Saturday, November 18, 2017

Berried Secret

I decided to repost a story because I think it's funny. I need something funny today. This story was inspired by The Music Man and a picture I took at the berry farm.

Mrs. White waited nervously for the others to arrive.  Although she knew the meeting was necessary, she dreaded it.  She would not have even called the meeting, but her character demanded it of her, and Mrs. White was not one to shirk her duty.  She touched her hat to reassure herself just as Mrs. Blue entered the room, followed by her daughter Miss Adeline.

“Mrs. Blue,” said Mrs. White, “how lovely to see you, my dear.  Dear Miss Adeline, what a pleasure!”

“Oh, what a lovely hat,” said Mrs. Blue.  “The basket is a delicious touch–and so daring.  Don’t you think so, Adeline?”

“Yes, Mama,” said Adeline, echoing her mother’s words.  “It’s a lovely hat, delicious and daring.”

“Thank you, ladies,” said Mrs. White.  “I appreciate your responding so promptly to my invitation, especially as it is not our usual meeting day.  But there is something I must discuss with you–a very serious matter.  You see…”

“Oh, I knew it!” twittered Mrs. Blue.  “Adeline, didn’t I tell you that Mrs. White had a serious matter to discuss?  Otherwise, why would she call a meeting for today when we just met last Monday?”

“Yes, mama, it is a serious matter even though we met last Monday.”

“Is it about Mr. Green?” asked Mrs. Blue.  “Oh, say it isn’t so?  Or is it Miss Yellow?  No, it can’t be her because Adeline and I had the book drive with her only yesterday.  If it was about her, I am sure I would have noticed it.  There is always something about the eyes that gives it away.  Don’t you think so, Adeline?”

“No, Mama; I mean yes, we would have noticed her eyes.”

“Ladies, please!” said Mrs. White.  “The matter I wish to discuss with you concerns me.  The issue is–and here I must demand your fullest assurance, your most solemn promise that you will keep what I say in strictest confidence, no matter how sorely you are tempted to repeat the matter to others–my drawers.”

“Your drawers!” said Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline in unison.  

Mrs. White sighed.  It was out now, and there was no getting around it.  She straightened her spine and looked directly at her guests.
“My drawers are stuck,” she said.  “They have been for several years.”

“Oh, Mrs. White!  How dreadful!  But…but how could such a thing have happened?”

“How could it not happen?  My drawers have not been opened for a long time.  And what is worse…”

“There is something worse?  Oh, how can we endure it?”

“Mrs. Blue, please.  Your interruptions only make this more difficult.  Yes, it’s worse.  My drawers are not only stuck, but they are full of bottles.  What’s more, some of the bottles are so old their contents are beginning to smell.”

“Mama, remember you said something about…”

“Never mind, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, looking uncomfortable.   She turned to Mrs. White.  “Oh, Mrs. White, words cannot express how deeply I feel for you.  Full drawers that are stuck are so…so…well, full!  If there is anything I can do, just name it.”

“Yes, there is,” said Mrs. White.  “You can help me get them unstuck and emptied.  I need my drawers emptied immediately.  Now pull.  You, too, Adeline.”

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue, “pulling one’s drawers is such a delicate matter.  Are you certain it’s appropriate–I mean, with Adeline present.”

“Adeline is well over forty so I should think it’s appropriate.  Now pull!”

The three ladies commenced pulling at Mrs. White drawers.  They pulled and strained and groaned and grunted until finally Mrs. White’s drawers popped open.  A dreadful odor filled the room.

“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blue.  

Mrs. White was fierce in her embarrassment.  She immediately began emptying her drawers; Mrs. Blue and Miss Adeline followed suit.  In minutes a pile of old bottles lay on the floor at Mrs. White’s feet.

“There,” she said, “that’s the last one.  I can finish the rest of this on my own.  Thank you, ladies, and remember that not one word of this must be spoken.  It must forever be our secret.  I am only sorry that I kept it to myself for so long.”

“We will be silent as the grave,” said Mrs. Blue.  “Isn’t that right, Adeline?”

“Yes, Mama, silent as the grave.  And, Mama, is this what you mean when you say better out than in?”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Third Chemo Session

If all goes according to plan, I am halfway done with chemotherapy. So far, my journey is fitting the healing pattern. Just call me "Mitchio", which is Japanese for man on a path. Being a math person, I always notice patterns. The pattern I tracked after my first two sessions was the following: The first five days after the infusion, I felt full of drugs but tolerable. The next seven to eight days, I descended into extreme discomfort as my blood counts lowered, and my body went into BATTLE! Then I turned a corner and began to feel tolerable again.

My oncologist said that the pattern was normal and that I am doing great. I'll take that. If I know that better is on the other side of worse, then worse is not so bad. It's the Law of Undulation that C.S. Lewis writes about in The Screwtape Letters. It's like a sine wave describing the seasons of our lives traveling between peaks and valleys.

Here is a graph of a typical sine wave.

Since I am a cheerful soul, my sine wave is somewhat elevated (the blue one.)

But since the cancer ordeal started, my blue sine waves have shifted south.

I hope you enjoyed my illustrated math lesson and the Law of Undulation. If it weren't for the prayers and support of so many loving family and friends, the valleys would be even more extreme. I love you all. Many blessings.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Now Girl

To quote Monty Python, "I ain't dead yet!" I am not Gone Girl. I am Now Girl.

I decided that if I am going through the hassle of cancer, I may as well learn a thing or three from the experience. (These are things that strike me all o' a heap.) One of those things is that I am Now Girl, as in when a friend calls and tells me that she would like to visit me.

"When would be a good time to come over." she asks.

I do a quick check of how I am feeling at the moment. I feel pretty good.

"Now," I answer.

The reason I call myself a Now Girl is that I never know from one day to the other, one hour to the other, how I am going to feel. Some of the time, I really feel awful–just plain pooky. Other times I feel okay. I barely feel like I am surviving during the awful times, so I want to live Life during the okay times. If Life comes knocking when I feel okay, I open the door NOW.

In the afternoon, Jack asks, "What would you like for dinner?"


An hour or so later, he asks, "What sounds good for dinner?"


At dinnertime, he tries one more time, "Well, how about dinner? What would you like?"

"I want a bacon cheeseburger with fries from Stacked, and I want it now, please."

Alas, not everyone is on my Now time. Last Saturday, Jack and my sister arrived at Stacked to place my order just as it was closing for a private party. I learned another lesson that day about being a Now Girl; when my Now is denied, it makes me grouchy. Obviously, this is something I must work on.

Overall, I think being a Now Girl is a good thing. It is a very Present sort of thing, what C. S. Lewis described in The Screwtape Letters.

"The Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience which (God) has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them."

So right now, I don't want anything for dinner. I am very much hoping in an hour or so, I will want to go to Fugazzi's now, please!

Here is my Now Girl painting.  (I don't know why–it just struck me all o' a heap.)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Reedley Beach

Last week, Jack and I took a drive through the country to Reedley Beach, along the Kings River in Reedley. The water was still running. Years of drought had transformed the river into a glorified mud puddle for the past five years.  But with the rains last year, the river was a proper waterway, hence the trip to Reedley Beach.

It was quiet along the river. There were few of us about: a young couple canoodling at a picnic table, two men eating sandwiches, a couple walking their dogs, and a boy looking for a good fishing spot. Once in a while a car drove through the parking lot. No one paid us any attention. Suddenly I was aware of my bandana. I realized that I was wearing “colors.” I remembered how I knew that.

My first two years teaching the Tiny Rascals gang and the Bulldog gang were at each other hammer and tongs. There were constant fights—in the lunchroom, in the bathrooms, in the classrooms, in the hallways. I hated breaking up fights, having to do it three times, which is three too many. I preferred to prevent them in the first place. Like Mad-Eye Moody, I practiced “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” I watched for hand signs and flashes of color, always aware that either one could trigger a brawl.

I also knew when one of my students was going to get “jumped” into a gang over the weekend. He or she was nervous, distracted, and about as uninterested in the Pythagorean theorem as anyone could be. They usually caused a disruption in class. I don’t blame them; they knew what was coming. On one such occasion, the principal and I met with the father of a young man to warn him what his son was about to do. He did not believe us, and called me a smart-ass. On Monday, his son came to class beaten and bloodied; they always did.

So as I was wearing my bandana, I thought to myself, “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” I scanned the park at Reedley Beach for any sign of trouble. I kept the car in sight. There was no actual danger at Reedley Beach that day; but isn’t it interesting that some habits of mind remain so firmly fixed?

Over a year ago, I encountered a young woman who was one of my students my first year teaching. She was one of those who came to school beaten and wounded from a gang initiation. At one time, I also broke up a fight between her and another girl. She remembered me. She told me that I was the nicest teacher she ever had and thanked me for being so patient with her. She also told me that she has teenage daughters of her own whom she constantly admonishes to be nice to their teachers. She tells her daughters all the time that teachers care about their students. 

It was nice to hear that. I thought about that last week while I was at Reedley Beach wearing my bandana. I thought that when it comes to being nice, one should always practice “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Second Chemo Session

I'm going into this session with a lot less hair. Fourteen days after the first session, my hair started falling out by the handfuls. I decided to help the little birds with their nests and scattered it on the ground. After a while I realized there was enough for either a hundred little birds or one big monster bird so I left it.

All that hair on the ground reminded me of a song from "Country Bears Jamboree" at Disneyland. Here is my version of the song:
Hair on the saddle. Hair all around.
And a great big puddle on the ground.

I am wearing bandanas on my head now, mostly to keep it warm. I think I have a nicely shaped head. (If only there were a phrenologist handy, but I think they went somewhere warm at the turn of the century.) The bandanas are just like the head-coverings I used to wear in the commune. They were all the rage. In fact, there is a picture of me in my high school year book with Doug Myers when we were voted most talented (for singing). We are sitting on the hood of a bus in our blue jeans, tee shirts, and me with a bandana on my head.

That was an interesting day that day. Doug's girlfriend from Fruita was visiting him in Durango for the weekend. On Sunday, he was going to drive her back, a four-hour, 180 mile drive through the mountains (including Red Mountain Pass.) He asked me if I would like to go with him to keep him company; since my grandparents lived in Fruita, I said yes. He spent the night at his girlfriend's parents and I stayed with my grandparents. We left for Durango Monday morning.

It's such a great drive from Fruita to Durango. After leaving the flatlands of Grand Junction, Moab, Delta, and Montrose, you begin the climb to Ouray and the mountains. There you continue to Silverton and then home to Durango. One time some friends and I were driving back from Silverton to Durango at night in a snow storm. There was a lovely full moon so naturally we drove part of the way over the pass with the headlights off; we did things like that sometimes.

This time, however, there was no full moon to distract us. Doug and I had choir class in the afternoon. Forget the morning classes; we had solos in one of the pieces for an upcoming performance. If we missed dress rehearsal, Mr. Evans would be furious. We pulled up at the school a few minutes before class and sang our solos without a hitch. Before school dismissed for the day, a photographer for the yearbook said he needed to get our pictures. Doug and I found an obliging school bus on which to pose–me with my bandana.

I have fond memories of wearing a bandana on my head. Of course, the other times, I had hair to go with it. I am hoping that this time will find its way to a pleasant memory–of how I beat cancer.

Here is my happy picture for the day.
Durango, Colorado

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Challenge

This is what the morning shower produced.

I think I will challenge Clark the cat to a hairball contest.
Who is Clark? Clark is a cat. He does calculus.

Clark used to be the name of my son's cat–except it really wasn't. For some reason, I got the idea fixed in my brain that the name of his cat was Clark. (I still can't remember the actual name of his cat.)

Since I liked the name, I decided to create a literary character named Clark that was a cat. Now it so happened that at the time I was thinking of Clark, I was also thinking of calculus. Five years ago, I taught Advanced Placement Calculus at Roosevelt High School. Of all the many things I am curious about, I was curious to see if I still could solve calculus problems.

So I downloaded the Free-Response Problems for the 2015 and 2016 Advanced Placement Calculus Exams. I started working the problems and found that I could still solve calculus problems. Huzzah! Like any normal person, I wanted to do something with these problems and their solutions, so I decided to make them into a story. I did that all the time when I was teaching–tell stories about the problems. The numbers, the symbols, the operations, the properties, the theorems, and the postulates were so real to me that is was not difficult to bring them to life. In doing the same with the calculus problems, I turned them over to Clark. I am pleased to report that he rose to the challenge and performed beautifully. That's the kind of guy–or cat, rather–he is.

Now about that hairball...

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fatal Associations

Day Ten after Chemo: I still have my hair.

With all this time to wait...and wait...and wait, I still have not done anything new with the second book of Rhino. There is a reason for this. I do not want my beloved book to be associated with this particular period in my life. I have a tendency to connect things in sometimes unprofitable ways, and the memory lingers.  I call it the "Flowery Fart Effect."

Years ago, when my brother got married, he had a limited income so the wedding was done on a small budget. The family all chipped in to help; my mother and aunts did the catering and decorating, and my sister and I did the flowers. My future sister-in-law had a friend who worked in the floral section of the local supermarket. She arranged us to make the bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres under the direction of her friend. The day before the wedding, the four of us met in the back of the store where the flowers were kept and went to work.

Unfortunately, my sister-in-law's friend was very pregnant and uncomfortable standing on her feet. Once in a while she passed gas. In that small room, there was no escaping the smell. It forever linked the smell of hothouse flowers with the smell of a fart. To this day, whenever I enter or even pass by a flower shop, I smell a fart. I don't want a similar unpleasant association with Rhino.

Oh, I can still write a few stories about Rhino–"between the lines" stories–but not the real story of Rhino. That is just going to have to wait. I hope those who loved the first book don't mind waiting a while for the second one. It's my way of guaranteeing it won't be a stinker.

Here is another cheery painting that I like.
This is my soul somewhere inside trying to find my laugh.