An unexpected interruption, the question of shot or no shot and finally, the wisdom of Mary Poppins

“Everything is possible,
even the impossible”

Mary Poppins


(Emily Blunt and the always enchanting Angela Lansbury in the new Mary Poppins
movie as seen on our son’s TV)

Ok, so where was I…??

Ok, so maybe the question should be… where in the heck have I been?

When we were last together, I think I made mention that we were off to see the Mayor…
bringing her home with us for a few days…

Well…we did…sort of…….

A week ago Monday evening, late, we got a call from our son.
Or someone who was supposed to be our son who was sounding very puny, croaky and cloggy.

A pained voice informed us “I’ve just gotten back from Urgent Care and I have the flu
so you’ve got to come get the baby NOW!!!
The doctor told me not to be around her.”

“Ok” I’m thinking.
Your wife is 8 months pregnant, your 13th-month-old has been right there—
you’ve all been together in very close proximity up until now—
so if anyone is getting the flu…
well, that ship sailed days ago when you first started feeling bad.

That’s how viral things work—they make the rounds before you even realize
they’re at work making the rounds.

“We’ve planned on coming tomorrow …
I don’t think the night is going to alter the course of viral destiny”

I calmly respond to a panicked first-time dad.

“We’ve had the flu shot.
We’ve all had the flu shot…
even Autumn had the flu shot…”

He practically wails apologetically with deep lamentations.

“Oh well” I quip a bit caustically.

For you see, at this very moment, I too was oddly not feeling well.
I felt chilled and suddenly zapped of all energy as well as slightly nauseated with a headache.

“Buck up,” I hear an inner voice commanding from someplace deep inside my head.

The satellite Woobooville office was all set-up and good to go—
awaiting our return back home with the Mayor.

‘We are to be on a rescue mission’
I defiantly proclaimed while trying to dismiss what my body was now feeling.

“I don’t feel well” I heard myself tell my husband…
“I’m going on to bed”

“But it’s just 9 o’clock”

“I can’t help it, I’m freezing”

About an hour later I was running a frighteningly odd yet very low-grade fever,
all the while I was violently shaking.

I asked for some Motrin.

And it was just about this very moment in time when my husband began complaining
about having the same symptoms.

This made for a very long, sleepless night of misery.

And yet we were still having to drive over to Atlanta bright and early to rescue the Mayor,
I was more than fretful.

That’s when I noticed how badly my left arm was hurting.

Hummmmmm…

For you see… I’ve failed to share with you that is was on that Monday
(last Monday as you read this today), that both my husband and myself went to get a shot.

A preventative vaccine mind you.

Similar to the preventative flu vaccine our son had gotten.

It was the Shingles shot.

When we went to our pharmacy on Monday Morning, in order to get the shots,
I explained to the pharmacist that we were planning on getting our
13-month-old granddaughter the following day…
so would she be ok with our getting the shot?

“Of course no problem.”

HA!

By Tuesday morning my arm was in full-blown shingles mode.

A burn/bruise-like area the size of a large eggplant covered my arm—
but not at the injection site.
It hurt terribly on a deep level yet was itchy on an up top level.

Eyes now rolling in my head.

My husband had no rash but redness at the injection site along with a
horrific headache, fever and chills.

We struggled to get ourselves up and dressed…
Yet we loaded up the car and headed off to the Mayor’s.

Our son was to be out of town the coming weekend and desperately was trying to
make that still happen—
he stayed home the day we arrived but went on into work the following days
as not to miss any more work.

In the meanwhile, the Mayor came home with us.

They had fretted how she might be feeling.

The Mayor, however, was having none of this as she felt great.
In fact, she was feeling so great, she was actually a live wire—
albeit a live wire with a
very runny and snotty nose.

The next day, I noticed I now had a sore throat and a very cloggy snotty nose
and a headache…
still with my eggplant looking “faux” shingle rash.

The Mayor’s aides were more than puny.
And keeping up with a live wire when feeling puny makes for a tough go.

I called the doctor telling the nurse what was going on.

She calls back the following day.

“Yeah, we’ve heard this shot has had those sorts of reactions…
but as it’s a two-part shot, you’ll need to follow up with the booster
in a couple of months.”

“And get the very viral infection I was trying to avoid in the first place
for a second time??!!”
I incredulously announce rather than ask.
“Thanks but no thanks,” I reply before curtly hanging up.

A week before we picked up the Mayor for her visit, our daughter-n-law informed
her OBGYN that her baby daughter, aka the Mayor,
had gotten what was thought to be Fifth’s Disease.

Such a name comes from the all-knowing medical folks who simply ran out of things
to say when telling everyone
“oh, it’s just a viral infection– you’ll simply have to wait it out”

They decided to give the latest “wait it out” illness a name.
Fifths Disease.

Now if you count Sunday day one in the week…then this disease was named on
Thursday…the fifth day of the week.
But if you’re like most working folks, you count Monday as the first day of the week,
which in turn makes Friday the actual day Fifth’s Disease was named—-
and Lord knows we couldn’t
name a random disease after everyone’s favorite day of the week…
hence the name–Fifth’s Disease.

After having blood drawn then processed, the nurse calls to inform our
daughter-n-law that she is actually immune from Fifth’s Disease.

Who knew one to be immune from a virus?!

Kind of what I was hoping to be from the Shingles.
Immune.

Go figure!

Should the Mayor come down with the Chicken Pox,
knowing I’d eventually be a helping nurse,
I didn’t want to, in turn, get the shingles—
since I had the chicken pox at age 5.

So it turns out that all I had to do was to get the preventative vaccination
and I’d in turn, get the virus.
Kind of like our son and the flu.

Is this beginning to smell of something fishy—
like a little pharmaceutical racket???

Ahh, but I digress.

And so a very rotten puny me headed back to Atlanta Friday,
following the torrential downpours,
in order to take the Mayor home and to spend the weekend with our daughter-n-law while
our not so well son went on out of town as planned.

That had been the plan.

The plan before all the shots made everyone sick.

Our daughter-n-law’s faculty friends were giving her a baby shower for the new baby
(aka the new sheriff in town) on Saturday—
I was to go along with her and the Mayor.

We eventually did—and it was a lovely gathering…
A great bunch of Catholic Parochial school teachers.

Yet all the while… I had a Shingle’s arm and flu-like symptoms from
what our son must have passed along via the Mayor.

Did I mention that we, as in my daughter-n-law, the Mayor and myself
were having to dog sit?
As in a friend of our son’s was leaving his boy dog in their care.
As in an unfixed boy dog that is actually a herding dog…
as in a herding sheep sort of dog?
A herding sheep sort of dog that is oddly being made to be an indoor
pet named Alf.

All the makings of a worst case scenario.

He is a nice enough dog that is wound up like a nervous ninny–
hence the suppressed need to be herding…

And so it fell upon the Mayor to be the chosen item for herding—

despite the Mayor’s wailful protests.


(The Mayor and her watchdog Alf / Julie Cook / 2019)

Think indoor chaos.
Indoor chaos for a sick chief aide and an 8-month pregnant overworked teacher and an impatient
13-month old Mayor.

Note, the Mayor’s actual dog Alice is on a long term vacation due to the arrival of
the herding indoor non-fixed sheepdog.

I was actually supposed to stay until tomorrow, until when our son got home—
however, I was slowly dying and desperately needed to head home as soon as possible
so I could simply crash and burn in the comfort of my own home…

But before I do so… crash and burn that is—
allow me to briefly share with you about our having watched the new Mary Poppins movie
with the Mayor Saturday evening.

Now back in 1964 when the original Mary Poppins movie debuted, I was 5.
My dad, a big kid himself, made certain to take me to see the movie in the theater.

Granted I’ve rewatched the movie throughout the years ever since that year of 1964…
yet I have oddly never been a huge fan.
I liked it well enough as a child but found it to be somewhat odd and boring.

Maybe I just wasn’t a musical loving child at the time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke…but the movie
didn’t do much for me when I was a little girl.

However, while I was there helping, or more like dying–
whichever way you’d like to look at it,
my daughter-n-law suggested we watch the movie.
She told me she thought I’d love this latest new version.

They had just gotten a new television and I must confess, not being a huge TV
nut like our son or even like my dad had been, I have to admit,
the picture quality was indeed amazing.

And yes I really did enjoy this new version versus that classic version
of my childhood—
Which is really quite something given the fact that I am never a huge fan of the re-makes.

Maybe it was because I was feeling poorly…very poorly.
Maybe it was because Dad will have been gone now 2 years tomorrow.
Maybe it was because there we were in what had been his house, dad’s house, and my house
and now their house…
all the while watching a movie whose story merely picked up 25 years past the original story…
picking up where the original movie’s children were now grown up with their own lives of bluster,
loss, and need—much like my own life.

But Mary Poppins, this enigmatic figure, who mysteriously yet magically appears in the most
timely of times, arriving out of a burst of stormy winds,
all at the singular moment when one is at their most dire times of need—
albeit one who has no idea of the depth of that need…
A time when one is in great need of her eclectic whimsy and almost militaristic regime
of peculiar order…

She arrives for the person who needs to be reminded that nothing is ever truly lost.
She reminds her charges that those things, which at first glance appear to be impossible,
are never really that way at all but are actually possible all along…
for it’s all just a matter of one’s perspective.

And so I found my thoughts dancing over to the idea of our relationship with our loving Father,
the Great I AM…

He who comes not in the earthquake or the fire, or the storm…
but the One who rather comes to us in the stillness of a whisper…
always reminding us that with Him, nothing is ever lost nor is it ever impossible.

So thank you Mary Poppins…maybe it was the fever talking, but thank you for reminding me
that with God, nothing, in particularly me, is ever lost… and no matter what I do,
with God’s help, all things are indeed possible…

Oh, and when “they” tell you to get the shot…run like hell the other way.

But Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

Credo quia absurdum

Crucifixus est Dei Filius, non pudet, quia pudendum est;
et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;
et sepultus resurrexit, certum est, quia impossibile.

— (De Carne Christi V, 4)

“The Son of God was crucified: there is no shame, because it is shameful.
And the Son of God died: it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.
And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible.”

Based on the writing of Tetullian

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(stain glass window Christ Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“I believe that Christ died for me because it is incredible; I believe that He rose from the dead because it is impossible”
A.W. Tozer

“Let me seek Thee in longing…let me long for Thee in seeking; let me find Thee in love, and love Thee in finding”
St Anselm

It is indeed incredibly impossible, absurd and even implausible that we Christians believe what we believe—certainly in the eyes of the non believer but actually…even to ourselves.

Anyone who stops long enough to actually ponder Christianity, the faith, as well as the inception of that faith which actually began, not so much with the earthly three year ministry of Jesus, but rather on the day that his tomb was found empty.

It begins with us now, during this time of Advent.

We, the Christian faithful, now expectantly and vigilantly wait and watch….

We wait and watch along with three Wisemen, who came from all we know to be the East…
We also wait with a handful of desert shepherds…
All of whom had each seen signs and had visions of something miraculous, life changing and unbelievable that was soon to take place…
Taking place in the far flung regions of poverty on the outer reaches of the Roman Empire…in the middle of nowhere.

We anxiously wait with a simple an honest man named Joseph— the young nervous husband chosen by the Creator of the Universe to be the earthly father to a heavenly king.

We expectantly wait with a young Jewish woman who is pregnant with her first child, yet she has never had sex. Instead she was visited by an angel who told her that she had found favor in the sight of God…and now she is alone, only with her husband, as they are on the road traveling and she is ready to deliver in the middle of nowhere.

We look for the star, a sign, a seemingly tangible apparition in the heavens—a sign that something monumental is about to rock the very foundations of humankind.

Later in the story, we follow the words of a crazy zealot who lives in a desert, eating bugs and wearing next to nothing…who preaches to any and all who would give him ear. Preaching to the birds and animals when no people come to listen. He tells both man and beast that God will send a savior for all mankind. He tells those who listen that in order to be “saved” all must be baptized, first by water, than by the Spirit—being born once again.

We believe the words of a 33 year old man who preached, healed and taught to whomever would listen. We believe he walked on water, made the dead rise, made the blind see, the lame walk and the possessed free.

We choose to follow him along his journey… all the way to his death— brutal and barbaric as a death could be.
And we believe that when he says he will be back…from the gates of hell and death itself…he will indeed, be back.

And we believe when a woman finds an empty tomb…

2000 years pass and we are still believing.

Absurd, impossible, implausible, incredible…

All the better reason to believe…

I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to undertand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that “unless I believe, I shall not understand.” (Isa. 7:9)
St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury 1093

The sting of Spring

“A work of arte; and yet no arte of man,
Can worke, this worke, these little creatures can”
– Geffrey Whitney, 1586

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(a Carpenter bee who has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2014)

DSCN4748
(a pen and pencil drawing of a Xylocopa Virginica (carpenter bee) / Julie Cook / 2000)

When I was in high school, many many years ago, I ran track both my 9th and 10th grade years. I was never really fast nor very good but there was just something about it that held me in place for those two pivotal teenage years. Maybe it was my glue during the turbulent life of adolescents. Maybe it was a good outlet for the often troublesome ooze of a teenage girl. A mishmash of emotions, hormones and a fertile battle ground of little girl, tomboy and young lady all colliding as one. In other words, a delightful distraction and master consumer of energy and time.

If you’ve ever seen me in person you know that I am a relatively short individual. What was once 5’4.5″ is now sadly 5’3″–ode to age and osteopenia, couple that with a medium build. No svelte, long legged gazelle here, maybe more like a hearty soccer player. But one look would pretty much tell you that I was not built to be a track star let alone a long jump queen. Yet it was indeed the long jump which held my oh so keen interest.

My short little legs, with the thighs of which I so fondly refer to as God having given me tree trunks instead of thighs, were not exactly rockets which could or would propel one up and over the length of a sand pit.
I, however, was not to be deterred.

One day, before practice our coach, who happened the be the coach of the boy’s team, as I was a pre Title IX athlete–(most everything we did was with the boy’s team—from lifting weights—this sending my mother into orbit as this too was pre knowledge that it was perfectly fine for girls, feminine girls,to lift weights without turning them into a bulky testosterone filled muscle mass or some East Russian weight lifter (no offense to East Russian weight lifters) —On this particular afternoon our coach offered both teams a little motivational encouragement.

He told us the story of the bumblebee.

Supposedly it is aerodynamically improbable (he used the word impossible) for a bumblebee to fly. It seems that because of the size and weight of their bodies, along with the size, the shape and the number of beats per wing makes the concept of flight, for the lowly bumblebee, not very practical. Simply put, they are too fat, too round, too heavy along with too small of a wing, of which do not flap fast enough to lift them, keeping their rotund frame aloft–let alone fly.

But fly they do.

I took this concept to heart. I also decided that I would workout each day with the boys–the two senior boys who long jumped and triple jumped. If they jumped the boxes, I jumped the boxes. If they skipped around the track doing high leg lifts, I did the same goofy leg lifts. I’d stand at the end of the runway, having marked, counted and numbered my steps, sprinting forward, looking upward, praying my foot planted perfectly at the tip of the white jump off board and soar, hopefully, upward and outward.

Now I never broke any records or racked up a room full of trophies but I did beat out the svelte gazelle who was our girl’s team top long jumper. I did come in 2nd place at Region. And I felt as if I had accomplished something that I really never should have accomplished. . .as I was not, am not, built to soar or fly.

The lesson here is not whether it is scientifically feasible that bumblebees can or cannot fly. Nor is this the place to discuss the difference between bumblebees and their obnoxious cousins the carpenter bees— better known as the wood bee—as in eat any and all exposed wood be it a deck, rocking chair or house eve. . . digressing. . .
This is, more accurately, a lesson in believing in the improbable, the unlikely, the impossible.
This is a story about reaching beyond the expected, about never settling for the predicted, and for believing that there is always a way to do what you never thought you could do or were told you couldn’t do–despite of or in spite of any and all obstacles or limitations.

Yes, there will be have to be work. . .lots of sweat, painful effort, long tiring hours, sacrifice of self–but in the end. . . medals, trophies and records aside. . .it will be you and you alone who will know the sweet satisfaction of accomplishment—because you shouldn’t or couldn’t, but in the end, you did. . .

We all can soar.

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(the carpenter bee who has seen better days trying to fly away, not very successful / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(pen and pencil drawing Megabombus Pennsylvanicus (bumblebee) / Julie Cook / 2000)

Do the impossible

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
St. Francis of Assisi
CIMG0526

This photograph is an image of one of the beautiful Umbrian valleys surrounding the peaceful hill town of Assisi. The view of this sweeping valley is one that Francesco Bernardone, later known simply as St. Francis, gazed upon most assuredly, often. There is indeed a serenity to this area of Italy, as it issues, beckoning and inviting, a whisper that seductively yet warmly calls out to anyone who is restless of spirit.

I imagine that a young Francesco often retreated to these hills, forlorn and heavy of heart, as he wrestled within himself….the young troubadour and dandy whose days and nights were idly filled with shallow friends and raucous wanton carousing…and yet, all the while inwardly, Francesco was so very heavy with conflicting emotions. A crisis of self. A crossroads with soon to be explosive results.

What better place to contemplate ones life.

The air heavy with the scent of jasmine, the wind gently stirring the grasses covering the endless hillsides as the sun radiantly sparkles in a deep Giotto blue sky. I imagine our young Francesco laying on his back nestled in the swaying grass, arms folded behind his head, gazing skyward wondering why he was so unhappy. Fretful, unsettled, burdened.

When God calls, there is no stopping what then follows… we can never go back and we can never be the same. We may run as hard and as fast as we can in the opposite direction. We run out of fear and even out of anger. We fight the call by denying His very existence–we go to the brink of the abyss, but He will stand fast…waiting.

The conflict within will come to a crashing crescendo. The chaos colliding with the Divine. The old self must die giving way to a new birth of a new self. That is the miracle. Not so much the great and grand works we then are to accomplish but rather that we are transformed and reborn–that we are changed forever.

Saul had his road to Damascus. He was a mercenary answering really to no one but himself. He was paid to uncover and route out the new rebellious lot of the followers of the crucified man from Nazareth. Much like a modern day hit man or assassin. He went about his paid commission with steely and unemotional precision. The job paid well and he actually sadistically enjoyed it.

Sometimes our hearts are so cold and blind that our eyes must be blinded in order to get our attention. Extreme living often requires extreme turn abouts. It matters not how hard we may live, how bad, how destructive we wish to be, when the call comes, as it most likely will, we will be purged.

Are you restless of spirit, are you troubled…or are you seemingly living the perfect life, happy and supposedly content, yet there is just something unsettled deep within? Perhaps you must seek the solitude of self in order to determine the cause of the wrinkles of heart. Is God calling, beckoning…is there greatness in you that even you yourself deny?

We all have our time contemplating our existence, our roads to Damascus—the question remains… how long will we travel and contemplate before we finally recognize the One who is calling? How long will it take until we are ready to do the job we are called to do by the One who knows that we are the only one who can do this one particular chore….

We may run, but we cannot hide….When He calls, there will be no turning back…..Why is it then that you are still running so very fast so very far away…..He will stand fast, He will wait—you are needed to do the impossible.