What we don’t know can hurt us

A friend who is suffering with a bout of poison ivy shared information about the increased prevalence of poison ivy in our environment and the increased toxicity of the plant. This is brought on by increased levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. The increase in CO2 is directly related to climate change. Be sure to read more about it here from The Druids Garden.

Recently our daughter and our grandson had a bout with hand foot and mouth disease. It’s a viral infection common in young children. Our daughter’s experience was more acute and she was unable eat for a number of days as her mouth and throat were affected. There is a relationship between temperature and humidity which makes hand foot and mouth disease more common.

Yesterday we had the pleasure of spending an afternoon and early evening as guests of our son and his family on the shores of Conesus Lake. There was a lot of algae and ‘seaweed’ in the lake that was churned up by the increased number of boaters. I learned that the increase in boaters is due to the rising lake level on nearby Lake Ontario which has made it difficult for boaters to dock and launch their small craft. These recreational boaters are coming to Conesus because they can launch their boats without difficulty.

Most people think of addiction to alcohol or other narcotics. Most people have never thought of our over reliance on fossil fuels which are exacerbating this climate change as addiction. In the late 19th century a famous American politician gave a speech about mankind being crucified on a cross of gold. I wonder how many consider that we are crucifying mankind on a cross of fossil fuels which is raising the water levels of lakes and oceans. It’s harming our environment and increasing the spread of disease. Meanwhile know nothing and do nothing politicians wring their hands and cry that we cannot harm our economy by taking reasonable action to prevent this debacle. The economy will be a moot point when the world becomes uninhabitable. Even the oligarchs who profit from the addiction will lose their livelihoods and lives.

Ignorance is not bliss. We will follow the dinosaurs into extinction. Earth will survive but we won’t.

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Take a deep breath and release

With those words my prostate cancer surgeon released me from life with a catheter. I’m grateful that I’m no longer tethered. I was learning to get along with these extras. They provided the necessary bridge to health after the robotic prostatectomy. The doctor gave me an excellent pathology report too. Only twenty percent of my prostate had cancer cells. I’m not sure what all that means in the long term but I’m very grateful for now.

Yesterday I began the next phase of my journey to health post prostate. Following the cystogram and catheter removal I donned my maximum absorbency underwear. Now, I’m on the same page as grandson. I have a temporary continence problem. I began the prescribed Kegel exercises in earnest as my wife drove us home. Our first stop was lunch at Tim Horton’s. I opened the passenger side door and stepped out into the warm afternoon air and then ‘whoosh.’ Oops, I forgot for a split second that I don’t have bladder control. That was my first epiphany. I smiled and shared the discovery with my wife. I’m reminded of the Saturday Night Live skit ‘Oops I Crapped my Pants.’

Once we got home I went for a walk enjoying my new freedom. The days and weeks ahead will have their challenges as I do the Kegel exercises and retrain my bladder muscles. It’s great to be alive and enjoy the rest of summer.

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Reformation of Discovery and Healing

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This was the second book I’ve read in the past week by the author and I found her insights keen and a welcome conversation to what is a dim landscape when it comes to common sense and sexuality in religion. I love her writing style and her very open approach to the subject. I’d love to hear one of her presentations and/or attend one of the House for All Sinners and Saints services. I highly recommend this book even if you’re an atheist or agnostic. There is great insight and powerful sharing here for everyone.


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Grateful for the journey

My life has had a lot of ups and downs in the past year. I don’t want to recount them now. A few months ago I learned from expert medical attention that I have prostate cancer. Who isn’t afraid of a cancer diagnosis? But compared to the other tribulations that have occurred in my life in the past sixty-six years it was just one more thing.

Upon learning the diagnosis my wife and I began a series of office visits with different clinicians to determine the best possible course of action. I had three options. One was to do nothing for a year and see what happened. That didn’t seem reasonable. I thought that would be like sitting on a landmine hoping for the best. Another option was radiation and the third was surgical removal of the prostate.

Many relatives and friends stepped forward to share their experience. I’m grateful to all of them. My sister was perhaps the most persistent advocate for surgical removal. Her husband had prostate cancer twenty years ago and opted for surgery. In addition to them I had other friends who had relied on radiation therapy and were almost five years cancer free. I went back and forth and prayed on it along with my wife. After a thorough examination of all possibilities and counsel with my wife and the medical teams I decided to pursue the surgical route.

In the days and weeks leading up to my procedure I did a lot of thinking . I went on a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi with a group of United States military veterans. I spent a lot of time in prayer there and in the quiet places I love closer to home. A few days before my surgery while attending an evening program at Mount Irenaeus an entire congregation prayed for me. A Franciscan priest told me he would offer his mass on the day of surgery for my intention. A former minister put me on his prayer list. Fellow prostate cancer survivors and their families reached out and slowly with their help and encouragement I moved forward. Faith is not the absence of fear. It is continuing to move forward in spite of that fear. Faith is walking through fear and trusting that things will work out.

The countdown ended the afternoon I arrived for my surgery. I was admitted to the hospital, prepped and put in one of those little hospital gowns we all know and love. I was surrounded by my family. My son left work early to be there along with my wife and daughter. The professional staff of the hospital got me ready and came an hour early to take me to the operating room. I remember the anesthetist putting something over my nose and then … I woke up hours later in my hospital room. While I was asleep a team of highly skilled doctors and nurses performed a robotic prostatectomy. I am grateful that such people surround me.

It’s now nine days hence and while I still have a catheter for the time being I am returning to health and wholeness. I have been surrounded by love and care. I have received phone calls, text messages and personal visits. My wife has been a private duty nurse who has had to modify our home to accommodate me. Each day is a new adventure. I have returned to writing again. Yesterday I was able to attend the weekly meeting of the Opensource.com moderators. Later I ventured out with a friend to a meeting twenty miles from home. I got a text message from the mother of one of my Python coding classes. She let me know that she and her son were keeping me in their thoughts and prayers. I am surrounded by love and at times it has been overwhelming. I am very grateful to everyone who has given something of themselves. This has been the good journey. In its own unique way it has been a pilgrimage which has led to some new understandings of life.

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Prayers for Healing and Wholeness

On Monday they’re going to make me a holey man. Being holey isn’t the same as holiness and yet these doctors who’ll be making me holey will be using incisions and robotically assisted instruments to return me to health and wholeness. The past twelve months have been a rollercoaster of emotions for us for our family. A friend of mine says that “growing old ain’t for wimps.” He’s right. At the same time there is something to be learned from it all and much to be grateful for.

A year ago our daughter in law and son lost her father to a rapidly progressing cancer. Then they and we lost a grandson to still birth. In the interim I survived a pulmonary embolism and learning to live with atrial fibrillation. In late April following a biopsy we learned that I have prostate cancer. Fortunately it’s at an early stage and there are lots of options. Nonetheless, I’ve been very worried and anxious.

All these experiences have drawn us closer as a family and there have been many touching moments. I’ve been spending more quiet time at those quiet places I love. A month ago I was in Assisi surrounded by peace and beauty. I’ve made several trips to Abbey of the Genesee and elsewhere. Tonight I’m sitting next to a beautiful pond at Mt. Irenaeus.

I’m grateful and peaceful and hopeful for healing and wholeness. Prayers for the doctors and nurses who are taking care of me.

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Be Relentless

Relentless: Changing Lives by Disrupting the Educational Norm

Relentless: Changing Lives by Disrupting the Educational Norm by Hamish Brewer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Hamish Brewer is anything but typical. A tattooed skateboard riding principal whose zest for life and education transcends tradition, culture, place and every other impediment you could imagine. He grew up in New Zealand in poverty. He found school difficult and oppressive and even was retained a year. However from an early age he had a drive to distinguish himself and do something great. He believes that success in education is about relationships. He writes, “When you acknowledge, respect, empower, motivate, inspire, and believe in people, you can move mountains.” This book will have you on the edge of your seat and you will be hard pressed to put it down. Hamish loves his school and the children that attend there. He builds a culture of confidence and desire by telling children that he loves them. He says, “I challenge you to introduce the word love into the everyday vocabulary in your school. Relentless is a call for everyone to aspire to new heights. We all have it in us to be relentless and this book is an invitation to do just that.

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Reluctant Warrior

I love Assisi and the Military Veterans Pilgrimage. It’s helped to make me whole. In the spring of 1972 my life was interrupted by a draft notice. I was opposed to war then and now. I think there are better solutions to conflict and quite frankly it frightened me. The thought of a bullet or bomb ending my life wasn’t pleasant. I like to think I’m as patriotic as anyone else and I get tearful and goose bumps when I hear the National Anthem, America the Beautiful or My Country ‘Tis of Thee. In the spring of ‘72 I had a decision to make. Was I going to war or run away to Canada? Was I going to be a conscientious objector? I chose military service. I joined the United States Naval Reserve as a Hospital Corpsman. 

I left for recruit training on August 23, 1972. I was scared. I thought this was the beginning of the end of my young life. Through the rigors of recruit training I found a way to help as I was appointed “Education Petty Officer.” I got the slow learners through. In the process of helping others I helped myself. I formed friendships and became part of the United Stares Navy. I looked handsome in my ‘whites’ and ‘dress blues.’ I fit in as a reluctant warrior. I did well. I carried the National Ensign at graduation from ‘boot camp.’ I was chosen for my military bearing. Imagine that, a reluctant warrior with poise and bearing. 

I went on to Corps School at Great Lakes where I excelled, finishing 8th in a class of 68 other women and men. Upon graduation I left Great Lakes and my shipmates and over the next two years served with honor and distinction at two Naval medical facilities. I worked OB/Gyn and the newborn nursery at a dispensary at a Naval Air Station that no longer exists. I assisted in the delivery of babies, took care of new mom’s and their newborns. I loved what I did. 

In the midst of that my father died. I still remember the senior chief delivering the sad news. I remember walking back to my barracks that night in tears. The chief told me I could go home early but I chose to complete my shift in the newborn nursery. The little people assuaged my grief. Emergency leave followed and then back to duty. Soon after that a Middle East war put us on full alert. DEFCON 3, all leaves and liberty cancelled. I was frightened. The specter of war, combat and death became very real. I spent most of my waking hours in the chapel praying.

Eventually the emergency passed and there was a stand down from the alert. A no cost transfer put me closer to my mother and home. I spent the next year at the Naval Submarine Medical Center in Groton, Connecticut. I worked in the surgical clinic, drove ambulance, made petty officer third class and was named Command Sailor of the Quarter in July 1974. January 1975 I returned to civilian life. I stayed active in the Naval Reserve for two more years and did well their too. Eventually I was honorably discharged in June 1978. Despite my record of service I always felt less than, I’d never been in combat. I answered my country’s call in time of war, but in my own mind I was conflicted. I felt like an impostor. I joined the American Legion briefly a couple of times but didn’t seem to fit. I looked for peace and worked whenever I could to promote it. Few people ever thanked us Vietnam era veterans for our service. In fact the first time I got publicly recognized and thanked was in 1999 at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes dinner in Erie, PA. The speaker was Clebe McClary, a highly decorated double amputee who was the dinner speaker. It felt good to stand and be applauded. 

The Gulf War in 1991 changed that. Americans began demonstrably show their respect for veterans. I was opposed to the War in Iraq and wrote President Bush a number of letters asking him to reconsider. One day I got a reply from the White House stating that the President appreciated my letters but knew what was best for the country. I continued to advocate for peace and took part in a number of prayer vigils to that end. I never disrespected the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who took part. I felt a kinship with them that only veterans can full appreciate. I frequently prayed for young men and women in our community who answered the call to serve.

Then came late April 2018 when a neighbor suggested I join some area veterans who were part of a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. Even though I signed up only two weeks prior to departure I was soon on a plane to Rome where I met the leaders of the Military Pilgrimage for Veterans. I met the leaders, Fr. Conrad Torganski, OFM (a veteran US Navy Chaplain who served with the US Marines. Bill Reese, a Lutheran minister and combat veteran of Vietnam and Greg Masiello a PTSD specialist and combat veteran. I met fellow veterans who served in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Still the impostor syndrome persisted until I met a veteran from Maine who said, ‘You got nothing to be ashamed of. You took the same oath of enlistment as the rest of us. You put your life on the line for your country but you just didn’t end up in a war zone.’ Slowly that powerful statement began to change me. Returning home from the pilgrimage last year I read Greg Masiello’s book about PTSD. In the past year I’ve had a number of health challenges and after one of them I became determined to return to Assisi.

I contacted a fellow veteran who also wanted to go and we began to plan. Returning to Rome and Assisi occupied my focus for most of the winter and early spring. I read more books about Assisi. I traveled to Arizona to visit family and while there read The PTSD Solution which the author believes is not a disorder but an moral and psychic injury. In the process I’ve come to believe that I too have the post traumatic stress injury and that my service was not less than but equal to everyone else. It’s been an epiphany, a homecoming. It took forty-seven years for this reluctant warrior to accept that my service put me on the same footing with everyone else. I owe those insights and liberation to the Veterans of the Military Pilgrimage. I recommend it to you or anyone you know who served in the military.

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