Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Don't cry for me Argentina or...thankful is an excellent thing to be

Thanksgiving is here, or maybe it's come and gone by the time you read this. Anyway...

Hard to be too critical of a holiday that asks you to stop, take a look at yourself, and give thanks for what you have, what you've been given, all the while encouraging you to eat like you had four stomachs.

Of course, I'm not sure that's what Thanksgiving is anymore, except for the eating part. When requests for our pledge not to shop on Thanksgiving are popping up all over the Internet, one can't help but think we took our eye off the ball.

We didn't celebrate Thanksgiving in Scotland, obviously, but you wouldn't have the holiday without us and the rest of Britain. After all, we pretty much made life so unbearable for the Puritans in our country that most of the dour, fun-hating, overwrought bunch decided to take their chances in the wilderness that was this country then. You're welcome.

The first Thanksgiving we celebrated was in 1963, the November John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Though I was 14 at the time, what I actually remember about the assassination is mostly the bits I've seen replayed over and over for 50 years. What was it like in my house? Couldn't tell you. First Thanksgiving at my house? Couldn't tell you.

So on a normal fourth Thursday in November, at least since we've moved to Maine, I would usually work the holiday so that people who wanted to celebrate with their families could. Sheri and I would always find a quiet way to express the gratitude we felt, and have some turkey at the same time; sometimes we were even able to do that on the fourth Thursday.

But this is not a normal Thanksgiving. This is the one where I have cancer. This is the particular fourth Thursday in November where my family has to celebrate the holiday with my illness never too far from their thoughts.

My closest friends who are so grateful for what they have, find worry about the cancer that I have creeping in. You want to hear the craziest thing people have said to me as they struggle to help me through all of this? “I feel bad celebrating the holiday knowing what you're going through.”

Believe me, I hear the love in those words; I hear concern for me I had no idea was even possible and I'm deeply touched. But, the thought also makes me sad.

The touched/sad conflict is important. But it's hard to express “what you're going through” without sounding like I've been dipping into the Big Book of Clichés, or watching way too many movies on AMC: Evita's “Don't Cry for me Argentina;” Bogart's “It's easy to see our problems don't amount to a hill of beans” speech from “Casablanca;” almost any sentiment expressed by any Thanksgiving greeting card. And the capper, the ever loving capper... Lou Gehrig's speech in “Pride of the Yankees: “Today I feel like the luckiest man alive,” though that feels a bit over the top since it's still not exactly clear how sick I am, other than the Stage 3 note on my initial paperwork.

As a country, there seems to be a whole lot of hand wringing over whether the true meaning of Christmas is being lost. What about the true meaning of Thanksgiving? As Black Friday has crept into Black Thursday night, and the day after Halloween is steadily becoming the kick-off to the Christmas shopping season, don't you think we've lost something important? Of course we have.

But here I sit with my multiple myeloma, and my big writer's ego afraid to share what I really feel. And why would that be? Resorting to clichés? Surely. Sounding like Saul after he saw the light on his way to Tarsus? Grandiose, perhaps, but maybe a little bit? Afraid people will see denial where I see truth? You betcha.

I read that back to myself and wonder: “Don't you think you've lost something important.” Of course I have. I started writing this blog to record my journey, my feelings as I learned to deal with my cancer, and with the hope that maybe it might help one or two of the dozens of people who would actually read it. Easy-peasy.

But quickly friends began asking if they could post my blogs on their Facebook pages; could they Tweet it; could they put it on Tumblr? Dozens became hundreds, and then my friends at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel asked if the could run my posts in the papers and online periodically and hundreds became thousands. People thought there was value in what I was writing; that it could help people who were hurting, not only over cancer, but countless other maladies of the spirit. It suddenly seemed like large responsibility. And I think I might have taken my eye off the ball. How I wrote things seemed to be becoming as important as what I wrote. Lord, even this last paragraph sounds like Jim's First Epistle to the Maineinites... “maladies of the spirit.”? Yikes.
So...Here's how I feel on the first Thanksgiving that Jim has cancer.

More than almost anything else, I feel a tremendous sense of clarity. I suppose it's a little bit like “Don't Sweat the Small Stuff” on massive doses of Red Bull. What is important jumps out at me, and what isn't shrivels away. There is a lot more shriveling than jumping out at, by the way. Is this too terrific to last? Dunno. Don't care. It makes today much better and today is what we have.

I have so much gratitude, so much to be thankful for... Though I certainty wouldn't recommend it, if you could see inside my head, you would be shocked at how much gratitude is there, and how little remorse. Do I wish I didn't have cancer? Well, duh, of course I do. I'm grateful, not an idiot. Besides, as my Kilbirnie granny back in Scotland always used to say: “If wishes werrrre horrrrrrses, beggarrrrrrs would rrrrride.”

It's what I live every day is what makes this the best of my 50 Thanksgivings. I have a wife whose love is something I never thought someone like me could experience. I have children who have survived my parenting to become daughters and mothers whose abilities baffle me, in a good way. I have stepchildren who have shown their love for me and assimilated me into their lives. It's no Brady Bunch, it's better- it's something I cherish. I have co-workers who email me heir support and keep me cheered up, and some of them I haven't seen in seven years.

The cancer, the multiple myeloma itself is incurable, but can be treatable. I have a medical team that makes me feel like my odds are pretty good. 

Put it all together, my cancer v. the rest of my life and Happy Thanksgiving for the Arnolds it is.

So don't cry for me Argentina; there's no need. Have a great Thanksgiving. Try not to obsess too much over the meal. And if you could get around to reconciling with that relative you swore you never would reconcile with, that would be good.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face."

Mike Tyson

Who knew I would ever empathize with Mike Tyson, at least metaphorically if not physically.

I've been in one fist fight in my adult life. It came when I was working the lights and sound system at a bar, which was little more than barn, with a bar, some tables, lights on the walls and a dance floor, with lights below. Admission was $2.00 (1972) and entitled the entered to drink all the beer and wine they could drink free of charge. I know what you're thinking: “What could possibly go wrong in a situation like that?” If you're thinking “Plenty,” you pretty much nailed it.

We opened at 9 p.m. And one of my big tasks was not to run the strobe lights after 11 p.m. They made too many people throw up. No strobes after 11. Check. Now, it has sort of a “Gremlins” ring to it. Then it was just one of those things I didn't really want to see regardless of the time of day.

Big task number two: Watch for fights. There were huge trouble lights in each corner of the place. When I saw a fight break out, I turned on the appropriate light and the bouncers descended on the scene and beat the crap out of anyone involved, with no concern for collateral damage. The problem with that plan was, at my work console, the trouble lights weren't marked as to which went to which corner This resulted in our eager bouncers, occasionally running from corner to corner in search of an altercation. Since they had been smoking hash, taking amphetamines and washing it all down with peppermint schnapps since before we opened, every night became “Anything Can Happen Night.”

On the night in question, the bouncers were busy inside and some yahoo was kicking and punching some of my bartender friends as we stood around the parking lot. I didn't like that he was doing that; something snapped in my head and I got into with the guy. It didn't last long. I had seen enough fights from my perch that I knew just what to do. I pulled his coat up over his head so he couldn't use his arms, pounded him repeatedly until the bouncers showed up, laughing hysterically, by the way, at the sight of me in a fight, and pulled me off the guy. Not a mark on me baby; one fight, one win. I retired undefeated.

So, there's that.

Growing up in Scotland in the 1950s, I was no stranger to violence. Catholics and Protestants went to separate schools, and there was plenty of fighting over that. Only the fact that I had plenty of Catholic friends saved me from many's an ambush on the way home from school. Each side generally traveled in packs for safety. Good luck if you were trying to go it alone.

Teachers in our Protestant school could pretty much punish you with whatever was at hand, including the back of their hand, usually on the back of our head, usually in a sneak attack. They each had a belt and teacher comparisons were more concerned with how good/bad they were at using it than whether or not you might actually learn something. I once saw my mechanical draw teacher break a one by one board over a boy's back. His crime? Though I did not know it at the time, he was going through puberty and each time his voice cracked, all the other 12-year-old kids would laugh. I never heard that kid speak in class again.

But none of that's what draws me to the Tyson quote.

Each Tuesday when one of my nurses from the Alfond Clinic calls to check on how I'm doing, one of the first questions is invariably, “Have you developed any kind of a rash?” Even I figured it was something to be concerned so I WAS paying attention, and besides, the answer was always “No.”

No became maybe last Thursday. I noticed a few spots on my left arm; could have been anything. But I was on high rash alert, so I called the clinic, they called my doctor, the clinic called me back.

“The doctor doesn't want to do anything right now. Just monitor it and let us know if it worsens.” That made sense to me. I probably wouldn't have called if they hadn't kept asking. My little joke to the nurse about “Wait till it gets worse has always been one of my favorite diagnoses,” fell flat when she felt compelled to explain that that's not what they meant. Oy

So, Friday came and went with no change. Saturday came and the rash now covered my lower left leg. Not one to panic, I waited. Periodic checks saw it cover my left leg completely up to the top of my thigh, saw it move to the right leg and do the same. And when I say rash, you might better picture burns because that's what my skin looked liked. Burned. I could show you a picture, but I don't even like looking at it and you might be in he middle of eating when you looked at it.

Sunday morning, first thing, I was put in touch with the oncologist on-call who immediately told me to stop taking my principal chemo. “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” It felt like my brain just stopped; at least the part that does my thinking and talking stopped; the metaphorical punch in the face.

When it started up again it was like... when we used to have record players with variable speeds and you forgot to change from 33 rpm to 45. You would get this real sludgy sound before the turntable caught up. “What?” the voice that sounded so much slower than mine finally managed.

The doctor repeated herself. “The medicine is almost surely causing your rash and you need to stop taking it immediately.” The rest of the conversation was more of the same, ending with her saying she would make sure my oncologist and his staff saw her notes in my file, “And the best of luck to you.” which at that exact moment sounded like, “Do you want to use a blindfold.” Don't get me wrong. She was wonderful, it was her message that sucked
Here's why it felt like a punch in the face: In the beginning of my treatment, which was only nine weeks ago but feels like nine months, we had been taking punch after punch of bad news and had no real way of fighting back. Then we developed our plan, with this particular medicine at its core. Of all the medicines I had to take that was the chemotherapy. It was the one we would fight back with
When she said I needed to stop taking it... I guess I felt about as defenseless as that kid in my mechanical drawing class 40-some years ago. I didn't do anything and I followed all the rules, and it felt like I was being punished anyway. If you take that away aren't we just letting cancer run free? “C'mon kids, put your chompers on and get to work! Good eatin' today. This is going to be great!!!”

Sunday and Monday were not great days in the Arnold household. Sheri and I are rarely down at the same time and we were definitely down, doobie doo, down down. I joke now, but it was a horrible time to go through. There was a blackness in our home. When we are both suffering, all we can do is really hunker down, try not to hurt each other, and just pray for it to be over. Which is what it was when we arrived Tuesday morning, early, at the clinic. There was more poking and prodding, dozens of questions, a little blood work (which was fine) and a promise to review the notes with the doctor and get back to me, which is what happened.

“The doctor wants you to stay off the chemo till he sees you in two weeks.” Everybody has a plan until they get punched in he face.

“Two weeks?” I got over the sluggishness much quicker this time. “But that means we won't be treating the myeloma for two weeks. That doesn't make me feel very comfortable.”

“The steroids actually do fight the myeloma.”

“Glad to know they do something besides making me feel like a lunatic.”

I was trying hard not to be too snarky. She was just the messenger after all. I'm not sure how successful I was. But the next part was good.

“We've had to go through this with other patients,” she said assuredly. “It doesn't hurt what we're trying to do. It's a way of getting your body ready for whatever the doctor decides to do next. It doesn't do you any harm at all.”

That had the ring of malarkey to it. But when you spread as much of it as I've been known to do, you tend to see malarky in plenty of places it isn't.

“And remember,” she added, “the steroids will still be working on the myeloma.”


In the end, of course, I accepted, even embraced, what she said because it made me feel better. Besides, and I say this with absolutely no disrespect, it reminded me of Officer Obie in “Alice's Restaurant.” The clinic has the 8x10 color glossy photos with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. I, on the other had, have the support of family and friends and steroids. Which is marvelous, of course, but doesn't really provide substance to an argument over treatment decisions.

Hmm. Maybe it's just because Thanksgiving is so close, but I'm giving this one to Officer Obie and the clinic. So I may be fighting with one hand tied behind my back, but fighting I am. Good for us. Too bad cancer doesn't have a jacket I can pull over its head.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

If I'd known it was important, I might have paid more attention, but I doubt it

When I was writing about how it feels to have cancer, it wasn't until I had posted the blog that I realized something I had aways thought I would feel hadn't even come up.

See, I always believed it would feel like some sort of creepy-crawly was moving through my body, chomping away like some crazed Ms. Pacman, or worse, Stephen King's Langoliers, or, worse yet, the Roto Rooter guy. I was sure it was something you would be so aware of that you could chart the disease's progress by just being still and listening to the... well....chomping is what it would be. OK, maybe not chomping, but it seems like you would know something was in there and moving.

I confess, even my wife Sheri had a hard time smiling and waving at that one and she's smiled and waved at a lot of stuff in the 20 years we've been together.

So, no chomping, no moving, no sense whatsoever of where the cancer is. By the nature of multiple myeloma, I guess it's pretty widespread but how helpful is that? Not very, if you're actually asking me.

Plan B, then. I decided I would poke, prod, push, squeeze parts of my body, to see if I could feel somethng out of the ordinary; something not as it should be. You may already see the huge flaw in that particular approach, but maybe not, so let me continue.

In the spring of 1968, middle of my sophomore year in college, I transferred from SUNY Brockport to SUNY Geneseo, ostensibly to major in speech pathology and audiology. In actual fact it was to major in reuniting with my summer romance, a very nice woman.

Guess what? I failed in both endeavors.

The romance seemed like the far greater loss at the time. Figures, right? But really, how could it have been otherwise? I was 18 and had been a stranger in this strange land you call America for just five years. I was at a new school where the only person I knew very well spent most of her free time avoiding me. I wept...a lot.

The speech pathology major-thingy, though. Who knew? Before abandoning the effort, I spent 18 months studying... well, you couldn't call it studying, really. It was more like being around people who were studying... speech pathology and audiology. All I learned in that time was don't put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow, and I learned that on the second day.

In the 40-plus years I have found someone willing to pay me to write, I have no idea how often the words “I wish I had paid more attention” appear. I can tell you this, though: it's a lot and the thought was always a lament. In fact, I'm making the same wish now.

If I had paid more attention- oh hell, make that any attention- in my speech pathology anatomy and physiology classes, I would be so much better prepared to get useful information from my poking, prodding, pushing and squeezing. Body parts were studied!!!

But I didn't pay attention. As a result, what I know about anatomy is pretty much limited to the lyrics of “Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones.” You know: “Your toe bone connected to your foot bone. Your foot bone connected to your heel bone” all the way up to “Your neck bone connected to your head bone.” I'm not saying that isn't good information. It is. And since I have bone marrow cancer, you would think it would be all kinds of helpful. But alas, as I prod, poke etc., I need more detail. Like, has my leg bone always felt like that or has the myeloma weakened it?

And there, of course is the flaw in Plan B. I never was much on poking, prodding etc. before, so I have nothing to compare it to. Know what I mean?... Was that lump always there? Dunno. Did it always hurt when I did that? Dunno. Did my shinbone always give way when I pushed on it? Dunno.

Well, this was going nowhere fast. So, as I often do, I decided to drag my wife Sheri into it... Hey. Has my forearm always looked like this? Dunno. Can I push on your shinbone to see what it does? No. Can I squeeze your head to see if contracts?,,,,,,,,Sheri?........Sheri?

I made the last one up, about squeezing her head. And, yes, I know the whole comparison thing is pretty foolish, but it does give me the chance to take a little of the fear away, like when you used to have to burp Tupperware. When we talk about it, whatever “it” may be, it shrinks; every time.

Besides, over the course of our 20 years together, Sheri has handled plenty of tough questions. She is actually the only person I have asked the question that has hung over our lives every day since Sept. 6, 2013; not always openly present, but always there: “Why did I get cancer?” Why not, right? Who would I want to get it instead?

Yeah. I know the question has plenty of answers; it just doesn't have any I happen to like. Sheri knows that too. That's why, I think, instead of saying anything, she reached over and took my hands in hers, squeezed them and suddenly the why didn't matter. Because in some unorthodox, non-medical way it became clear that the question should have been, “Why did we get cancer?” It's a proven psychological fact that two people joined in a common fight won't be easily beaten.

So, screw you cancer.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

So, Jim, how do you really feel about all this?

No one has come right out and asked me what it feels like to have cancer. Whatever happened to inquiring minds want to know?... Wait... You don't think it would be rude to ask me that, do you? Really? Wow. Well, thanks for being sensitive everyone. Far out.

But you have wondered, haven't you? I mean, if for no other reason than you might be able to pick up tips on how you can avoid getting it. Right? In these days where social media is king, I can see a very interesting string developing. But count me out. I have no tips. One day I didn't have it, and then I did. “Don't take any wooden nickels” is a better tip than anything I could you give you about avoiding cancer.

In this blog I really try to write about me and my cancer; each person's journey is so different. But I also know some bits are the same- the feeling of powerlessness, physical weakening, pain, fear, reliance on medicines. These things, and a lot more, are always with us, each day's story is about how we live our lives... anyway. And it's more than just cancer patients; we each have our demons to chase, battles to fight, fears to overcome, tears to shed. For me, though, right now, cancer is my elephant in the room, so that is what I'm writing about.

Since it would seem the whole inquisitive/interested/rude line has been blurred, maybe I should just ask myself how it feels for Jim Arnold to have cancer. You may have trouble believing this, but I'm kind of interested in what I have to say about it myself. That is why I write; for an audience of me, or of thousands, it makes me focus on the subject at hand. More than that, what I think I wanted to write often becomes what I was supposed to write, and I don't always like the difference. I know. Creepy. I don't get it either, but it's why I can honestly tell you, with the written equivalent of looking you in the eye, that I'm as interested as you are to see what I have to say about Jim Arnold having cancer.

So, Jim Arnold, how do feel about having cancer? Well, what day is it? Did I get much sleep? How much pain am I dealing with today? Did my treatment plan call for taking my steroids today? What's the reading on my denial-o-meter?

Don't get me wrong. I feel crappy. I feel resentful. I feel angry. I feel betrayed. I feel lost. I feel scared. And despite an ever-growing number of people offering their support, prayers and love, there are times I feel pretty lonely.

Those things are in the mix, at one point or another, every day, along with all the other stuff involved in getting the malignant cells out of my bone marrow, putting them with the pile of manure I've cleared to find that pony, and getting on with facing the next life challenge.

I know I don't talk much about being scared, probably because I don't feel scared all that often. There is no recovery in being scared; no path to remission; scared takes, it never gives. I focus on the support of my family and friends, in the gratitude I feel every day that I get to live the life that I live. That's where the recovery is, with my slightly beaten up, beautiful smelling pony at the end of it.

I think that “scared” is the main reason I'm so determined to live one day a time. I can't/won't live scared all day, every day, especially since we aren't far enough along in my treatment to know what, specifically I have to fear. Multiple myeloma seems to have a fairly high remission rate overall, and there is some encouragement in that

So, sure, there are times I feel scared, but they don't last. Hey, wait a minute... I didn't just sound like I had spunk, did I? I hate spunk. I'm just one person in millions who are trying to enjoy their days while co-existing with the knowledge that they are living many people's worst nightmare.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Universe: So funny I forgot to laugh

|”Hey Arnold- hahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!”
The Universe
October 29, 2013

“Hey Universe- shutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutup!!!!”
Jim Arnold
Later that same day

Maybe some butterfly in the South China Sea flapped its wings last week thereby knocking everything I thought I knew about my ongoing recovery into a cocked hat. Probably not, but the timing was too cruel to be coincidental.

I had just finished the rough draft of my previous post lamenting that I would not see my oncologist for some six weeks about 4 a.m. on Tuesday, then posted it around 8:15 a.m. If you missed it, and don't want to take the time now to read through it, here's the gist: I have to let my treatment run its course, which means I wouldn't really see the doctor again until Dec. 4. There was also some gratuitous whining, minor hand wringing and about half a pinch of woe is me.

Look, I understand that things change. I'm a go-with-the-flow-kinda guy. But on this particular Tuesday morning the change seemed to come along so quick, it had the feel of the arbitrary. During my weekly Tuesday morning call with the clinic, I had mentioned a shortness of breath and tightness in my chest, and by 12:30 p.m. I was back at the clinic undergoing more tests. This is why I try to stay as focused in today as I can. Never mind the time wasted worrying about things that never happen, problems that never arrive... There are times it just becomes so clear that the Universe has developed its own play list and it supersedes anything you may have had in mind.

Seems that the breathing thing raised a red flag about blood clots on my lungs (that couldn't be good), a concern made deeper by the fact that that is known side effect of my principal chemo drug. A red flag indeed, one of a size rarely seen outside a national communist party meeting in 1956 Moscow.

As it turned out, it was not blood clots, but it was a long, fairly stressful seven hours before I would know that. I had initially been so sure that this wasn't going to be a big deal (seriously what's wrong with this guy, right?) that I had assured Sheri she could go ahead with her own plans, and I'd just run into the clinic and probably be home before she was. I could tell she didn't love the idea, but she agreed. Oh, Jim, Jim, Jim, why you no think so good? I won't do that again. The staff was great. They kept me informed, made sure I knew what was going on and why, but we've both learned it takes two to hear what is actually being said at these visits.

So in this case, I had to have a scan to see if there were clots on my lungs. To do that, I needed to go from the Alfond Center to the Augusta Hospital. That's good. Traveling widens the horizons, I hear. But as the preliminaries were wrapping up and we were just about to begin the process itself, I realized some of what the clinician was saying didn't sound right; with no Sheri backup, my general lack of attention seemed to have caught up with me. Instead of the smooth, calming humenhumenahumena that I'd come to associate with CAT scans: “Did she just say 'radiation'?” “Wait. Nuclear what?” “Gamma rays?”

I'm far from an alarmist when it comes to nuclear medicine. I'm all for it. But I would be lying if I didn't say it was a little disconcerting to be strapped onto a table listening to jargon that could have come straight from a 1950s black and white science fiction movie, only to realize the little green man was me! And gamma rays? Gamma rays? All I know about gamma rays is what I learned from reading Paul Zindel's play “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds,” which, believe me, was not a lot when you get right down to it.

When we had finished the relatively pain-free test and I was on my way out, I saw that the path to and from the test was clearly marked as nuclear medicine. For all the use my big brain was in the situation, the signs might as well have said, “This way to the monkey house,” or “Buy one, get one free.”

Well, if it wasn't blood clots, you ask, what was it? It was stress. Yeah. Good old fashioned stress. When it came right down to it, my feeling alright, relatively calm, and all, didn't mean doodly squat. I was stressed out enough to convince myself I was having trouble breathing.

Once again, I was left with the feeling that I am the last one anybody should ask about my health. My brain will be happy to tell me all kinds of crap, with fava beans and a nice chianti, and left to my own devices, I'm just as apt to take whatever it tells me as true.

So, like bringing your older, tougher sibling along to make sure the school bully doesn't beat you up again, I'm bringing Sheri with me every time to poke my big brain in the eye when it gets too big for its breeches...As it were.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”