Dear American people who are’t white,

For the past year-and-a-half Donald Trump has clearly indicated that he does not like you. 

He has said he would create deportation forces the rid our country of illegal immigrants – especially all you bad Mexican rapists. He has been unwavering in his intent to build a giant wall to keep out all you “bad ones”. 

Now Mr. Trump wants to “work with” illegal immigrants as long as the “pay their back taxes”. 

Before you think Mr. Trump had become sane, please remember that he is trying to win an election. Like all politicians, Mr. Trump will say anything the party tells him to say to win. This is not about truth. It is about winning.

So, I write to you today to say this:

Please don’t think that Donald Trump has changed. If anything, he is more inconsistent now than ever. Don’t trust him any more than you did yesterday.

Yesterday, Mr. Trump did not like you. Today Mr. Trump still doesn’t like you. Dont’t think otherwise.

You friend,

Steve

It’s been about 9 months since I last updated everyone on my brain tumor and, if you think I’m not telling you enough then, all I can say is “have patience“. Hard as that may be, that’s what I’m learning to do.

Since I last bored you with my progress I’ve had 2 MRIs. One was last February and the other was last week. Both were multi-planer multi-sequence imaging studies both with and without Gadavist contrast. In the 6 months between the 2 studies the tumor has not changed in size. My radiation doctor says this is a good thing (yay me!). For a film with extremely high production values and an amazing voiceover see below.

          <<<Check this out: My Schwannoma – The Movie>>>

I’m bummed despite the good news. See, for a small percentage of patients stereotactic radiosurgery on a trigeminal schwannoma will shrink the tumor a little bit. For most of us, simply stopping the growth is all we can expect. So, to the folks who don’t have my brain, this is great news because it’s as expected.

But, I’m not an average “as expected” kinda guy.

I set my personal objectives far above average and I expect any little motherfucker that wants to take up space and hang out in MY brain to do the same. Ya wanna be a piece o’ me ya gotta perform to my standards! My doc says that’s not the way things work. I say my tumor should hire my cousin Caitlin as a life coach!

(Actually… that makes no sense since I want the thing to die and dead tumors don’t need life coaches. – Yet another home run for cognitive dissonance. Damn).

That was where the bit about realistic expectations comes in. Here’s the part about patience.

My next MRI will not be for a YEAR. In that time, unless my symptoms change, I won’t see the doctor again. Schwann cells are not very radio-sensitive. So, even if the tumor does shrink somewhat, it will be over the course of a couple of years. When you have a numb eyeball, a couple years is a long fucking time. But, dead schwann cells are like a fine wine (strike that…. it’d be a mixed metaphor unless I find a way to tie life coaching and wine drinking together and I’m too lazy to do that right now even if it is pretty easy.) Anyway…

… But dead Schwann cells take a long time to result after radiation exposure. So, what I really should be doing is to be grateful that this thing grew slowly and happy that my doctor says the treatment is working as planned. But that’s hard.

What I think I learned today is that gratitude is easy to forget and patience is difficult to remember. But, both are keys to getting through any bout with adversity. So, over the course of the next year those are  the skills I need to cultivate.

See… the little bastard taught me something again🙂

Cheers.

 

Every year on Tisha B’Av I write a little essay here. This year I’m not sure what to say. The Ninth day of Av is traditionally the day that we mourn the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Since we Reform Jews don’t want the temple cult to come back we have, in recent years, used the day to mourn all of the tragedy of the Jewish people. Every year I think that the Jewish people and the state of Israel are so far better off then we once were. Every year that dream seems to be unfulfilled, or shattered, or at least kicked in the balls a bit. This year is no exception. But, instead of telling you all the reasons why we have a long, long way to go, I will just sum it up with one example. Today an Israeli Olympic athlete beat an Egyptian athlete in a Judo match in Rio. The Egyptian would not only not shake hands but even refused to bow to the Israeli. When an Israeli can’t even get the courtesy of a bow that is mandatory by international Judo rules, let alone a handshake, at an event founded on good sportsmanship between countries, just because of his nationality, the Jewish people have plenty still to mourn. That’s all I have to say.

I read a post on Facebook the other day that I found nearly too poignant to bear. It was the final post before leaving this world, by someone who I do not know.

It is a post by a woman whose way of communicating with her family and friends, before succumbing to a cancer that lay in remission for nearly 2 decades before metastasizing with a vengeance, demonstrates strength, bravery, and a commitment to loved  ones that I deeply admire.

I will not tell you who the writer is. She passed away this week and it is not for me to say whether she would allow it. Her sister, who is a friend of mine, said it was fine to post the message here. So I’ll share it with minor redaction to preserve privacy. I hope, if I am ever in the position of the woman who posted this, that I will handle my last hours with 1/100 of the dignity with which she did.

What follows are not my words. I share them in the hope that you will find their grace inspiring.


“I don’t know where to start. Normally, these updates would start out with some light humor, as I always try to look on the bright side of a situation. At least, the view from the 14th floor of <…> is fabulous. I get to look out over the city every day, as the fog lifts, and see the breeze swaying through the eucalyptus trees.

As you know, this cancer was under control for so long (18 years), but started to mutate and get out of control in just a matter of a few months. The treatments that I’ve tried since January have all failed. I have decided to go into hospice care now. I’ve received hundreds of well wishes, light, love and energy and that is invaluable to me. I will never be able to thank you all personally, but know that from the bottom of my heart, I do love each and every one of you dearly. There is no predicting when this will happen, and as I require more pain and comfort meds, it will be harder for me to communicate with you all.

The year 2016 has been an utter shit show, and the worst in my memory. Friends’ parents dying, my husband’s father dying, pets dying, violence in the world we know (the violence that is acknowledged and the violence that no one talks about). It saddens me.

I will be sad to miss <…> and bowling (although it is the company more than the activity itself I will miss). I will miss sitting in repose in my beautiful house that <…> and I worked so hard for, or on the back deck taking in the beauty of the backyard, which we transformed into an oasis. I will miss the beautiful evolution that has been happening since <…> and I moved to Vallejo and for which we’ve been a huge part of since moving there.

I feel I have lived my life as fully as possible, with as much joy, and filled with many places visited, and much scenery enjoyed. It is fitting that I am looking out over the city that I love, the city that drew <…> and I to the West Coast.

I am an unabashed feminist, and I must admit that there have been many women in my life who have given me inspiration and courage. I won’t be able to acknowledge them all, but I wanted to give a special acknowledgement to three of them:

<…>

The idea of community has always been an integral part of who I am. Communities that have formed me, as much as I hoped I have had an influence on them:
<…>

I hope that I have been able to support them as much as they have supported me through good times and bad.

If you want to do something nice for me, please honor me by doing something nice for someone else, or a cause that is important to me. Here are two that I have thought a lot about and are causes I care about: Planned Parenthood and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

If I had any final wishes, or thoughts, it would be this. Seeing the sameness in each other. We need to be easier on ourselves and easier on this world we live in. I feel like we are all just atoms, passing through space and time and we are trading them with each other all the time. So when I leave this body behind, we already share these things, so you will never be without me.”


To you guys, who know who you are, and who are experiencing this time of grief: thanks for letting me share these words. Please know that I do so with love for you and gratitude for our continuing friendship.

“Seeing the sameness in each other. We need to be easier on ourselves and easier on this world we live in.” Damn, I wish I’d said that.

Thanks for following these incidents, Mike!

 

According to Amcha nearly 100 more incidents of anti-Semitism occurred on US campuses during the first six months of 2016 compared with the first six months of 2015.

via Study: Spike In Anti-Semitic Incidents at UW – Matches Trend Across Nation — The Mike Report

Do you guys know who Jenny Lawson is?

I’m embarrassed to say that I had never heard of Jenny Lawson until a few weeks ago when my friend Austin told me to read her book “Furiously Happy“. I sometimes find my inability to keep up with culture funny; usually I just beat myself up about it. That actually makes me a perfect audience for Jenny Lawson.

Well… That and one more thing…

I’m a guy who’s life is made much better by the miracle of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. It may be thanks to Jenny Lawson that I can even tell you that. I don’t know. I definitely know that my issues have about a millionth the impact on my life that Jenny’s have on hers. I also know that she is at least a million times better than I at turning those issues into both insanely funny stories and extraordinarily poignant lessons in dealing with mental illness. Well actually not just mental illness; Lawson’s lessons are really life lessons for all of us. This is partly because, as she reminds us, every one of us falls somewhere on the spectrum of mental illness. But, even if you don’t believe that there is much to learn from Jenny Lawson.

Basically, as for “Furiously Happy“, you all just have to read it. Is an amazing book. I have done one better in listening to the audio book which is read by the author. But, whatever. Experience this book!!! Trust me. One way or other, someday you’ll be tested on it.

Now… There is a certain class of people who will say that this is really a girl book, the textual version of a “chick flick”. I beg to differ. I am definitely a dude and I most definitely dig Jenny.

I don’t know why anyone would say a guy would not get this book. Jenny talks a lot about vaginas. But we guys like vaginas.

Maybe we are not supposed to understand Voodoo Vaginas but, even then, I don’t know why not. A Voodoo Vagina is what happens when you take a fake stuffed vagina with a little baby inside (just a teaching tool for God’s sake!) and you put real human pubic hair on it and it turns into a sort of voodoo doll. Makes sense to me.

So, I think it’s a perfectly awesome book for guys.

Another possibility is that we won’t find all of the stories as funny as women do because we have different experiences as guys. I don’t buy that either. I laughed my ass off… Continually going “hahahahahaha that’s just like MY  wife”.🙂 See… It works fine for us Jenn. Sell more books to dudes!

Okay I gave away the Voodoo Vaginas. I won’t spoil any more of the book. I won’t go on about taxidermy, cat mittens, packing material, therapy, child rearing, hair pulling, cutting, giraffe heads,  pool possums, tax-deductible costumes, travel fears, um….oops… Shit.

Those are only a tiny fraction of the themes so I really did not damage your experience. Besides, her stories are what’s funniest and at least I didn’t tell you any of them. Except the… <kidding>

Look…. Seriously… This is an amazing book and Jenny is a hilarious reader. Please take time to check out “Furiously Happy“. Even if you don’t like her “potty mouth” you can’t possibly avoid laughing. More importantly you will learn a lot from the “serious” parts. Perhaps most important of all, this is a rare chance to experience someone who struggles with mental illness but who, unlike most of us, has the guts to admit it, to ask for help, and to use her amazing sense of humor to help the rest of us to strengthen our ability to deal with our demons.

This ain’t a chick book. It’s a human one.

I will not use this post to debate the veracity or legality of Israeli settlements. I also won’t debate the human rights issues here.

I am not a supporter of the settlement strategy but I admit that I don’t live live there and don’t understand what it is like to do so. When it comes to my unwavering support for Israel and my inalterable support for its legitimacy as a sovereign nation and a Jewish state, I’ll side with Israel versus any enemy.

That said, please don’t comment on this post in the hope of starting a debate. I won’t do that now.
Here is what I feel compelled to say:

There is NEVER a rational, ethical justification for stabbing a sleeping 13 year old child in her bed. Palestinian, Israeli, American, what-the-fuck-ever, no one is justified in doing that. The horrific murder of an Israeli-American child is unjustifiable and immoral. It saddens me deeply.

There is now a debate about just how much Bibi will overreact. Some say that Israel has no legal justification to “punish the family” of the murderer for “a crime they had nothing to do with”.

I disagree.

An 18 year old murderer is likely the product of his family and community. Raise a murderer and you should be held accountable. I’m not saying to punish one person for another’s crime. But, I am saying that Israel would be justified in taking security actions that lessen the likelihood of this happening again.

If that affects the community that bred the murderer, well, that’s not as bad as having someone thrust a knife into you 18 times, or having to look at your child in the aftermath.

Another sad day in the nonexistanr peace process. Another sad day for Israel. Another sad day for Palestinians. Another sad day for humanity.