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On Being a Complicated Patient

In August 2015 I became a “complicated patient.” Seems that getting a pacemaker implanted in your chest earns you that distinction. I’m only now learning what all that means. All along I thought I was a complicated patient but maybe I was just cumbersome, confused, and convoluted.

My pacemaker, whom I call “Jude,” because it was made by St. Jude Medical and because it is fun to get its attention by singing “Hey Jude” to it, is designed to make sure my heart rate does not go below 60 bpm. It does this by monitoring my heart rate and if it goes below that benchmark it delivers an electrical “stimulus” to the bottom chamber to tell it, “Hey, pick it up, move it, move it, move it!” At night, though, a computer (or maybe it is just somebody sitting with a computer on their couch in Olney, Maryland) tells it to allow my heart rate to slow to 55 bpm so I can have a more peaceful night’s sleep.

Oh, one other thing about Jude…specifically St. Jude. According to some followers of the Roman Catholic faith, St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. Though I’m not Roman Catholic and have no saints that I particularly care about, I do think it is rather an unfortunate thing for a medical device company to take the name of the patron saint of lost causes. Not exactly a confidence boosting brand, folks.

My July 2nd surgery started six weeks ago, though, because, as you know, I am a complicated patient. This means I had to see all my other doctors – Dr. A (primary care physician), Dr. S (cardiologist), Dr. Suess, Dr. Who, Dr. Dimento, and my in-home oral surgeon and epidemiologist spouse, Dr. Vargas – for clearance.

Now, you may be wondering, what was my surgery? I’m sorry, I cannot tell you. If I did, I would be in violation of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws. Just to remove any sense of mystery for you though, let’s just call it a lateral whackalectomy.

Lateral whackalectomies are not something you should envy and you should definitely never wish to have one. They are relatively simple surgeries that do not take much time but they are “intense” enough (according to Dr. J-B, the anesthesiologist) that they prefer to knock you all the way out (and you’ll be glad they did). The biggest downside of the lateral whackalectomy is the recovery period. You do get access to narcotics (oxycodone) which I have so far avoided taking. (You may question that by the time you finish reading this post but, really, I’m only on arthritis strength Tylenol). Lateral whackalectomies sometimes have to be done in two surgeries (I was lucky, it appears mine only required the one) and they are known for their “uncomfortable” recoveries, which can take weeks.

So, how “uncomfortable” is “uncomfortable?” Let me put it this way…Dr. S (cardiologist who will eventually cut my chest open to service my pacemaker), when he learned I was having a lateral whackalectomy paused reading my notes, looked up at me sympathetically, and quietly said, “I’m so sorry.”

Having received clearance from Dr. A, Dr. S, Dr. Vargas on the home front, and clearance from Clarence on principle (see Airplane!), I was ready to go on Friday morning, July 2nd.

We arrived at the hospital, entered through the main entrance as directed, and proceeded to the first check in place just inside the hospital door. This check point functioned to make sure we were COVID-19 tested, vaccinated, masked-up, and socially distanced, verify whether we were in the right place and, apparently, to broadcast my medical condition to all present.

  • Desk Attendant: What’s your name?
  • Me: Tom Klaus.
  • Desk Attendant: Full name?
  • Me: Thomas William Klaus
  • Desk Attendant: What are you here for?
  • Me: Surgery.
  • Desk Attendant: Yeah…but what kind?
  • Me: (Surprised) What kind?
  • Desk Attendant: Yes, what kind?
  • Me: (whispered, because I actually know the meaning of HIPAA) A lateral whackalectomy.
  • Desk Attendant: What?!? I can’t hear you.
  • Me: (a little louder now) A lateral whackalectomy.
  • Desk Attendant: (turning to another desk at the far end of the lobby and yelling like a waitress to a short order cook at Waffle House): Thomas W. Klaus here for a lateral whackalectomy. Where do I send him?

After a bit of shuffling about in the lobby and more violation of my HIPAA rights, I was told that I was at the wrong building, despite my written instructions. I needed instead to go next door. We were happy to leave immediately.

We finally made it to the right building where we were greeted by a receptionist who asked me the first of two of the most unnerving questions I’ve ever heard on surgery days.

  • Receptionist: Do you have a living will and an Advance Directive?
  • Me: Yes. Do you think I’ll need them?
  • Receptionist: (Pause) Probably not…but we like to know you have them…just in case.
  • Me (gulping): Well, I not only have them, but I have them with me, you know…just in case.
  • Receptionist: Great! Do you mind if I scan them into our system?

I passed her my paperwork and she gleefully scanned them into their system. A few minutes later we were led by Nurse J to the pre-op area. As per usual I had to strip down, put on one of those fine surgical gowns, and Nurse J got an IV started in me. Pretty cool, though, that Nurse J offered me a bit of lidocaine before trying to hit one of my veins with the IV. I had never had that option before and I liked it. I hope that is now part of nursing best practice.

Once he had me hooked up, Nurse J ran through all the screening questions. The first was the second most unnerving question you want to hear on surgery day: “What are we doing to you today?” Like having a pacemaker made by St. Jude Medical, it is not a question that initially inspires confidence. I looked at Nurse J and said, “Don’t you know?” Nurse J assured me he did but he wanted to make sure I knew and that we were in agreement. Now, really, I wouldn’t know?!? I’ve only been obsessing on it for the last two months when I first learned I needed surgery.

Nurse J was great and a lot of fun. He worked his way through the obligatory screening questions with grace and humor and helped me feel relaxed about the surgery. After Nurse J did the standard prep, he left the room for a bit. He barely got out of the room when I heard Clemencia laughing.

“Look at this sign!” she said between giggles. I couldn’t though because Nurse J had me so wired up I couldn’t turn to see it. “Take a picture and show it to me,” I asked. She did and here’s the sign that triggered her inner surgeon’s sense of humor.

  • Clemencia (giggling): Look at this…”Mark must be at or near incision site.” And it must be the physician’s initials. Where do you think the docs put their put initials when it’s hemorrhoids?
  • Me (trying to join in the humor of the moment, though it didn’t sound convincing): Oh no…what if it’s a vasectomy?
  • Clemencia (giggling even more): I can’t wait to see the doc make her initials for your lateral whackalectomy.

She was infinitely enjoying this more than I was.

About that time Nurse J came back in. He wanted to swap my fashionable cloth facemask for the standard hospital issue. I seized that moment to ask, “Where do you want me to put my chewing gum?” Nurse J froze, his smile dissipated, and he asked me sternly: “Gum? What gum?”

  • Me: My chewing gum.
  • Nurse J: You have chewing gum…in your mouth?
  • Me: Yes
  • Nurse J: You told me you had not eaten or drunk anything since before midnight last night.
  • Me: Yes, that’s true. But I like to chew gum.
  • Nurse J: When did you start chewing the gum?
  • Me: When I was a kid…Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit was always my favorite and sometimes Dubble Bubble.
  • Nurse J (continuing the inquisition): No, today. When did you start chewing gum today?
  • Me (as if I track such things): 10:03 AM, precisely.
  • Nurse J (moving into full nurse lecture mode): Look, the sugar in chewing gum can activate your digestive system. Because you haven’t eaten it will send your system into overdrive. When the surgeon cuts into you there could be an explosion that injures the whole surgical team and shuts down the OR for a whole week. (Okay, he didn’t really say that but I thought he might the way he was going on about it.)
  • Me: But, Nurse J, it was sugarless gum.

At that point Nurse J looked at me like I was a hopeless imbecile and left the room, returning only when it was time to finally get rid of me into the operating room.

Next up was my surgeon, Dr. B. She came in wearing a track suit and bounding about a little too much like Dr. Kylie Johnson on Mad TV. Fortunately, though, it was not my first meeting with Dr. B so it did not take me by surprise as it did Clemencia. To be fair, I did warn Clemencia that Dr. B was younger than our children…and possibly younger than our grandchildren would be, if we had any. I did my research on Dr. B prior to our first meeting for my diagnosis. I learned she is very accomplished and had received positive reviews from her surgical patients. Even better, I learned that her specialty was “minimally invasive surgery” on lateral whackalectomies. I felt confident she knew what she was doing.

Of course, my confidence was slightly shaken when her first question was Nurse J’s opening line: “Do you know what surgery we are doing today?” I really hoped she would know. She did, of course, and then went on to explain that she wouldn’t know if the lateral whackalectomy could be completed today. It might turn out that she’d only be able to do the first part today and I’d come back again in about six weeks for the sequel.

  • Me: When do you expect you’ll know?
  • Dr. B: Oh, not until I get inside. It just depends.
  • Me: Depends on what?
  • Dr. B: On what I find when I get inside.
  • Me: Ohhhhhh…….

Finally I got to meet my anesthesiologist, Dr. J-B. She reviewed my checkered anesthesiology history with me. She asked about the recovery and long term welfare of the nurses and security guards that were in harm’s way when I was last “put under” for my pacemaker implantation in Philadelphia. I have no memory of it but apparently, I was not at all pleasant and have much greater strength than I ever knew. After she heard the story and read my records from that surgery, her eyes widened and she assured me: “Not to worry. We are going to put you out…way out…and intubate you to make sure you aren’t moving around during surgery. But don’t worry, you won’t remember a thing.”

“That’s what you think,” I said with an evil smile and a chortle. (Okay, I really don’t remember a thing from Friday).

Before she left and turned me over to the nurse anesthetist, she quizzed me on my unnatural body parts:

  • Dr. J-B: Do you have any artificial or metal parts in your body?
  • Me: Yes, I do.
  • Dr. J-B: What are they?
  • Me (somewhat surprised she didn’t seem to know): Well, my pacemaker of course.
  • Dr. J-B: What about dentures?
  • Me: No.
  • Dr. J-B: What about lenses? You had cataract surgery, right?
  • Me: Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. I guess the new lens in my life eye qualifies right?
  • Dr. J-B: Right.
  • Me: No, left.
  • Dr. J-B: Left what?
  • Me: Left eye, the new lens is in my left eye.
  • Dr. J-B (sighing): Yes, left eye. Anything else?
  • Me: Only the chip in my brain.
  • Dr. J-B (looking quite surprised because she thought she knew all about me already): Chip? What chip?
  • Me: The one that Johns Hopkins put in to make me believe that lacrosse is a sport worthy of NCAA status and television coverage.
  • Dr. J-B: Very funny, Mr. Klaus.
  • Me: Yes, but not as funny as lacrosse as a “sport.”

By that time it was time to be wheeled away to the OR. I never saw Dr. B (surgeon) again, though I assume she was there. The last thing I remember was being wheeled into the OR, looking around at all of the nasty looking devices laying about on (presumably) sterile tables, and wondering if they were really going to need all of them for my lateral whackalectomy. Apparently they did.


Epilogue

We were warned that a lateral whackalectomy did not take long. In fact, it did not. I was back in recovery before Clemencia had much time to start a new knitting project or listen to a Spanish language podcast as part of her course preparation. When she realized I was already in recovery, she made her way there before anyone had a chance to retrieve her officially. She was just anxious to see if they were planning to offer to send my lateral whacka home with me in a jar. She wanted to be there before I had a chance to say anything stupid.

I’ve been home for the past few days in recovery now. Honestly, the recovery is not pleasant, but it isn’t horrible either. I can’t lift anything over 10 pounds for a couple of weeks which means I cannot play golf (as if I really had time to play golf anyway). Recently I’ve been playing every Saturday I can with my son, Jake. To help me feel better for having to miss golf with him the day after my surgery, he sent me this text from the course.

It is unfortunate that Jake began his note as he did because it makes golfing sound far more nefarious (or a few may say “more interesting”) than it is. Just to be clear “the ladies at Gunpowder” refers to the women who work the front desk and check-in golfers. Now, turn off your imagination.

So, the surgery took place and I’ve been resting at home for the past few days. The recovery is not pleasant, but it isn’t horrible either. I’ve had a bit of fun writing this post as it helps keep my mind off the “discomfort” and reminds me how fortunate I am.

I am fortunate to have good health insurance that allows me to obtain excellent care. I have enjoyed good health through most of my life and have had little reason to use my health insurance. Despite my bit of fun at their expense, the docs and nurses were outstanding (well, that first desk attendant needs a bit more training on HIPAA). I’m fortunate that Dr. L, a doctor I see routinely each year picked upon on the fact that my lateral whacka might not be normal. He sent me right away to Dr. B a specialist for her opinion and biopsy. It was not cancerous, but it did need to be addressed. It was caught early enough to have avoided more serious problems and even multiple surgeries. My most serious surgeries have been simple when compared to those experienced by some people I know. In all, I’m a lucky guy to have good insurance, good doctors, and overall good outcomes related to my health care. In a better world, we’d all be so lucky.

Applause Lines that Could Have Been

I watched the State of the Union Address last night. I’m completely nonpartisan as far as the State of the Union Address goes. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party, QAnIdiot, you name it…I am equally and easily distracted during the Address.

Applause lines seem to be an important part of it. Did you know “applause-o-meters” have been used in the past to help gauge which items are more likely to get bi-partisan support in upcoming legislation? The louder the applause, the more likely it is to have support, so the thinking goes.

Notice too that Senators and Representatives tend to jump up and clap when they hear something they especially like. I’m not sure why they feel compelled to do that. Maybe they are just trying to convince us of their physical fitness. Probably not a bad idea given the average age of the House of Representatives (nearly 58 years old) and the Senate (nearly 63 years old), according to the Library of Congress.

What would be really funny, though, is if they all clapped in an exaggerated way like their lives depend on it…you know, like in North Korea where their lives often do depend on it. (Now, I know their lives don’t depend on it…yet…but we seem to be trending poorly.)

There were a lot of applause lines in last night’s State of the Union Address. Unfortunately, many more were missed. Here’s just a few I thought of during the applause interludes. I offer them here as a public service to the President. Believe me, Mr. President, these are guaranteed to rock the applause-o-meter:

“I’m a big fan of breathing. Air is great! We all need it, we all love it! Don’t you think so?”

“Who here likes hot cocoa with marshmallows?”

“Who doesn’t love cats OR dogs? Whichever you have, don’t you love ’em?”

“Whether you’re happy or unhappy and you know it, clap your hands.”

“Putin has smelly feet.”

“Let’s take a bathroom break!”

“You scream. I scream. We all scream for ice cream. Now let’s go get some!”

“This speech is not going to last more than 10 minutes.”

Hacky New Year! (No Drivel)

Dear Drivelers,

If you also follow my professional life at Tenacious Change, I wanted to let you know that

We

Got

Hacked!

Yes, it is embarrassing and a bit irritating.

Happy New Year?!? Not really.

First, it was the Tenacious Change internet-based business phone number (via Skype). Long story. That led to the loss of our business Twitter account. Longer story.

Here’s what you need to know to update our information in your contact list and to make sure you can stay in touch with me at Tenacious Change. 

Phone: 

  • Hacked phone number, now disconnected, was: 1-240-319-8525 – please discard this one.
  • The new business line is now: 1-240-583-1754 – please save for calls and texting. (You can also still reach me on my mobile phone at 571-241-7583.)

Twitter:

  • The hacked Twitter account: @TenaciousChg – this one might come back but will likely be closed; if it does come back, we’ll migrate folks to the new one.
  • New Twitter account: @TenaciousChng – notice there is only one letter difference (“n” in “Chng”) in the account name.
  • By the way, my personal Twitter feed is: @TomKlaus. You are welcome to follow my driveling there as well.

Nothing else was hacked. Our websites are still the same and operational:

We have spent these early days of 2022 updating websites, social media accounts, membership profiles, etc., etc. Still, in case we missed something, I wanted to make sure you had this information. Thank you for updating your contact list entry for Tenacious Change, and for me, Tom Klaus, with this new information.

Also, just to make sure all was good, we went through our MailChimp account to check that our lists (subscribers, contacts, and unsubscribed) were all accurate.

It could have been worse, right? If you don’t mind, show us some love at this moment and follow us on Twitter at our new place and remember, that’s @TenaciousChng (with an “n”). 

If you’ve got a bit extra love to share, consider following this blog as well. 🙂

Okay, it’s gonna get better this year………………………………………….right?

Of course!

A Bit of Trivia for the Holidays

Useless trivia…but is it, really? I often wonder that when I find myself becoming fascinated by odd factoids. Sometimes I wonder if I should actually be allowing such useless knowledge into my brain. What in the world am I going to do with it? For example…

I’ve always been fascinated by the career of Tony Burrows. Except for one person I know (who probably doesn’t read this blog), I imagine you are wondering, “Who the heck is Tony Burrows?” Exactly! He is the most famous anonymous rock and roll singer you have ever heard! Why?

You may not know the name Tony Burrows, but if you were listening to pop music in the spring of 1970, you know his voice. In a three-month period, Burrows was the lead singer on four different hit records by four different groups.

Music Monday: Tony Burrows, the Five-Time One-Hit Wonder.

Tony Burrows, now age 79, is a British singer who had an outstanding career as a studio musician. Here are the songs that Tony sang lead on that you probably have heard and know. We’ll begin with the four hits from the Spring of 1970. Enjoy!

Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes by Edison Lighthouse (1970). Reached #1 on the UK Top 40 on January 31, 1970 and stayed there for five weeks. It dropped off the UK Top 40 on April 18, 1970. In the U.S., it went to #5 on the T0p 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 on March 28. It would eventually go to #1 in Ireland and New Zealand, #2 in Australia, and #3 in Canada and South Africa. In the U.S. it was the #40 biggest hit of 1970.
United We Stand by The Brotherhood of Man (1970). By March of 1970 “United We Stand” was on the Top 40 charts. It went to #10 in the UK, #13 in the US, #8 in Australia, #9 in Canada it was rated the 64th biggest hit of 1970 in the U.S.
My Baby Love Lovin by White Plains (1970). Released on January 9, 1970, this song went to #4 in Canada, #8 in South Africa, #9 in Ireland and the UK and #13 in the US on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. For the year, it came it at #62 in the US. Actually, it seemed it went much higher than this in the US. At least, that’s how it seemed to me and my friends as we “cruised” Morning Sun, Iowa in the Winter of 1970 and listened to Larry Lujack on Chicago’s best radio station of that era…WLS.
Gimme Dat Ding (from American Bandstand) by the Pipkins (1970). This was a novelty song that featured Tony Burrow’s singing with a raspy, gravelly voice. In March 1979 it became a bonifide hit. It went to #1 in New Zealand, #6 in the UK, #7 in Canada and Ireland, #8 in the Netherlands, and #9 on the US Hot 100 from Billboard. Weirdly, it went to #20 in the US on Billboards Easy Listening chart. Hmmmm… Overall, in 1970 it ranked #86 on the US Hot 100.

Also in 1970, Tony Burrows came out with his own solo song, Melanie Makes Me Smile. It became a minor hit for Burrows in 1970 in the US, going to #87 on the Hot 100. It was the only hit under Burrow’s own name.

One of my favorites, that I didn’t realize Burrows sang until very recently, is Beach Baby by The First Class (1974). Tony was the lead singer for this studio group and on the record but did not appear on television with The First Class (let’s hear it for lipsyncing)! The recording did very well. It went to #1 in Canada, #4 in the US, and #13 in the UK. Its overall rank in the US in 1974 was #94.

So, there you have it! See, a great bit of “useless” trivia you can use to amaze and astound your friends over the holidays! Please do! For me, there is nothing more interesting than these odd bits of knowledge.

Ah, but is this really “useless” trivia? Frankly, no, I don’t think so. You’d be amazed how many times I have drawn upon such factoids to break the ice with people and start the process of relationship building.

Happy holidays!


In memoriam: This one is for my lifelong friend, Mark Keltner, who loved a good 1957 Chevy (the ultimate cruising car), fixing cars of all kinds, Pam and his family, building extraordinary dirt track race cars, driving and winning races and track championships, and rock and roll. Except for Ebay, where he could buy car parts cheaply, he hated using computers so he would have never seen this anyway. Whether on trikes when we were 3 year olds, foot races in grade school, or any athletic competition in junior high and high school – he won, usually beating me badly. He also beat me into this world by exactly three months on January 24, 1954. He also won the last race we’d ever have. He left this world much too soon on December 14, 2021. Rest in peace, MK41.

One Year Later…in a Dog’s Life

One year ago today some good-hearted rescuers found a living mass of hair tied by a leather belt to crate at a “backyard breeders.” The conditions were as horrific, if not more so, than you see on one of those ASPCA commercials designed to open not just our hearts but our wallets as well.

The Living Mass of Hair
This is what nearly 2 lbs of hair looks like

One of the rescuers’ first stops was a groomer. When the groomer finished removing nearly 2 pounds of hair, she called up the rescuers to report her findings.

Groomer: You’ll never guess what I found under the hair.

Rescuers: A dog?

Groomer: Of course! But you’ll never believe what kind of dog. Its a schnauzer!

Indeed, it was a schnauzer. A salt and pepper schnauzer with all the classic looks and features of a pure bred. Still, questions remained. What was his name? How old was he? Was he a toy schnauzer or a miniature schnauzer who was not being well fed?

In the absence of records, the rescuers estimated his age at five years old and gave him the birthday of December 4, 2015, the same date in 2020 they found and rescued him. Since they didn’t know if he had a name, they gave him one: Ebeneezer. It isn’t clear whether the misspelling of his name was by accident or intention. Nonetheless, it stuck.

He was fostered by a wonderful family about 70 miles from here who fell in love with him and all of his quirks. He was largely uncivilized and they did a great job of doing the basics of house training, giving him regular meals, and loving him up. In February of this year, the foster family chose us to give Ebeneezer a home.

Today, for his birthday, we are taking Ebie to get his one year exam and get his vaccinations updated (yep, everyone has to be vaccinated if they want to live here). I know, not much of a birthday present, huh? Not to worry. He is getting a “bully stick” when we get back. It is hard to believe how far he has come in this past year.

Ebie at approximately 11 or 12 pounds

When he arrived in our home on February 17, he weighed about 11 pounds and we really thought he was a toy schnauzer. He was tiny, quiet, and wandered about wondering if he was really in the right place. That look of wonder didn’t leave his eyes and face for months.

Ebie’s favorite window seat

At the same time, he took comfort in the knowledge that we had food, soft places to rest, chewys to keep him occupied, and windows sills for him to perch and watch the world go by.

Overtime the wonder wore off and he settled into his new home. He began to eat better and slowly his weight increased. Today he weighs between 16 and 17 pounds which officially qualifies him as miniature schnauzer.

Ebie’s graduation photo. Did we get the tassle on the right side?

Recently Ebie achieved a milestone by graduating from his first obedience class. He has learned the fundamentals of sit, watch me, wait, and leave it. The “come” command is, well, coming along. He is also learning a bit of Spanish. He is responding quite nicely to “vamos” (let’s go) when we are out on walks.

All of this to say…isn’t it amazing the difference a year can make? At this time last year we were beginning to recognize that we were losing Dolly, the dog we were sure was going to be our last dog, only six months after losing Madison. Both were also rescues and both were well over 14 years old (human years, that is). As hard as it was to let them go, it was their times.

Only a few weeks after we let Dolly go and we had agreed that we would have no more dogs, Ebeneezer appeared in PetFinder and one of us was smitten. Okay, but the other is a real sucker for lost causes and he had not seen a cause any more lost for a while than that dog.

Today Ebie is a part of our home and we are a part of his pack. He goes everywhere he can with us and we are happy to have him. He still has many of the same quirks and weirdities that he had when he arrived in our home. He loves to sit in or watch out windows and check out the neighborhood. He goes to bed really early. He “talks” to us (no, not barking but making a weird high pitched sound like he is trying to form words). Of course, he mostly talks in the morning when he gets up at…sigh…sunrise, which isn’t quite so bad now that it’s winter.

Ebie – Happy at Home – but not wanting his early bedtime disturbed.

For Ebie, a year makes a huge difference in his life. For all of us a year does make a big difference, though sometimes it isn’t that dramatic and so we don’t see it. When we don’t see it, we often miss it. Even worse, we miss the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate it. As we close out this year and look forward to 2022, let’s keep alert to all that lies ahead. Let’s not miss out on what the coming year brings us.

On Stupidity

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything of substance here. Of course, after you read this you may determine I still haven’t posted anything of substance. You be the judge…but I don’t necessarily need to hear your verdict. 🙂

In fact, I’ve been awaiting a shipment of Drivel. Turns out it has been sitting in a cargo container at the Port of Baltimore for quite some time. The COVID-19 pandemic has been messing with a lot of things in our supply chain, eh?

You might remember the story of this blog. I started it right after a National Emergency was declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You also might remember that one of my first rants was about stupid people. Truly, no insult is intended when I suggest people are being stupid. When someone is stupid, I argued then on the basis of a definition from Google Dictionary, it is because that one is “showing a great lack of common sense.” That definition has recently been updated by Google Dictionary from the Oxford Languages to read as follows: “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.

No insult is intended because, in fact, all of us have been stupid at some time. There is no sin in stupidity, thankfully, because I have been among the stupidest of the stupid. Indeed, I have been the Prince…no, make that King…no, make that Emperor of Stupid. I won’t go into the details. You’ll have to trust me when I say that I’ve been truly stupid at times. Because I have to count myself among the stupid, it is hard to point fingers at other stupid people.

Still, it is important for us to talk about stupidity because of its danger.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and minister who was also concerned about stupid people. His interest in stupid people grew as he watched Adolph Hitler come to power in Germany prior to World War II. His observations grew into a Theory of Stupidity. Now, I’m not going to try to explain it because this video from Sprouts School does it so much better than I ever could. Before you read on, take the next 6 minutes to watch it. You won’t regret it.

Welcome back! Pretty fascinating stuff, huh? You can read the excerpt from Bonhoeffer’s papers that inspired this video and I hope you will. The video uses much of that text word-for-word. It is useful to have the text in front of you for your reflection. But let me pull a couple of interesting quotes from that text and include them here.

You’ve probably noted already that Bonhoeffer could take issue with one aspect of the Oxford Languages definition. He might not agree that stupid people can be lacking intellect. On the other hand, though, he might agree because he also writes:  

The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

The reason for their stupidity, Bonhoeffer argues, is that they are made stupid or that they allow it to happen to themselves. Indeed, people may not only sacrifice their common sense but their intellect to others. How and why that happens Bonhoeffer wonders.

Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity…The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This quote reminds me of a video I saw on both Twitter (not always a reliable source) and in Newsweek (a usually more reliable source) during the past few days. Here’s the gist of it from the person who posted it on Twitter:

End Times preacher Sharon Gilbert says that an alien imitated her husband, and then it tried to have sex with her, and then it claimed to be Xerxes, and then Jesus got involved, and then the alien turned out to be a reptile with a posse of gargoyles.

@hemantmehta

I know. You are wondering if this is an accurate rendering of the clips. I did too. It is but, really, you need to go back to the links above and watch it for yourself just as I did to be sure.

Two things are noteworthy to me in the video clips. First is the banner that runs under the video. You can make a donation and receive The Great Delusions DVD set by Josh Peck. Uh huh. Second, at the end of the video that same Josh Peck, who is one of the two guys listening to this story and nodding along in rapt belief says, “Well, the Bible says…” and then the video cuts off. Don’t you also want to know how in the world Josh Peck connects ANYTHING she said with the Bible?!?

However, this behavior from Josh raises an even bigger question: Can Josh Peck even recognize a great delusion when it is sitting six feet from him? Of course, this distance calculation does assume they are practicing “social distancing” and why wouldn’t they, right?

Sharon Gilbert is an evangelist who specializes in End Times fear mongering. She talked about this close encounter of an alien hook-up on Jim Bakker‘s television show (yes, he still has a show). Now, consider who she is and what she wants in light of Bonhoeffer’s quote about “every strong upsurge in power” whether of a political or religious nature. I’m not sure which kind of power she is craving but it could, of course, be both. Do people listen to her and follow her, thereby granting her power? According to her Twitter account, over 6,700 stupid souls do follow her. Again, “stupid” is not an insult. These are people who, in Bonhoeffer’s words, have been made stupid and allowed this to happen to themselves. I’ll let you count for yourself the number of people in that one video segment (including Jim Bakker whom you only hear) who are clamoring for so much power over others.

Stupid people are on my mind again because we are now over two years since the Novel Coronavirus first appeared on the scene in China. We are 20 months…yes, 20…since the National Emergency began. Through 2021 we have all been yearning for a return to “normal.” Yet, we learned this week COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. in 2021 are higher than they were in 2020, even with vaccines widely available, accessible to most Americans, and usually free. Look, I know there are legitimate reasons why people cannot take the COVID-19 vaccines, but stupidity should not be one of them. Let’s be honest…stupidity accounts for millions of people refusing the vaccine.

Yesterday, as American’s were celebrating a mostly “in person” Thanksgiving, news was breaking about a new “heavily mutated” COVID-19 variant in South Africa, Botswanna, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel that is scaring the pudding out of epidemiologists and researchers. Overnight, European countries that were reopening are closing again to travelers from South Africa. Earlier today, Friday, November 26th, the World Health Organization named the new variant Omicron. In the same article New York Times reports the U.S. is closing its borders to seven countries in Africa. Curiously, though, we are not closing to Hong Kong, Belgium, and Israel. Hmmm.

Bear in mind what Bonhoeffer said about stupid people. They are more dangerous than evil people.

Why is this?

When people become stupid they relinquish their intellect and common sense to another person who needs them to do this so they can feel powerful. Whether it is an End Times preacher, a spouse, a colleague, a boss, a leader, a politician, or even a president it matters little. The effect on the stupid person is the same: they give up the ability to think critically for oneself. They become a mindless clone for person who seeks to control them like a puppet. As the Bonhoeffer video illustrated, they even begin to sound like the person who has taken their intellect, sense, and power. Hence, they become a weaponized minion of the powerful one.

If we are to find our way out of the pandemic, we’ve got to help free the people who are stupid about the pandemic. Bonhoeffer writes,

Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Frankly, I’m not sure what “external liberation” looks like in this situation, especially in an age when social media holds so many people captive to the unadulterated, unmediated crap it flings at us.

I do believe in the power of relationship to help people find a way out of stupidity. Daryl Davis, in his TEDx Talk, gives us some hope for how to use relationship to liberate people from their stupidity. However, like Davis, we have to find the will to act and the courage to engage.

If you liked this TEDx talk, you may also enjoy the longer documentary from PBS about Davis, Accidental Courtesy.

Remember, as Bonhoeffer wrote, “The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.”


Farewell to Facebook…er the Meta-verse

In case you hadn’t heard, Facebook has a new name. The new name for the company that we used to know simply as Facebook is Meta. The name change came at a time shortly after Frances Haugen (aka The Facebook Whistleblower) went public with everything she knew about the nefarious company and its leadership. At a time when the company is being seriously questioned about its power and its abuse of power, it decides to announce that it desires even more power…you know, Meta power! Sigh. Now, doesn’t THAT give you confidence in the leadership of Meta?

For me, that was it. I decided to leave all things Facebook in October. Honestly, I can’t remember when I’ve felt better! It’s a great feeling to be unhooked from that time, brain, and soul sucking platform. Okay, so that’s how I experienced those platforms it and I respect you if that is not your experience. Just don’t try to Messenger me. You can still reach me through this blog or in the following ways:

Leaving all things Meta means I won’t be sharing this blog on Facebook, What’s App, Messenger, Instagram, etc. You are welcome to share it in anyway you like. I’ll still speak to you and count you as a friend. But my divorce from Meta is now final.

A Complicated Patient – Part 2

It’s been a while, eh? Yeah, I know. I haven’t had the chance to do much driveling recently. I had good intentions of posting before this but…well, you know…stuff happens and the next thing you know it is the last weekend of October and you find yourself prioritizing stocking up on Trick or Treat candy.

This year I worked especially hard to convince Clemencia that we really needed to stock up. (Snickers is my…uh…Trick or Treater’s favorites.) I built a flawless case for having two or three bags of Snicker’s ready to go for the big night. I was masked up and ready to go to Shopper’s Food Warehouse to pick them up when she asked: So, how many Trick or Treaters are you expecting?

  • “Oh, quite a few,” I said.
  • “Like, how many?” she pressed.
  • “You know, a LOT,” I pressed back.
  • “Uh huh,” she said with way too much skepticism in her voice. “And where are these Trick or Treaters going to come from since this is a 55+ active adult community and no children live in our building?”
  • “Oh, everywhere,” I said. “From all over Laurel. You know, the whole town is not a 55+ community.”
  • “Uh, huh,” she said again with even more skepticism than before. “And mi amor, how are they going to actually get into our condo building? You know you have to have a key or a code to get in the lobby door.”

Okay, so maybe my plan wasn’t flawless. Alas, I will be sans Snickers on All Hallow’s Eve.


Now to Part 2 of A Complicated Patient

You may remember that I posted a long blog about my lateral whackalectomy back on July 4, 2021. I really thought that was the end of it. I even shared the blog with Dr. B, the surgeon, at my post-surgical checkup in August. She laughed as she read it which I took as a good sign.

Then I got a bill for $227.11. My first thought was that maybe Dr. B didn’t find the blog as funny as I imagined she had. Upon closer examination, I realized it was a charge from the Famous Local Hospital where the surgery was performed. It was very unclear what the charge covered.

Since the expense had been denied by my insurance company, I called the hospital billing department to learn more. The person I spoke with was helpful. I learned the hospital had coded the expense as a “self-administrable drug” which she described as a wound “packing” that the surgeon puts into a surgical wound to help stop bleeding. Since I was unconscious and intubated at the time this “self-administrable drug” was inserted into my wound, I asked her how it could be considered “self-administered.” She said she didn’t know but that is how it was coded.

I called my insurance provider. I explained to the insurance provider what I had been told by the hospital. I also explained that to the best of my knowledge the only “self-administrable drug” provided was a prescription for five (only five) oxycodone for pain (which I never used). The insurance customer service person was helpful. He said, “You know, I’m not sure why they coded it that way. I’m thinking if they re-code it and submit it again we’d probably pay for it.

Back to the hospital billing department. My call went to voicemail so I went to the secure patient portal and sent this note, encouraged by the promise that they would respond within 3 business days.

Hi folks,

My bill shows a fee of $227.11 for which I am responsible. My insurance company indicates this was reported to them as a “self-administrable drug” by Famous Local Hospital. A Famous Local Hospital billing department representative tells me it was specifically for a “gelatin sponge” material that was inserted in my surgical wound while still on the table to minimize bleeding.

This clearly seems to be part of a surgical procedure (which is hardly “self-administrable.” 🙂 ).

I do not know if this was coded as a “self-administrable drug” by error or if that is standard procedure. In either case, the coding does not seem to fit the procedure. Primarily I would appreciate it if you would re-submit it to Insurance Provider with a different billing code as they might reconsider payment on the charge if it were resubmitted under a different billing code. If this doesn’t cover it, and since Famous Local Hospital is referring to this as a “drug,” then it seems reasonable to submit it to my prescription drug insurance provider. Thank you for your consideration.

August 18, 2021

I did not get a response within three business days. In fact, a month later, on September 13, 2021, I sent the same message under this topic heading: “STILL waiting for a response to this inquiry.” Then, ten days later on September 23, 2021, I sent the same message again but with this topic heading: “No response, no payment.” I included this introductory paragraph:

I’m still waiting for a response to this message sent on August 18th, 2021 and again on September 23. These previous inquiries have been viewed so I assume they are being ignored. I will be ignoring future bills until I receive a reply and explanation.

September 23, 2021

Finally, I got a call from someone at the Famous Local Hospital billing department. She told me she would send me an itemized bill and I could submit on my own.

  • “Uh, what good would that do me if you don’t recode the expense?” I asked.
  • “We can’t recode it. You have to submit as it is,” the person replied.
  • “Why can’t you recode it?” I asked.
  • No response from the person except to say, “I’ve just sent you the itemized bill.”

And, indeed, it appeared in my secure patient portal as an itemized bill. Since nothing had changed and I was not given any coherent reason, I decided not to pay and let them call me back, in the fullness of their accounting time, to try to collect it from me.

They did…in early October. This time I got a person who seemed a bit more logical and flexible:

  • “Are you refusing or unable to pay?” she asked.
  • “No, not at all,” I said, “but I don’t think I should have to pay. This was not submitted to my insurance provider with the proper code.”
  • “What makes you think that?” she asked.
  • “My insurance company told me that. That was the likely reason it was denied it. It was for a surgical procedure that I could not have performed on myself,” I explained.
  • “What do you mean?” she asked.
  • “Well, here’s the deal. I was under general anesthesia, I was intubated, and even if I had been conscious, I would have had to be a contortionist to insert the packing into the wound myself. Therefore, how can this be considered a “self-administrable drug.”
  • There was a long silence. Finally, she said, “You know, my colleague did send you an itemized bill and you can submit it yourself.”
  • “Yes, I could,” I said, “and it would still be denied because of how it has been coded.”
  • Another long silence. “I think I should send this up to my supervisor,” she finally said.
  • “I think that’s a great idea” I affirmed.

So, you see, I remain a complicated patient and I remain waiting for a response and resolution. Yes, there will be a Part 3. Oh, and have you heard about the new self-administrable kidney transplant?


In Other News

After I post this blog, I am deleting my Facebook, Instagram, and What’s App accounts. As the bit of t-shirt wisdom says, “I’ve got one nerve left and you’re getting on it.” The mounting evidence of Facebook’s complicity in fomenting incivility, the growth of hate groups, sexism, racism, violence, and even insurrection against our country has, for me, reached a tipping point. Also, I’m not convinced the “insurrection” on January 6th wasn’t actually an act of “treason.” As the investigations move forward, I wonder if we will learn more that could result in a reclassification of that event.

My decision to finally leave was based on two things that I read. First, my son’s own Facebook post explaining why he was leaving the platform. His reasoning was personal, powerful, and flawless. He accused Facebook of failing to fulfill its promise to bring people closer together. I agree. We are a very divided country in many regards right now and Facebook has made a substantial contribution to creating and maintaining it. I’m sorry you cannot read his post now…his Facebook account is gone.

The second thing I read was a blog shared with me by a colleague. It is a post from Momentum Nonprofit Partners in Memphis, Tennessee titled “This Blog Post Is Sure to Outrage You! Click Here!” Since this blog was originally published in 2020, Momentum has taken the step of no longer being active on Facebook. Their rationale just made a lot of sense to me. Their statement says,

After careful review of our mission and values, we have determined that Facebook does align with our values as an organization and our commitment to creating positive change in our community.

Momentum Nonprofit Partners, October 14, 2021

After reflecting on the focus of my professional work on the Tenacious Change Approach for the last several years and what I’m trying to teach people in the use of it, I have to agree with Momentum…it does not align with my business values. Even more, Facebook does not align with the personal values I attempt to live, however imperfectly.

After I leave Facebook (and its affiliated platforms of Messenger, What’s App, and Instagram), I am not going away. You can still stay connected to me by following this blog, emailing me at ihaveopinionated@gmail.com, and adding my text number to your list of phone contacts: ‪(240) 583-1754‬. Also, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, on Twitter (@TomKlaus), or search for me on Signal.

Already I’m not missing Facebook. But I will miss you if we don’t stay in touch.


If You Have Three Hours to Spend with Netflix…

May I recommend that you check out Colin in Black and White? This is a powerful documentary about a young Colin Kaepernick, how he developed as an athlete, and came to embrace his identity as a young Black man.

I know. That sounds pretty heavy, huh? It is at times, but it is also sweet and funny. Kaepernick and Ava DuVernay co-created the documentary. They achieved a balance that makes it possible for people to hear the messages in the film, regardless of how they see Kaepernick.

I’d like to tell you more about the film but I’m going to stop here because I don’t want to risk any spoilers.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Returns…or Did It Never Leave?

Who doesn’t want to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind them? I do. My unconscious desire to do so must be stronger than I knew. I have one browser dedicated to the COVID-19 monitoring sites but it has been months since I visited them. Until today. What I found was unnerving. But you can see for yourself.

In my Edge browser I have permanently appearing tabs for:

National Public Radio (NPR) reported on July 16th what the IHME data is beginning to show: a steady increase in the number of deaths nationally for the first time in nine months. In fact, by November 1, the number of deaths in the U.S. by COVID-19 will be close to exceeding the number of deaths from 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, approximately 675,000. Yes, the population of the U.S. in 1918 was much less than it is now so the percentage of the population that died was higher then. Still, 675,000 moms, dads, grandparents, children, friends, colleagues, etc.

We have protocols that work for preventing the spread of the COVID-19, even the Delta variant which is now responsible for most infections in the U.S. You know, them, so let’s say them together: Masking, maintaining physical distance, and getting fully vaccinated. However, as you’ve heard by now, not everyone is doing all three, and some are not doing any of the three.

As NPR reported, Anthony Fauci told Meet the Press on July 4th that 99% of recent COVID deaths were among the unvaccinated. This week CDC director Rochelle Walensky added that 97% of COVID-19 hospitalizations were due to unvaccinated individuals. Also on the 16th, the website AL.com reported that nine children were hospitalized in Alabama hospitals with COVID-19 and one was on a ventilator. All of this has led Walensky to state the facts as they are. This is now “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

Sorry for the upcoming sports analogy, but, geez, this feels like one of those moments when we could have put away the game but then we…well, we blew it. We took our eyes off the ball, we started celebrating before we crossed the goal line, we thought the clock had run out, we thought we could just tap it in – apply any other “almost but not quite” sports analogy you like. The fact is, we are failing and, still, the solutions are so simple. We can be better than this. But are we? I hope the 2121 history books show that we were.


This just in before publication this morning…the New York Times is reporting on a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The poll indicates that some who have been resisting getting vaccinated are changing their minds. This is good news and small step in the right direction. There are three themes that have emerged from the data that explain why they are changing:

  • Seeing that millions of other Americans have been safely vaccinated.
  • Hearing pro-vaccine messages from doctors, friends, and relatives.
  • Learning that not being vaccinated will prevent people from doing some things.

A Slowed Drivel

It has been since March 1 that I have posted anything. It is not that I have run dry on drivel. Instead stuff happens and I am still trying to make sense of things as they are right now. Here, instead, are a few updates and other bits of nonsense.


Klutz Happens

On March 1 I reported on my eye surgery and the arrival of Ebeneezer (Ebie), our new rescue schnauzer. My eye is nicely healed (20/15 distance vision) and I am beginning to beg my ophthalmologist to let me proceed with having the cataract in my right eye fixed as well. Ebie is settling in and we are learning that he has a special ability…which I will share with you later.

What I did not report, though, was that I tried to act like I was 17 again and paid the price. I was walking Ebie three days after he arrived and he was still very skitterish about his new home and surroundings. As I was trying to unlock the door to our building I dropped the leash and the two “doggy bag” containers attached to it made a big noise when they hit the sidewalk. It scared Ebie and he took off like a tiny, gray rocket. I gave chase.

I thought I had him cornered by a neighbors fence when he to took off again. In a nanosecond I thought, “If I attempt a shoestring tackle I think I can grab the leash as he goes by.” He shot by, I was wrong, and I landed with all of my 186 pounds on a fully extended right arm and shoulder. I heard something go “pop” in my upper right arm as I struggled to get up. Ebie, by this time, was standing calmly in the middle of the sidewalk looking at me. I guess the “pop” in my arm was not loud enough to scare him away further…or maybe he just wanted to know what the noise was…or maybe he was curious about my muffled scream of pain.

He did wait patiently while I limped my way over to his leash and picked it up off the ground…with only a bit more pain. Turns out I damaged by my rotator cuff. I did not tear it so no surgery required. Still, it has taken time to heal and I have had to put off golfing for a little while longer.

My real inner klutz appeared though only two weeks ago. Clemencia, Ebie, and I went for a Sunday afternoon walk on the path that runs through our neighborhood. It was a beautiful afternoon after a morning filled will heavy showers. As we walked on the asphalt path, I heard a helicopter flying overhead.

Now, helicopters are not unusual in our skies. We live on the flight path between Washington, DC and Fort Meade and the National Security Agency. There are official helicopters flying over all the time. We also have a hospital about a mile from our home that receives patients by medical helicopters. As a young Iowa farm boy I used to run to the middle of the yard to see an airplane fly over whenever I heard one in the distance. Today all I have to do is look out my windows to see a helicopter go by and even jetliners on approach to BWI airport.

On this occasion, though I have heard and seen hundreds of helicopters fly over our home, I decided I wanted to see this one in particular. So I looked up and kept walking…just as the asphalt path took a slight bend to the left. I stepped off the curb, fought to regain my balance, lost the battle, and landed hard on my knees, hands, shoulder (yes, the injured shoulder), and my head – in that order. Then, for added measure, in a manly attempt to get up quickly, I rolled over into an exquisite mud puddle and soaked my entire backside. There I lay…bloody, bruised, and caked with mud.

All of this to say…I’ve spent a good part of my time since March 1 healing up and doing my best to corral my inner klutz again.


A Few Updates

When I started this blog on March 17, 2020 I had not expected it to last very long and as it went on I introduced a variety of characters. I realized this week I have not kept you abreast of developments with them.

Bert Left and Ernie Right are two wool socks readers met on Day 2 of this blog. They are notorious because I wore them everyday for many, many, many days in this blog. Eventually took on a life and personality of their own – cantankerous personalities if I may be frank. They are still around and I see them occasionally. However, they seem to be spending a lot of time with Beto and Enrique. Readers met Beto Isquierda and Enrique Derecha on Day 15. They appeared as two sunbathing wool socks from Clemencia’s sock drawer. I think they appeared as a response to my sock offensive with Bert and Ernie. The rumor is that the four socks may be plotting something though it is not yet clear what it is. I will probably have to send spies to check them out.

Winthrop Dykstra-Baum appeared on Day 19 of this blog. He is a legendary public radio news personality but, unfortunately, he fell on hard times. He became radicalized and became more so over time. Eventually he left public radio and joined up with Badger New Network. Unfortunately for Windy, Badger News struggled after the attempted coup on January 6th. They were called out for their promotion of what has become known as “The Big Lie” and lost a boatload of corporate advertising. Just to be safe, the Badger News Network is focused now on covering roadkill (you know, like badgers, wolverines, skunks, squirrels, bad toupees, etc.). Windy is now the Senior Editor for “The Stinking Badger Daily,” a roundup of roadkill obituaries.

Alonzo and Starlee are two friends whom we see weekly via Zoom. They introduced us to a way to address one of the greatest challenges in the early days of the pandemic. Remember when it appeared every square of toilet paper in the world was going to be stored in a secret locked vault owned jointly by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and that family of red bears in the Charmin commercial? (Uh oh, might that have just been another “brilliant” QAnon delusion…I mean…conspiracy theory?) Alonzo and Starlee joined the blog on Day 27 when they told us about the magic of the portable bidet. We quickly ordered ours…and received them about a month later. We have them now, though, for the next big run on TP.

Recently we were telling Alonzo and Starlee about the unique ability we have discovered that Ebie possesses. It turns out that Ebie can…well…you know…talk. And he is especially inclined to talk after he has been reading The Guardian. Not sure what that is about; it just is. Alonzo and Starlee did not seemed surprised that I could hear Ebie talking because they have a talented rescue dog too, named Jake.

After I shared some of Ebie’s insights and analysis with Alonzo and Starlee they encouraged me to share some of them in this blog. With Ebie’s permission I will do that. But not in this blog. Next time.

Recommended Reading

Looking for some thought provoking reading? Here are a a few articles I have been pondering.

Letters from an American – March 23, 2021 – An interesting piece from Heather Cox Richardson on the meaning of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.

White Evangelicals Do Not Intend to get Vaccinated

The Vital Role of Bystanders in Convicting Derek Chauvin

First America Caucus Platform – This is not an article but it is policy platform of the America First Caucus which a few extremist Republicans were trying to promote. The backlash was so strong that they quickly distanced themselves from it however it is worth reading to see how much worse things could be.


Photo Credit for Featured Image Above

I took the photo of the bags of Sterzing’s Potato Chips however that is not where the credit lies. The credit lies with my sister Jan who sent them to me for my birthday last week. They are made in Burlington, Iowa, near my hometown. She knows I love them because, after all, they are the best potato chip in the world…not just “possibly” as their website header claims.


The View from Jeff

Jeff Explains: It may have been watching too much Str Wars over the holidays, or too many Zoom meetings with too little Just For Men … or a combination of all those factors, but I am sure that there is a clear Rebel Alliance logo in my facial hair.

Be safe, be well, and get your vaccination. Do the right thing for others by continuing to wear your mask, keep distance, wash your hands, and, in every way and every day, stand up for accountability, justice, and peace in our country and our world.

Recovery

When Dolly left us in January, Clemencia and I were very clear with one another: “No more dogs.” Then it was, “No dog for at least six months.” Then we said, “Since we are not going to be getting a dog again, what can it hurt to activate a PetFinder account? We are suckers for rescue dogs but we are adults…we can just look and read their stories.” Then we saw Ebie.

He was a toy schnauzer. We have always had miniature schnauzers and did not want a smaller dog. He was a boy. We have always preferred females. He was not neutered…yet. That worried us. Even more worrisome was his description in Petfinder. Across the top it read, in all caps:

PLEASE READ. PLEASE READ. PLEASE READ. PLEASE READ.

The description read a lot like the side effects warnings you hear on pharmaceutical ads. You know what I mean. The announcer’s voice is usually sped up so fast no human can possibly understand them and when you can make them out you are tempted to conclude that the cure may be worse than the disease. Ebie’s description was full of those kinds of warnings.

Ebie in the first few minutes at home with us.
  • He is only 60% house trained.
  • He chews things…and seems to especially like power cords.
  • He was a bit snippy when he arrived at the foster family’s home…but he has not actually eaten other small pets or children…that we know of.
  • He’s not neutered yet but we think he will stop marking things once he has had the operation.
  • We don’t know how old he is but our best guess is that he is about 5 years old.
  • He is an extremely messy eater…and often pounces on all the treats before the other dogs can get theirs.
  • We think he’s a schnauzer…but we are not sure because he was terribly overgrown when he was rescued and he is still shaggy.

It was such an odd description for a rescue because it almost sounded like they were trying to discourage people from applying.

Ah, but they did not how much we like lost causes! It only made us more eager to welcome this uncivilized goofball into our home. “After all,” Clemencia said, “He’ll fit right in.” I was puzzled what she meant by that until I realized she was Colombian lip pointing toward me.

In the end, our application was approved, we were chosen by the foster parents, and we welcomed Ebie home on February 17.

When he came to us, we did not expect much except headaches but we were ready for it. We realized, after Dolly’s death, that we are hopelessly dog people.

Ebie falling asleep in Tom’s arms…just before getting his first schnauzer haircut.

We were pleasantly surprised when we realized there was more to Ebie than the description we had read. He has had very few accidents in the house. He is getting used to riding the elevator…even gets onto it by himself now, though he still cannot seem to reach the buttons despite our best training efforts. He has not chewed anything and we still have all of our fingers and toes. He has quickly bonded with us and become a loving pet. He got a clean bill of health from our vet yesterday. He really is a schnauzer; I gave him his first schnauzer haircut today and, wow, he is guapo (Spanish for “handsome”).

His foster family did an amazing job of introducing him to civilization again and helping him feel like a real pet and a member of the family. After a little more than three months with them, he was ready to come to our home. He has fit right in. He responds almost immediately to training (schnauzer’s are a very smart breed). He comes, sits, lies down, and rolls onto his hip – all on command….just like me! His leash training is going well and he loves to walk – which is really good for our health…just like me, though I am still not fond of the leash. He likes to play…a lot…just like me, but I prefer golf over the chew toys.

He is not shy about asking to crawl into your lap. This morning he asked to climb into my lap. He likes to lay in the crook of my arm (the same way you would cradle an infant) and fall asleep (see the picture above).

In a year that has seen so many of us traumatized by the pandemic, the critical illnesses and deaths of family and friends, electioneering, and the attempted violent coup of our country, all of us are in need of recovery…lots of recovery. Ebie is part of our recovery and we are part of his. We saw pictures of Ebie on the day he was rescued. He was unrecognizable as a dog and certainly not as a schnauzer. His living conditions were worse than anything we have seen on the ASPCA commercials.

Ebie was a dog looking for a chance to recover. So are we all.


Recovery of Sight

TheDailyDrivel.com has been silent for a while because I have had to take a little time off for an essential surgery and recovery. In late January I had eye surgery to remove a cataract and replace the lens in my left eye. The surgery was actually pretty cool…especially for a guy who hates any kind of cutting on any body part. It was painless and was mostly like attending a 45-minute firework show. That’s all I saw while the surgery was being done…fireworks. Yep, pretty cool and I did not have sit in the park swatting mosquitoes just to see the show.

From the moment the patch was removed from my eye 18 hours later, I could see again. The vision in my left eye was 20/40 immediately and everything was in brilliant, living color. For the first time in my life I had distance vision in my left eye. I was able to return to work on a limited basis within three days…and would have done so earlier except for one thing. My right eye is still very near-sighted, has a cataract, and trying to make visual sense of the world with one eye seeing distance only and one eye seeing up close only was a bit daunting. It took me about a week before the juxtaposition of the vision (is that even a thing?) began to work for me.

I am now a month out of surgery and am down to just one eye drop each day that I am required to use. My eyes continue to adjust and I’m getting accustomed to the new eyesight. What I am NOT getting used to is life without glasses. I have a hard time recognizing myself in the mirror and I keep trying to put on glasses. I did, however, enjoy having an eye patch for a bit. It inspired this meme that I created with a little help from my friends Lorenzo and Starlee who sent me the pirate gear as a post-surgery get well gift.


Recovery of a Kind of Faith

One of my favorite British comedies is The Vicar of Dibley. The show starred comedienne Dawn French as the first female vicar of a rural parish in England. It first aired as a regular series in 1994. Since 2000 it has aired intermittently with special episodes. What I always liked about the show is that it had lots of fresh British humor and it reminded me of the best of the Bob Newhart series’ in which he was the reasonably normal but quirky person surrounded by unusual, odd characters.

Recently I came across the latest release from December 2020, The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown on YouTube. The Vicar of Dibley always struck an interesting balance between matters of faith and matters of hilarity. French and her crew did the same again in this episode. I thought you might enjoy it.

Now, if you’d like more of The Vicar of Dibley, I encourage you to check out YouTube. It’s easy…just search YouTube for “The Vicar of Dibley” or, if you have Britbox, you can see most of the episodes there, or check with your local PBS listings as it is often in reruns on local stations.


Recovery of Sanity and Civility

This week a few items in the media caught my attention.

Two were in the The Washington Post. One had to do with the impact of the QAnon conspiracy cult on families. This is not the first time I have come across news items related to QAnon and its association with cult-like ideology and behavior. I do not have any good reason to argue against the framing of QAnon as a cult. It seems to have many of the same characteristics and the people who join it seem to be exhibiting the same kind of troubling and irrational behavior that is common among cult adherents. It is painful for their families, as this article highlights.

I have long been concerned about White Evangelicals and their love affair with the 45th president. On February 11th Christianity Today has reported something even more concerning about White Evangelicals. CT reported on a study done by the conservative American Enterprise Institute in late January that found 1 in 4 White Evangelicals were being swayed by QAnon conspiracy theories and report believing them. At 27% this was more than any other religious group but slightly less than the 29% percent of all Republicans who reported believing them. I find both of these percentages disturbing.

Speaking of QAnon, CNN Special Reports aired last night (February 27) “Inside the QAnon Conspiracy.” We recorded it and watched. It was…well…absolutely fascinating. I recommend you check the CNN listings and catch it in a future airing.

The other story from the Washington Post was the story of a man who has been attempting to engage in civil conversations with his neighbors in New Hampshire who are ardent followers of the 45th president, the Big Lie (and many little ones) he told, and, possibly, QAnon conspiracies. It is an interesting article and provides a bit of inspiration as well as reality testing if you are thinking about doing the same thing with friends, family, or neighbors.

If you are seriously thinking about how to engage with people who are different from you politically, whatever your affiliation, I suggest you consider connecting with Braver Angels, a group that is attempting to facilitate engagement and communication between people who are on different sides of the political divide…primarily the Democrat and Republican divide. For $12.00 per year you can join and have access to their debates, videos, and other resources. Also, they now have state coordinators throughout the United States you can connect with and who can, in turn, connect you with others who are part of Braver Angels.

I have joined Braver Angels. I do not know if the group has THE answer but I think it has part of the answer. The question is: How do we recover sanity and civility as a society?

No, that is not a misstatement. I really do think the two are linked. The Big Lie of the 45th president and the conspiracies of QAnon are not rational, have been widely and repeatedly disproved, and, therefore, it is not sane to cling to them as if they are real. They lie at the heart of the incivility we are experiencing as a country and, dare I say, society. They present a worldview that is unattached from reality and truth.

Civil discourse benefits from, and usually requires, agreement on the terms of reality.

As long as one part of our country is so detached from reality and the 45th president continues to empower them with his lies, we are going to struggle to recover our ability to engage each other productively, respectfully, and with civility again.

Our responsibility as Americans seems pretty clear. We need to renew and redouble our efforts to address the QAnon conspiracy cult and provide a way of recovery for family, friends, and others we care about. Are we our brothers’ (sisters’) keeper…even if that brother, sister, mother, or father has been taken in by the 45th president and QAnon? Yes, but, realistically, it will not be easy for them, or any of us, to recover from the lies, the insanity, and the damage.


The View from Jeff
Jeff Explains: I thought that my male pattern balding meant I would never have to worry about hat hair again… now those masks put creases in my beard!!

With appreciation to my friend and colleague Jeff Logan for allowing me to repost his work here. Be sure to visit Jeff’s Instagram page for more of his doodle and drawings.


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