life is truly a mixed bag of nuts

I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes,
a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt,
and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.

John Steinbeck

mixed-nuts

Life is truly a mixed bag of nuts…
Despite our best preparations, plots and plans…
most of the time we have no clue as to what we’re going to get.

The tasty or the succulent, the salty or the sweet,
the crunchy or the sour or even the stale and the rotten…

But as it is life, we take what we can get, and get when we can…

Aunt Mothaaaa, aka Martha, met with the oncologist yesterday.
I was sitting with Dad when she called with her news.

Now you need to know that we’ve been living under a huge dark cloud.
Dad is dad and sadly rapidly declining.

Martha’s news of a spreading cancer hit like a rock.
She told me Sunday that she refused to turn the lights on her christmas tree
and wondered if she’d ever see those precious heirloom ornaments of hers ever again…
as she had begun expressing how she wanted her things to be “divvied up”…

Funny what we think about when faced with our own mortality…

Heaviness had wrapped its suffocating arms tightly around my small family.

When Martha called, I stepped out of dad’s room as I had not yet told
him about Martha.

There was a light joy in her voice.

The Oncologist told her that the cancer had indeed come from the
removed diseased kidney.
Chemotherapy wouldn’t touch it.
And there was no way to radiate three organs
And there was no cure for the cancer…

But….

He told her that she can take a pill, four times a day, for the rest of her life
and that will keep the cancer at bay, keeping it from spreading.

She was elated.

I finally exhaled…something I don’t think I’ve done in three weeks.

So whereas things are tragically racing down hill faster than I like for Dad,
we will stop momentarily this day, in order to rejoice for this moment
for Aunt Mothaaaaaaaa!

Who by the way has asked that I thank all “my blogging peeps”, my friends, for their
prayers…
because for next to being told she was cancer free, yesterday’s news was
about as good as it could get…

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

Psalm 5:11

a large collective sigh…..

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.”

Shel Silverstein

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(my giddy, degree holding, son)

Did you hear that?

That sound of exhaling?

That whooshing sound Saturday morning…
the sound of a large collective, slow released, heavy sigh?

The sound of years and years of the breath held by two parents, their son…
and now a young wife…
along with a myriad number of friends and family…

A sigh that has actually been held for….
A lifetime.

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See this young boy?
This picture was taken on a balmy Friday night in May of 2007.
It’s the image of young man who had just graduated high school…
standing on the edge of a well anticipated future…

Yet what he, in his delirium of conquering the one mountain failed to realize that carefree night,
was that he was not yet finished climbing…
For looming in the distance, just beyond the horizon of his youthful exuberance,
lay a mountain range far more challenging than what he had just conquered….

That exciting evening, so long ago, indeed marked a successful passing….
The passing of a 12 year long struggle…

Yet the magnitude of the struggle to which I speak is most likely lost on those who have never
experienced or lived through a child who has had to struggle academically.

And whereas I have written about this struggle before…
That of his particular struggle and of our particular struggle as a family…
The massive weight and enormity of it all came rushing back to the forefront of my heart and soul
this past Saturday morning while sitting in a crowded gym of a southern university.

From that fateful day his first grade teacher called me, a fellow educator, telling me she had a concern…a concern that something just wasn’t right…
to finally sitting in a college gym waiting for a commencement ceremony to begin…
our road has been painfully long and arduous.

From the hard diagnosis of a crippling learning disability…(most likely inherited…)
later compounded by a diagnosis of ADD…
It was double indemnity that was sadly to be our unfortunate lot.

There were many hurdles, impossible hurdles…
And there was testing..lots and lots of testing.

There were the years of refusal to take the medications that were promised to help make things easier…
to finally relenting…
Then only to live with the ill effects of those medications on ones body…
Eventually going back to life without medical help.

There were disappointments…
and failures,
and lapses,
and anger,
and frustration…

There were tears…
lots and lots of tears…
from both child and parents.

There were tutors, reading camps, repeated courses, more tutors…
There was working, studying, studying longer and harder then others
There was the staying after, long after others were gone…
There were sacrifices…

And…
There were a few rare triumphs…
The acceptance letters…
Along with the…
changing of schools…
The changing of majors…
The sitting out…
The waiting…
The continued waiting…
The nos,
The not yets,
The not nows…
The too bads…

Yet there were hopes and dreams.
Always hopes and dreams…
Hopes and dreams that would never fade or go away…

And there was a determination to realize those very hopes and dreams…
just like anyone else who has hopes and dreams…
anyone else who was “normal”….
because wasn’t that what so much of this was all about…
just wanting to be normal like everyone else…

Knowing that you were not stupid…that you were not slow or dumb…
as they would whisper behind your back…
Knowing all the while that you were smart and that you could learn…
that you could excel…
that you could be like everyone else…by God!!!
And by God it would be….

You wanted to prove that you were normal…
Normal like those who didn’t have to struggle, didn’t have to work so very hard…
You wanted to be like those who made the good grades, who didn’t have to expend the energies…
You wanted to be like those who just made school seem… easy…

However today is not that day…
It is not to be that day for the retelling of the very long and hard fought journey of ours…
It is not the day for rehashing and re-living the difficulties nor for the recounting of all the struggles…
And it is not a day to expound upon our seemingly misfortunate poor dumb luck…

No…

Today is not that day…

Rather…

Today is THE day to rejoice…
It is a day to soak it all in.
It is a day to exhale.
It is a day to smile.
It is a day for tears.
It is a day of HOPE.
It is a day of DREAMS.
And it is a day of Thanksgiving and Gratitude….

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The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.

Psalm 6:9

Look up

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.
I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty,
believe in them, and try to follow them.”

Louisa May Alcott

“Hope is the last thing ever lost.”
Italian Proverb


“If you’re going through hell, by all means, keep going. . .”

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill:

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(a tiny yet beautiful skipper looks upward / Julie Cook / 2015)

Spending the day situating Dad’s affairs. . .
As in. . .

Getting the taxes almost squared away with the CPA, the State and the one’s that really count, the Feds. . .

Dealing with the accident report and Police department regarding the little fender bender last week with Gloria and the caregiver while they were out on a mission. . .
Oh, did I not tell you about that?
You don’t want to know. . .

Organizing the growing mountain of paperwork, invoices, bills, receipts. . .
While musing that taking care of Dad and that household of theirs must be similar to running a small corporation or better yet, a small country. . .

Calling insurance companies. . .cars, medical. . .”please hold. . .”

Talking with the Care Agency about lining up the who’s, the whats, the whens, the wheres. . .and we know the whys. . .

Talking with Dad, who is still terribly ill. . .convinced he’s dying yet hoping they can help with the cancer. . .As I in turn inquire as to who told him he had cancer. . .With the response being, “it won’t go away, it’s cancer. . .” Ode to the rationale of psychosis

Talking with the nurse, otherwise known as the wise counsel who still has her sanity in the midsts of all of this while playing go-between with the doctor’s office, the caregiver, me and most importantly Dad. . .

Coordinating taking Dad to the Gastroenterologist tomorrow (which is today if your reading this) with as much ease as possible. . .
While hoping and praying for positive good news. . .

Taking a break, I push back from the phone, the computer, the table, and life. . .
Wondering why I came home from the Ocean’s shores. . .deciding quickly to seek a small diversion.

I step outside into the “feels like 91 degree” humid heat to weed, fertilize and deadhead the now leggy hot garden and yard.
An hour of working in a sauna, I head back inside seeking respite and a popsicle.
I look over a few of my favorite blogs, catching up on a few new postings. . .when I read a wonderful feel good story from Stuart M. Perkins over on Storyshucker
( https://storyshucker.wordpress.com )
Stuart has a Faulkneresque quality as he spins his tales of life and of his growing up in the South (Virginia that is).

His story today regarding a weekend spent at a team building seminar, coupled with my talk with the Nurse charged with caring for Dad and Gloria, each caught my attention as the similarities in these separate discussions was not lost on a sinking psyche.

It is becoming increasingly easy for me to grow frustrated, overwhelmed and sad while dealing with all things Dad and Gloria, while trying to squeeze my own family’s needs into the picture.
Heading into all of this pretty much alone—as in the only child dealing with a dad and stepmom’s rapidly declining health while trying to manage their home and lives, all from afar. . .can drive me to thoughts of drinking bushwhackers quite heavily (you’ll have to see the post from yesterday to understand–“Bushwhackers, bare feet and a needed cure all”)

And that’s when it hit me—-the sudden realization that I’m really not alone. . .
I was soothingly reminded that I actually have my own little team.
Remembering to lift my head, looking upwards to that “from whence comes my help”, leading me to the thoughts of my very own team of three–with me making 4.
As in remembering, claiming and holding onto fast and hard the lone fact that in my faith I never walk alone!
I walk hand in hand with a loving Father in Heaven—-Yeshua, His son, who takes me by the hand— and the Spirit of Life who leads me ever forward—
And it is with that thought of teamwork now flooding my mind—
that I felt myself finally exhale. . .

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(the tiny skipper amongst the succulents / Julie Cook / 2015)

Exhale

“Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the spirit of God.”
Edwin Keith

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(daisies at the garden center / Julie Cook / 2015)

wwwwwooohhhhhhhhhhhhh
The sound of a long awaited exhaled release of self
The sound of a 3 week crisis multiplied by 3. . .released
The sound of a soul that has lived to tell about it
The sound of a flu ridden, angst ridden, worried sick,
worse for the wear, wounded soul
The sound of the end of a day
The sound of the end of a week
The sound of the easing of a trauma
The sound of a 2.5 hour traffic filled journey home
A settling
A smoothing out
Headed upward, verses downward
A cease fire,
An uncontested truce
Worn down
Beat down
Down
You can breathe now
You can finally let go
You can rest
You can exhale

Breathe out, exhaling my Beloved
Let it go
Close your eyes
Rest
I will breathe for you
For my Spirit will sustain you
and see you to the morrow. . .
Sleep well my Beloved,
sleep well

“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Job 33:4

The Contradiction of a Conundrum

“Only the man who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(pinnacle of the Gordon memorial, Wright Square / Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

None of us will leave this world unscathed or scarless.
Even the most decent among us will know the pain and heaviness of life’s burdens.
Some of us seem to have more than our fair share of woefulness–
leading us all to realize that Life is indeed unfair.

And yet we live in a world full of the contradiction of a conundrum . . .

“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:m27-30)

We are told that we who are weary and worn out by the heaviness of our lives, may lay our burdens down, that we may finally find rest. . .
And yet on the flip side. . .
We are told that we must take up our cross, a heavy seemingly burdensome cross–knowing that to do so equates to death.

The conundrum.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
(Matthew 16:24-26)

Yet as ironically and obviously straightforward as it truly is, as Pastor Bonhoeffer explains, this contradiction, this conundrum of our lives, is perhaps as simply simple as our totally yielding with effortless submission verses the hard headed stubborn resistance of self that we so tirelessly cling to.

It is as easy as exhaling. Completely letting go of our stubborn self and of all that entails.
It is in that blessed exhaling where the rest is waiting.

Once again, as with much of life, it’s merely a matter of choice. . .
But what a choice it is.