A direction in learning

Painful as it may be,
a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction
that serves us and those around us more effectively.
Look for the learning.

Louisa May Alcott

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(This handwrought weathervane came from the 12th century Church of Cranham, Essex, England, where James Oglethorpe is buried / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

Sometimes, learning comes easy.
It comes from the obvious,
the expected,
the familiar.

At other times, it seems to happen out of the blue.
It is unexpected,
questionable,
even painful…

The delivery matters not,
it is what is taken away from the experience which matters most.

Remembering such, is just as important as the lesson to be learned…

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God;
whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

2 John 9:11

circling the wagons

“Yup.
The end of a way of life.
Too bad.
It’s a good way.
Wagons forward!
Yo!”

John Wayne

A faithful friend is a strong defense;
And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.

Louisa May Alcott

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I’ve spent the better part of the past two years circling my wagons…
As I’ve been riding on a merry-go-round of all things focused on caring for a dad…
one who has been more child than father…
as it should be noted that that has been pretty much him for the majority of my adult life.

As a life long high school teacher, I can multitask with the best of them…
except when it comes to a crisis…
then my mind and actions narrow.

I become steely eyed…
as I grow laser focused,
blocking out most everything that sits on the periphery of life,
as I turn every available resource to the problem.

Trouble is, there have been a myriad of troubles during the course of
the last couple of years…
all of which have kept me and my sights narrowed and hyper-focused
for much longer than is most likely healthy….
hence my back, or whatever it is back there that has me unknowingly holding my hand
to my lower back as I go about my day in a gingerly fashion….
So unlike my ADDness of darting here and there all before blinking…

As an only child caring for two elderly individuals who have varying degrees of dementia,
as well as a wealth of physical ailments…
and who live miles away in a different city from my own…
it has all left me more and more isolated and emotionally spent

It seems my closest friend these days is the main caregiver who spends her days
making certain no one falls or forgets their medications…
let alone forgetting to eat…
which for one of them is a constant battle.

I live on the road, traversing back and forth.
The days I spend not traversing,
are spent on the phone with various doctors and healthcare facilities,
or paying a sea of endless bills,
or simply organizing a home and household other than my own…
A house that is nearly 65 years old and needs much in the way of care….

My phone rings constantly with the calls from an ever growing confused 88 year old man
who has decided he will die in the hospital come Friday during his surgery…
as his wife, my stepmother,
just can’t understand and is irritated as to why he keeps having to run to the loo.

The concept of a large tumor and bladder cancer has simply flown totally
over her head as she has decided she hates the new dishwasher.
I had to buy it,
have it installed
and now she hates it
for the one single reason…
that I bought it…
Go figure…

She now demands that the caregivers hand wash every dish and glass.
Just as she refuses to eat the groceries brought into the house
because she is convinced they have all gone bad and are rotten upon
arriving fresh from the store.

And if it’s not dad calling, it’s the caregivers calling with the latest craziness
as I work my magic to put out the fires of bodies and minds fighting themselves….

The journey getting here was slow and almost unnoticeable at first.
There were, however, signs and warnings…

Signs and warnings, that perhaps in my naiveté,
I thought would all turn out differently
or never materialize in the first place…

Just like the pictures I had in my mind of my future with my mother…

That when she would one day grow old and grey…as dad is now,
I warmly entertained the thoughts of how we’d have fun together…
We’d go to lunch and to the antique shops we each enjoyed when she and I were younger..
Just as we would then travel and see the world…together…

But those thoughts were smashed 30 years ago when she suddenly died from cancer….
So I don’t know why I try to imagine things as a certain way,
as that is not how they will be…

For the snowball has picked up momentum and is barreling at breakneck speed toward me…

And so, yes, I have circled my wagons…
drawing my camp ever near.
As my circle in life has tightened..
excluding many from what once was…

My eyes have narrowed
As I hold my cards tight to my chest,
lest they reveal too much…hopefulness…

Yet this story of woe is not as tragic as it might seem…
Nor is this heart bitter as it might sound…

For despite the fact that my world has shrunk from what it was…
from my friends
from my freedom
from my choices
from my comings and goings…

there has been much…
inward growing
inward learning
inward bending
inward moulding
inward shaping

For the winds of this life are shifting…
And attentions must be turning…

So I ready myself and my camp
for that which comes our way…

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’
declares the LORD,
‘plans for welfare and not for calamity
to give you a future and a hope.’

Jeremiah 29:11

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.
A prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971)

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)

Beauty in a bucket

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”
Louisa May Alcott

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”
John Donne

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(the fallen late blooms of the meyer lemon tree and an oak leaf float in a bucket of water / Julie Cook / 2014)

When might debris in a bucket deep,
take on such beauty doth to keep?
Which floats upon a surface sweet,
while wind and rain so strangely meet.
In Autumn’s late grey days of myth and lore,
as light doth fade forever more.
Be quick to see all who so chose,
for beauty hides just under your nose.

Blessings for a Tuesday full of surprising beauty and joy

For thus says the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
Isaiah 45:18

the tale of the ever-present invisible gentleman

A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.
George Bernard Shaw

“Gentlemen, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color.”
― Louisa May Alcott

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(Rene Magritte /L’Ami de l’ordre 1963 / oil on canvas )

We are a fickle lot, you and I.
One moment we are as fresh as a downy feather loosed from a newly hatched chick, caught drifting along the tempestuous winds, bourn aloft without thought or care.
Other times we are cunning and conniving as we stealthily crouch in the shadows, hoping the darkness will hide our secrets.

When does the knowledge begin?
Early on I suspect, beginning more upon the surface and being of a rote nature.
The real knowledge, the real recognition, comes along say, around age 10 or so.
The time of life which is perched between single digits and the long litany of double digits, possibly pushing triple digits if one is so blessed. . . or cursed.

And when the knowledge actually does take hold, with the time of decisions and choices seeping into the cognizant away from the involuntary, the dance of life and death gingerly begins its most elegant and macabre promenade.

Yet in what seems to be the blink of an eye, a time arrives when we decide we’ve outgrown our need of the seemingly simple knowledge.
We relegate those thoughts of such assumed mediocrity to the recesses of the heart and mind, deeming it nothing more than that of a child’s fancy. We have moved on, growing sophisticated and worldly.
We come to take greater stock in our own puffed up sense of importance.
Our depth for and scope of knowledge now borders on self proclaimed greatness, pushing aside the old for the new and imagined.

Yet Time is no kind taskmaster, events and moments transpire together and against, leaving us lacking, wanting, needing.
We stand, simply staring, alone.
What has happened?
What was that?
What.
And just as quickly, rage fills in the gaps
We rile with fists raised.
We scream into the air.
Why?
How?
No!
We are helpless.
Nothing we can think,
nothing we can do,
nothing we can be or will be can change things,
fix things,
move things,
stop things.

The self importance, no longer remains important.
The money can’t change it.
The need of the money can’t change it.
The status can’t change it.
The success can’t change it.
The failings can’t change it.
The secrets can’t change it.
The new greater knowledge of self can’t change it.

The decisions were ours.
We had been taught otherwise yet we no longer cared for that simple early knowledge.
It was just that, too simple, and we were certainly no longer those simpletons–
we were important.

And yet this seemingly invisible, ever present, ever near gentleman has watched all of this unfold.
He was there in the early simple knowledge, happy to run and jump, frolic and play.
Nurturing and steadfast, always present.
Joyous alongside our gleefulness.
Brave in our fear.
Strong in our weakness.
Quiet and unassuming.

Yet as we grew in stature of both mind and body, we were no longer needful nor carefree
We were busy.
We were smart.
We knew far too much for the gentleman’s seemingly simplistic ways.
And yet he stood aside, allowing us to pass upon our very important way.
He watched us march off.
Some of us looked back, a bit wistful, a bit sorrowful, a bit hesitant.
Yet we went forward anyway.

Our gentleman friend was left to wait as if he had not choice. . .
and yet it was his choice to wait.
He chose to wait, to wait upon both you and I.

He busied himself with other matters.
He waited with patience and even, dare it be said, love.
Ever knowledgeable in that first simple knowledge, he waited.

He saw the choices, the mistakes, the miscues, the purposeful destruction.
He saw the self righteous new knowledge and the indignation of
pride
lust
greed
hypocrisy
and the notion of needing nothing other than ourselves.

But as a gentleman, he remains just that, a gentleman
One who is there when needed, stepping back when not.
Called upon, he drops everything.
The lone raised hand, the signal to go, he goes without a word.
Coming in and out of the circumstance of lives full of knowledge,
He comes and goes as gently as a downy feather on the tempestuous wind.

The mistake will be to continue the weaving dance with the ever present, invisible gentleman.
Summoning him in and out of our lives, all on the whims and needs of the
beating of hearts.
As a gentleman, he never balks or steps in before being asked.
He sees things that he could do,
could stop,
could fix,
could remedy–
but a gentleman never jumps in without being asked, requested, acknowledged as needed.

He waits off to the side, out of sight.
He waits until we realize that it really is as simple as it once was.
He waits with that knowledge of long ago.
The knowledge we grew too important to claim.

The knowledge didn’t change, we changed.
He didn’t leave.
We left.

And so it is, ever present, yet ever hidden, he continues to wait–
for both you and I.

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
Song of Solomon 5:16