Thursday, July 27, 2017

Good Day, Bad Day

Wednesday was one of my best days in a long time.  I slept well, got up reasonably early, did my knee exercises and played all my piano pieces, prayed a rosary, read more of Merton’s essay on Faulkner, started reading Genesis and then headed off to see Rob.  He thought my breathing was much better and said it would be okay to go kayaking on Sunday.  He told me an amusing story about Noah having to dissect an animal heart and he really should write it up.  Then I went to my office and did a good bit of work straightening out the pile of letters and papers I haven’t filed.  I then rode my bike for 40 minutes and headed home in time for prayer and songs then dinner.


Thursday morning I was a little tired but I did get up and do my knee exercises and played through my piano pieces (not very well I must add).  I then drove to meet Jen Jordan at 2 and I think I was too aggressive with her, debating issues about God’s perfection instead of listening more.  I sent her a richly deserved apology, and I am going to do more thinking about what she said.  I am certainly struggling with my lack of faith and I am not sure what to do.  I will be heading to the reading group in a few minutes and I hope that goes well.  Dave was feeling a little down so I did have a nice talk with him and I hope it gets him out of his funk.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Not sure of pneumonia

Tuesday was an okay day.  The Holy Spirit group did calm me down some but I felt that asking for prayers for Lee, my roommate during chemo, seemed out of place.  I didn’t sleep well and ended up taking 2 2.5 mg valiums and 1 Trazadone.  I was pretty groggy in the morning but I did eventually do all my knee exercises, and played through all the sacred songs twice.  I also made good progress on changing my address.  I set up the electricity and I found out that basic cable and internet will cost about 80 and that would be affordable.  My hands are so slow but I am getting a little better at piano.  I decided to leave the hollow at 4 and I drove to Radford to give Claire her birthday present.  I then headed to my office to tidy up my files, which are getting messy.  My kayak friend emailed me and would like to go kayaking this Sunday, which may work if the antibiotics clear me up by Friday.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pneumonia again?

I thought today was going to go well.  I got home last night in time to do my prayers and songs.  I slept fine, getting up around 8:40 to do some more pruning on the orchard road, and walking a little to test my endurance.  I got home and rested some and the cough I have had for the past 2 weeks seemed a little worse even when I was sitting up.  I drove down to the pasture and decided to make an appointment with Rob for 3:30.  I went back home, did my knee exercises, read some more of Matthew and a Merton essay on peace, then organized the tool box in my truck, then finished separating all the tools that I won’t need when I move.  I did a wash and cleaned the dishes, then played piano through the six holy pieces I am working on.  I got to Rob’s a few minutes early and when he examined me he said he was very worried about me getting pneumonia again and having to end up in the hospital again.  That got me pretty upset and Rob sent me over to the Imaging center for a chest x-ray.  He also called in a prescription for Levofloxacin (500 mg), one pill per day for 5 days. He also wants me to use the Nebulizer again.   I drove right to the pharmacy, then since I needed to take it with food, I drove to McDonalds and had a chicken sandwich and a side salad.  I talked to Dave briefly and he was very concerned since he remembered my last bout with pneumonia where I ended up in the hospital for three days.  I called Rob back and he said I could ride my bike after the Holy Spirit group but stay on flat ground.  I am really upset but I hope the Holy Spirit group will calm me down.  


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Getting back to work on the orchard road and the house

Sunday turned out to be an okay day.  I was able to get up at 8:30 and do some more pruning on the orchard road, then I returned home for a rest, then went to work separating all the tools and stuff and made good progress.   I talked to David yesterday and told him that I wasn’t going to have the energy to clean the house and he said that I had done enough and I also mentioned that I would be leaving the stuff I didn’t need and he was okay with that.  I did my knee exercises and did a number of little things to get things more organized for the move.  I am certainly nervous about it, first the physical move and then the financial cost, which may cause me to look for a new place the following year.  I practiced some piano (going through all of the songs once) and I read more of Merton, although “The Philosophy of Solitude,” though an amazing effort, deals with a subject way out of my realm.  I did a good bit of praying and that always calms me some.  At about 4 I drove into Blacksburg, got rid of the garbage and recycling, and headed to McDonalds to put more of the Barron quotes into my computer and to do my blog.  I should finish by a little after 7 and that will give me time for a good bike ride and also time to drive back to the hollow to do my prayers and singing.   

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Finally, a little improvement

Saturday was a pretty good day.  I was able to get out of bed at around 8:30 and drive up to the orchard to trim a good part of it and run the lawn tractor for 15 minutes.  I rested when I returned home but did my knee exercises and my weights and yoga.  I read some more of Matthew and more of Merton, who is really interesting but seems to talk about people well beyond any place I’ll ever be.  I just want to create a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit and if I can do that, I will feel incredibly successful.  I am a very simple man who has lived a life without God and I think I can change that.  All the other mysterious and fascinating aspects will have to wait.  After getting showered and dressed, I drove to St. Mary’s and went to 5 pm Mass and I sat behind Joseph and his family.  I saw Jen with her husband Kevin and I talked to them briefly after the Mass.  I felt even more comfortable with the Mass and the singing and if my health continues to improve, I hope I can participate in the Stephen ministry.  It offers individual comfort to people with various problems and I think it would be a good thing for me.  Joseph thought that it would be a good place for me.  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Still Tired

Friday was another struggle to get up and I didn’t take a Zoloft, but after taking a 2.5 mg valium and waking up at 5, I took another 2.5 valium and 2 trazadones.  I did get back to sleep and didn’t get up till 9:30 but I couldn’t stay up long.  I read more of Matthew, three more Merton essays, and did my knee exercises, but really didn’t get up until after 3.  I did a lot of thinking about my relationship to God (and a lot of praying) but I still uncertain about things.   I am not sure if it is the effects of the reduction in prednisone (from 20 to 17 and ½), the withdrawal from the Zoloft or just the extra drugs I took to go back to sleep, but I need to get my energy back.  I did drive to the Tech Library (to charge my computer and to put in more quotes from Barron and Merton) and stayed about an hour and then I headed to McDonalds to email Jen and Joseph, and to do my blog.  I am hoping to go bike riding a little later and get home in time for evening prayers and songs.    Last night I called Judy to talk about my spiritual progress and she was very caring and told me a lot about how she became a good Catholic (she really is a holy person and I can’t believe how I missed that).  She advised going slowly and that I am on a good path and that gave me some comfort.   Joseph from the Holy Spirit group sent me a very supportive email and I responded so he would understand my situation a little better.  He thinks I am on a good path also, with my readings and my attendance at mass, reconciliation and communion.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

So Tired

Wednesday proved a pretty good day so far.  I was able to get up by 8:15 and trim the lower part of the road and then I went back to lie down for a bit but I got up and did my knee exercises and then get ready to go pick up my meds at Walmart and head to my office to do a few things and then meet with Jen and Jessica to discuss the rest of Luke Chapter 5.  I still don’t get the fear of God idea but Jen and Jessica made a good argument.   They feel that I will understand the fear of God as I connect more with him (am I connected at all?).  One of the things that astonishes me in my ignorance is how I have never worried about devils (I guess that is at the core of my agnosticism) but clearly real Catholics believe in them.  I took a quick nap and then drove to Blacksburg to do my bike ride.  I stayed inside the Perry street garage since it was shady and had a slight wind and then I rode home in time to do my prayers and songs.  I took a Zoloft around 9 and then I took a 2.5 mg. valium at about 12.  

Thursday was an awful day.  I slept until almost 8 but had to return to bed several times.  I separated a few things in the baskets but that was it.  I had to lie down and really didn’t get up until after 4.  When I talked to Rob later, he said it could be the Zoloft, the chemo, or the reduction in prednisone.  I felt the same way last Monday so I am going to stop the Zoloft or I will cease to function.  I did a lot of reading and thinking, rereading the first six chapters of Matthew and finding the later part of the Sermon on the Mount incredibly strict about anger being equated with murder and even to lust after someone is to commit adultery.  That is a pretty harsh god that Jesus represents so I guess that Jen and Jessica’s belief that the Old Testament God is the same as the New Testament one makes sense.  The earlier part of the sermon is much more compassionate.  I also read more of Robert Barron’s Vibrant Paradoxes and more an essay “The White Pebble” by Thomas Merton about his conversion to Catholicism and then to a monk and then to a priest.  His description of mass is absolutely transcendent.  I can’t ever hope for such lofty heights but I still am praying for a direct connection with the Holy Spirit.  That would be a wonderful start and maybe all I can achieve in what’s left of my life.  I prayed several rosaries today and I realize that I haven’t really loved anyone in my life (How sad!  I loved nature and fought to preserve it and I was always very fond of little kids but I never was really in love with an adult).  But I really think I can still have a loving relationship with the Holy Spirit so that would be so special and so important.    


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Very Bad Day and some better news

Monday was a real struggle and really a waste of time.  I had talked to Rob about getting bloodwork done at his office on Monday but obviously there was a miscommunication since the results wouldn’t be ready till Tuesday but Rob promised to send the results over at 8.  I got to his office around 10, and Valarie did her job as well as she always does, then I picked up some food and headed back home where I dropped off to be and had such a struggle getting out of bed.  I finally got out around 3 and decided to head into town to do my blog and then go to the Holy Spirit group at seven.  I was too tired to blog so I called Rob and told him what was going on and how I couldn’t get out of bed so he told me to stop the Zoloft which I was going to do anyway.  I parked in the Perry Street garage and rested until 6:15.  It was hot and I got all sweaty and I finally had to open all the windows to get some air in and I decided to drive about to air out my shirt and I put on some deodorant.  I mentioned to Joseph that I wasn’t feeling well and later he praised me for coming even though I wasn’t feeling well and asked for prayers for me.   It was a pretty powerful evening with about 20 people showing up and some pretty good singing.  Both Marys chatted with me afterwards but I still wasn’t feeling well and I was kind of numb driving home.  I had an orange and some steamed vegetables for dinner and went to bed around 11:15, taking a full valium and hoping for a decent night’s sleep but that was not going to happen and I kept checking the clock every 20 minutes or so.  Awful night but I finally got up around 6:15 and washed the dishes, took a shower and then packed up my stuff and headed out.

Tuesday is going to be a long day since the bloodwork got messed up again so I had to have the bloodwork done here even though I had it done at Rob’s yesterday.   Nurse Lorrie put the IV in around 9 (it took her two tries but it didn’t bother me much) and then finally we got the IV started around 10 so I won’t be getting out until around 9:45.  I had a roommate, Lee, a 28 year old fellow with stage 4 rectal cancer and he was getting 5-FU and Oxalyplatin.  He had a criminal past (non-violent) but we chatted quite a bit about Jesus and he also is looking for faith.  He told me to talk with his father Gerald when he came back and Gerald was impressive, telling me stories about his seeing Jesus and other folks seeing angels around him.  Eventually he knelt beside my bed and had me confess in front of Lee and Gerald’s pregnant young wife that I believed in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and he said that now the Holy Spirit had entered my heart.   I didn’t feel much of a change but I did appreciate his efforts.  Definitely an intense and interesting guy who certainly has the Holy Spirit in his heart.  Claire Hall also came to visit and it was nice to chat with her and while she was here Dr. Trivedi came by and said that my test results were better, that my blood level only a pint and a half down, and that the other figures were closer to normal.  She is okay with me going down to 17 and ½ on the prednisone but she thought I should wean myself off the Zoloft slowly, one pill tonight (I didn’t take any yesterday) and then skip a night then one pill, then two days off before taking another pill.  Sounds like a reasonable plan and I just hope that I can get some energy back.  It is almost astonishing how tired I became.  I am pretty sure it is the Zoloft although Trivedi said the chemo could also weaken me.  She also said that it is possible that if my numbers are good enough, that I may not need another chemo.  I took a twenty minute walk a half hour ago and I hope to get another one in before my 9 pm treatment. 


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Successful Yard Sale

Saturday was another tough morning to get up, but I was able to head to St. Mary’s by 10:30 and get there by 11.   There wasn’t much to do at first, but I helped load a few items for buyers.  The real work began around 1 when it was time to start boxing things up, starting with the books.   To me two people stood out, Sandi and Jim.  They were indefatigable.  I also met Dennis, Jerry and Cathy and Kate the gardener was there and very friendly.  Mary was handling the food and I chatted with her a little.  It was hard work getting everything outside for the Goodwill truck to pick up everything that was left.   estimated that we made 810 but the real figure was over 2200 so it was pretty successful.  I was exhausted when we finished around 4, putting away the tables and cleaning up. I did get a chance to go to confession before mass so I was able to go to communion.  However Rob called and wanted to go for a walk so took some pain reliever and then went to McDonalds, got a southwest salad, and then headed off for a nice walk with Rob at 7.  Rob thinks that once I get off the prednisone he will be able to take me off the Zoloft and that would be very good.  I did pretty well considering how tired I was.  I ended up visiting with the campers and had a fun time with them.   

Sunday was a struggle getting up (I ended up taking 2 2.5 valiums and one Trazadone because I woke around 2:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep).  However, around 8 I did get up and went out and used the trimmer around the house and I felt very good that I could accomplish that.  I had to lie down but I ended up doing my knee, exercises, cleaning out the bathroom drawers and organizing more stuff.  I also played some piano but I did rest a lot.   I have been reading Bishop Robert Barron’s Vibrant Paradoxes and there are many insightful things in it.  I also prayed quite a bit and read some more of the Gospel of John.  I am at McDonalds doing my blog and I think I am going to start putting my research in separate sections.  
  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thursday and Friday

Thursday morning I couldn’t get out of bed until almost 11.   It was a real struggle and when I finally did get up I was very lethargic, doing a few things around the house before heading in to the reading group which turned out to be very interesting.   I think Deacon Mike is a really smart guy and several of the 15 or so people were pretty sharp also.  I bought the book Vibrant Paradoxes at the group but I was still able to participate pretty well, and Mike complimented me on one of my questions.  I rode my bike after the group and that was good for my legs.

Friday was another struggle to get out of bed and I ended up lying down a lot but I got a lot done around the house, which made me feel pretty good.  I did my knee exercises and I ended up driving into town around 3, dropping off some garbage, stopping at goodwill, then heading over to St. Mary’s to help with settting up the yard sale.  I got there around 4 and worked almost till 9 and I think everyone appreciated my efforts.   I called Judy to thank her for her card and she left a nice, loving message this evening.  I really do appreciate her concern.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

still very tired

Monday turned out okay but it was very hard to get out of bed and get going.  I did my knee exercises and eventually drove to St. Mary’s to drop off my yard sale stuff (it turned out that Mary was wrong and things started on Sunday so when I got there the tables were was loaded with stuff and people were driving up with lots more.  Luckily I got rid of all my stuff and my books then I helped set things on various tables after they were priced.   At 7 I joined the Holy Spirit Group and made a few funny comments.  Glenda was there, which was nice, as were most of the regulars.  At chatting with Felistus after the meeting, I was stunned by her situation, with diabetes and only Joseph working, and by Kate’s situation (she finally after three years got a work visa.  If I had the 55K that I should have gotten, I would have been able to pay off my equity line, pay off Tracy and still have some cash to help out.  Now I have to be so careful about every dollar.  Yet I know I am so spoiled and as I rode my bike at Tech I started crying about how hard life is for so many people.


Tuesday was another very hard day to get up but I did and eventually drove to Dr. Trivedi’s to get my shot to help my blood.  They didn’t have my lab results so I had to wait an hour and a half to get the shot and it was pretty painful.  Then I went to East Coasters and Ian put a new tire on the back and fixed the shifter.  One of the other fellows put the replacement piece on the rack.  I couldn’t tip them as I usually do and I got dizzy at the store. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Hard Day

      Saturday was a very difficult start, and this blog is quite messy but I think it is very honest and may lead to some good writing and insight into myself.   When I dropped back into bed exhausted, a deep dread took over and I had to take a 2.5 mg. valium.  I was almost totally panicked, clutching the crucifix from my rosary and begging the Holy Spirit to come give me peace.  Eventually I calmed down (am I becoming a drug addict?) and did my knee exercises while reading the book Claire loaned me called Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.  His primary thesis is that  “men need something else.  They need a deeper understanding of why they long for adventures and battles and a Beauty.” “No question about it—there is something fierce in the heart of God.” 31 This book is really affecting me, especially a passage from a section called “What about adventure?” “If you have any doubts as to whether or not God loves wildness, spend a night in the woods….alone [this is something I have done many times, camping by myself in wilderness areas like the Outer Loop of Big Bend National Park and on a solitary 50 mile hike on the West Coast of Vancouver Island or on the two vision quests I experienced].  “Talk a walk in a thunderstorm [hiking out to Lewis Lake in Yellowstone I was hit by one of the fiercest thunderstorms I every encountered and sat it out, drenched but not panicked and another time with my girlfriend up in Canada’s Glacier National Park, where a huge storm hit us and while my friend was scared, I just told her we had to sit it out] “Go for a paddle with a pod of killer whales [when I was camping on the West Coast Trail I went for a swim right near a pod of killer whales].   The passage goes on to talk about “the deserts of the Southwest with all those rattlesnakes—would you describe them as “nice” places? Most of the earth in not safe, but it’s good.” 31  From my childhood on I have always had the desire for wildness and adventure.   I have hiked and fished many times in grizzly bear country, my only protection my singing to alert a grizzly if I couldn’t see very far.    After my first encounter with the Canadian Rockies, I returned every year for ten years.  It was a sacred place and one of my greatest experiences was climbing to the higher peak of Mt. Rundle (after failing the first time by losing the trail).  Perhaps this experience was what led my ex-wife to fall in love with me.  But I did these things for 30 years and ended up living by myself for eight years in a Thoreauvian cabin without running water, a mile from my nearest neighbor, with foxes, deer, wild turkeys, coyotes and bears ,
And then Tracy and I had a log house built and we lived there together for 6 years until she left to move into town.   
“Why is pornography the number one snare for men?  He longs for the beauty, but without his fierce and passionate heart he cannot find her or win her or keep her.  Though he is powerfully drawn to the woman, he does not know how to fight for her or even that he is to fight for her….What makes pornography so addictive is that more that anything else in a lost man’s life, it makes him feel  like a man without ever requiring a thing of him.”40  I remember my first experience with pornography when I was an early teen.  My older brother had some Playboys hidden in a secret place under his desk.  I would masturbate to them and this behavior only stopped recently when I started going to the Church again.  For the first time since my teens I haven’t masturbated in months (although the desire starts at points but I stop it immediately by praying) and I feel that I have made a real change in my life.  The pornography affected the sex I had with many woman because I would fantasize about someone else when I was with certain women..  I also had dark and violent fantasies also so I perverted an act that should have been a satisfying emotional commitment into a meaningless ejaculation.  
     Now, diagnosed with kidney lupus, on a number of drugs including prednisone, and getting ready for my fourth Cytoxan chemotherapy, I am trying to return to the Catholic church.  I have gone to confession and confessed the sins above, received communion and I go to mass every week and to the Holy Spirit group each Monday.  I also pray and sing on my porch whenever I get home before dark.    But I can’t say I see much change.  Nature was my god for close to 60 years and it is hard to change gods.  “God wants to be loved”  37  I believe this but how do you do that?     I beg for the Holy Spirit to enter my heart.  I see all the holy people in the Holy  Spirit group and I want to be like them.  But how? 

I was tired most of the day but I did a lot of writing (much of it going into the essay I am working on) and I did get to 5 o’clock mass but I didn’t feel like I got much out of it.  I am anxious and confused and I am not sure the Zoloft is helping me that much.  I am going to go for a bike ride and then head home for prayers and songs.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Forgiveness from Greg

       Monday was another struggle to get up morning, but I did and ended up doing some work around the house, my knee exercises, a rosary, some Bible reading in Luke, and then heading into town for the Holy Spirit group.  It was a good experience and at the end the group prayed over Eileen and I and it felt good just to have their prayers for my efforts to connect with the Holy Spirit.  I did volunteer to help out with the big yard sale and I am going to give them a lot of books (mainly nature books and poetry and then some other stuff, including two fly fishing poles, a heating blanket, a music stand and a few other items).  After we finished around 9, I went and did my bike ride on the VT campus.  I got home and watched some TV and finally went to sleep around 12:15.  I was a bit restless but I didn’t take anything except the initial 2.5 mg of Valium.

     Tuesday turned out okay.  I drove in for a walk with Rob on the Tom’s Creek Trail.  I did okay for about ¾ of the walk then got wobbly and Rob had to help me walk.  It was embarrassing but I should have shortened the walk and I would have been okay I think.  Then we went to Rob’s and he made me an excellent lunch of chicken and beef kabobs with onions and peppers with a nice salad and then some expresso coffee ice cream.  We had a nice chat during the walk and then at the house and I finally left around 2.  I tried to nap but could only rest a little in the Perry Street garage, then I rode my bike and headed back to the hollow, where I found that the campers had left.  I packed the truck with two large boxes of books and then lay down and rested until around 8, got up for a cup of tea and then did my prayers and songs at 9.  That made me feel better.  I played through the Christian songs and then watched some historical TV.  As Rob advised, I took 2 zolofts an hour and 15 minutes before going to bed and that eliminated the heartburn.  I took a 2.5 mg Valium but I got up around 2:30 and took another 2.5 which let me sleep until around 7.


Wednesday was a struggle to get up, but I finally did and then I did a lot of work on packing things up, getting together a good pile of things for the yard sale, and cleaning out the two closets in the study.  I emptied the shelf thing with the fishing gear and that was a good bit of work.  I think I am making progress but I still have so much to do it seems.  Fortunately, I still have at least 5 weeks to finish up and I am going to ask Claire to come help me with the attic.   I drove down to the pasture a few times and I tried my call to Greg.   He was kind and forgave me for the angry and mean-spirited way I had treated him and the rest of the family.  I told him about the lupus situation and he seemed to be doing very well and so is his wife Chris.  I am glad for him and my other siblings.  They all seem to be doing well and that makes me happy.   Around 3 I drove in and got rid of some recycling and some garbage, then dropped off a few things at Goodwill (where the guy coughed right in my face), then signed for the cancellation of my home insurance (I should get almost a thousand back I hope), and then headed to Rob’s office for blood work (where Valarie wasn’t feeling very well and I wasn’t wearing a mask).  I hope I don’t get sick.   I then had an egg biscuit at Bogangles and took a short nap in the parking lot before heading to McDonalds for coffee and a small fudge Sunday and to work on my blog.      

Monday, July 3, 2017

Another tough night sleeping

Sunday turned out to be okay, with a visit to the campground in the afternoon, my knee exercises, some more packing and culling out books (I have changed my approach to the books and am only keeping about a third of what I originally boxed).  I am basically keeping only the ones I might teach and if I want to read one of the books I have donated to Goodwill, then I will go to the library.  I headed into town about 4:30 and did my 45 minute bike ride over by the golf course and the fraternity area on Oak Lane.  I rode up to Smithfield Plantation a couple of times and then headed back to the Perry Street garage.   I did my blog (which turned out to be a lengthy one) and I headed back to the campground and ended up having a long talk with Dougie, then I sat with the others around the campfire until after ten.  When I got home I was too tired to do my weights and yoga but I cooked a veggie burger and a bowl of mixed veggies and stayed up until 12:15, figured that would help give me a good night’s sleep.  I took 2.5 mg of Valium and fell asleep pretty quickly, but then disaster.  I awoke at 2:30 and knew I needed at least another 2.5 mg of Valium, but after taking it, I still wasn’t sleepy at almost 3:00 so I took 2 Trazadones and finally fell asleep at about 3:30 and slept till 8:30, again struggling to get out of bed.  I did get up around 9:00, took one Zoloft and my synthroid, and then started to do some separating of books and cleaning out three drawers.  I had to lie down regularly, but I got a good bit done, testing the generator and getting two bags of garbage into the truck.  I finally started getting ready to leave around 3:00, stopped to say hello to the campers, then dropped off the batteries and the garbage, dropped off a bunch of books at Goodwill, took my pants to Rose Tailor to have the zipper fixed, and then drove to McDonalds to do some phone calling and to do my blog.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

One horrible night

     Friday night was a hard night.  I went to bed at about 11:30, forty five minutes early, and that seems to have made a huge difference in my sleep pattern.  I took my usual 2.5 mg valium and expected to have a reasonable night sleep, but I awoke at 2:30, completely awake, so I took another 2.5 mg and that didn’t work so I just stayed restlessly in bed until almost 4 when I took 2 trazadones and finally fell asleep at about 4:30 and slept till 8:30.  However I couldn’t get out of bed for over an hour and I took my synthroid and one Zoloft (my third day) and dropped back into bed.  I finally got going around noon and was too tired to accomplish much.  I did get perhaps 40 books in the truck and finally headed out about 4 to drop off the books, then drop off the DVD and the Thomas More book at Tech and then take my 45 minute bike ride at Tech.  Dave called and he reassured me that I was a good person, and that helped me along with the passage from Breath of God, which spoke of how once your sins are forgiven in reconciliation (assuming you are sincere in confessing them and you honestly repent for them, which I think I really do), then they are really forgiven and if you start feeling that your sins can’t be forgiven, that they are too bad, then that is either the devil speaking to you or the flesh.  The Sissons and friends were camping out and I brought them 3 12-packs of Busch Light.  I sat and chatted with them for a while and had some tacos with them then played a game of cornhole with Chris Patrick against two of the teenagers and then headed home for my porch prayers and cooking dinner.  I stayed up until 12:15 and then I was unsure how I would sleep but I only took a 2.5 mg valium and hoped for the best.   I was so relieved when I slept through the entire night and woke at 8:30, without waking once. 
      I still stayed in bed for a while but I got up, took one Zoloft and my synthroid, then did some more culling and packing.  I am basically done with the novels (only keeping the ones I might teach) and I also separated out the poetry book, getting rid of many that I probably will not read.  I loaded up the truck with perhaps 60 books (and one of my prednisone bruises started to bleed) and I will get rid of them Tuesday.  I read some from the Gospel of Luke, and that was where Jesus teaches them how to pray the “Our Father.”  I said a rosary, read some from the unabridged Catholicism, which would be more interesting to someone who was not a believing Catholic.  I found the discussion of whether or not you can get to heaven with just faith and not good works also rather interesting and it sounds like faith is the crucial part.  I thought about my loneliness, and I am hopeful that once I move into Blacksburg that situation will change.   Certainly if my health returns it will much easier for me to get involved with the church and with Radford groups and perhaps even some environmental meetings.  About 1:30 I put on my bathing suit, tevas, and a long sleeved shirt and drove down to the campground to take a swim in the North Fork.  I made it to the new hole dunked myself and spent about 10 minutes in the water and it was pretty cold.  I can see how an occasional trout could survive in that water.  The fishing was pretty poor (Andy said that locals are fishing it out) but the kids got a few, which was nice enough.  I drove back to the house, rested a bit and then cleaned the dishes and headed out to take my 45 minute bike ride at Tech (up along the road to Smithfield Plantation, up along Oak Lane to the fraternity buildings, then back over to the Perry Street parking garage.  I decided to do the bike ride first since I am trying not to take any more Valium during the day, and that was a good move.   It calmed me quite a bit and by the time I got to McDonalds, I was okay to write.  I have done some writing about my blog so far (and Claire Hall liked my opening about Tracy leaving, but I have put that off for now since it is too negative for the Catholic state of mind I want to stay in).   I think a good, fairly short piece would be to show how the hollow was such a welcoming place to me for so many years (over 20) and suddenly, after the lupus diagnosis and my loss of 4 pints of blood, it became a place I couldn’t handle anymore.  That should make a good piece and I think it won’t be a problem with my newfound Catholic beliefs.   I still don’t feel like I am making much progress in connecting with the Holy Spirit, but considering I have the pressure of the move coming up, my financial issues (even with getting sick leave for the fall), all the drugs I am taking (especially the prednisone), and the fact that I am still isolated in the hollow, I wonder if I can really expect a deep connection with the Holy Spirit right now.  Jen said that none of those things would affect the all powerful Holy Spirit but I guess I have some doubt about my receptivity to the Holy Spirit right now.   

          


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Moving along rather slowly

       Wednesday turned out to be a decent day with a hike down to the first stump and my knee exercises.   I packed a little more stuff up but I am still unsure of how many books I should take.   I probably am taking over 200 books and that may be excessive.  I ended up riding my bike along the river for a half hour after having a nice long chat with Devon Lee.  What a smart and interesting guy.  He certainly taught me a lot about context in African American literature.  After Dr. Trivedi approved it, I did start taking the stuff that David Hamilton brought me and I hope it helps with my lupus

      Thursday was a tough morning to get up.  I struggled and finally got out of bed about 8:30.   I did my knee exercises and then forced myself to go a hike to the big white pine.  I rested some more and then got ready to go see Jen.  I got some boxes from ABC store in Christiansburg and then got 5 more at Radford so I am making progress on boxes.   My meeting with Jen went well and I didn’t get too emotional.   She was very sharp on Luke Chapter 4 and she had more insight into how I have to be sensitive to small changes in my relationship to the Holy Spirit.   She also said a quite powerful prayer for me.        

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A decent Monday but an awful Tuesday

Monday was an okay morning, although it was hard to get up.   I said a rosary and watched some of the Catholic TV but my energy level was very low.  Finally I got going a little and did my knee exercises and finished Rediscover Catholicism and I think it was a helpful book.  I decided to drop off my extra golf balls and figured I might as well play so I did and I didn’t play that poorly.  After that it was time to go to the Holy Spirit group and that was comforting.  Glenda gave me two books, a crucifix and a new CD.  I offered to pay for it but she said it was a gift.  I was very quiet, wanting to be more humble, but I learned some new names: Daniel and Victoria, Chuck, Kate.  My short term memory is very bad.  After the group let out at 9:30, I went for a ride at VT and didn’t get home till well after 10. 

Tuesday was okay and I pushed myself out of bed and took the tractor down and put on another bucket of stone.  I think the third bucket really helped.  I then took the lawn tractor out and cut the grass around the cabin and the house.  On the way back on the farm tractor, I stopped and racked the 357 a little and I am sure Laura and David could make it to the orchard now in their vehicle.  I then read some and napped a bit and did my knee exercises.  The new book was about the Holy Spirit and the charismatic aspect of the Catholic church (speaking in tongues and stuff) and it was something I knew almost nothing off.  I started to get real anxious and I took a 2.5 mg valium to calm myself I did pick up a prescription for generic zolof and I took one along with another 2.5 mg valium.  Kate emailed that it is up to the Provost to see if I can change my unpaid leave to a sick leave so that will cost me a lot of money if he decides I can’t.  After talking to Rosemary and emailing Kate I thought I had a real good shot but perhaps just one more stressful thing is going to happen.  If the Zolof doesn’t help I don’t know what I am going to do.     
                     








Sunday, June 25, 2017

An awful Sunday but I did talk to my sister Judy and my niece Jen

      Sunday was simply an extraordinary day.  I was so anxious that I took a 2.5 mg valium right after I got up because I was obsessing so much.  Then did some reading and praying and my knee exercises.  Then I saw I had a voice message and it was from Judy so I called her back and it was one of the most emotional conversations of my life.  She forgave me for how I acted and she brought up the incident down Tom’s River where I deeply hurt Jen and Patty by forcing them to stay at the Holiday Inn (I think this was the incident with Roberta where my Mom uninvited me after Roberta said she was coming down and didn’t want me there but now I realize that my anger probably had a lot to do with the whole thing so I don’t want to place any blame on Roberta) but I didn’t remember that I had hurt the girls so much.  Judy said they were so upset that Val and Esther had to come down and comfort them.  Judy was so loving and caring on the phone and I felt so, so bad.  I wept after I got off the phone with her.   I had to take another 2.5 mg valium.    
      Then I saw I had a friendly message from Jen and I called her and she said I didn’t need to apologize and that she hardly remembered the incident.   How could I have done that to those girls?  I must have been crazy.  I must have been a very sick man with a hard, hard heart.
      I ran into the Sisson group and they were friendly and Chris Patrick talked to me some about his Christian faith and thought I was going down a good path.
      Later I drove into town after playing a good bit of piano and found out that prednisone even at 10 mg. could affect my short term memory (that made me feel a little better} and then walked with Rob and he is going to put me on something for my anxiety (perhaps Prozac or something else).   I told him that I really understood why people commit suicide.  You can’t live with so much anxiety and I have been anxious and obsessed and foggy headed since January.  Rob is going to see if Triveti can reduce my prednisone a little and also the Lasix.  He also suggested seeing if I could cancel my unpaid leave and get on sick leave for the fall since I will still be in chemo treatment until late September, and my 4 pints low blood won’t go up until well after I get off chemo.  It looks like I will be on prednisone until then and I don’t think I can do much serious writing while I am so sick and hopefully recovering.
       What a day, a thousand foot roller coaster that seems to have slowed down a little. 
                     



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Reconciliation and a good Saturday

Friday started out pretty tough and I got very anxious but I followed Dave’s advice and took 2.5 mg of Valium and that helped.  I did take a walk down to the first stump and I did some piano work and some straightening around the house.  At around 12:30 I headed into to meet with Jen and discuss Luke Chapter 3.  As usual she showed me a lot more than I got out of it, including the reason for the long genealogy at the end.  I was pretty down the whole time but she was great and she said she would sure that my efforts to come closer to God would be rewarded.  Toward the end of our session she gave me a card on which she wrote: “You are my beloved son; with you I am very pleased.”   What a lovely gift.  Then she prayed over me and that felt better.  
       Later I drove over to Stoubles and took another look at the apartment.  I actually has four windows and I met one of my neighbors, Jonathan.  I then took a 45 minute ride over to the other side of 460 and then had a fall on my return (my end of my pants got caught in the chain) and a young Asian woman helped me up and took a video of me thanking her.  Riding around Hethwood was very nice and I can stay on the Hethwood side and get a very good ride.   I finished up in time to drive back home for my prayers and they went well.  My voice came back and I think my praise was genuine. 

On Saturday, I struggled to get up, but eventually did and then did my knee exercises, and then drove down to the gate, pruned my way up to the lawn tractor, cut the grass in the orchard (apples and an amazing crop of blackberries which I munched on), then pruned some more on my way back to my truck.  I played twice through all the prayer songs and I guess I am getting a little better.  I can’t really fight the chemo effects or the drugs so I just will do my best and make my playing a prayer.  I emailed Laura and David but got no response yet.   I read more in the Rediscover Catholicism “There is only one question and one course of action that leads to lasting happiness in this changing world: God, what do you think I should do?  To think you can find happiness without asking this question is one of the grand delusions.”   “The will of God is a mysterious thing.  In my own spiritual journey I have learned that God reveals His will one step at a time.   This creates a great deal of uncertainty, and we don’t like that….If we could only learn to enjoy uncertainty.  Uncertainty is a sign that all is well.”  179  “We can pray while we are driving to work and while we are exercising, while we are doing the shopping or washing the dishes….” 181   prepare yourself for mass    mass journal    “Life is about whom you love and whom you hurt.”   I realize that I have hurt a lot of people in my arrogance and insensitivity.   I have achieved some forgiveness but there is plenty more to go.  I called Judy on my way out of the hollow today but all I got was the answering machine.  I did ask her for her forgiveness about the way I treated her over the years and I hope she will forgive me.  I also covered the section on the Mass, and it explained the order of the Mass clearly.  I am certainly getting more out of each Mass as I learn more.  
      I got to St. Mary’s around 3:15 and a big wedding was letting out but Father John said there would be reconciliation, and I was first to go in.   I think I covered all my major sins and I am very glad I went to reconciliation.  Father John reaffirmed that I was forgiven and that now I was cleansed of my sins, what a relief.  I sat in my truck reading for a bit and then went in and met Mike, and bought a rosary and talked with him for a few minutes.  I tried to focus more on what was going on during the Mass and I can’t say I noticed much different.  I did hope that Judy would respond to my contrition at some point and the words fear and peace stood out a little.   After the Mass, I chatted with Joseph a little and he is so kind.  He said that my path may be very small steps but that is okay.  Only God knows where my path is taking me (uncertainty) and I just have to accept that.   I am just about to go on my bike ride at Tech and it is has been a pretty peaceful day, no valium and no real panic.   I do think my writing is prayerful since it is helping me to look closer at my life and how to became a better and more Christian person.
                     


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chemo and more repentance

     Wednesday night was a long one, up at 1:30, at 2:45, at 3, at 4:15, and several other breaks.  I finally took 2.5 mg of Valium at around 4 and I did sleep for at least 45 minutes.  I got to the Radford hospital around 7:45 and I was pretty quickly moved to my room, but they misplaced my bloodwork so I didn’t get my IV until well after 9 and they didn’t start me until at least 9:30.  That means another long day (it is 4:39 and I get my next meds at 7:15 (that lasts a half hour) so I might actually  get out by 8:00 or so.  I tried calling Judy again but no response so I won’t call anymore.  If she wanted to talk, she would call.  I also called Roberta but all I got was a voice message.  That the two of them want to have nothing to do with me is my fault.   I broke off relations with them after my mother died and they have ever reason to avoid me.  I did write a friendly message to Glen Martin to try to end the silence I have continued with him, even though he tried to be friendly all along.  I have separated myself from a lot of people and it is almost always my fault.  “When you have singleness of purpose, everything else is embraced or discarded according to whether or not it moves you in the direction of your goal.  When you don’t have this singleness of purpose you get lost in the tossing and turning of daily life”  Mother Teresa: “God may never give you clarity.  All you can do is trust.”    “But this walking humbly with God is difficult.  To achieve it, it is essential that we acquire the habits of recollection and self possession”  I think I do okay on recollection (my whole life seems a grim painting now) but self-possession is another story.  Early on in my chemo I didn’t think I could take one more minute of the constant anxiety (I’m sure the 60 mg of prednisone was a big factor).  Now at least I have a place to move to on August 15 and the hollow is sold and I am 2/3 of the way through my 3rd chemo.  I have had several crying bouts out on my porch, hysterically bemoaning my fate, but for the most part, if I can keep fairly busy I can keep the anxiety level fairly low.  Still, the joy of my life has become sleep, usually around 12:15 am when I can finally forget how stressed my life had become.
     Later in chemo I called my sister Roberta and had, what was for me an extraordinary conversation.  She was very friendly and she seemed to me a different person, even her voice seemed changed.  She rather quickly accepted my request for forgiveness and she wondered why I had separated myself from my siblings.  She said that when I was younger she thought I might have Asberger’s and I told I am pretty sure I had ADD.  I told her of my efforts to reconnect with the Catholic faith and she thought that was a good thing for me, even though she still has no faith in God stemming from the death of her husband in an automobile accident just after her son Christopher was born.  I made it clear I wasn’t going to preach to her and she told me that she wasn’t sure that Chris and Angie’s marriage was going to stay together, although he himself is doing quite well as a construction supervisor.  I really felt good talking to her, and seeing her so differently, and I really understand that it was my actions that separated me from her and my other siblings.  She told me how involved Judy was with the church and the sadness that my brief dealings with her had brought her and that she always prayed for me (and for Roberta).  My brother Greg is in France with his wife Chris and I will try to talk to him when he returns.  It amazes me that I could be so arrogant and insensitive.  Roberta said that I was always confrontational and that has been true throughout my life, even as an environmental activist.   But I told Roberta I think I really am becoming a different person and I know I need to keep working on this.   I asked her if I could contact her in a couple of months and she said that would be fine.  “We waste time drowning in unforgiveness.”  Kelly 128
     Earlier in my conversation with Claire about the upcoming move and the book she loaned me Captivating, she thought I had already changed a good deal, and she told me two things that bothered her about when she studied with me in that Graduate Creative Writing class: one was that she thought that I was very alone (this was right about when Tracy left and I published the chapbook dedicated to her) and that I was much too critical of one of the students who used Christian imagery in her poems and my sarcastic comments hurt this students feelings.  I hope this will help me in my future teachings.
Matthew Kelly writes: If you want your future to be different from your past, there is only one way: Change your habits.  Our lives change when our habits change.”   This to me is a profound truth and I do hope that my focus on connecting to Jesus and the Holy Spirit will influence my habits.  I do hope that I can keep working on this change because for me it is so difficult, but I am already starting to see the rewards.  I think I am much more approachable and there is a warmth in me in being friendly to people.  One of the nurses, in response to my saying that I thought I was an average patient, said that she wished she had a whole unit of patients like me.  I think I was getting outside of myself and focusing on those around me.  When I talked with Leeanne, the nurse who may have lupus, I think my friendliness had a positive effect on her. 
      I finally got to leave at just about 8 and I made it home in time for my evening prayers.

Thursday morning was a bit rough.  Thoughts of how well financially, my siblings are doing and how well Marv and Joyce are doing kept me up and I had to battle to clear my head of such thoughts and try to concentrate on Jesus.  Their success has nothing to do with me financial stresses and I just have to make sure my single purpose is my spiritual goals.   I finally got up around 8:30 and trimmed the grass around the house and then I watched the full stations of the cross, praying along with it, and I think that discipline was good for me.    “in the course of the entire Gospels, the disciples make only one request of Jesus as a group: ‘Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11.1  Kelly 134   “The process of identifying strengths and weaknesses and transforming weaknesses into strengths is classic Catholic spirituality” 139  Confession is most important  because we “almost never see things as they really are” 147   “There is no treasure like a clear conscience.  If you want the joy of a clear conscience, come to Confession.”  In my own case, my confession with Father John at St. Mary’s really did make me feel much cleaner.  I confessed a sin I had never confessed and when I went to confession before my colon resection and my knee replacement surgery I confessed many of the major sins I had ever done, and I think now of a few more I should confess.  “Haven’t you noticed the way people living good lives have a glow about them?”  So true when I think about Glenda and Joseph and Deacon Rick. 
        “The best way to spend your time while you are waiting for temptation to pass is to pray.” Kelly 159   I don’t think I am much of a sinner at this point.  I don’t lust for anyone, I am certainly not greedy, I wish the best for my friends and colleagues, I pray more and more and try hard to stay focused on my prayers.  That is very hard.  “The reason prayer and contemplation are so integral to the Christian life is because thought determines action”  167  My thoughts after my mother died were that my family was dysfunctional and I wanted out so my action was to write to them and ask them to leave me alone, which they did (except Judy twice tried to reach out to me).  My thoughts toward certain of my colleagues were negative and therefore I acted negatively toward them (Eric, Glen and Don Samson) for instance.  My thoughts about certain students were negative and my actions toward them often ended in confrontation and certainly had little positive value.  I think my thoughts toward children and toward nature and my early volunteer work at St. Albans were my most positive ones and when I examine my dealings with children (I was a very good babysitter) and I cared deeply about nature especially rivers and my environmental activities and my writings reflect this deep love (although people who harmed the environment often gained my wrath).
    I reflected on my anger while doing my knee exercises and I think that was helpful.  New instances came to mind (how angry I got with my parents at points when I thought they were favoring my siblings) and I am beginning to really understand that even if I had a good justification for my anger, what real good did it do.  I am pretty smart and I can justify almost all of my actions.  So what.  Where did those “victories” leave me?  In my mind, I had proven myself right again (the time my mother asked me not to come to Toms River to visit after she had invited me because Roberta wanted to stay and I was incensed that she uninvited me is a clear instance) but again where did it lead.  My mother was very upset and I was angry for a long time about that.  I have to let that anger about injustices leave my heart.  I will never grow spiritually because I will always see myself as a victim.  I apologized to Gloria when she visited me for a week and I was pretty mean to her, finding flaws in many things she did, and again I could justify almost every one of the things she did but what did it accomplish.   I tainted her trip and I ended up feeling like a bully toward a woman who was one of the best I ever went out with.  I also called Alfredo and apologized for arguing with him while they were moving.  Again, I could rationalize it in my head, but where did it leave me.  Isolated from Alfredo, causing some tension for Kelly, and making me feel that I had interfered in her life, something I have always promised not to.  Claire Hall sent me a nice email responding to the class stuff and I was thankful for that.  I also spoke to Cathy Gallo and she said that I had been very good to her daughters and a good friend to her so that was a very positive part of my personality. 

                     

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Closing on the Hollow and a genuine "Rebirth in the Hollow"

      On Friday I finally got word from Laura and David that the deal had closed at 1.  Thank heavens!  Even though I had to lower the price by 55K at least the hollow is sold and I can move out on August 15. 
      On Saturday I went up to visit Gyorgyi and Laura, her niece,  and Gyorgyi made us a fine lunch, then we drove downtown and Gyorgyi graded papers and I took Laura around the Market but she stayed mainly in the Chocolate Gift Store.  I was somewhat surprised by all the racy stuff in it and how much you saw the “F” word all over the place.   After that we went back to Gyorgyi’s and played Scrabble and I left in time to get home to do my porch ritual.
      Sunday was a difficult day, one of being anxious and lonely.  I ended up playing golf and riding my bike and heading back to do my porch prayers.  I was so upset and tired that I broke down and cried and I didn’t even finish my porch prayers.
      Monday was okay because I had so much to do.  Drive to the Radford Hospital while fasting for bloodword, then picking up meds, then driving to Hethwood to sign the lease (which I know is a little too expensive but I will live with it for at least a year).  Stroubles is a nice area.  One of the reasons I am so tired is that it is almost impossible for me to nap.  A good hour nap would feel so fine and I am sure I would function better.  I drove back home around 12 then did some cleaning around the house (Laura and David are visiting Wednesday while I am in chemo).  Then I did my knee exercises and eventually headed into town to go to the Holy Spirit group.  This was a good one, with almost 20 people and a lot of singing (most of the participants know the songs but I certainly don’t although I do sing low and it gives me comfort.   I spoke up once about how angry I used to get about the people who harm the environment and how I still have a bitterness in my heart because of that and how that may be interfering with my connection with the holy spirit.  I talked to Joseph after the meeting and told him how much I respected him, how much holiness and goodness he contained, and that I felt I was so far away from such things.  He told me that I was now on the right path and that I had to keep at it and my spiritual life would get better.   I drove home feeling pretty good about things and the meeting was the main reason.
      On Tuesday, I got up pretty early but had a tough time getting out of bed.  I finally did and then I did more cleaning around the house, then my knee exercises, then a good bit of reading from the Bible and from  Rediscovering Catholicism   Matthew Kelly  2002  “The authentic life is compatible with any honest human activity.  All honest work can be transformed into prayer.  You can transform your work into prayer one hour at a time, one task at a time.”  So as I am writing my blog—which I realize is becoming more and more about my spiritual striving—I want to think of it as a prayer.  I am not so sure trimming my road was a prayer but I do see the point.  “Offer the actions of your life to God as a prayer, whether you are washing the dishes, repairing a car, or studying for an exam, and by your inner intention, you will transform ordinary daily activities into the noblest tasks.”  61  This seems a little too much for me, but for someone like Glenda or Joseph, I think that most of their lives are a prayer.  What a lovely thought. “Whether your work in this life is as a street cleaner or a senator, remember that the interior effect that the work we do has on our soul is infinitely more important than the exterior fruits of our work.”   I hope to be returning to teaching in January and this is something I really want to concentrate on.  I don’t want to just teach to get paid (and I think I am still a decent teacher, as Nancy Taylor said) but to have a real purpose in my teaching sounds very comforting.  I want to have more patience with the students and conference with them more, instead of seeing some of them as adversarial.  “Every day God invites you to be all he created you to be.”  That is a noble thought and I think my getting more involved in the Catholic Church, my porch prayers and songs, my watching more and more Christian TV (mass, rosaries, the stations of the cross), listening to Christian music as I drive all are helping me to become a better person.  I have stopped watching violent or sexual movies or much news (which is so often filled with violence) and I do think, the lack of such imagery has helped me.  I have to learn to be more reflective about the spiritual and allow that to bring peace and joy to me.   “My experience of people and life continually teaches me that those who have no central purpose in their lives fall easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles and self-pity” 72    I certainly have been guilty of that.  Right now my central purpose in life is to connect with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  That I am really struggling is not the important thing; the crucial thing is that I do have this higher purpose, not just to be a decent teacher, not just to be a good friend, not just to take my hikes and ride my bike, but to see the limits of these things (though I understand how prayer can enter in) and to see that my connection to Jesus and the Holy Spirit are so much more important.   
      My blog is certainly changing.  Earlier the title “Rebirth in the Hollow” was far, far off.  I loved the hollow and every hike I made I would stop at my white pine and thank it for each hike, each night in the hollow and that I might stay in the hollow as long as possible, but that was really no “Rebirth.”  After the beginning of my battle with lupus in December, the hollow became a different place, especially after I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.  However, lupus has allowed me to return to the Catholic Church and to try to achieve a much greater purpose in my life.  I hope that once my chemo ends in September, I will be able to be more active with the Church.
      One of the things mentioned again and again in the books I am reading is repentance.  When I look at how many sins I have committed I realize how skewed my sense of right and wrong was when I was younger.  Getting drunk through my teens, and my twenties and into my mid thirties (finally stopping after my first year at Radford), having sex with a number of women and having dark and violent fantasies when I pleasured myself, treating my ex-wife disrespectfully (although she told me recently she forgave me years ago), getting angry with a number of people for very small reasons, being less that compassionate with my students at points.  When I try to look at my good points, certainly my love of nature stands out and the many articles I wrote to protect the natural world.  I have also been a good and generous friend and that remains a positive.  But I was so stubborn and arrogant and contentious so, so often and for so long.   Thankfully Lou and I have gotten back together and we both admit it is helping us both.   I do think I have been given a chance to change through my connection with the Catholic Church and I am a real fool if I don’t try my hardest to move toward connection with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.              


Friday, June 16, 2017

No closing today

Friday is supposed to be the day of Laura and David signing all their papers and making the closing complete.   Jim Shortt mentioned around 9 am but it is already 1 and I haven’t heard anything.  That is unsettling but one thing I must learn is that I am not in control, God is.  I just have to be patient and by 5 I should know the status of things.  My reading for the day is Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly and he tells us of the need to “abandon the illusion of control and surrender out hearts to the Spirit of God.”  That certainly is one of my foremost goals and I think I am doing okay with that.  After my bout with cancer (and it was the first year I felt out of control), the last seven months have proven how little control I have over my life.  That is very humbling and I realize it offers a great opportunity of grow spiritually since to “abandon the illusion of control” will make it easier to surrender my heart to God.  “It is easy to be a follower, but to be a disciple means to be a student—to be humble, docile and teachable, and to listen”  I think I am doing that with my lessons with Jen.  I also think Glenda, Joseph and Deacon Rick are helping to embrace these traits which I need for further spiritual growth.      
What I want to focus on more are two quotes: “turn your pain in prayer” (from 22 Reasons) and “the transformation of ordinary activities into prayer is the very essence of the inner life.”  I think the first idea is wonderful, but since I am not in any real pain, just weak and tired, I am not sure the Lord is challenging me in that way.  However, it is that transformation of ordinary activities into prayer that seems very important.  I look back at my life and realize how little it was connected to God.  I did pay to my special white pine, thanking it for another hike, another night in the hollow, for health for all my sick friends, and now for good natural energy to help me heal, but God has not been a presence for me.  Even when I had my first communion and confirmation I really had no connection to God.  It was my parents’ choice and since then, I may have gone to church a half dozen times, two funerals and once with my mother and I think a couple of times with my Aunt Marie.  I remember the time with my mother and I was distressed that so many people walked out right after communion.  Anyway to get back to living a life of prayer is my central concern.  “Offer the actions of your life to God as a prayer, whether you are washing the dishes, repairing a car, or studying for an exam, and by your inner intentions, you will transform ordinary daily activities into the noblest tasks” (61).  Is this really possible?  I am trying to make more of my life a prayer; for instance, I listen to holy music as I drive, often chanting along.  I do my porch prayers and singing and that certainly seems to be making my life more of a prayer.  My readings are more toward the spiritual and though I haven’t done much in this area, I am doing more and that makes my life more of a prayer.  My blog is still recording what is going on in my life but more and more I am writing about the spiritual.  I am not watching violent and sexual programs on TV and I do think that is helping me to focus on the more important thing, my relationship to God.   Kelly writes, “One of the most ancient practices of Christian spirituality is the unveiling of the deepest desires of our hearts through contemplation and reflection….God alone can satisfy the deepest cravings of our hearts” (41).  I do some contemplation and reflection particularly when I am resting in bed, usually after I have done something physical like a walk, but I am not sure that I am unveiling the deepest desire of my heart.  I think it is for the peace of the Holy Spirit to descend on my and allow me to be fully connected with the Lord.  That seems the most important thing in my life right now and I will continue to go to do the things I am doing as well as going to Mass and the Holy Spirit group.  
     I am sitting in the McDonalds in Blacksburg to use the internet and get a bite to eat.  It is six o’clock and I finally emailed at 5:21 to ask if she had any word on the closing and she texted that “Laura and David were working on getting documents notarized yesterday.”   Darbi said she would contact me later.   This delay doesn’t mean the deal is off but it may be put off till Monday and I only have till Tuesday to sign the Stroubles Crossing lease (perhaps they will give me a few day’s extension).  I have tried to stay calm and focus on making my day a prayer but this is a tough one.  I did some piano practicing and I am going to go bike riding shortly.  I know I have no control of the situation but accepting God’s mysterious will is so difficult.            




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Humility?

Thursday
I slept okay at the Quality Inn but it was very hard to get going.  Finally I got up for breakfast and then did a few knee exercises.  As I was shaving Shannon called from Toyota and I was able to rush over and get my phone paired with my truck.  I am in the waiting room at Shelor killing time and adding a few quotes from 22 Reasons: “First,  choice is the essence of love.  God let us choose because God loves us and wants us to choose to love Him back.”  Sounds easy enough but perhaps I have never really loved someone so if I don’t know how, how can I choose to love Him back.  “Instead of being bitter over the hardships we face, we must be thankful for all the blessings we enjoy.”  In my case, certainly I enjoyed many, many blessings: all the wonderful natural places I have visited, often again and again, becoming a writer with hundreds of publications even though a number of people questioned whether I would ever become a writer, living in my lovely hollow for over 20 years, many, many good times with Tracy, good friendships with a number of people, becoming a decent professor, now with 37 years of teaching.  I am not bitter right now, more anxious and wanting to make a connection with the Holy Spirit.  My lupus certainly is no fun but the hollow sale is very anxiety producing and if it does come off, then the move to Stroubles.  I thought I had retirement planned out and if I do sell the hollow for 165K, then I will surely have to keep working for at least 3 years.  And I will have almost no money to pay Tracy off right now, which I know is terribly unfair, but when Laura and David cut the price by 55K, that put me is such a bad spot.  “Ultimately we need God far more than we need explanations.”  I don’t think I am looking for explanations for my present problems but I really do need God.  All my accomplishments mean
Nothing if I remain without Faith and connection with the Holy Spirit.  I tried to pray a little this morning but my prayers seemed very superficial, very ineffectual.  I listened to the Kris Kristofferson song “Why Me Lord,” the version were he tells of his transformation in church, and it was clear that the Lord just chose to enlighten him at that moment; he wasn’t looking for such an experience.  It is a powerful story and song and I wish the Lord would allow me to have such an experience.  “Pride is a rock that is uneasily broken.”  “Nothing makes us more like Jesus than pure humility.  Nothing is as honored by God as true humility.”  I certainly have been humbled by my months of sickness and the whole situation with the hollow.  But pure humility seems to evade me.  Psalm 51:  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”  I’m as broken in spirit as I’ve ever been and I do have a broken and contrite heart.  I understand fully all my sins and I am deeply sorry for them all.  But I can’t go back and change them, though I so much wish I could.   I have confessed them, and I am going to Mass, and I think I have repented for my sins.  How do I proceed?   I get a lot out of the church stuff and I get comfort from my porch prayers and songs but is that the right path?  Jen says I need more patience and I will try to do that but I get so anxious (not only from the real stresses mentioned above but from the chemo and the many meds I am taking, including the prednisone) it’s so hard not to want relief from all this anxiety (though the small doses of valium have helped calm me during the day and allowed me to sleep.  “It is only through setbacks, suffering, and sorrows that we really understand who we are, who we aren’t, and even more important, who He really is.”  “True heartbroken humility is like a magnet that attracts the God who is hopelessly in love with the hopeless.”      
         







    


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The roller coaster continues

      Sunday I had my usual hard time getting up but I read some and eventually did my knee exercises and decided to take a walk down to the first resting stump.  I said the Hail Mary all the way down, a sort of nature rosary and I think the repetition was helpful.  On the way back (without stopping), I chanted the words from “The Chaplet of Divine Mercy,”  “For the sake of the sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on all of the world.”  That was comforting, letting me stay focused on prayer and on Jesus.
      I also got back into writing and I think I wrote some decent things about when I was diagnosed with cancer.  I think that was a time in my relationship with Tracy that we were closest and that seems a better place to focus on instead of the opening I worked on when she first left.
       Things changed rapidly after I headed out of the hollow.  I got a message from Darbi that Laura and David had another counteroffer, this time the fire sale figure of 165K.  I could have rejected that offer but Dougie had only talked about a 180K figure and that was not a committed figure and he would still have to obtain a right of way from Sisson and Ryan.  This would mean I have to pay off 13K on the equity line plus another 25K or so for the rest of the closing expenses.  I had the 50K in my AXA account but I can’t get to that for at least 10 days and the closing was to be by the 19th, only a week away.  So I called Dave, Rob, John and even Tracy.  She had heard of the problems from Jim Shortt and was pretty friendly, had no money to help me with, but when I asked her to forgive me for how I treated her (which is still the bad behavior that haunts me most), she said she had forgiven me years ago, and that gave me a lot of comfort in my new Catholic mode of repentence.  She asked about my health and I gave her an update.  Finally I got through to Rob and he said he could get me the money tomorrow so that will at least solve that problem.   I didn’t head home to do my prayers but I did end up riding my bike for 40 minutes on the Tech Campus. 

      On Monday I got up at about 7:20, washed and dressed and headed to Union.  I got there at 8:30 (they open at 9:00) but I called and they told me that I could do the deal by making up the difference in the balance.  I was so glad about that.   After a nice bike ride, I ended up going to the 7 pm Mass and Holy Spirit group at St. Mary’s.  That was comforting and then I drove home and cooked dinner and did my weights and yoga.

Tuesday I got up and cut the grass, leaving my truck at my gate and walking up.  After that I did my knee exercises, and then played some piano and headed off to meet Cathy for lunch at Panera in Blacksburg.  We  had a long chat about Maddie, Claire and Lou and about how she was feeling about the girls heading off to Winston Salem.  It was very nice to see her and I explained the situation with the hollow and my possibilities of foreclosure or bankruptcy.   I did go look at the Jefferson Street Apartments but there are 8 stairs to get to all of the units, no washers and dryers in the unit, and I would have to drive to go biking.   Stoubles has no steps, washer dryer inside, and the Huckleberry trail is a few hundred yards away.  It is more expensive but it is a much prettier area and has a lot more positives including the parking situation.  I have to decide on Stoubles by the 20th, just one more stress.
     Interestingly, at 4:25 I get a call from Darbi, that the closing will be at 10 on Thursday at the fire sale price of 165K so that means I will lose 55K which will really makes things tight till January.   That was wonderful news but I should have realized that I am not off the roller coaster yet.  I rode my bike at Tech and then headed home for my porch ritual but it was hard to concentrate thinking about the closing.

Wednesday has proven the roller coaster ride has not ended.  There were problems with faxing the final payoff figure (finally Lisa emailed it).  During this I had my meeting with Jen and we went over Luke Chapter 2 and she said a lot of interesting things and got me thinking a lot.  She thinks my urgency to connect with the Holy Spirit is way ahead of my pursuit and I think she is right.   I am so glad to have her support and guidance at this very difficult period.  After she left I called Jim Shortt, and he said that there would be no closing tomorrow since he is going to send someone to the courthouse to explore some new material about the history of the railroad crossing.  If they find something he thought Laura and David should go back to the 220 figure but I told him I doubted that would happen although it would be great if they at least raised it to the 180K equity line figure. I just don’t want them to back out of the deal.   It was too late to cancel my room at the Quality Inn (I didn’t want to take a chance on being in the hollow since a downed tree or a flat tire would make me miss the closing) so I am going to head over there soon.  I did do a 40 minute bike ride along the river here in Radford and that helped calm me a bit.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Worst Day of My Life: Are More to Come?

      Yesterday was the worst day of my life, certainly in terms of finances.  I was expected to close on this coming Tuesday and walk away  with 195K, enough to pay off the equity line and have a good chunk of money to pay off Tracy without digging too deeply into my AXA money (92K right now).   Instead, the railroad wouldn't approve my right of way (which is in the original survey and is my only legal access and Tracy and I wrote to them numerous times that we weren't giving up the right of way) so the couple who were buying the property are backing out.  After Tuesday I will approach the Sissons to see if they are interested in buying and how much they would offer.  But they are going to put their farm on the market next year and I have no idea right now if they have any interest in my property.  I talked to a lawyer, Jim Shortt (who did my conservation easement), yesterday and he said that if I may have sue the railroad (if the Sissons don't want to buy my property) but the suit would have to include the Sissons since the easement goes across their farm.  That could mean a long and costly legal battle and even if I won (Jim thinks I will since the courts don't want any landlocked owners), I would still have to put the property on the market again.   The uncertainty made me so anxious last night that I had to take a lot of sleeping meds just to get to sleep.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Another visit to Dr. Trivedi

Tuesday was a calmer day.  The weather was sunny and I did my knee exercises then took a hike down to the first stump and walked back without stopping.  I rested briefly and then practiced some of the songs I sing in the evening.  I am reading the Lamb’s Supper, which focuses on how going to mass is like being in heaven, an interesting thought.  I am trying to become as immersed in Catholic things as I can and I am listening to Christian radio songs and avoiding violent TV programs and not watching the news at this point.  I am also going to hold on my blog book since that the section about Tracy leaving is quite sad and I may try to focus on my spiritual things, which really is my main goal.  I met Jen Jordan at 3 and we went over Luke Chapter 1 and she explained a few things and we had a good discussion about her path to the Holy Spirit and how I am trying hard to find that path.   Then I went to Dr. Trivedi’s and the news was pretty good.  My hemoglobin is 7.5 but she says that the chemo is keeping it down so she is not too worried.  My protein in the urine is up (12.5)  but it was around 8 last time and she says that varies.  My creatine was 1.4, which is improving as was my Albumin, 3.0.  I have another chemo scheduled for the 21.  She wasn’t too worried about my bruised arms and she thought that cutting the calcium and eating prunes would help my constipation.  She did somewhat reluctantly lower my prednisone to 20 mg per day.  She had no problem with the Valium use.   She also said that my blood level is being kept down by the Cytoxan, so I shouldn’t expect a return to close to normal until I get off the Cytoxan.  Rob called and he was still upbeat.  I also got a shot to help with my blood level and that didn’t bother me at all.  Preston from All Pest came out to reshock the spring, and I should know the results Thursday.    
      Wednesday was a pretty good day as I was able to do my knee exercises, then drive down to the gate and walk up to the orchard.  My road repair seemed to be holding well and since Mike and Andy have not gotten back to me yet, I may just put a few loads of 357 down where the ruts are and that may solve the problem.  I also ran the lawn tractor for twenty minutes, cutting most of the orchard.  I also did some trimming around the orchard so that is in okay shape.  I later drove into town to play golf (and I am getting better and better playing regularly and now I was hitting from the 150 mark and on 15 I hit from the red tees, 334 yards. Golf is one of the things that almost completely distracts me from all the stresses around me and I do get some real exercise so I will continue playing even if I have to play at a much lower lever.  Also, the Meadows is going up for sale in August and if I don’t use my remaining 7 rounds (14 nine hole rounds, I will lose them).  I went to my office and e-mailed Jen and Glenda, thanking them for their help with my spiritual path.  I will continue to go to the Saturday Mass at 5 and to Holy Spirit on Monday.  I drove home and did my porch prayers but I did them very half heartedly.  After that I tried some piano but I just was too tired and I ended up watching Cleveland lose a game they should have won to the Warriors (now it is a 3-0 Warrior lead), but I almost fell asleep watching a very good game.  I went to sleep to around 12 having absolutely no energy, perhaps from the shot. 

       Thursday morning was tough.  I just could not get out of bed.  I hope that the effects will go away soon.  Finally I got up around 11 and was able to wash the dishes, do my knee exercises, and even go outside to trim back the trees I cut.  Now I can easily cut the grass around the house and I think I am safe from any squirrels getting on the roof.  I practiced a little piano and then I showered and headed to the Toyota dealer to get two new tires on my truck, which will give me four almost new tires and that will help me avoid any flats out in the hollow.   


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

More reflections on the path to the Holy Spirit

     Thursday was another slow morning, struggling to get up and doing my knee exercises and finally heading in to get blood work at Rob’s after I picked up my medication at Walmart.  I got in a bike ride at Tech, past the duck pond and along the flat road nearby.  I drove home in time to do my porch devotions, some conversation with Jesus, then Claire Hall’s visualization meditation, then my singing (which actually seems to be getting better as I try to practice the notes after I finish my evening on the porch).  I then practiced some of the jazz pieces, cooked dinner and watch the Cavaliers get clobbered by the Warriors.  I can’t imagine many people actually enjoyed the game.

    Friday I woke slowly again, reading some (I have given up on Herodotus, but I did read perhaps 50 pages, enough to give me a taste of his writing). I am still reading chapters from the Bible, and Huxley’s Point Counterpoint is engaging enough but I am not sure how they put it on the Modern Library top 100, the same feeling I have about Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, a sad and stylistically not that interesting volume. Perhaps these books aren’t resonating that much because of the chemo and prednisone. I’m not sure. I decided I needed to get out so I called Claire Hall and we ended up having a sushi lunch at Greens in Blacksburg. We talked some about my situation, particularly about the hollow sale problems and then spent some time on our feelings about divinity. Claire see the universe as very friendly to her and Luke and I think that is a wonderful way to feel. I think I felt pretty good toward the universe until December and my kidney lupus diagnosis. Now the universe seems a pretty negative place and I realize my trying to connect with Jesus and invite the Holy Spirit into my heart are a big part in trying to bring some hope and peace into my life. I have mentioned to several friends that if I went to bed one night and didn’t wake up the next morning, I wouldn’t be that troubled. I have lived a reasonably successful life but very little of that seems important right now. I always knew I was a little fish in a fairly little pond so I never tricked myself that way. Claire told me about her Baptist background where there is no intense search for the Holy Spirit; it comes with the religion, and no need for confession since Jesus’s sacrifice freed us from sin. I have been avoiding any sinful acts since I got involved with Saint Mary’s and I feel for the first time in my life I really am able to control my lustful fantasies. I have had moments where a lustful thought comes to me but I touch my crucifix and am able to resist. When I met with Darbi to sign the 1000 dollars repair waiver, she was very kind and told me that she could almost 100% guarantee that she could sell the hollow for at least 150K once the railroad approves the crossing. That figure would wipe out all my AXA money but it would at least get me out of the hollow and into town. If Darbi can’t sell it at all (my deepest and darkest fear), I will just have to keep living there for now. If my health was back, then that would be feasible, but not at all what I want to do. The irony of course is the many, many times I spoke to my favorite white pine, thanking it for each hike, for each night in the hollow, and asking to be able to stay in the hollow until I was 70. I may have to really change back to that perspective. Staying in the hollow would allow me to keep a big chunk of my AXA money (now 91K) and that would allow me to hire people to fix the things that will come up over time. Claire also helped sketch out an outline for my blog project. I didn’t sleep that well when I went to bed, troubled by the stuff Claire and I spoke about but I did get up pretty early, have a cup of tea and start writing the first section, tentatively titled Hesitation, which may be the overriding metaphor for the project or at least for my relationship with Tracy. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t so I went out and decided to cut back the trees that were getting too close to the right corner of the house (I don’t want any squirrels getting up to the roof) and after I finished (and each step was a struggle and I got the chainsaw stuck twice—once should have taught me enough of a lesson but luckily didn’t break it in extricating it), the roof is protected. I didn’t cut up everything but after resting a bit I cleared out all the fallen stuff by the pile of 357 so I should have easy access to it if need be. I was exhausted but glad I accomplished so much but when I got inside my arms were bleeding at from several of the dark spots. That was a bit freaky but I rinsed them off and they stopped bleeding pretty quickly. I then practiced piano for a good bit and then good showered and shaved for 5 O’clock Mass. I had a Southwest salad at McDonald’s and I do think I am going to go to the vigil at 10. Hopefully it will help my search for the Holy Spirit. I did go to the Vigil and I thought it was helpful. I think that Belinda and Joseph are wonderful people and they seem to have a goodness about them that was so very appealing in my present state. Two of Joseph’s main points deal with turning away from the material world and toward Jesus, and repentance for our sins. I certainly can give a long list of sins. I began masturbating at a very young age and then sex became an important part of my life. After my first visit to Father John at St. Mary’s I have finally been able to control my lustful and often dark fantasies. This is the first time in my life I have been able to do that and I think this is probably the best thing I can do to try to have the Holy Spirit enter my heart. In terms of repentance, how I treated my ex-wife Tracy is the thing I most regret. I wish I could have been a better husband, but an obsessive relationship with a young woman I met at Radford haunted her our entire relationship. I have also had anger problems throughout my life often related to the heavy drinking I started in my teens and didn’t give up until my mid thirties (much before I met Tracy, fortunately). But I don’t drink and Tracy wants no contact with me so there is no way to express how sorry I am about how I treated her.

 On Monday, I had a rough morning, first messing up the shock test on the spring. The lousy weather also affected me and I ended up taking 2.5 mg of Valium twice during the day. Fortunately, I went to the Holy Spirit group at 7 and that was calming. I do need to be with people more often.

 Tuesday was a calmer day. The weather was sunny and I did my knee exercises then took a hike down to the first stump and walked back without stopping. I rested briefly and then practiced some of the songs I sing in the evening. I am reading the Lamb’s Supper, which focuses on how going to mass is like being in heaven, an interesting thought. I am trying to become as immersed in Catholic things as I can and I am listening to Christian radio songs and avoiding violent TV programs and not watching the news at this point. I am also going to hold on my blog book since that the section about Tracy leaving is quite sad and I may try to focus on my spiritual things, which really is my main goal. I met Jen Jordan at 3 and we went over Luke Chapter 1 and she explained a few things and we had a good discussion about her path to the Holy Spirit and how I am trying hard to find that path. Then I went to Dr. Trivedi’s and the news was pretty good. My hemoglobin is 7.5 but she says that the chemo is keeping it down so she is not too worried. My protein in the urine is up (12.5) but it was around 8 last time and she says that varies. My creatine was 1.4, which is improving as was my Albumin, 3.0. I have another chemo scheduled for the 21. She wasn’t too worried about my bruised arms and she thought that cutting the calcium and eating prunes would help my constipation. She did somewhat reluctantly lower my prednisone to 20 mg per day. She had no problem with the Valium use.