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Cost of the War in Iraq

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American Deaths in Iraq since March 20, 2003:

You can download a casualty counter here

Our prayers are with them and their families

These are previous posts. I placed them on a separate page because the blog was getting too large to easily load and manipulate. Click here to get back to the current blog page.

20 December 2005: I've been meaning to write on this blog for several days now and find it's just not easy grabbing the time. This was much easier last year when I was on sabbatical. There are a few topics that have been bouncing around in my head for a while.

Intelligent Design: This issue has become both political and silly in the last few years. In November I talked about a school board election in Dover, Pennsylvania and the hilarious response of Rev. Pat Robertson. On Tuesday, December 20th U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled in the case of Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover School District, et al. that intelligent design cannot be taught in a biology class. You can read the Associated Press article at a website called FindLaw. You can also download a PDF File of the opinion. No doubt Justice Jones will become the new lightning rod for the "thank you God for my brain; I'm returning it unused" crew, but here's the best part: he was appointed by President Bush in 2002 and was unanimously approved by the Senate.

The Constitution is a fond memory: Earlier this month the New York Times reported that shortly after 9/11 President Bush authorized the National Security Agency or the NSA to spy on anyone suspected of planning a terrorist attack. The Constitution's Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In her excellent book The Words We Live By, Linda R. Monk explains that this was in response to searches conducted in Colonial America by the British:

A common English practice was the use of general warrants [orders allowing government agents search anywhere and anyone they wanted], which allowed the crown's agents to search anywhere they wanted and seize anything they pleased.
The administration argues that the war on terror is a "new kind of war" and the nation's security depends on the ability to monitor phone calls without a warrant. They also argue that when Congress gave them the authority to combat terrorism, this power was inherently given. But for years law enforcement has been able to obtain a search warrant and there is even a secret one for the federal government. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [FISA] of 1978 allows the government to seek a warrant in secret; this was passed after revelations that the FBI was wiretapping people like Martin Luther King who they claimed were dangerous to the country. Since its inception the FISA courts have granted over 18,000 warrants and denied just four. Clearly this isn't about protecting the country; it's about the Bush administration's contempt for the ideal that they need to follow the rules too. Question for further thought: If, as President Bush claims, the war on terror allows him this latitude, what is to prevent the next president to claim that the 2nd Amendment on gun ownership no longer applies?

11 December 2005: Sometime in the next few days Gov. Schwarzenegger will decide whether or not to grant clemency to Stanley "Tookie" Williams who has been on death row in San Quentin since 1981 for 4 murders. It's been a big story here because Tookie was one of the people instrumental in the founding of the Crips gang in Los Angeles in the 1970s. Since his incarceration he's renounced his gang membership and written a number of books encouraging young people not to join gangs. He was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 (it should be noted, however, that he was nominated by six members of the Swiss Parliament; being nominated is a fairly simple process and any legislator can do it). There is an aricle in the Christian Science Monitor that gives more background on his nomination. While Tookie has admitted his role in the Crips he denies he murdered Albert Owens, Yen-I Yang, Tsai-Shai Yang, and Yee-Chen Lin. I find this whole case troubling on many levels. I'm opposed to capital punishment and don't believe that anyone should be put to death by the state. On the other hand, I'm not sure that Stanley Williams is the poster child for clemency. I appreciate his writings and the work he has done to discourage people from entering gangs and I do believe he is sincere. But many people on death row have also turned their lives around and I wonder if he doesn't get an added push because he has a gift for writing. Does this mean that the next death row inmate who asks for clemency does not get this much publicity because (s)he isn't a prolific writer? I'd also feel better if he would admit to his crimes. Of course, perhaps he is innocent but all his appeals for a new trial have been exhausted. In the long run I'd feel better if the Governor would grant clemency to everyone on death row.

3 December 2005: It's been a week. My work with hospice is often emotional as you might have guessed. Because of HIPAA regulations I obviously can't talk about any of my patients or families. But I can say that a terminal illness affects the whole family and shows no regard for how the family normally copes with crisis. Working with families in these situations is often the most rewarding part of my job, but it also is the most exhausting. I hope this is a quiet weekend.

In other news I've been reading about the new Vatican document on the admission of homosexuals to the priesthood. You can read the text of the latest document here. This is a disturbing document in many ways. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was published in 1993 it speaks of homosexuality and (for many of us) it was a sign of hope. The idea that the Church would come to an understanding of sexuality as complex and beyond our understanding was too much to hope for, but I liked the fact that the Catechism made a distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts. You can read the passages 2357-2359. The Church still sees homosexual sex as disordered (even in a mutual, committed, permanent relationship) but at least it understands that nobody chooses to be gay and gay people are deserving of the same dignity as all people. This new document claims that those men who are homosexual are not appropriate for the priesthood. Most troubling for me is that this will call men who are homosexual celibates and believe they have a call to the priesthood to "go underground." When I was in the Paulist Seminary from 1989 to 1994 it was told to us that all of us were expected to live celibate lives regardless of orientation. I found this to be healthy because we could have frank and honest discussions about how to do that (understanding, of course, that I found I couldn't). At a nearby seminary there was the understanding that a gay man could talk with his academic advisor, and of course his confessor, but under no circumstances could anything be put in writing. That meant there was a subculture of homosexuality that everyone recognized but nobody talked about. I believe this makes it all the more difficult for gay seminarians and priests to fully integrate their sexuality into their ministry; I think this will lead to an increase in conflict and be bad for the church. I have several friends who are gay priests. They are wonderful, creative, joyful, and advance the Kingdom of God. I believe this latest document from Rome will make this integration more difficult and I think it's a step in the wrong direction.

30 November 2005: It's been hard to read a newspaper or watch the news without hearing about Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. He represents the 50th Congressional District here; fortunately I'm in the California 53rd, ably represented by Susan Davis. In any case this past summer there was an allegation that Rep. Cunningham sold a house for about $700,000 above market value to a defense contractor. He, of course, claimed that there was nothing wrong with what he did and any attack on him was partisan politics. Two days ago he plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion; the scope of this scandal was immense. As it turns out, Rep. Cunningham accepted more than $2,400,000 in bribes to use his influence to steer defense contracts. To his credit Rep. Cunningham plead guilty before he was indicted, presumably when he saw the evidence against him. He could face up to 10 years in prison, and at least some prison time is assumed. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I see this in the context of a larger Republican move to make laws they have no intention of following. The ongoing sagas of CongressmanTom DeLay, Senator Bill Frist and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby show a pattern of hubris that is breathtaking. On the other hand, there is no debating that Rep. Cunningham has served his country well in the past. He served as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1987 and was a teacher at the now famed Fighter Weapons School, also known as Top Gun. I can't help but feel some empathy for him, and particularly for his family. His career and dreams are clearly at an end and his life is at a crossroads. He will be sentenced on February 27th.

28 November 2005: In the last week I've finally gotten motivated to work on a page on Hurricane Katrina. You can read it here. It's pretty amazing; as I say on that page this was a multi system failure on all levels of government. The Bush administration is taking a fair amount of heat and I have to say it's entirely deserved. Much like the war in Iraq there was an unbelievable lack of preparedness and hubris. My favorite part (so far) is where FEMA Director Mike Brown's press secretary emails him and tells him to roll up his sleeves when on TV to give the appearance that he's working.

20 November 2005: This has not been the best of weeks. When I worked at Vitas Hospice I worked with another chaplain named Gary Rogers. Last April Gary was diagnosed with Leukemia and he died last Tuesday, November 15th. Gary was a good man and a good chaplain and I'm sad that he's gone from us. He was only 52. I was able to attend his memorial service on Friday and it was good to see old friends and good to meet his brother and sister. On a good note Nancy and I are just back from Los Angeles where we saw some extended family. It's always a fun trip. So tomorrow I go back to work at hospice, and think about Gary.

12 November 2005: I realized the other day that today is the anniversary of my departure from Odyssey Hospice. In some ways it seems like much longer than that, but it is perhaps a time of reflection. When I left there I wasn't certain I wanted to find another job with hospice or even that I wanted to stay in health care at all. My three month sabbatical showed me that hospice is really where I belong and as much as I found bereavement work rewarding, I really am a chaplain at heart. Given that I sometimes can't believe how blessed I am to be working at San Diego Hospice. I'm working on a terrific team in a territory I already know. I have noticed that there is a higher acuity of cases; that is, they are often more complicated. For people who wonder how anyone can do hospice work that probably sounds like bad news, but it's not. Here, more than anywhere else I've worked, I feel like I'm working at the best limits of my ability as a chaplain. There is nothing routine in this and I often feel at the end of the day that I'm tired but it's a satisfied tired. The place is far from perfect and I've had my moments, but at this point I hope to be here for the rest of my career.

10 November 2005: Happy Birthday to all the Marines out there. For those who are not in the know, the Marines were founded on November 10, 1776 and therefore celebrate their 229th birthday today (as does my friend Jim who turns 46). For more news of the weird we turn again to Pat Robertson and the 700 Club. It seems that one of the battles of the war between Evolution and Intelligent Design (sic) was fought in Dover, Pennsylvania where 8 candidates for re-election on their school board (who favored Intelligent Design [sic]) were defeated. Pat, who never misses an opportunity to claim that God and the 700 Club operate from the same playbook, now says: "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there." Don't laugh: this is the man who claimed that his prayers re-directed Hurricane Gloria away from Virginia in 1985 [note for later thought: why couldn't he have steered Katrina away from New Orleans? Maybe it was his day off].

9 November 2005: In the political world, it's been a good day for me. If you've been reading the newspapers you know that Governor Schwarzenegger was instrumental in placing several initiatives on the ballot. They all lost. He's been governing the state like he was the only one in charge and today he realized that we voters are ultimately in charge. This was one of the few (and perhaps the only) times when my votes scored a 100%. I'm hoping that as he makes his way through his large slice of humble pie he realizes that we are in charge and he serves us.

10 October 2005: Lots of stuff, little time to write. I keep promising a page on Katrina and keep not having time to do it; I'll keep trying as long as nobody is really expecting it to happen. In other news, it is (alas) the end of the season for the San Diego Padres. In fairness they had a pretty poor record and finished with a worse record than the Wild Card Houston Astros. I don't think anyone expected them to make it to the World Series but it was nasty getting swept by the St. Louis Cardinals. It was really nasty since we had tickets to Game 4. Oh well, there's always next year.

We're also really heartened to know that we're not having as bad a summer as President Bush. As everyone knows, the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist allowed President Bush to move John Roberts to the role of Chief Justice and nominate one other person. On October 3, 2005 he nominated Harriet Miers and it didn't take long for his decision to go south. Interestingly enough he seems to be getting flack from the right. Perhaps the funniest is from the October 5th column by Ann Coulter. No one would ever accuse her of being smart or right, but even she is bashing Bush. The Christian Conservative folk are being pretty frank that Bush wouldn't be in the Oval Office without them and they're telling him that they want someone who is guaranteed to oppose abortion and will (given the chance) overturn Roe vs. Wade. The problem is that Bush recognizes that the best nominee in the world isn't worth anything without being able to be confirmed by the Senate. The CC's don't care, are beginning to doubt Bush's commitment to their cause, and as for me, I'm trying hard not to enjoy this too much.

23 September 2005: It's not hard these days to think that the world is coming apart. I'm still working on the Katrina page but am finding it slow going because there's just so much information to digest. Now we're all waiting for Rita, another category 4 hurricane, to make landfall. The Bush administration is claiming that it is preparing better for this one; I hope so. Just a quick note about Katrina: there is a debate going on in our country about the role of racism in the lack of quick action in New Orleans. The administration is loudly crying foul here, but I think the issue is a little more subtle. We can't look at race in a city like New Orleans without linking it to poverty. Poverty rates there are substantially higher for blacks than for whites and I believe we work very hard in this country to make the poor invisible. When New Orleans declared a mandatory evacuation most people got into their cars and got out of town. But thousands of poor people headed for the Super Dome because they simply had no way to evacuate. The failure of the Bush administration was the failure to understand that there was anyone left in New Orleans; they thought the mandatory evacuation meant everyone was gone. The people who were left behind were simply invisible to them. The people who were abandoned in the Super Dome and the Convention Center were not guilty of being black: they were guilty of being poor.

14 September 2005: For the past few weeks we've been watching the horrific events on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and Hurricane Katrina. I have a page devoted to this. I'm still constructing this, so stay tuned.

8 August 2005: Yes, there's more news of the strange coming from the Catholic Church. Virtually everyone knows that the Catholic Church opposes the use of artificial birth control; you can read more about it in Pope Pius XI's 1930 encyclical Casti Conubi and Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. In the early 1990s a man named Arturo Uribe fathered a child out of wedlock. Shortly after that he applied to and was accepted as a seminarian with the Redemptorist Fathers. He was honest with them about the child and they pledged to take responsibility for him. You can guess that it didn't work out as planned and in 1994 the child's mother sued for more child support. The Diocese of Portland headed by Archbishop William Levada responded by saying that the woman participated "in unprotected intercourse … when [she] should have known that could result in pregnancy." So I guess this means that artificial birth control is permitted if you're having sex with someone who wants to be a priest. By the way, are you interested in what became of Archbishop Levada? I know, sometimes it's hard to stay cynical enough to keep up, but he is now on his way to Rome to become the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

30 July 2005: So this is fun. I just read an article about the Christian Exodus Movement. Turns out these folk believe that the United States has turned so far from God that they have a new idea: all the people who share their beliefs should move to the same area and concentrate their influence. They've chosen South Carolina; this does make some sense. The movement has not ruled out the possibility of leaving the United States which South Carolina did once before in 1860. The founder of the movement is Cory Burnell; of course he lives here in California but has promised to move to South Carolina in 2006 or 2007. Then he can join the 4 families that have already made the move. The numbers aren't promising so here's my idea: those of us who think these folk are right wing nutcases can sponsor a family to go there . Email me if you want to be part of the "Send to nutcases to South Carolina," or, as my friend Larry says: "Keep all the broken toys in the same toy box."

6 July 2005: It appears the impending nomination of the Supreme Court nomination is getting much of my attention these days. The Bush administration is now saying that it may be August before they announce someone but the drama is already happening. There is no frontrunner but Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's name has popped up. He was recently appointed AG and attracted some controversy over his belief that torture may be acceptable in some cases in the war on terror. Hard to believe, but some of the conservative groups oppose his nomination because he isn't conservative enough. In an article in today's New York Times members of the Bush administration and Senate Republicans are asking the more conservative groups to tone down their rhetoric and give a united front. Those groups appear not to be interested in this. It's unusual because Republicans generally fight in private; this may be the beginning of a long summer for them. I'm still holding on to the prayer that whoever is chosen is someone who will represent the poor and downcast, the people most in need of government protection.

4 July 2005: Happy 4th of July! This really is a day for celebration. On this day 229 years ago a very brave group of men put their life on the line to ensure our freedom. Our thanks to them.

It's been over a month since I've written and I have to say it's been a pretty quiet month. The flap over Deep Throat has settled down and the sides have been drawn. I have to admit to some amusement that some of the Watergate folk who served prison sentences for breaking the law are now outraged that Mr. Felt leaked information to the press.

The new big issue is the vacancy to the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her retirement and we are currently waiting to see who President Bush nominates. The sides are being drawn up and the confirmation should prove to be a fight. This could also be a difficult time for the Bush administration. The Christian Conservative movement has been clear that they expect him to nominate someone who fulfills their agenda, particularly someone who will vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade the 1973 abortion decision. In other words, they are demanding a litmus test even though President Bush insisted he wouldn't use that. There are also moderate Republicans in the Senate who may find it difficult to support the nomination. Also, if President Bush nominates someone more moderate, the Christian Conservatives are unlikely to support him. Stay tuned.

3 June 2005: The big political story these days is Deep Throat, the anonymous Watergate source. I was interested in since I first read the book All the President's Men in the summer of 1975. That was the book written by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about Watergate; Bob Woodward had a source nicknamed "Deep Throat" who was instrumental in Woodward's and Bernstein's ability to investigate and write about the scandal. As part of their arrangement he promised not to reveal Deep Throat's identity until after his death. Deep Throat, however, made himself known and Woodward confirmed that. I had been saying for years that when Deep Throat is revealed it will be someone not generally known and that turned out to be true. I hadn't heard of Mark Felt even though I've read (and own) The Final Days, also by Woodward and Bernstein as well as these books by primary characters:

30 May 2005: Memorial Day. OK, so my first draft was "Happy Memorial Day" but that doesn't make any sense. This is a day to remember those who gave their lives in defense of our freedom. Perhaps you're seeing more flags flying around your neighborhood; I hope so. Today is often perceived as the beginning of summer but we can't forget those who served and those who continue to serve. This is a good time to help support those organizations who support the troops. The USO (United Service Organizations) supports our troops and can often be seen at airports. They are crucial here in San Diego. Hopefully everyone already knows about the American Legion and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). And by the way, if you're eligible to vote and haven't registered, don't tell me. If they are fighting for your right to vote, you owe it to them to vote. That's my sermon for today.

14 May 2005: It's hard to believe it's been 12 days since Hoover died. We're still grieving but doing OK. It's funny because I've been slinging out advice on grief for as long as I've been with Hospice and now I'm having to listen to it. Let the grief take its time, understand that it takes some of your energy, be patient with yourself, etc. etc. etc. Oh well. We still have Kirby and lots of people have been asking how he is coping with this. To tell the truth I think he's enjoying being King of the Hill. I set up a tribute page for Hoover on my Mac page.

3 May 2005: This isn't a surprise but Hoover died yesterday. When I last wrote it was 1AM and I couldn't sleep; we didn't get much at all that night as Hoover was trying to eat and drink but just couldn't. It was clear that his body was shutting down and yesterday morning we called our veterinarian Dr. John Hetzler, DVM. He's been wonderful and he made a bad situation better. We brought Hoover in yesterday afternoon and the process was quick and dignified. We'll miss him but it helps to know that he had a good life and we were able to care for him to the end.

2 May 2005: So now we are in the 2nd month of the papacy of Benedict XVI (formally Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger): this is why I'm not a betting man. I have to be frank in my concerns for this new papacy. In his most recent position running the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he virtually never strayed from the most conservative path. Those of us who were hoping for a new examination of noninfallible teachings such as birth control, married priest, and womens' ordination recognize that it will not happen in this papacy.

In sad news it looks like were in the last few days of the life of one of our cats. Hoover has been in a slow decline for several months now from kidney failure. The decline has gotten much sharper in the last few weeks and he's to the point where he's not eating. He's 15 and has had a good life but it's hard to let him go. As a matter of fact I'm writing this at 1AM because I can't sleep. I'll write more later.

18 April 2005: I'm writing this as I watch the Cardinals process into the Sistine Chapel to select the next Pope. It's been a little over 2 weeks since the death of Pope John Paul II and I was a bit surprised at my level of sadness over his passing. I've disagreed with many of his beliefs and often felt that discussion and dialogue were shut out of his papacy. When Pope John XXIII opened Vatican II he remarked that it was time to "open the windows of the Church and let some fresh air in." In many ways I felt Pope John Paul II was shutting those very windows. On the other hand he was a strong leader and his teachings on the dignity of the individual (particularly in areas of workers' rights) were incredible.

I'm sure I'm not alone in watching and waiting to see who will next lead. The bookies seem to think the next Pope may be Joseph Ratzinger but I doubt it. My best guess is that it will be someone nobody guessed; in 1978 nobody was handicapping the Archbishop of Krakow. Our prayers are with the conclave.

5 April 2005: No sooner had I completed the last entry that I learned of Terri Shiavo's death. An autopsy has been done and Terri's body has been cremated; when the results of the autopsy are published I pray it puts an end to this story. I also spoke in my last entry of the Pope and my concern that he could end up in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). On April 1st we got word that a urinary tract infection had turned septic and he was near death. He succumbed to this massive infection the next day at 9:37 p.m. the next day (local time). The infection relieved the Church of the question of what to do; there was no means (ordinary or extraordinary) that could have saved the Pope's life.

As a lifelong Catholic I've been watching much of the coverage of the Pope's death and upcoming funeral (and the next step: choosing his successor). God knows the coverage given the Church in the last few years has not been good and even though it's been almost entirely self inflicted it's been difficult to watch. The coverage given now of John Paul II is virtually all positive and I've been impressed with the accuracy of the coverage. More later.

31 March 2005: As I write this Terri Shiavo is still alive though minute to minute. It's been a tough few weeks for everyone who is directly involved in this case. Her feeding tube was disconnected 13 days ago at which time her doctors expected her to live 1 to 2 weeks. In the past two weeks there has been a flurry of legal activity and the courts have repeatedly stated that Michael Shiavo is the best judge of Terri's wishes. Her parents continue to hold out hope that she might recover at least some function. I can't blame her parents; no parent should be expected to give up on their children. But they have been "assisted" by people with no concern for Terri and are pushing their own agenda: Tom DeLay, Randall Terry , and now Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. They are claiming that Terri is not in a persistent vegetative state and that she reacts to people around her. This is clearly not the case; you can see the results for her CT (cat) scan here. Terri's CT scan is the one on the right vs. a scan of a normal brain on the left. The article where this picture appears is on MSNBC. The dark images from the CT scan indicated where her brain has atrophied. Since brain and nerve cells normally don't regenerate there is no hope that she will recover simply because there is essentially no brain to recover. We're not talking about a muscle that can be made stronger; we're talking about a brain that has died.

A related issue is the shameful way my Catholic Church has reacted to this. We have taught for decades that we are not required to use all necessary means to keep someone alive. One of the models we have used is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary means; one of the best resources I have found is a book by Fr. Richard Sparks CSP: To Treat or Not To Treat. Last year Pope John Paul II indicated that an artificial feeding tube is not an extraordinary means of keeping someone alive. As I write this the Pope himself has an NG (nasal gastric) tube. That's a tube placed through his nose into his stomach. There tubes are horribly uncomfortable and most people only have them in for a few days; after that if the person still needs a feeding tube, a tube is inserted directly into the stomach (this is what Terri Shiavo has). OK, so here's the problem: given the Holy Father's heath there is a distinct possibility that if he has a feeding tube inserted into his stomach and there is also the possibility he could lose the ability to communicate. There is no method for removing a Pope who is not able to lead. Unless he dies or resigns we could well be led by someone who cannot communicate with us. He's also really painted himself in a corner since he's essentially said it's not permissible to remove a feeding tube if that will lead to the person's death. Keep posted.

18 March 2005: In my last message I said that today would be my first day in the field; it was actually yesterday. My hopes that it would be easy and effortless was, alas, optimistic. It was good exercising those hospice muscles again but the documentation wasn't as smooth as I had hoped. No worries though, I'm getting there. I'm also reading about a hospice story on the East Coast. For the past few years the name Terri Schiavo has been much in the news. She is the woman in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) since February 25, 1990 after collapsing (perhaps due to a potassium imbalance). She is unable to eat on her own and is able to stay alive only because of a feeding tube. In May 1998 her husband petitioned the court to remove the feeding tube (and allow Terri to die); her parents have been opposing this, believing Terri may come out of the PVS. The link gives a timeline of this case. Today at 1:00 p.m. her feeding tube will be removed and it is estimated she will pass away in about 14 days. She is currently being cared for by Woodside Hospice in the Tampa, FL area. This is, frankly, a mess on several levels. My view is much in agreement with Terri's husband Michael. Terri has been in a PVS for over 15 years and she's not coming out. She will be in this state for the rest of her life regardless of how long this is. This boils down to a fight between Michael and Terri's parents and somewhere along the way I think Terri has been lost. Worse than this is that this has become a rallying cry for people who oppose abortion; under their claim to be "pro life" (note for future thought: are they protesting the death penalty?) they are interfering in this case. This is an emotional issue for me in its treatment of hospice. Since truth isn't attractive to these folk they are referring to hospice as a death camp. We aren't. Hospice recognizes that sometimes people are beyond cure and our job is to make the last chapter of a person's life pain free, and we're good at it. I invite anyone who has questions about this to contact me.

12 March 2005: OK, the end is in sight. I have less than a week left in orientation; I get the first batch of cases on Friday the 18th. I'm spending more time in the field shadowing folk and it's refreshing to see patients again. I'm also learning the computerized charting. We use a system called Misys for charting instead of using paper like I'm used to. I think it's wonderful but it's also a learning curve. As I spend time there I run into more and more of my colleagues from Vitas; we're joking that we should have a group photo taken. I'm also beginning to look at redesigning this page. As you can see I have buttons on the left side of the page to direct you to other pages. Right now if I want to add or remove buttons I have to do it on each page. There are a few ways around this and I'm looking at using either frames or templates; right now I'm leaning toward frames. That will make updating this page much less time consuming, but the actually redesign is pretty labor intensive.

4 March 2005: Today I have completed my 3rd (count 'em) week of orientation at San Diego Hospice. I can now confess publicly that I am eager to finish orientation and begin seeing patients. Unfortunately the one piece I don't have is training on the computer software we use for charting. That doesn't even begin until next week. I don't finish until 18 March and there's no way around this. I know, I know, be patient... In other news, Nancy is in Philadelphia on a business trip. Fortunately our cell phones are on the same network and we can talk with each other for free. She will return on Sunday the 6th and I'm eager for her return.

2 March 2005: The topic for today is the Supreme Court's prohibition of the execution of minors. Most of what I have is from National Public Radio's Web Page. The case is Roper vs. Simmons and was argued on October 13, 2004; the opinion was handed down on March 1, 2005. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority and was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, David Souter, and Stephen Breyer. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote a separate dissent. For those of us who oppose the death penalty this is a step in the right direction. Justice Kennedy's opinion noted several points that make the execution of juveniles unique: world opinion and even national opinion is turning away from this (we are now the last country in the world to abolish the execution of minors); juveniles are prohibited from voting, drinking alcohol, and joining military service (among others) because they are deemed to be have mitigated responsibility to make serious judgments. He notes that psychiatrists are prohibited from diagnosing anyone under 18 as being a sociopath and notes that if they cannot diagnose someone as incorrigible juries certainly cannot make that determination in death penalty cases. Disturbing in this is Justice's Scalia's dissent. He is Catholic and one of his sons is a priest. I had hoped he would take seriously the Church's opposition to the death penalty but he disregards this as simply "an opinion" and not a teaching of the Church. I pray for his conversion.

28 February 2005: It's another day and I'm reading more about Pope John Paul II and his health. My father-in-law subscribes to America magazine and there is an article entitled "How a Pope's Illness Affects the Church." There is a larger article that actually quotes two of my teacher from Catholic University: Fr. James Provost and Fr. Patrick Granfield. I think it's pretty clear to most people that the Pope stays the Pope until either he dies or quits; there's no mechanism to remove a Pope from office. Fr. Reese (who wrote the article) poses the question of what happens if the Pope is in a coma. Briefly, it would be a mess. The idea of the Pope living in a coma (or persistent vegetative state) is a new one as medical technology has only recently made this possible. Presumably the Pope could sign a living will or a durable power of attorney (giving instructions or appointing another to make decisions if he can no longer communicate his wishes) though there is no indication that he has done so. But there is another problem: on March 20, 2004 he spoke of the issue of nutrition and hydration of someone in a persistent vegetative state. You can read the whole text here but the most problematic statement is this one:

The sick person in a vegetative state, awaiting recover or a natural end, still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.), and to the prevention of complications related to his confinement to bed. He also has the right to appropriate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of eventual recovery.
This is a bit of a problem. Most of us who see this think of people in this vegetative state as no longer awaiting recovery but are awaiting a peaceful death. But the Pope doesn't and it's hard to imagine that he would sign anything that would end his life by withholding nutrition and hydration. We can only pray that this doesn't happen.

26 February 2005: Lots of stuff going on these days. The last few days I've been reading the stuff out of the Vatican about Pope John Paul II. He is currently in the hospital after a relapse of the flu; on the 24th he had a tracheotomy and was briefly on a ventilator. This raises all sorts of issues, one of which is whether the Pope should resign for health reasons. This is without precedent in the last 500 years but there have been papal resignations. I attempted to find the last papal resignation and found it slightly confusing. In 1415 Pope Gregory XII (1327-1417) "resigned" but this was part of a larger negotiation to heal a schism. I put resigned in quotations because it wasn't entirely voluntary. In 1294 Saint Celestine V (1215-1296) resigned for personal reasons (he was a hermit by nature and found the responsibilities of the Papacy interfered with his prayer life to the point where he was feared for his own salvation). He was canonized in 1313. This was, of course, all done before the advent of 24 hour news stations and Gallup polls. The concern I have today is that if John Paul II resigns it will set a bad precedent and future popes will feel pressure to resign if their health deteriorates.

24 February 2005: Yes, I'm going to talk about the rain again. If you live in an area that gets much more rain than we do, please bear with me. The February 23rd entry said we average almost 11 inches of rain; today, courtesy of the The San Diego Union-Tribue I have some statistics for record rainfalls in San Diego.

They say we have a few days before the next storm and hopefully that will allow people a few days to dig out.

23 February 2005: If you don't live in Southern California, you may have been hearing about the winter we're having here. It's hard to believe that rain can cause catastrophic problems, but you need to remember that we are a step above desert here (even if we're on the coast). Neither the ground nor the draining system is equipped for this much water. A normal winter brings us just under 11 inches of rain but we've been having a drought for the past several years (last year we received only 3.4 inches by this time). So far this winter we measure 18.49 inches with at least another month of rainy season. Last night we were awakened about 2 a.m. by heavy rain and a thunderstorm which is very unusual here. It was the loudest thunder I've experienced since I've been in California. They tell us that we should have a few days of respite before the next storm comes in on Monday. We're just not prepared for this kind of weather. The biggest impact I face is driving in it. The freeways are always jammed and unfortunately not everyone knows to leave more room when the road is wet and visibility is poor. I'm grateful it never snows here.

22 February 2005: The orientation for SDH is still going on, and will continue for a few more weeks. It's becoming a nice split between classroom stuff and field work; today I spent the day with one of my colleague chaplains and tomorrow I spend the day with a nurse. In addition to finding out how SDH does things I get to spend time with colleagues and teammates. Granted by the time this orientation finishes I'll be ready, but this is good now. In other news, tonight we host a group from church. Nancy and I attend The Catholic Community at UCSD and are very active there. Our pastor Fr. John Paul Forté is implementing a program called "Got Gifts" where small groups from the church meet and help each other discern their gifts and (hopefully) use them for the building up of the community. We host the first meeting tonight.

19 February 2005: I've just finished my first week of orientation and it's been a good week. SDH's orientation is long, about 5 weeks total (it's a mix of classroom and field). It's certainly true that after 5 weeks I'll be eager to get started, but this is a good chance for me to meet and work with a cross section of current employees and fellow rookies. A good number are people I met when I worked for Vitas and I've had some wonderful reunions. I've also had a chance to meet the other 16 chaplains and I've thrilled by the competency I see. In another area, it's time to look at the goals I had for my sabbatical. I've been hesitant to do this because I didn't accomplish as much as I had hope. Well, here goes:

  1. Lose weight: This has been a complete failure. There have been some factors to this: I just couldn't get the odometer to work effectively, I didn't get my bike road worthy until nearly the end of the sabbatical, and it's been a rainy winter. On the other hand I often found I ate more out of boredom than hunger (which is a pattern for me) and wasn't able to move beyond this. I enrolled in a study for weight loss for men but I'm in the control group which doesn't receive as many services as the other group. I do have the option to switch after a year and I may do that. There's still hope in this; after I finish orientation I'll be back in a regular routine and can build in good eating habits. So we'll see.
  2. Spiritual Reading: This had some more success. I didn't finish the book on St. Bernard of Clairvaux but did more reading in other areas. It could have been better, but it also could have been worse.
  3. Learning Web Design: This was my biggest success. I learned a great deal about this from the classes I took at the community college. I've already made some changes in this web page based on what I learned and will do more.
  4. Cooking: This was mixed. I did cook dinner several times and enjoyed it, but I did recipes we both knew. Part of me was hoping to venture out and learn more about different skills, but I found that this was more difficult. You can only experiment if you have the capacity for failure and I didn't want to create a disaster just as Nancy was coming home after a long day of work. Calling for a pizza just didn't seem like a good idea.
  5. Household Projects: This was also mixed. I was successful with the bookshelves and they look good. I found I could remove the wallpaper without needing to repaint. Unfortunately I found that the wallpaper was border wallpaper which is harder to remove and I didn't complete the job. It has to get done but I'm not sure exactly when.
There have been some other successes in the sabbatical too. The time gave me a chance to take some time away from Odyssey and that has been a gift. I don't need to air dirty laundry here but I come away from my year there with less bitterness because I had a place to heal and reflect. It also gave me the space to realize that I am a hospice chaplain. I had given some thought to moving into a new field, perhaps even being in private practice as a grief counselor or working for a church. Having the time away helped me realize that I missed the direct patient contact and I missed specifically working with people on issues of faith. I loved bereavement work and may return to some of that but for now I'm excited to be back in the chaplain world.

18 February 2005: As you've seen from previous posts, I'm now employed by San Diego Hospice and today is the end of my first week of orientation. It's been really good and a little bit overwhelming. There are 24 of us new employees and I'm realizing that this is the largest employer I've had. I've been doing hospice work for a little over 7 years now but with any new company I need to see how they do things. There are also some unique aspects to SDH. We are the oldest hospice in town, being founded in 1977. To that end we try to be leaders in teaching health care providers to care for people at the end of life. One of the reasons we are able to do this was the generosity of the late Joan Kroc (1928-2003). SDH received $20,000,000 from her will; you can read more about this here. In other news the Advair continues to work well and I haven't had to use my Albuterol since I began this new program. At some point I feel the need the evaluate my sabbatical; I came into it with some goals and it only makes sense how I've done. That should happen soon.

13 February 2005: Well, it's time to start making some changes to this page. Tomorrow is my first day at San Diego Hospice. Today is officially the last day of my sabbatical and in the next few days (or weeks) I'm going to redesign this page. The easiest thing to do is to change "sabbatical blog" to a just plain "blog." For people who are interested, I'm also thinking of designing this page using either templates or frames (that's all the web page nerd stuff I'll talk about today--it's safe to keep reading). Speaking of nerd stuff, you can see from my booklist page that I'm reading Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton. Wil is an actor; he's done several projects and you may remember him from his roles as Gordie Lachance in Stand By Me and Ensign Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also has a blog page that is worth a look. He's much more honest than I am in publishing his guts. He's also convinced me that I could never be an actor. It was hard enough just applying for a regular job, I can't imagine doing this all the time. In other news I spoke about a cold I caught in December (I also caught something on the way back from Yosemite) and how these have exacerbated my asthma. For years I've been using an inhaler called Albuterol. I only use it when needed and probably about 10 times per year. In the last few weeks I've been using it practically every night and in frustration I went to see my doctor. Turns out I'm being under medicated and am now taking an inhaled steroid called Advair. The good news is that last few nights I haven't had to take the Albuterol. The bad news is that this is the first time I've ever had to take something on a regular basis to manage my asthma. My first question was whether or not this leads me down a progressive road where I'll have to do more and more stuff to be able to breathe; I was assured I'm fine unless I start smoking which is not going to happen. Anyway it's nice to be able to breathe.

7 February 2005: It's probably time to wrap up this sabbatical. But first, some catch up. Nancy and I did our annual trip to Yosemite. We weren't able to go last year and we really missed it. This may seem like an odd time of the year to go, but there are 2 advantages. The park isn't nearly as crowded as it is in the summer (I've never been but they say it's crazy in the summer). The second is that Yosemite conducts Chef's Holidays. It was a great trip. We make it a 2 day trip and stop in Bakersfield. We were concerned about the drive back because part of I-5 north of Los Angeles (near Gorman, it's called the grapevine) had been washed out in the rains in early January. The good news is that while only one lane was open, we had only a 10 minute delay. When I began this sabbatical I looked at a timetable in terms of looking for work when we returned from Yosemite. Back in November I spoke about openings at San Diego Hospice and Hospice By the Sea. Shortly before vacation I saw from the web page that San Diego Hospice was looking for a chaplain. I was able to speak with someone and we scheduled an interview for Tuesday, January 25th. That interview went well and I was hopeful that I would get the job. A few days later I was invited back for another interview on February 1st; so much for my hope that the first interview went so well that I blew the competition out of the water. My second interview also went well and I was told I'd have an answer by Friday the 4th. On the 3rd I got a call from a friend from Hospice by the Sea. She explained that the owner was impressed by my résumé but decided in November not to hire anyone before the holidays. I understand that but it would have been good to tell me at the time. When I hadn't heard from them I assumed they either had found someone to hire or they decided not to hire anyone. In any case I explained that I was awaiting word from SDH. I got another call on the 4th asking me to call the 2nd in command at HBtS and asking me not to accept an offer from SDH until HBtS had a chance to counteroffer. I spoke with him and told him that I had, in essence, given SDH right of first refusal. A few hours later I got the offer from SDH and accepted. I begin orientation on February 14th.

12 January 2005: I'm getting more serious about writing here. The Christmas visit was good, but did have some unexpected turns. I was hoping to get the wallpaper down before my family visited because my folks were staying in that room. It ended up not happening because of the type of wallpaper (I'm still trying). On the other hand, my father's cat allergy kicked into high gear and they ended up staying at the Marriott Residence Inn with my sister and her family.

11 January 2005:All right, show of hands: how many of you thought I'd never get back to this? Well, it's been a long few weeks. On 23 December my family arrived for Christmas. They stayed until New Year's Day and we were too busy hosting them. OK, so it's been 10 days since they left and I've been recovering from the holidays and doing other things. It's good to be back to this blog. Anyway, I was pretty much over my cold by the time everyone arrived and (as far as I can tell) I didn't pass it along to anyone so I achieved both objectives. One of the highlights while everyone was here was a tour of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan on Christmas Day. My father was on aircraft carriers during the Korean War and was amazed at how different they are now ("Vending machines? They sure didn't have those things on board when I was in the navy!"). We also had a family portrait done, the first one in about 16 years. Since my older nephew Nathan heads off to college next fall we weren't sure when we'd have everyone together again. Lots to write about but time is short and I wanted to get back in the habit of writing this.

22 December 2004: For the first time I'm thinking there will be a day when the cold is gone. My breathing is getting better (for some reason this cold is hitting my asthma more than usual and I'm not far from my inhaler) and the congestion is more episodic (aren't you thrilled to know this?). I had lunch with a friend who I missed at the party Saturday night; it was good to catch up.

21 December 2004: SSDD (same stuff different day). I've officially given up on getting the wallpaper down anytime soon. Apparently it's "border wallpaper" and that's the problem. There are two layers; the top layer is easier than the bottom to remove. Maybe after the new year.

20 December 2004: I'm beginning to feel the time crunch now. I'm afraid nothing from my sabbatical is getting done except Christmas preparations. I'm in a pattern of getting stuff done, but nothing that would look interesting on this page. The cold is getting better but is far from over. Sleeping seems to be getting a little easier.

19 December 2004: The cold is progressing in that I'm also getting cabin fever. I was able to go to the farmer's market and church, but pretty much all other time is spent doing nothing. I don't think the wallpaper is going to get done by the time my family arrives.

18 December 2004: Day 2 of the mother of all colds. We were supposed to go to our friends' annual Christmas party tonight. Alas, it is wall to wall people and a high percentage of children; much as I hate missing the party there's no way I'm going to ruin someone's Christmas by giving them my cold. Nancy and her sister went. On the bright side I rented the movie Master and Commander. It has enough history to turn on my interest and enough violence to turn off Nancy's interest.

17 December 2004: Now this was neither welcome nor expected. It's a week before Christmas and I've caught the mother of all colds. So much for plans today; it has the added benefit of making sleep difficult so I stayed inside in that place between sleep and wake. You know how it is, you're neither asleep nor alert and living in that fog. I have 2 objectives: get over this by the time my family comes and not spread it to anyone. Oh yes, and this pushes the wallpaper thing back. Lovely.

16 December 2004: When I decided to take this sabbatical I thought one of the advantages is that I get to do Christmas shopping when everyone else is at work. I'm finding that there may well be more people like me than people who work. I'm learning that if I want to do any shopping I have to do it in the morning. I got most of that done this morning and got back to the wallpaper in the evening. That's going to be a long job.

15 December 2004: I'm eventually going to learn my lesson about these home improvement things: they take longer and are more difficult than I thought. I'm not sure if this was some kind of stronger wallpaper but it's not coming off very well. My parents will be here in 8 days and will be in this room so it needs to be gone by then. The good news is that the paint underneath doesn't seem to be bad and the room may not need to be repainted.

14 December 2004: Today was a road trip. My father-in-law and I went to see Nancy's Great Aunt Mae. She turned 101 last month (it's actually a more complicated relationship: she is the widow of Nancy's grandmother's brother). She still lives alone in San Bernardino. The trip was 100 miles each way and we had a terrific lunch with her. Every time we see her we think "this may be the last time" and someday it will, but not so far.

13 December 2004: Nancy has one of her clinics on Mondays and doesn't have to go in quite so early so we're able to walk longer in the morning. I did some more shopping and then started to work on removing the wallpaper in the guest room. It looks like this may be a tougher job than I thought. In the old days you had to steam it off. Now there is a solvent where you score the wallpaper, spray on the solvent, and the paper is (supposed to) peel right off. It's not exactly peeling.

12 December 2004: Sunday seems to have its own routine. Nancy was baking bigel most of the morning and I went to the Farmer's Market. In the afternoon I went briefly to a friend's open house and Nancy and I went to church in the evening. It didn't promise to be much of a walking day and I didn't even use the odometer.

11 December 2004: Today is my Aunt Aldea's 94th birthday (yes, that's not a misprint). She's my grandmother's younger sister and she's outlived all her siblings by at least 23 years. She still lives in Gardner, Massachusetts where she was born but is now in elderly housing She's outlived most of the people in her life and it can get lonely for her at times but her memory is still very good. You can see a picture of her on her wedding day. Today was also zoo day and Nancy and I started the day there. We also did some geocaching in the afternoon. Results for the day were 16,000 steps or 6 miles.

10 December 2004: It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas (hum along everyone). This is the time of year everyone is supposed to avoid the malls; I'm finding that weekday mornings are the most productive and I visited Horton Plaza today. It was also an opportunity to walk around downtown, including Seaport Village. The day ended with almost 13,000 steps and almost 5 miles. At noontime I was at KPBS studios for my monthly Radio Reading Service. This is a wonderful service: volunteers like me read books or periodicals over a subchannel on the radio. People who are blind or sight impaired have a special radio that picks up the signal. I read the Sunday San Diego Union Tribune from 1999 until earlier this year when I switched to reading novels (not the whole thing; an hour at a time). Today I read from the San Diego Reader and selections from the Travel Section of the Los Angeles Times and the Union Tribune. After that Nancy and I went to two (count 'em) parties. The first was with some of Nancy's co-workers and the second was with the RCIA core team at church.

9 December 2004: Well this is a first for us: I actually got Christmas cards done so they will arrive before Christmas. We have a long list and it took a while, but they're done and will be in the mail tomorrow. I also did some shopping and saw a friend in the hospital; somehow the day added up to over 12,000 steps and almost 5 miles. In the evening we did something on campus at UCSD. Nancy and I are on the parish council at church and we had pizza with the students as they are finished finals. It was a little chaotic but good. They have a weekly event called Thursday Night Dinner and I hadn't been to that in about 8 years or so. Most of the students were done with exams and they looked very relieved.

8 December 20004: In the Catholic calendar today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (trivia answer: it actually commemorates Mary's conception, not Jesus'). Alas, I didn't have a chance to attend mass since it was at noon and I was in the Dreamweaver class until 12:30. In other news I think the spa is fixed; we'll see. We did some walking and I ended up with 14,000 steps or 5.5 miles today. It didn't feel like that long but these errands add up. This was also the day of my first cooking disaster. I tried an enchilada recipe that Nancy clipped out of the newspaper. Suffice it to say that it didn't work out and the garbage disposal had the makings for a good dinner. Fortunately I figured out my mistake and Nancy was able to throw together another enchilada recipe.

7 December 2004: Our prayers are, of course, with all those who died 63 years ago at Pearl Harbor. In the days following September 11th I spent much of my time talking with patients about where they were when they heard the news about Pearl Harbor. This was a day of running around, but not much activity (if that makes sense). I'm a regular donor at the San Diego Blood Bank. I started giving whole blood in 1978 when I was in college. In 1994 I lived very close to St. Jude Children's Cancer Hospital in Memphis when I was told about donating platelets and began doing that. It's much easier and faster now than it used to be. I began my day donating (today we did platelets and plasma). It's certainly a worthwhile thing, but it leaves me wiped out. When I had a full time job I'd donate at the end of the day but since I donated the beginning of the day I didn't get much activity done.

6 December 2004: Right now we're between rainstorms and I took advantage of it by going to the zoo; then was lunch with my sister-in-law. The afternoon was more Christmas shopping and errands. Now that I've turned the corner on some of this web page design I've been updating my other pages. It's pretty labor intensive but fun.

5 December 2004: So if this place is supposed to be a desert, why are we getting so much rain? Nobody is saying it's an El Niño but at this point we have triple the amount of rain for a normal year. We started the day at the zoo but didn't stay long; then we went to the farmer's market. The rain ruined any thoughts of geocaching. Oh well; another short walking day (9300 steps, 3.6 miles).

4 December 2004: It's a Christmas tradition that Nancy bakes several loaves of bread for Christmas. It's called bigel and it's her grandmother's recipe from Austria. She baked the first batch today; mostly I ran errands. By the end of the day I had only walked 8500 steps. In the good news department I finally nailed the web page thing and am updating all the pages. In the bad news department I'm still having trouble with the spa. I think I've got air in the jets but my normal solution isn't working. Funny how when we bought the thing the guy was telling us that there's "almost no maintenance." Yeah right.

3 December 2004: First, happy birthday to my friend Randy (aka Mike) back in Virginia. After yesterday I decided to get back on track. I started the day at the zoo and ended up with 19,000 steps (7.3 miles) for the day. I did some Christmas shopping and errands in the afternoon. I did refill the spa and put the chemicals in. We won't know if it works or not until we get into it. Not very exciting but I found the exercise at the beginning of the day made the whole day better.

2 December 2004: This is the rut I've been fearing. I spent most of the morning still working on this web page to no avail. It was frustrating but I'm determined to figure this out (for anyone who is interested I'm struggling with placing images in the document without having to type the entire URL into the code). In another frustrating issue, I spent most of the afternoon on the spa. We purchased a Jacuzzi last May and it worked really well for a few months. After we got back from Alaska I began to get rashes and found it difficult to keep the chemicals balanced. For about the 3rd time I had to treat it and drain it. Tomorrow I'll refill and balance again. The evening was better as my sister-in-law and niece came over for a visit. You'd think all this frustration would benefit something but I only walked 8000 steps or 3 miles.

1 December 2004: I began the day taking that course on Intermediate Dreamweaver. I wasn't sure if it was more appropriate to start with the Beginning course or jump right into the Intermediate. I spoke with the instructor and he suggested that since the class is free, there's no harm to trying the Intermediate course. It was really good and I have some ideas to improve the page; alas, if you're reading this you can see that much of my site is "under construction" as I play around with the files. Be patient.

30 November 2004: I'm beginning to find it a burden to do this everyday (proof is that I'm writing this on December 2nd and am trying to remember what I did 2 days ago). I spent part of the day slogging through the office trying to get that in good shape. I also got my bike out and the stationary trainer and did some time on that. The bike may prove to be another headache as the tires may need to be replaced. It's a road bike with thin tires at high pressure and I've blown 2 tubes when the bead of the tire came out of the rim. I'm not sure how much biking I'll be doing once I start working again and I'm hesitant to put much money into it. On the other hand there's only so much exercise I can do by walking. Speaking of walking I did nearly 17,000 steps or a little over 6 miles.

29 November 2004: So now that the shelves are up, the next logical project is to fill them with books and stuff. Sounds like the gravy part of this job and I assumed it was; OK, it was, sort of. When I left Odyssey I cleaned out my bookshelf there and have had all these books in the trunk of my car. Now at least they are in a better place. The difficulty of this job though is sorting. There hasn't been a time in our marriage that Nancy and I have had enough room for books. When we moved into this larger house over 3 1/2 years ago I think we expected there would be more room for books and we weren't (I wasn't) as careful to weed through stuff. All the time we were planning on these shelves I think we expected they'd solve everything. After several hours of slogging through the accumulated mess in the office (and not finishing) I'm realizing the enormity of the job. Suffice it to say that I'll be happy when it's done. My sympathies to whoever will have to sort through this when Nancy and I pass on. OK, I know that's gross, but after nearly 7 years in hospice I could tell you some stories. Between that and some errands, I really didn't do much else. The pedometer was difficult and I think I only walked about 4 miles or about 10,000 steps.

28 November 2004: Today is the First Sunday of Advent (if you're not Catholic it's the beginning the new Church year; it's the 4 weeks before Christmas). Nancy worked in the morning and I went for a long walk: Balboa Park, downtown, Hillcrest (total steps for the day: 19,000; miles: 7.3). In the afternoon we finished decorating the house and the tree for Christmas. This will be hard to beat in the years to come. We went to church in the evening. I've always loved the season of Advent and the preparation for Christmas. After mass we went to dinner with some friends and had a wonderful time.

27 November 2004: First, a happy birthday to my Uncle Joe who turns a young 81 today. More shopping followed by a long walk on campus in the afternoon (which, truth be told, only amounted to 14,000 steps). One of the nice parts of this sabbatical is that Christmas stuff might actually happen on a sane schedule. We put the tree up, I finished the outside lights, and we began decorating the house.

26 November 2004: The day after Thanksgiving was pretty quiet. I did need to do some quick shopping but I did it early enough in the day to avoid the really ugly crowds. Nancy had to work in the morning and we did some caches on Fiesta Island in the afternoon. Later on I started putting up Christmas lights. I'm afraid it wasn't much of a walking day; tomorrow will better.

25 November 2004: Happy Thanksgiving! This is always a dangerous day for someone who is trying to eat responsibly but it wasn't too bad. My church celebrates mass on Thanksgiving at 9AM and I walked there and back. It was a small crowd but it was a good way to start the day. Nancy had to work in the morning; when she got home we took another walk on campus. The grand total for the day was almost 28,000 steps, or nearly 11 miles. Not a bad day. That afternoon we had Thanksgiving at Nancy's sister's house. It's a tradition we've been doing for several years. Now, of course, begins the Christmas season.

24 November 2004: I began the day at the car dealership; it turned out to be a productive few hours. First, my brakes are fine and there was no leak. Also, since I had some time I brought the laptop with me and an instruction book and finally learned how to do basic CSS (cascading style sheets). This may be boring to non computer folk, but CSS is a much better way to set up web pages; it gives much more flexibility in placing objects on the web page and I've been frustrated for a long while that I just couldn't get the hang of it. I'm certainly not done learning but got what I wanted to know. You should see these pages start to look spiffier. After lunch I went to campus; the priests at my church, UCSD Catholic Community, have lunch on the Price Center Plaza on Wednesdays and I wanted to stop by and say hello. It's about a 40 minute walk or a 10 minute bike ride and I got out my bike for the trip. Unfortunately about a mile from home I blew out the rear tire. Changing a tire is easy, but in removing and replacing the rear wheel I tangled the chain beyond comprehension. If you remember Slinky's from your childhood you can appreciate this. Once those things got tangled up, that was the ball game. Anyway I locked the bike to a rack and walked the rest of the way. I ended up biking just a mile and walking about 15,000 steps (didn't have the pedometer on since I expected to be on the bike). One element of this sabbatical I've been neglecting is the spiritual reading. I'm still reading the book on St. Bernard of Clairvaux but I'm finding it slow going. I may move on to something else.

23 November 2004: So this was supposed to be the day I said I was finally finished with the shelves. Well....almost. In my defense, Nancy and I decided on 8 (2 sets of 4) instead of 6 (2 sets of 3); I had purchased 5 which cleaned them out. Today I went back and cleaned them out again, but they only had 2 more which leaves me one short. But I set up what I have and the books are ready to go. I did go walking at the zoo but didn't see anyone and didn't stay long. It was hard to track mileage as the pedometer accidentally reset during the day but I estimate 15,000 steps. I also got my oil changed and they noticed I was low on brake fluid. Isn't it amazing that words like "brakes" immediately get your attention? First order of business tomorrow is to get that looked at.

22 November 2004: This day seems to go by pretty much unnoticed, but it was 41 years ago today that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I spent the day finishing up the shelves (well, almost but I'm getting there). I began the day walking to Le Peep restaurant to have breakfast with a friend from church. It was a good breakfast and a good workout. Between that walk and our normal walks in the morning and evening I did almost 28,000 steps today; that's 10.8 miles. I can really feel it now, but it's a good tired. I'm not completely finished the shelves because Lowe's had run out but they should have more by now. I'll stop by and look tomorrow. Also, I cooked pork chops for dinner. It was an easy dish, more convenient that creative.

21 November 2004: Today is Sunday and we have a routine for the day. We awoke to a thunderstorm; that's rare in San Diego. It also prevented an early morning walk. We went to the local farmer's market and then did a cache. It was an urban (and waterlogged) cache and therefore meant no walking. We did walk over the campus (UCSD). We normally go to church in the evening. The upshot was that we only walked 10,000 steps, or 3.88 miles. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

20 November 2004: Well, at least with the exercise I'm getting back on track. I ended up with over 21,000 steps or a little over 8 miles. We did indeed go to the Wild Animal Park today and saw the new lion exhibit. It's really nice and much better than the "row of cages" that most zoos have. We also did some geocaching and the steps added up. In the evening we went up to San Clemente to have dinner with one of my oldest friends (from Youth Group days in Manassas). It was fun to catch up and finally meet her 7 1/2 month old son. Her husband is in Iraq with the Marines and I ask your prayers for him and for everyone in harm's way.

19 November 2004: Today was a little better, but I'll sure feel better when these shelves are in. Turns out that one of the guys at Lowe's gave me some bad advice and that was most of the problem. Now I have the proper materials and tools and things went better. The job should be finished on Monday (famous last words). The last few days I've been neglecting exercise; today was only about 6500 steps but tomorrow we plan to go to the Wild Animal Park. It's about 45 minutes north of here and we don't get there as often as the zoo but they have a Lion exhibit that's wonderful.

18 November 2004: OK, it's days like these that are going to get me motivated to get back into the working world. I finally got set up to build the bookshelves and it was a disaster. The details aren't important, but at the end of the day I still have 10 fingers and there shelves aren't in. Looks like I start tomorrow back at Lowe's. I met a friend for coffee (anyone see a pattern here?) and that was fun catching up. In the evening I went with my father-in-law and his friend to a lecture on the UCSD campus by John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey. It was sponsored by the The Burke Lectureship on Religion and Society. It was a good lecture and I agree with most of what Bishop Spong says. It was a nice ending to a frustrating day. Also, happy birthday to my brother-in-law Dave.

17 November 2004: Well, another day, another 19,000 steps (7.4 miles if you're keeping track). I did a nice long walk at the zoo followed by a leisurely lunch with a friend. That's how life is supposed to be all the time. After that I read some more of Bernard. This was his treatise on conversion and it was fascinating to read: those guys had much looser rules on the use of Scripture than we do today. But according to the introduction, he delivered this sermon and several men decided to join him at the monastery in Clairvaux; nothing succeeds like success. I also started the prep work for building the shelves and hope to get the lion's share done tomorrow. Film at 11.

16 November 2004: You know, I think I may be getting used to this. I spent most of the morning at Lowe's getting materials for the home improvement projects. I'm still no Harry Homebuilder but it looks like I'll be able to attack the bookshelves with little trouble. Of course all the stuff is still in the back of my car so we'll see. After Lowe's I did some walking at the zoo (total steps today: 13,000, or almost 5 miles). I also got a new battery for my bike computer. Nancy and I pretty much stopped bicycling about 6 years ago and I'm going to start up again. The bike is in remarkably good shape and I'll get on it in the next day or so. Today was the first day I was able to devote some time to reading the book on St. Bernard. Reading something that was written almost 900 years ago isn't easy but it's a classic because it does touch on the universal human experience. expect these things to be overly harsh and boring, but the more I read, the more I enjoy it. I also cooked dinner last night; given Nancy's expertise in cooking this may be the most intimidating of all. I made a recipe called Chicken Vegetable Country Casserole. Nobody ended up in urgent care last night and that's my gauge of success. I finished the day in church; I do some teaching for the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). That's the group that is becoming Catholic. They're always an incredibly bright and enthusiastic assortment of folk and I spoke with them about Scripture and Prayer.

15 November 2004: OK, now it feels like a sabbatical, or at least like I'm not going to work. This hasn't been the best day for activity (only 9000 steps or 3 1/2 miles). But it was indeed the day of a thousand errands and I got lots of them done. You will all be glad to know that we are well stocked with cat food and litter. You may think that's not a big deal unless you own (are owned by) cats. I did get some spiritual reading done, but not as much as I had hoped. Tomorrow looks less busy and more time for projects. I intend to start the day at Lowe's. Time to build those bookshelves!

14 November 2004: Today was a good activity day; first time over 20,000 steps. The pedometer recorded 7.8 miles and it feels like it. Part of the day was geocaching. with Nancy. It's a great hobby and you can find out more about it on their page. Nancy goes by Tigger Girl and I go by Dr. Quest. I'm also looking into the spiritual reading I want to do. A few years ago I started a book on St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The 12th Century was a time of great writing and I find myself drawn to it time and again. If you're interested you can read a brief biography of him on the online version of the Catholic Encyclopedia. I'm expecting tomorrow to be the first day that feels like a sabbatical.

13 November 2004: OK, it still doesn't feel like a sabbatical since it's still the weekend. I've found the weak link with the pedometer I'm using: today as I was finishing up a long walk I accidentally hit the reset button. I think I was at about 17,000 steps which roughly translates into 7 miles. We went to the zoo this morning and walked a while there. We're groupies and go there often. They have a sweet deal there where if you have a certain level of membership you can get there an hour before the zoo opens on the 2nd Saturday of the month. It gives us time to see the exhibits before the crowds come and talk with some of the keepers.

12 November 2004: Today was my last day at work and I'm writing this as one of the officially unemployed. Several people asked me how it feels and it feels good. It's a strange feeling working the last two weeks after giving notice; it's sometimes called "lame duck" and I understand that now. A week ago my successor was named and she has already begun to talk about changes she wants to make. More power to her, I'm hardly one look back once I've started down another road. But it is a strange feeling, felt most acutely in the last few days. My "swan song" was our annual memorial service for the families of all the patients we have served in the last year. Planning these things has never been either my strong suit or my interest and I just wanted the thing to be over. Now it is. Truth be told it won't feel like the sabbatical has begun until Monday morning when the rest of the world goes back to work and I don't. I have planned a fairly full day in the hopes of getting this off to a good start. As I said, one of the things I'm interested in is physical health. We have a pedometer and I wore it most of yesterday; I've read that a good walking day is about 10,000 steps. Yesterday I did 16,000 and that felt good. My hope is to do 15,000 to 20,000 per day in addition to other aerobic activity.

10 November 2004: Let me begin by wishing a Happy Birthday to all the Marines who may be reading this. Anyway, these first few entries are putting the cart before the horse because my sabbatical hasn't begun yet. My last day at Odyssey is November 12th and I'm in the middle of wrapping things up. I have to tell you that at this point I'm just plain tired of saying goodbye. Not only to co-workers but also to the bereaved folks I've been working with. Probably the best part of being a grief counselor is that I meet people during a crisis and get to walk with them as they put their lives back together. When it goes well we get to end the relationship on their timetable. My leaving means it ends on mine, regardless of where they are in the healing process. I also want to make the transition to my successor as smooth as possible and that's difficult given the chaotic nature of this kind of work. Oh yes, and this wouldn't be a process without some complications. When I first began planning this journey I had some anxiety over leaving my job without having another job waiting for me; that's when I began thinking of this as a sabbatical and not just "not having a job." So after this, as I've gotten to the point of looking forward to this sabbatical, I've heard that there are job openings that I may be interested in at San Diego Hospice and Hospice by the Sea. So here's my dilemma: do I go ahead with the sabbatical as I planned and hope there is something available in February or so when I'm ready to go back to work or do I pursue these thinking that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush? At this point my inclination is to wait, but there's no harm in talking with the folk from SDH and HBtS. Film at 11.

6 November 2004: This is the first installment of my sabbatical blog. Last month Nancy and I decided, for a number of reasons, that it would be good for me to leave Odyssey Hospice. It wasn't an easy decision because I didn't have another job lined up, but I decided to reframe this time. As of November 12th I won't be "unemployed" so much as "on sabbatical." I have a few projects I want to do and perhaps the purpose of doing this blog is to keep myself accountable (on the hope that someone is really reading this and can keep me accountable). In no particular order here are some of the projects I'm looking at:

  1. Lose Weight: It's hard to imagine that anyone who has known me doesn't know I've struggled most of my life with maintaining a healthy weight. I've tried a number of things and I'm currently enrolled in a study connected with UCSD called Men in Motion. The key to a healthy weight isn't exactly rocket science: eat less, eat better, and exercise more. To that end I'm dusting off the bicycle and plan to spend part of every day in aerobic exercise.
  2. Spiritual Reading: When I was a Paulist I enjoyed both access to and time for spiritual reading. I have a number of books and articles I want to get to, and I want to use this time as a way to invigorate my spiritual life, and simply pray more. There is a local Benedictine Abbey in Oceanside, Prince of Peace Abbey. It's clear that I'm not called to monastic life but there is a peace and solitude there and I hope to spend some time enveloped in that.
  3. Learning Web Design: This is more of a fun thing. I've been doing this page for a few years now and I know basic html. The program I'm using is Dreamweaver which is way beyond my abilities. The local San Diego Community College District has continuing education programs and I want to take advantage of this to learn more about web design. This may make this page spiffier so stay tuned.
  4. Cooking: This appeals to Nancy too. She's an excellent cook but daily wear of working full time and cooking each night takes its toll. I haven't had to cook for myself in a number of years but now I'll have time to share part (if not most) of the cooking.
  5. Household projects: This may prove to be the most difficult of all. I'm by no definition a handyman but there are some things that need to get done. One of the hazards of having a house of people with advanced degrees is that we have more books than bookshelves. I want to build bookshelves in the closet of our office and make the office more manageable. Also, the previous owners had 3 daughters and our guest room still has "Jack and the Beanstalk" wallpaper. I want to remove that and repaint the room.

Other project doubtless will come up but this is my starting point.

In other news I'm not the only one who was distressed by the recent Presidential election. This headline and cartoon pretty much say it all for me: