Thank you, Father, for the uncountable and innumerable blessings you've poured into my life.
Thank you Corinne for the love in your eyes and the touch of your hands and your humor and for putting up with mine and for sticking with me even when all seemed lost.
Thank you Lauren for being such a sweet, smart girl and for lighting up so brightly whenever you see us. I dare say I've learned as much from you as you have from me.
Thank you Mom and Dad for raising me, for teaching me the way I should go, for helping me to see the wonder and beauty and hope and humor in this life on God's Way.
Thank you Mikel and Shannon for adopting Corinne and I as surrogate parents, for letting us love you and Richie, Lauren and Sam, for coming home again, for letting Lauren still be such a huge part of my our life.
Thank you Katie for being one of the most wonderful people I know. Come home!
Thank you Ellyn for agreeing to be my only big sister (instead of my aunt), for forgiving me for NOT being there when you needed me a few years ago, and for loving me like only a big sister can. ;-)
Thank you Ben and Mandi for becoming more than "just cousins" to me this year. I love you both.
Thank you also to Lilly for being one of Lauren's best friends!
Thank you Steve for the excellent discussions of the truth and our life in it, for the many hours together on our bikes, for your patient and constant work to reunite something which looks permanently broken to so many others.
Thank you Mark for being there whenever anyone needs you, for always trying to be The Blessing that we seek for our brothers and sisters, and for being one of my oldest friends.
Thank you Darren for keeping me sharp, as David says, "like iron sharpeneth iron!" I've learned things from you, too, that I didn't seem to be learning anywhere else.
Thank you Frank and Bonnie for loving Lauren so much, and Frank for our new friendship!
Thank you Jim and Dee for trying to see past (or ignoring) my foibles, for being our friends, and for always reminding us to keep the Kingdom of God at the top of the list and the front of our minds.
Thank you Eric and Bonny for forgiving me for my temper (which got the better of me a couple years ago) and for everything you bring to our ecclesia.
Thank you Rich for the friendship and the work over the years. 7 ½ years!
Thank you Joseph and Andy for the work and the chance to make something(s) fun.
Thank you Corinne for the love and magic you work in the kitchen, and for how much you love to share it with our brothers and sisters (and anyone else who eats real food).
Thank you Robin for coming back into Corinne's life. She's my best friend, and you've made me happy by making her happier than I could do alone.
Thank you to Kim and Dave and Tiff and Joshua and Jed and Sarah and dozens or hundreds of other people, too many to list, who have brought love or peace or adventures or joy or laughter into my life, who have taught me something, or somehow managed to learn something from me.
Thank you, Father, for blessing us all so thoroughly, and for providing each of us as blessings to each other.
(There's a point to this, but you have to read the whole thing to get it!)
I was reading a tech article and actually noticed an ad. (That's almost bizarre enough to merit a mention!) The ad was for Emirates Air. Specifically for, "First class private cabins between JFK and Milan." The ad's photo implied extreme comfort and luxury.
Note that I am NOT in the market for tickets to Milan. Or anywhere else.
Just out of curiosity, I clicked the ad and eventually figured out how to search for the fares for these first class flights.
Now I should point out that Emirates Air actually has a decent reputation, from what I've heard on NPR. They have budget seats.
These aren't them.
The highest and lowest rates are highlighted, both near the middle of the table.
Who would ever, EVER, pay that kind of money for two people to fly anywhere on someone else's plane and schedule?
The high rate is so high that the lowest rate almost seems reasonable until you think about it in the absolute sense.
But, I suppose if you're a billionaire and your private jet is in the shop or you have family going multiple directions, $44,000 (boggle...) is just money.
After all, a man with $1,000,000,000 in the bank looks at $44,000 the same way a man with $10,000 looks at $0.44.
Yeah, that's right. Forty-four cents to the man with ten thousand dollars is forty-four thousand dollars to the man with a billion dollars.
OK, so I went to the extreme by bringing in Billionaires. There are plenty of them around these days (over 1,600), but there are a lot more ten-millionaires (over a million). So how does someone with $10,000,000 in the bank see a $44,000 airfare? The same way a man with $10,000 sees a $44.00 airfare.
This brings me, in my own round about way, to something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately. I often hear people talk about how generous this-or-that rich member of their church or ecclesia has been. It's clear that there is some gratitude there, but also that a bit of pedestal building has happened. That rich person has been elevated in someone's mind because of the generous donations made to the church.
How do those generous donations compare to the person's resources, though? If you had $10,000 in the bank, would you only donate 44 cents to your worthy causes and charities?
I'm trying to make a point without being blunt or sounding accusatory, so let me finish with a quote from a much wiser man than myself:
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
I still ride a lot. I can't believe it's been five years since I posted my rides here, though.
These days I track my rides on Strava.
The weather has been extremely weird this year, as we've only had a few warm days and it's already the second half of May. That's resulted in less riding than I'd like, but to be honest I think I say something like that every year.
And the current weather report shows rain... rain, and more rain. Starting late morning and lasting through next Saturday. Since the weatherpersons are always right, it looks like I won't be back on the bike again for a week.
It never seems to become any easier.
Like most people, I've said goodbye to my share of pets. Maybe more than my share, since we bred Birmans for a few years. The mortality rate of pure-bred kittens is, sadly, higher than with the mixed breeds. Plus there's the simple fact that they all die, eventually.
Unlike most people, though, I've also said goodbye to a stepson. Almost a decade later, the pain of Shane's death is indescribable. The loss of a child changes you, permanently, providing a perspective on life that isn't available any other way. (How much worse for Corinne, his mother…)
Then a few years ago we thought Lauren was gone, too. That was bad enough that I can safely compare it to the pain of losing Shane. In fact, the two are permanently linked in my mind. On a personal level, they were similar. Thank God she and her parents came back. I nearly lost my mind.
With all that behind me, you might think having to put another cat to sleep would be easier. You'd be wrong. I was wrong.
We called her Lovey, which was the end of her real name (Z'est “La Vie”).
She was nothing but trouble from the moment she came to us. Our first two Birmans died at about a year old from FIP. The breeder owed us replacements, of which Lovey was one. Along with her came ringworm, which swept through the cattery and ended our breeding for good. (Ringworm is nasty. Horrible. Especially with long-haired cats.) Once the ringworm was gone, she developed a sinus infection. She basically had a terribly runny nose for the last… uh… I'm not sure how many years. Too many. It was gross! Sneezing, coughing, blowing her nose all over everything, all the time.
Lovey was one of the most affectionate cats we ever had. Her breath (due to the sinus infection) was truly gag-tastic, but drop your guard for less than a second and you'd find yourself with a face full of cat giving you a bath, purring so loud that you'd think she's going to fall apart.
She begged like a dog, too. Right up to the end, she'd follow Corinne around the kitchen when she was cooking, meowing loudly until Corinne gave her a treat.
Even with plenty of eating, her weight dropped from 7 pounds two years ago to just 4.5 pounds today. Even seven pounds was light, 7.5 or 8 would have been better.
So, this afternoon, I asked Dr. Turco's office to euthanize yet another of our cats. She was well loved, and it finally came time to prove it the hardest way we know how. I cried a bit on the way home, and now I've spent almost an hour writing about it, because it just never gets any easier.
And Thank God for that, too.
The short answer to the question, “Hey, Seth, you look like you tried to swallow a baseball and it got stuck! Did you?” is, in fact, "Hah! No."
I don't blame you for wondering, though. The list of weird stuff that people unintentionally or unknowingly swallow starts with spiders and then gets weird. A baseball wouldn't be much of a stretch.
The long answer is as follows.
Saturday I worked at the hall with about a third of the ecclesia, cleaning up both inside and outside. We'd let the brush encroach on the yard a bit (a lot) too much, so most of my time was spent outside.
After stacking all of the chairs in the main room so that Darren and Ravi could vacuum, I went out to help with brush cleanup.
Or so I thought. Instead of brush, I cleaned up trees. I used Frank's chainsaw to cut down one tree to the right of the shed, then I climbed a ladder and cut a large branch from another tree.
After all the cutting, I dragged the trees and branches down to the parking lot, across the newly cleared spot behind the lot, all the way out to and over the stonewall.
I've done a lot of this kind of work. Really.
But I remember thinking, when I was dragging the largest piece, "Oh man this is the heaviest thing I've ever moved." I managed, though there were a few times that I drove my feet into the ground instead of moving the tree.
Later, Frank asked me to take down another tree which was already behind the stone wall. This one was much taller but wouldn't have to be dragged. Bonnie requested that I cut it up so they could take it home for burning, so I did, then I threw the logs out to the parking lot so she could gather them. (Nobody had a wheelbarrow or tractor.)
I was surprised at how totally exhausted I was by this point. In fact, I was nervous while cutting up that tree, as I was so tired that my hands felt weak and shaky. I'm comfortable with a chainsaw, but if I had continued to feel that way I would have put it down for the day.
Sunday morning I was still a bit tired, and my back was sorer than I expected. Not very surprising.
Monday morning, shortly after getting out of bed, I noticed that my back was still quite sore. Plus, I had a gigantic lump at the bottom of my neck! (Not *quite* big enough to actually be a baseball, but close enough. Certainly larger than a golf ball.)
Corinne starts trying to find an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor to see me soon. She's thinking I have some freakish cancer that, at the rate this thing grew in, will eat me whole within a couple of weeks. First appointment she gets is for Friday in Mystic, but later she gets one with Dr. Cameron today (Tuesday).
I figured it's a swollen lymph node (which means I have an infection). I've had them a couple of times before, though the only one this big was in my armpit in my early teens. A search on WebMD and eMedicineHealth seems to confirm my Nearly Professional Diagnosis, though I wasn't comforted by the warning that if the swollen node is immediately above the collarbone then medical attention should be immediately sought. (That is when Corinne found the appointment for Tuesday. She didn't like that warning either.)
With my back still hurting and feeling generally weak and maybe feverish, I take my Ibuprofen and try to work.
Tuesday morning my back hurt a little less, but the ball in my throat is as big and hard as ever. I feel slightly clumsy, but I figure that goes with feeling generally weakened. I'm also having a very hard time remembering the words "lymph node," so clearly the fever is affecting my brain.
Tuesday afternoon I go to see Dr. Cameron. He walks into the exam room and asks why I'm there. I lean my head back a bit and point, and he says, "Oh, you have a swollen thyroid!"
"Really? I thought it was a lymph node." He asks me to swallow.
"Nope, it's the thyroid. It's connected to your larynx, so it moves when you swallow. The lymph node would stay put. Same spot, though."
Now I'm worried. My grandmother had some significant thyroid issue at some point, but I don't remember what.
"Have you done any strenuous activity in the last few days?"
With that one question, all the stress of the last couple days evaporated. He clearly knew exactly what was wrong with me, and the way he asked the question clearly implied this was a common(-ish) problem.
So I explained what I had done, and he agreed that moving that one tree was probably what did it. I ruptured a blood vessel in my thyroid, and it swelled up with blood. Overnight it hardened when the blood coagulated.
It's called a Chocolate Cyst, because of the consistency of what it contains. Mmmm, like a nice blood pudding!
The treatment? Wait a couple of weeks for it to soften up, which means the coagulated blood has turned into a thick, oily liquid. He'll then tap and drain it right through the skin, in his office. He says it will never go down on its own.
By now you're surely wishing you'd stuck with the short answer, but at least now you can be sure that I did not, in fact, swallow a baseball.
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From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put. - WC