Women also currently lack protection against sex discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs; the Equality Act would fill that gap in the law.
Finally, we have another reprehensible MAGAt in Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who recently used anti-gay stereotypes to explain her plan to vote against LGBTQ civil rights. Like Greene, Boebert is viciously – and proudly – anti-LGBTQ. During an unhinged rant full of fake claims about transgender pre-teens, Boebert managed to bring her transphobic comments around full circle to loop in an anti-gay stereotype that all gay men are feminine. She said she is raising her four sons "to be men," and she is "proud of that.” The implication is that if you don't meet her standard of masculinity, then you are not a man. I pity her sons to be raised in such a way. I was raised in much the same way and am still dealing with the psychological issues it caused.
It infuriates me that Paul, Greene, Boebert, or any other Congress member can make such hateful and discriminatory comments without any repercussions. Any member of Congress who uses such harmful language should be universally renounced and reprimanded for their derogatory and detrimental language concerning someone's sexuality, race, or religion. We should hold our politicians to a higher standard. Minorities in this country have fought long and hard for equality and respect, yet lawmakers can make insensitive and disgusting comments like those mentioned above and face no consequences. Greene at least got removed from her committee assignments for previous conduct and remarks, but I doubt they will ever expel her for what she has done.
Thursday, February 25, 2021
I had hoped to update everyone on my MRI results, but as I write this, I still do not have any definitive answers. The "After Visit Summary" for the MRI results gave a diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia (TN), but I have not heard from my neurologist yet. I will send a message this morning asking when I will hear something. My neurologist and my doctor had not believed it was TN, which is a rare neurological condition. I suspect that my neurologist will also look at the MRI scans before she makes a definitive diagnosis. I am not going to say that it is TN at this time, but it seems like it might be more of a possibility than my doctors initially thought.
One thing I do know for sure is that I hope I never have to have another MRI. They told me that the table was uncomfortable, but this was more than just a little discomfort. The table was hard and flat, which caused lower back pain throughout the procedure. Furthermore, the tube I was in was very tight, and the way they had my head strapped in caused severe pain in my neck and shoulders. It was also hot inside the machine. They turned on a fan, but it did not do much, and I was sweating profusely. It finally got to the point that I had to ask to be taken out. The tech told me that if she let me move, they would have to stop the procedure and reschedule when they could give me some Advil for the pain. Knowing that Advil does little to relieve pain for me, I just said to continue. Thankfully, she turned the fan on high, and once I cooled down, the pain at least became bearable.
When I was brought out to put in the contrast, I found out a new tech was there. She was much nicer and talked me through the procedure, and helped calm me down. Each time before the MRI started back up, she told me how long it would last, which the previous tech had not done. Knowing how much longer I would be in the machine helped. It just gave me a sense that it would eventually end sooner rather than later. I was so stiff when it was over from being in such an uncomfortable and painful position that the tech had to help lift me off the table so I could sit up. For me, this MRI was a nightmare and a bit torturous. It was not because I was claustrophobic; that did not bother me as much as the heat and painful position. I was so glad to get out of there and head back home.
If I hear more today, which I hope I will, I will give an update of the diagnosis as soon as I can. I appreciate all of the prayer and loving energy you have been sending my way. Thank you. It means so much to me.
Because I was so stiff and sore from being in the MRI machine, I spent most of yesterday like the guy in the above picture. I mostly just laid on the couch and watched TV. I’m glad I had already planned to take yesterday off before I had the MRI. I took the day off because I knew it would be late when I got in Tuesday night.
I received a message from my neurologist this morning, and my brain MRI results are “reassuring and normal.” She is prescribing indomethacin as it can be very effective for the type of head pain I am having. She wants to try me on this medicine to see if we can get the pain under control. I pray that this works. The good news is that it does not actually appear to be TN as the initial diagnosis from the radiologist reported, and since the results were “reassuring and normal,” there are no signs of a tumor or multiple sclerosis. My neurologist believes it is more likely hemicrania continue (HC), which responds well to indomethacin.
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
I usually write my posts the night before I post them in the morning. Sometimes, if I am not busy working from home, I write them during the day. Sometimes, I am inspired by the news or random thoughts. Other times, I am inspired for a picture that I see, and it evokes certain thoughts. This post was one of the latter. Since I was having my MRI last night and did not get home until late, I didn’t have much to say today. I hope I will get the results sometime today, but until then, here are some lovely pictures of men’s eyes. One of the advantages of everyone wearing masks is that we get to focus on a person’s eyes. Some men have beautiful eyes, and I am often attracted to the eyes of a man (okay, as is evident by a lot of the pictures I post, I also usually check out their butts as well, LOL).
This brings me to another interesting phenomenon of the pandemic. We have all heard of catfishing (if you haven’t, it is the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona). There is also another less devious term I heard the other day: Hatfishing, when a handsome man looks hot wearing a hat, then, when he takes it off he goes from “That man is gorgeous!” to “What was I thinking?” During the pandemic, I have noticed one more version of this: maskfishing, where a person appears to be more attractive because they are wearing a facemask. In both hatfishing and maskfishing, we often notice the eyes first (or his butt, according to which way he is facing).
Here are some wise quotes about eyes:
1. “The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter —often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter —in the eye.” —Charlotte Bronte
2. “Eyes so transparent that through them the soul is seen.” —Theophile Gautier
3. “Where words are restrained, the eyes often talk a great deal.” —Samuel Richardson
4. “The eyes only see what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” —Henri Bergson
5. “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” —Henry David Thoreau
6. “No one can lie, no one can hide anything, when he looks directly into someone’s eyes.” —Paulo Coelho
7. “The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero
8. “The eyes shout what the lips fear to say.” —William Henry
9. “The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
10. “It’s true about the eyes being the window to the soul. Your face can be etched with worry, and twisted by ageing, but the eyes tell the true story of who you are.” —Naomie Harris
11. “The real lover is the man who can thrill you just by touching your head or smiling into your eyes —or just by staring into space.” — Marilyn Monroe
12. “The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” —John Vance Cheney
13. “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” —Audrey Hepburn
14. “The world only exists in your eyes. You can make it as big or as small as you want.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
By Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
About the Poem
The American poet Mary Oliver published "Wild Geese" in her seventh collection, Dream Work, which came out in 1986. The poem's speaker urges readers to open themselves up to the beauty of nature. While people focus on their own struggles, the speaker points out, the natural world moves along effortlessly, free as a flock of geese passing overhead. The poem celebrates nature's grandeur—and its ability to remind people that, after all, they're part of something vast and meaningful.
The poem tells readers that they don't have to be perfect, nor do they have to beat themselves up by wandering the desert as if paying for their sins. Instead, people only have to treat their bodies like the vulnerable animals that they are, simply letting them love whatever they want to love. Oliver offers to commiserate with readers about their suffering and unhappiness, but adds that while they talk about this, the world will continue like normal—sunshine and rain will move over the earth's wide-open plains, tall trees, mountains, and rivers. No matter who you are or how lonely you are you can always lose yourself in the wonders of nature, since these wonders call out like the urgent squawks of wild geese—a sound that, again and again, puts people back in touch with their surroundings and makes them feel at home in the world.
The poem acknowledges that human beings are soft, vulnerable creatures prone to suffering and despair. At the same time, it frames the vast, awe-inspiring beauty of nature as a soothing and comforting force—something that reminds people that they’re part of something bigger and more meaningful than their everyday problems. “Wild Geese” seeks to put the pressures and difficulties of everyday life into perspective. The speaker acknowledges the burden people feel to be “good” and also notes that everyone inevitably experiences “despair” or loneliness from time to time. Beating yourself up for perceived mistakes or failings, the speaker implies, is a fruitless endeavor that drains people's happiness.
About the Poet
Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019) was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is inspired by nature, rather than the human world, stemming from her lifelong passion for solitary walks in the wild. It is characterized by a sincere wonderment at the impact of natural imagery, conveyed in unadorned language.
On a visit to Austerlitz in the late 1950s, Oliver met photographer Molly Malone Cook, who became her partner for over forty years. In Our World, a book of Cook's photos and journal excerpts Oliver compiled after Cook's death, Oliver writes, "I took one look [at Cook] and fell, hook and tumble." Cook was Oliver's literary agent. They made their home largely in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where they lived until Cook's death in 2005, and where Oliver continued to live until relocating to Florida. Of Provincetown she recalled, "I too fell in love with the town, that marvelous convergence of land and water; Mediterranean light; fishermen who made their living by hard and difficult work from frighteningly small boats; and, both residents and sometime visitors, the many artists and writers. [...] M. and I decided to stay."
Mary Oliver Reading Her Poem "Wild Geese"
Monday, February 22, 2021
I had several errands to run this weekend. Luckily, I was generally feeling okay with a dull headache during much of the day. However, by nightfall, the headache is usually at its worse. Last night was no different. I was watching TV and realized I needed to put together a post for today, but my head was aching so badly that I gave up trying to say anything of substance. I hope all of you had a good weekend.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
When you’re going through a difficult time — be it emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual — it can be easy to lose faith and feel like you may not overcome the challenge; that the pain will envelop you and take you down. But the good news is, you can move past it. After all, the Lord doesn’t throw anything your way that you can’t handle. If you forget that, it helps to look at those around you and remember that you are never alone. We always have God with us, but we also have our friends and family who care about us, and hopefully, we have someone we can lean on in times of trouble.
During his earthly life, Jesus was very active in his ministry of healing. He cured the blind so they could see again. He healed the lame so they could walk once more. He let the deaf hear again. He raised Lazarus from the dead. The early Church Fathers gave our Lord the title of “the Great Physician.” However, Jesus did not cure all disease and sickness once and for all. Instead, he asked us to have faith in Him. Jesus came to give us a life that will never end, not even with death.
Jesus is widely considered to have performed many miracles during his three-year ministry, from turning water into wine at the beginning to the second miraculous catch of fish towards the end. He also healed people. He healed a lot of people, with approximately two-thirds of his recorded miracles involving healing. Healing people was important to Jesus. But time and time again he used the opportunity to heal someone as a practical way of teaching us something else. Something that is as equally relevant for us today as it was 2,000 years ago.
There is a hymn called “The Great Physician” written by William Hunter (1811- 1877) who emigrated from England and settled in York, Pennsylvania with his family when he was 6 years old. He graduated from Madison College at Uniontown, Pennsylvania and became a Methodist minister. He later taught Hebrew at Allegheny College. Though he wrote 125 hymns, the only one still in use is “The Great Physician” (initially called “Christ, the Physician”). Originally, the hymn had seven verses but hymn books generally print just four of them.
The Great Physician
By William Hunter, pub.1859
Ref. by Richard Kempenfelt, 1777
The Great Physician now is near,
The sympathizing Jesus;
He speaks the drooping heart to cheer,
Oh, hear the voice of Jesus!
Sweetest note in seraph song;
Sweetest name on mortal tongue;
Sweetest carol ever sung:
Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Your many sins are all forgiv'n,
Oh, hear the voice of Jesus;
The veil 'twixt you and God is riven,
Redemption wrought by Jesus.
Sweetest note in seraph song;
Sweetest name on mortal tongue;
Sweetest carol ever sung:
Jesus, blessed Jesus!
All glory to the dying Lamb!
I now believe in Jesus;
I love the blessed Savior's name,
I love the name of Jesus.
Sweetest note in seraph song;
Sweetest name on mortal tongue;
Sweetest carol ever sung:
Jesus, blessed Jesus!
His name dispels my guilt and fear,
No other name but Jesus;
Oh, how my soul delights to hear
The precious name of Jesus!
Sweetest note in seraph song;
Sweetest name on mortal tongue;
Sweetest carol ever sung:
Jesus, blessed Jesus!
And when to that bright world above,
We rise to see our Jesus,
We'll sing around the throne of love
His name, the name of Jesus.
Sweetest note in seraph song;
Sweetest name on mortal tongue;
Sweetest carol ever sung:
Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Saturday, February 20, 2021
I miss playing golf. I played on the golf team in high school, which is when I learned to play. I thought it would be a good skill if I became a lawyer, which was my original career ambition. I loved playing, even if I was never very good at it. It was still fun. It's been a decade or more since I have played. My favorite golf course used to be the 9-hole "Deer Haven" course at the Roland Cooper State Park in Camden, Alabama. It used to be a beautiful course that ran along the Alabama River.
Friday, February 19, 2021
Radio host Bernard Meltzer said, “A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.” I consider my readers my friends. I have corresponded with some of you through email, some I have met in real life, and others, like Susan, became great friends that I talk to regularly. Many of you have stuck with me in my journey for many years. Some only recently found my blog, but none of that matters because I consider you all friends. I would hope that most of you think of me as a "good egg" even if I am "slightly cracked." I am not perfect, and I never will be. None of us are perfect, but all we can do is try our best.
My favorite philosopher is the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. His 1841 essay "Self-Reliance" has been my personal philosophy for many years. The essay contains the most comprehensive statement of one of Emerson's recurrent themes: the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency and follow his or her instincts and ideas. We are all unique, and we need to accept our uniqueness. Even with our individuality, we are always searching for others like us, and this blog has become a community of people who care, and I am thankful for each of you. Emerson said, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Your words of encouragement after yesterday's post have meant more to me than you can imagine. Some of them even brought me to tears because I realized just how much some of you genuinely care about me, and for that, I am forever grateful. John F. Kennedy once said, “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” You all make a difference in my life. I have been through many trials and tribulations in my life, but I have also had some triumphs. My readers have been with me through thick and thin, and I appreciate your support.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
Lately, I have been breaking a cardinal southern rule. My mama raised me that when someone asked you, "How are you doing?" you should always answer with one of the following phrases: I'm good, I'm okay, I can't complain, etc. The problem is, I'm not doing good. I am in near-constant pain with periods of more intense pain. The Botox treatments for my headaches were working, but for some reason, they haven't been able to handle the current painful headaches I've been having. For a month or so, I have compromised with saying, "I've been better." Yesterday, a coworker asked if I was feeling better; I simply responded, "No." I'm tired of trying to put on a brave face and say that all is okay. It is not. I haven't gone so far as to be brutally honest and say, "I feel like shit, and I am always in pain." I'm getting close, though.
My mental and physical state is declining. I am tired. I am depressed. I am at my wit's end. I need some answers. Maybe I will be able to get some after my MRI next Tuesday. I talked to the nurse at the Headache Clinic, and she had talked to my neurologist about which MRI I needed to have: the closed or open MRI. She recommended that I get the closed MRI because the images are better, and if there is something small, the closed MRI is more likely to catch it, whereas the open MRI might not. I made the earliest available appointment: Tuesday night at 7:30 pm. So, next Tuesday, I will drive down to New Hampshire and have the MRI. I’ve never been fond of driving long distances at night by myself, but I have done it before, and I can do it now. I didn’t want to have to wait even longer for the MRI.
Luckily, I got a notice from my insurance yesterday that they have approved the MRI, and they did not specify which one they would allow me to have. The letter just said that Cigna approved me for an MRI with and without contrast. Cigna's Informed Choice Team has not tried to call me again to attempt to convince me to have the cheaper MRI, and I'd refuse if they did. Cigna's Informed Choice Team told me the first time that it was my choice. Yesterday, I got an email from Cigna with the subject "Tell us about your Cigna service experience." They should not have asked me that because I rated my experience very low, and I told them exactly why it was such a terrible experience. I know they will dismiss my criticism, but they need to know that they cost me a week in getting a test that could be essential in diagnosing the problem and possibly saving my life if the MRI shows something terrible. I pray that there is nothing deadly found, but I want to know what they might be able to find out.
When doctors in the past have ordered CT scans, x-rays, or other tests because they could not diagnose what was wrong with me, it has each time turned out to be something. Once, it was pneumonia. Another time it was epiploic appendagitis, an uncommon, benign, self-limiting inflammatory process of the epiploic appendices. Luckily, that time it was not appendicitis. The most recent time I had an x-ray, they found bursitis and arthritis. Luckily, none (other than the pneumonia diagnosis) was anything horrible, but it did provide peace of mind. Mysterious pain can cause all sorts of psychological issues when doctors have a hard time diagnosing the cause of the pain. For me, at least, I begin to wonder if my pain is even real, though I know that I feel the pain. The worry and depression can cause further health issues.
While I talk about my pain and health on this blog, I only talk about health issues with those closest to me in real life. Susan hears all about it and is always helpful in alleviating my worst fears. My mother hears about it when she will actually listen. But most of the people in my life, I rarely tell them about issues I am having. I don't want to be seen as a complainer, and I don't want their pity. I want people to understand, but I do not want pity. I talk about my health on this blog because someone could have the same health issues, and it helps to know that you are not alone. I want to help others if I can, and I would like to know that I am not alone.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
If you work for a health insurance company, I am not directing this post at you, but at the healthcare industry in general, especially how health insurance companies treat us. I also blame my university's human resources department for not providing better healthcare insurance for its employees. I have had costly health issues before, but my current headache treatments have been the worst so far in dealing with my insurance company.
It began when my neurologist prescribed me Emgality and Migranal for my headaches. These are expensive drugs, and my insurance company, Cigna, denied both. My doctor appealed the decision, and they approved it. They denied Emgality because I had not tried Aimovig or Botox first. When Emglaity proved not to be effective enough, my neurologist prescribed Aimovig, but Cigna rejected that too. Again, we went through the appeal process. Aimovig did nothing, so we moved on to Botox. Also denied, again appealed. The Botox has been the most successful, but whatever the cause of my current headache is, the Botox can't handle it, just as the nerve block and steroids did not help.
I have been struggling to get an MRI scheduled to rule out a tumor or other brain disorder for the past week. My doctor scheduled my MRI at the hospital, but my insurance company called and said that it would cost me over $2600 out of pocket, and I should schedule it for a place called Open MRI because that would only cost about $700. They did not explain that open MRIs are inferior images, but that's not the worst of it. Cigna canceled my MRI at the hospital, but they screwed up rescheduling the MRI at the other place. Cigna mishandled it so badly; I ended up calling my neurologist and asking for help straightening this out. My neurologist's nurse explained that I might need a more sensitive MRI if the problem happens to be very small. It might not show up on an open MRI image. The nurse will talk to my neurologist first thing this morning and decide if I need the regular MRI or the open MRI.
The insurance company's issue isn't really about saving me money, but about saving them money. If I have the MRI at the hospital, it will cost Cigna around $2000, but if I have it at Open MRI, it will cost Cigna just $210. Yes, they may be slightly motivated by helping me, but they are pushing me to have an inferior diagnostic test because it will save money. We shouldn't have to worry so much about the cost of healthcare. Stress has such a detrimental effect on our health, and to have to worry about the costs of healthcare and can we afford the treatment we need is very stressful. It is so shameful that we are one of the most industrialized and wealthy nations, and we cannot provide affordable healthcare for our citizens. I hate that so many Americans are afraid someone will get more of something than they will. Human greed is a major problem, and people don't want to give up something, no matter how small, so someone else can live a slightly better life.
I don't get why insurance companies have the power to choose what treatment we can and cannot have for conditions, especially chronic diseases such as my migraines. The United States needs serious healthcare reform. We need to have doctors be able to prescribe treatment and have those treatments be affordable. Millions of Americans go into massive debt over healthcare costs. Nearly twenty years ago, when I worked for a bankruptcy lawyer, we had many clients who had lost their job because of health issues, and their healthcare costs had become unbearable. I would see broken people come in all the time under the weight of medical debt. We would help them file bankruptcy, back before bankruptcy "reforms" made filing much more difficult. We would see a significant difference in them before their hearing because their creditors had been under court order to cease collection attempts. If we had the chance to see them after their bankruptcy had been discharged, they were completely different people. Without the stress of debt, their health was able to improve.
I will never understand why people oppose healthcare reform. I'm not necessarily talking about socialized medicine, though I think it is needed. I just mean that doctors should not charge patients without insurance more than they charge patients with insurance because doctors negotiate with insurance companies. Many things need to be reformed if we are not going to move to universal healthcare. The state of the United States' healthcare is dire, and too many people just can't afford the healthcare they need.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
The World Is Too Much With Us
By William Wordsworth
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
In a comment on yesterday’s post, Roderick posted this poem, “The World Is Too Much With Us” by William Wordsworth. The poem is an Italian (Petrarchan)sonnet, which is one of my favorite forms of poetry. I love how sonnets, whether Italian, Shakespearean, Spenserian, etc., conforms to a set of strict conventions. The structure adds a particular beauty to the poetic form.
“The World Is Too Much With Us” lends itself to yesterday’s post on the theme of niksen or doing nothing. In the early 19th century, Wordsworth wrote several sonnets criticizing what he perceived as "the decadent material cynicism of the time." This 1802 poem is one of those works. It reflects his view that humanity must get in touch with nature to progress spiritually.
The metaphor “we have given our hearts away, a sordid boon” is also an oxymoron. Sordid suggests the worst aspects of human nature such as immorality, selfishness, and greed, while a boon is something that functions as a blessing or benefit. The contradiction between the meanings of the two words suggests that materialism is a destructive and corrupt blessing which the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) has produced. They use of the oxymoron emphasizes the tension between the good exterior (material goods bring pleasure and are a symbol of man’s progress) and the sordid truth (feeding on the worst aspects of humanity) behind materialism.
While the Industrial Revolution made many advances for civilization, it was also detrimental to the health of the planet. Today’s global warming and the danger that an industrialized world has on the environment makes Wordsworth poem even more meaningful today. We saw the effects of overpopulation and industrialization during this pandemic. If you remember when Italy was in a near complete lockdown, dolphins returned to the canals of Venice that had become remarkably clear with no traffic on their waterways, and wild animals walked through the streets of Florence and Milan. It showed just how much we have sacrificed nature for “progress.” Wordsworth saw the beginnings of this over 200 years ago, and he knew the detriment society has on the environment will proceed unchecked and relentless like the "winds that will be howling at all hours."
Wordsworth gave a fatalistic view of the world: past and future. The words "late and soon" in the opening verse describe how the past and future are included in his characterization of mankind. The poet knew the potential of humanity's "powers," but feared it was clouded by the mentality of "getting and spending." The "sordid boon" we have "given our hearts" is the materialistic progress of mankind. Wordsworth complains that "the world" is too overwhelming for us to appreciate it, and that people are so concerned about time and money that we use up all our energy. People want to accumulate material goods, so they see nothing in Nature that they can "own." Humanity has sold its soul for material gain.
The verse "I, standing on this pleasant lea, have glimpses that would make me less forlorn," reveals Wordsworth's perception of himself in society: a visionary romantic more in touch with nature than his contemporaries. he would rather be a pagan who worships an outdated religion so that when he gazes out on the ocean (as he's doing now), he might feel less sad. If he were a pagan, he would have glimpses of the great green meadows that would make him less dejected. He'd see wild mythological gods like a Proteus, who can take many shapes, and Triton, who can soothe the howling sea waves.