Arthritis is trying to steal my life


I am laying on a futon in my man cave surrounded by  various pain relief products. I have pills, some prescribed by the Veterans Administration and others purchased over the counter in the pharmacy. Next there are ointments, and essential oils. The latest remedies were purchased tonight from a store that sells hemp related products. When I retired 3 months ago pain was a strong motivator. People in my age group (I am a baby boomer) have a lot of these types of experiences. Especially in our hardworking joints: knees, hips, shoulders and elbows. And don’t forget the fingers and toes.

I mentioned in a blog post that I had a cortisone shot in my hip that lasted a couple of days. The VA scheduled me for an operation on my big toes but at the last minute,  I decided to cancel the appointments. It is difficult for me to figure out or predict how severe the pain will be. On Monday and Thursday I was very active, reaching my exercise goals, with more than 10,000 steps each day. But today I had hoped to be able to go out and be active. I was going to get a haircut, go to the gym and check out a podcast. The only one of those goals I accomplished was checking out the podcast.

Tonight the level of pain is moderate, mainly in the toes. I went to the hemp store with my significant other and got a couple of salves. I rubbed them on when we returned home and things are a little better. I want to be able to have more good days than bad ones by the time my new job starts in a month. I am trying to figure out what works, each day. Keep at it.

The end


One of the more unusual discussions I had with my family during Thanksgiving week was regarding my nephew and his stepfather Richard. Richard is a 60-year-old with the body of a man 20 years older. He has never taken good care of himself and as a result he has developed certain conditions such as diabetes. In fact he is facing the possibility of having his toes amputated before the end of the year and more to come.

Richard did not have a close relationship with his sons and so neither is feeling willing to pay the expense of his funeral when it comes in a year or two. My sister suggested getting one of those life insurance policies sold specifically to cover final expenses. I bought one at her suggestion several years ago. However I am also thinking that I should suggest cremation. But the problem is I will not be in a position to advocate for my body. My solution will be to write down my wishes including whether I would wish to have any and all measures taken to prolong my life.  This will be something different from what usually happens in my family where we seldom live a will or final instructions.

I think that Richard might serve the African-American community better as a cadaver at the university medical school. There, they could study the impact of preventable disease on the human body. I am not certain whether he would have to contact the university but someone should talk with him as soon as possible.

African-Americans are infamous for neglecting ourselves. My nephew told about the things he had suggested much in vain for Richard to use in the hopes that he might have a better quality of life. A lot of the women in our family have lived long healthy lives well into their eighties and beyond. However, a lot of the men die relatively young. I have outlived my father by several years.

I saw a movie about a black man who confronted the unhealthy lifestyle choices in his family and began eating and exercising more. It became contagious and they were no longer living with diabetes. Death will eventually come to all of us no matter how healthy we try to live. But we can live longer, long enough to see more generations of our family grow up and long enough to provide good examples for them. There is no need to rush to see the end.

Too many pills



My sister Chris is on the left and our mother and keeper of black walnuts is on the right


My sister lives with chronic pain from various medical conditions which to becoming disabled. She just told me about a doctor who is being investigated for over prescribing pain medication at his clinic. When she was healthy my sister was a pharmaceutical representative. So she knew a little something about medication. Then she had to learn a lot more once she became a patient. She also has a college degree and paid attention to the number and type of pills that the doctor was prescribing.

Chris found that she could not tolerate the medication and described the doctor’s waiting room as a kind of casting call for potential addicted people. You will not see stories about people like my sister in the flood of media coverage about opiod abuse largely because of the color of her skin. Today’s newspaper has an article about white millennials as the face of the crisis. But long before it was a white problem, there were African-Americans in pain clinics who were being given way too many pills. Chris escaped because she recognized what was going on and changed doctors.


Time, time, time, what’s become of me?


Well I just could not resist going back to see what the Unitarians were doing and I must say they have become a little more diverse. I took a picture. Not, not really, but you know this group picture might fit in. I had posted something last year about meeting Mary Devitt and John Hagendorn at Colectivo Coffeehouse. They are relatively new members of the First Unitarian Society and active in Black Lives Matter. They are community activists and raising children who present challenges. When I met Mary she was recovering from an injury that did not seem to slow her down. However, John had an accident on his bike resulting in a brain injury and other difficulties. He is a researcher who has worked on issues related to gave violence and prevention. One of his books is on sale at the church.

People of a certain age will recognize the title of this blog from the Simon and Garfunkel song A Hazy Shade of Winter. I heard the song booming at me as I came down from listening to a forum speaker from Lutheran Social Services tell about her work with refugees and asylum seekers. Indeed, it was a hazy shade of winter with barely a patch of snow on the ground. But the music was quite a bit different from the old days of hearing the choir most weeks several years ago.

It is sad that some things had not changed. It seems that our government policies are creating more and more refugees. The new administration has responded to the crisis by issuing an executive order imposing a ban on travel from seven mostly Muslim countries. Fortunately, our heroes from the ACLU sprang into action and a 3 judge panel of the federal court has blocked the implementation of this unconstitutional mess.

I have all kinds of different emotions about what is happening as time passes. A woman I knew, Molly Cisco, died recently from a brain aneurysm. She was an activist for the rights of people with mental illness, a small business owner and an avid dog lover. She was only 59. People are sharing their thoughts of her on Facebook. I am quietly looking to find a way to become more involved with real life activism and tear myself away from social media. I am meeting new friends and trying to keep up with the old ones. I was very excited to see a picture from my old high school which is putting the finishing touches on a weight room. It is encouraging to learn that one of the oldest high schools in the country is making a comeback.

The sky may be a hazy shade of winter but sometimes you can rock to the beat.



Work with healthy consumers



Today I was in a quality improvement session sponsored by Milwaukee County about improving the health outcomes of mental health consumers. The acronym for the project is LIFE which stands for Learning Ideas For Enduring. Various agencies contracting with with Milwaukee County Community Mental Health Division will be tasked with developing an implementing quality improvement projects that we will report on at a meeting in August 2016. As part of the session we brainstormed various ideas. The one that received the most votes was creating a competition for a softball league between the agencies. I’m not certain how feasible that idea is but last summer we had 2 sports themed picnics at our agency. We called them Kicknicks.

We had consumers from all three of our locations attend and they had a great time. I enjoyed myself although I became a little fatigued and had to sit down. The project that our Targeted Case Management Team developed at the meeting was called Walk It Off in which we will encourage the staff to include walking in their meeting with consumers. For instance, we might arrive at someone’s house and encourage the person to go for a walk with us. I already do this. I walked with a new consumer a few weeks ago and she seemed to enjoy it. At the staff meetings, we would report on how many times we walked with consumers. We might also get pedometers for consumers to encourage them to keep track of their own steps and reward them.

We have some staff who are struggling with their weight and began using tools such as fitbit and the agency subsidizes memberships at the YMCA. A few people also work out at the inexpensive health clubs that offer $10 per month memberships. The hope is that the staff and consumers will be happier, healthy and less stressed. What do you think?

Team Dark Skin





There have always been dark and lovely people since, after all, our earliest ancestors were Africans. But people of white skin have long-held the dominant positions in the world. Until very recently Africans throughout the diaspora lacked political and economic power. Thus it was not surprising that those who were the darkest were often ridiculed. Throughout the world we have devised products and surgeries that will make us look white. Or at least change our features so that they are less identifiably African.

At the same time there are movements that celebrate our dark skin, our often coarse hair and thick lips.    Langston Hughes wrote I am the darker brother. I am that brother, because I am also a very dark brown. Those who appreciate me celebrate my features and I celebrate theirs. That is why I was excited to find black atheists and other non-believers on Facebook. Most recently I found a sister who proclaimed she was president of Team Dark Skin. This woman would have been one of my favorite cousins. It is not that she is only with dark and lovely people like her. In fact, she is with all types of people on her Facebook page and having a good time.

I decided to look up the hashtag Team Dark Skin and found all kinds of posts on twitter and pin interest. I believe this is a way of proclaiming the positives within us, similar to when James Brown proclaimed, “say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”And someday we will have the power that was stolen away from us by bullets, bibles and self-hatred.

You cannot be replaced

This is a reblog from To Write Love on Her Arms. I was searching for something to say after an intense weekend of writing. It can be rewarding, finding new ideas and ways to reach other people. People visit and learn what I have to say. This sometimes includes sharing my work across different platforms such as Facebook and twitter. The more that I write, the more opportunities I gave people to discover me.  I often write about things that outrage me and I attempt to provoke people. My recent piece about what I considered racist responses to President Obama was an example. Shortly after I wrote Egypt in Flames. A quick visit to twitter confirmed that things were even worse than I had imagined. Days of rage had been met with blood on the street and panicked marchers jumping off bridges to escape gunfire.


At times the things that bother us in America may seem trivial. You could easily respond the same way Bob Newhart did in his famous “Stop it” sketch playing an insensitive therapist. But that won’t help us or the persons who really need our assistance. So I hope you will consider this message in an attempt to reach people who have considered suicide when they cannot see the rainbow.


You cannot be replaced.


Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)