where can I find a pet leech???

Do you want to do something beautiful for God?
There is a person who needs you.
This is your chance.

Mother Teresa

Isn’t this the greatest picture ever?

Such a happy, handsome and loving couple…

It’s a photograph of my parents in 1958 the year before I was born (hear the pride in my voice)

Oh, you think that couple looks a lot like Gary Grant and Sophia Loren?

Hummmm…

well…isn’t that quite the coincidence?!

If you’ve been with me for a while here in blogland, you’ve already heard me speak of my
beautiful mother Sophia…

but shhhhhh, she doesn’t know.

Those of you who know me or have read much of this little blog over the years,
know that I am actually adopted.

I’ve shared this little tale before but for those of you who haven’t heard this
part of the backstory, I’ll back up a tad…

Back in college, my college roommates, whom I loved and still love, all knew of
my adoption.
One evening when I was in the Library having to do some sort of research on whatever
it was I was researching, I happened upon a shelf of books all concerning adoption.
I started pulling book upon book off the shelf and read about a subject I’d never really
looked into, much less discussed.

I shared with my roommates these new findings and curiosities.
And they too were curious…as many friends have been ever since.

But they also had their fun…of which I did indeed find funny.

They knew how besotted this hopeful one-day art historian was with all things Italia.
I yearned for Italy.
I had taken art history course after course on the Italian Renaissance.
I was smitten by those whom I considered to be the world’s greatest artists.
I had never been to Italy, but there some unseen power constantly pulling
me closer and closer.

So as screwball and silly college kids can be, I came home one day to a picture
of Sophia Loren taped to our room’s door with a hand-scrawled note, “adopt a Wop ”
–a word not considered politically correct—
but once upon a time, before this dreaded PC world of ours,
each country, each ethnicity,
each nationality had its own euphemism for their fellow nations
and fellow nationalities…
and it was what it was and no one much protested.

Everyone had a nickname—the yanks being the US, Frogs were the French and on and on…
Most names came from those things that these nations did or ate that would set them apart
from a fellow nationality.
Italians were not exempt.
Wop is a butchered word which roughly meant ‘thug’…
It originated in the southern Italian region—an area known for its heavy Mafia influence…
and so it goes.

But I was happy and even flattered to be linked to someone like Sophia Loren
and I was happy imaging that I had possibly Italian lineage.

Yet this post is not about all of that so I don’t want to belabor the point.
But just know that I knew I was adopted and must obviously be some sort of lost Italian.

Never mind that I’m actually Scotch / Irish.

So claiming Sophia Loren as a mother, who had no clue that she actually had this
long lost child living in the Southern US, as she was from Southern Italy, seemed so grand.
Add to the fact that whenever anything has gone wrong with me, I’ve always blamed it
on being adopted.

So today is no different.

I had my stress test.

It went ok, sort of.

The nurse told me that if I went on for 10 more seconds,
I would have registered having the heart of a 27-year-old….but…
there was a small anomaly.

When I got up to speed and began huffing and puffing, as I was now running uphill
and just praying I wouldn’t come flying off the back end of this inverted rollercoaster,
my blood pressure did not rise with the level of exerted intensity.
In fact, it didn’t rise at all.
It was the same as the resting rate before the treadmill.

Sooo, the cardiologist has ordered a nuclear stress test—
So I will now glow.

Here in the South we like to say that we don’t sweat, we glisten…
so I can now glisten and glow all at the same time!

He’s also ordered a heart ultrasound for the more compelling reason as to why
I had the stress test.

I’ve often referred to my having a bad thyroid.
I have a condition referred to as Hashimoto’s Disease.
It’s a thyroid that fluctuates like a roller coaster.
For a body to function properly, a thyroid needs to be consistent.
If not consistent all sorts of things go awry.

So I take a thyroid medication, which I’ll take forever and it helps to keep
my levels, level. I’ve taken it for years. I blame the adoption.

I have to go every six months for blood work in order to see if the levels have changed.

I did this last week.

The nurse called the following day…she starts the conversation with “Julie…”
I sensed something different in her voice.
“your liver enzymes are slightly elevated…”
meaning I still have a fatty liver—a result of a lifelong love affair with butter…
I get that from my aunt Julia Child…
“your cholesterol is up”—no news there.
and your hemoglobin is up…but that shouldn’t be too concerning…
however, she
(she being the doctor) still has a few questions so she’s sending
for more testing.”

The nurse calls back, following the weekend, and proceeds with “the news.”

A normal iron level, on the high end, is 150
Seems mine was 5 times higher…almost 600

I laughed rather incredulously.
“What does that mean,” I ask.
She tells me that the body obviously needs iron but my system is acting like a giant sponge.
Working on overdrive.
The body does not excrete iron.
There is no eliminating all the excess, it just keeps going and going, soaking it up.

Excessive iron produces symptoms—
all the symptoms I’ve been having but symptoms that have been simply chalked up to age,
or thyroid disease, or in my little mind, adoption…

Because when all else fails, we always blame the adoption…that being the unknown.

Yet excessive iron poisons the body.

Effecting the big three organs– mostly the heart, liver, and pancreas.

It effects the joints.
It causes fatigue.
It causes depression.
It causes hair to thin and fall out
It causes the fingertips to turn blue

Check,
check,
check,
and check…

But…doesn’t the winter’s dark cold dreariness make us all fatigued and depressed?
I’ve lost two significant family members this past year, that’s cause for depression right?
The blue fingertips is a thyroid symptom, right?
My osteoarthritis is age right?
The hair loss is also the thyroid, right?

This latest life glitch is called Hemochromatosis Metabolic Disorder.

A hereditary genetic mutation…
Mutation,
as in a mutant,
as in an X-Man.

Now it’s all making perfect sense…
As in, there are secret powers that I don’t know about right?
And now I know my family lineage….


(my new family)

So now we see all the connecting of the dots…

I told you it was the adoption!

I asked how one treats this little problem…as in how do I get rid of all this iron???

The nurse flatly states Phlebotomy.

Huh!?

I nervously laugh again.

Oddly, she is not laughing.

Cause all I heard was ‘otomy’…like a lobotomy…as in a hole in my head…

But then reality hits and I was like, “how is that to work??…
what are we talking about??…
giving a little blood or what??”

She tells me it most likely would be a weekly visit to the hospital to have a liter or so pulled off…
as in weekly!!!
As in like a freaking pin cushion.

Never mind that I also now need to cut out iron, alcohol, fat, sugar, citrus, Vitamin C, chocolate,
cooking in cast iron, using my grill (iron grates)…on and on and on goes the list of horror.

Just shoot me now!!!!!

But tea and red wine are ok as the tannin they contain helps impede the absorption of iron
in the body…Go figure.
Cabernet, a headache, and blocked iron…brilliant!

The last time I gave blood was in 1978, I was a senior in high school.
Once the process was finished and they had me to sit up, I immediately fainted.
After about 30 minutes, they tried it again.
Again, I fainted.
Finally, when they thought all was good, I was dismissed back to class.
By now it was lunchtime.

I had just grabbed a salad and was heading to the table when the next thing I know
I’m on the cafeteria floor looking up at a bunch of faces staring down at me as lettuce
was now scattered all over me…

I’ve never given blood to that level since.
I can do vials, tubes etc… just not bags.
And here now, I’m being told I’ll be giving at least a bag a week…
Geez Louise!

So maybe that’s my secret X-man mutant power…
Goodbye Sophia Loren and hello Leechwoman

So yes, now I’m thinking that perhaps if I could just find a pet leech,
I could work out this siphoning business from home so I wouldn’t have to keep going
to the hospital…makes perfect sense.

To be continued…..

prepping for awareness…

“Earth’s crammed with heaven…
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And you thought I was going to be talking about prepping and not about
that kind of prepping…
but prepping is indeed prepping…as in getting prepared…
for something…and today, I am prepping….

We should note that March is National Colorectal Awareness Month.

That is why it is August and I’m just now getting around to being aware.

Also…

I think most of us know that when we reach a certain age, our doctors
always start recommending certain tests and screenings.
They hit you with that…
“you know…now that you’re over 50…”

That’s why at 57 I’m suppose to be having a colonoscopy every 5 years…
and yet here it is well past 7 years and I’m just now getting around to doing such.

I would rather volunteer to have a root canal in North Korea before I’d volunteer
for a colonoscopy….just saying.

It’s not so much the actual procedure, that part is a piece of cake…
cause you’re asleep…good sleep too…just saying…

It’s rather what all is involved in the prep for this type procedure that is so….
in a word,
awful.

We can send men to the moon, with talk of Mars being next, and yet we’ve yet to come
up with a people friendly colonoscopy prep.

I have seen those commercials…
you know the ones…
the ones with the little blue and white box that talks to us
explaining that “it’s as easy as get, go, gone.”
No prep there.
But that’s a test for those age 50 at an average to minimal risk for colorectal cancer.

I’m not average.

If you’ve never had to go through such a prep just know that it seems to be a
challenge for any and all who participate. Even my doctor’s PA,
who I really love by the way, shared with me that she simply stayed in her
bathtub throughout her perp.

Really?

Her own little horror story followed with the very next breath telling me
that the prep has gotten so much easier than it use to be.

Really?
You’re in a bathtub and you’re telling me it’s now easy…
yeah…right.

After reading through the prep procedure papers the only thing different that
I can see is that I can start the misery at 9 AM verses say noonish…
That way the misery lasts all day long verses afternoon and night.

During the last prep seven years ago, I lost 6 pounds—
which mind you is a great thing, but what I endured while losing 6 pounds left
an indelible mark on my psyche.

Laying on the bathroom floor, trying to simply sleep,
wrapped in only a beach towel, can be a bit traumatizing.

For whatever reason,
this body of mine simply doesn’t handle invasive trauma very well.
My mind does okay…tough as nails….
the body however is entirely a different story.

As you may recall, I’m adopted.

Whenever any of us goes to a doctor, they always ask if we or a family member has
a history of___________
filling in the blank with anything from heart disease to cancer…

Being adopted I can’t answer because I have no clue.

I have however always battled a lifetime of IBS, or what my pediatrician would
tell my mom, “she has a nervous stomach”…later in college they called
it a spastic colon.
Nowadays it’s known as IBS…
I simply call it a lifetime of angry and unappreciable guts.

Plus I’ve had my fair share of misery with a peptic ulcer.

So colonoscopies, for me, have been long before age 50.
In fact in college I felt more like a lab rat at the University’s Health
Center than I did a student seeking medicine.

So I know procedures and I know preps.
It’s just that I dread each one like a hole in the head.

There is a childhood memory however, that I carry with me to this day…
a memory that cuts right through my attempted humor over “prepping”….
a memory that reminds me that prepping and screening for cancer, any sort of cancer,
is a very serious matter that can mean the difference between life and death.

When I was a little girl my mom had a dear friend.
The two moms use to always get us kids together and we always had
such fun…there was a daughter my age and we always played at one another’s
houses— going to birthday parties together, trick or treating together,
the circus together…we did everything together as families.

Mom’s friend however had a condition that I did not know about.
I’m pretty certain the adults knew about it but back in those days, of the
very early 1960’s, not much was really known about treating ileitis colitis…
or what we know today as Chron’s Disease.
Such being that trying to “control” it through diet was about the only option.

And granted Chron’s is not cancer, it is however a disease that can be
screened for, treated and watched, lest it become overwhelmingly too late.

I didn’t know about her condition until late one afternoon when our phone rang.

My mom had gotten a phone call and I can still vividly see my mom breaking down
while on the phone, crying.
I had never seen my mom cry until that afternoon.

Her friend had had an “attack” during the day while her husband was at work and
her kids at school. She died a very awful death only to be found by her son,
in the bathroom, once they’d gotten home from school.
Mom’s friend was only in her early 30’s leaving behind a young husband
and two young children.

That episode left a lasting impression on me.

We tried to carry on together as families, but the husband eventually remarried,
moved away and stated a new life…

Knowing that I too had a troublesome gut, even as a child,
this one incident scared me.
I was determined from then on to be vigilant and proactive.
Mother’s pain over this sudden and tragic loss, made a deep impression.

Are we not always reminded in some sort of poignant way or another that we
are to take nothing for granted….

The one thing I’ve learned over the years is that we should always be proactive
when it comes to our health.
I’ve known many a woman who, for whatever reason, was unwilling to have a mammogram,
or to have one regularly.
I had many a female high school student who I knew were sexually active yet
refused to visit a Gynecologist.
I had a brother-n-law who would never have a colonoscopy and eventually died
from colon cancer.

So as far as our health is concerned, ignorance is not always bliss.

Yet that’s not to say that all screenings catch things early or in time.
But I honestly believe that by trying to stay on top of things we are better off
in the long run…

So….once again, I’m biting the bullet, or actually
more like drinking the full 64 ounce Miralx laced Gatorade, one more time…
while I go locate my beach towels…
wish me luck.

do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.
So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

vigil

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night.

1st verse to an ancient Welsh folksong

“And, in the end
The love you take
is equal to the love you make.”

Paul McCartney

img_0898
(the little Ga Tech bear that sits vigil at the foot of Dad’s bed)

There’s a lady in our town who makes teddy bears.
The premise is that you can bring her an old blanket, shirt or some other piece
of clothing, from either a growing child or even a departed loved one,
and she will make a bear using the blanket or fabric of said loved one…
she calls them “remembrance bears”…

Just before Christmas, when I was picking up a prescription at my pharmacy,
I saw this Ga Tech bear sitting on a small stool at the end of an aisle.
I asked the pharmacist if this particular bear was for sale or merely a display.
She informed that it was indeed for sale as her mom was now making collegiate bears.

“Well”, I excalimed,
“I know just the perfect person for this particular bear”…

And ever since this little black and gold bear has been sitting at the foot of dad’s bed,
or in the nearby chair…
keeping a steadfast silent vigil throughout these days and nights
of both waxing and waning….

and right now the days and nights are waning.

I was meet this morning by both nurses…hospice and the care service.
Dad had had a bad night, throwing up repeatedly, resulting in them having to administer
an anti nausea drug from the “emergency” hospice kit.

This emergency kit was provided when Dad was first placed on hospice care.
It’s a little brown box that was to stay in the refrigerator
as it had the emergency morphine for when pain got really bad…
as there may not be time to quickly order new meds.

It’s a little brown box I pushed way in the back of the fridge…
hiding it behind the eggs and milk…
as I didn’t want my stepmother to mistakenly throw it out,
and I didn’t want to see it,
I didn’t want to be reminded of it,
and I prayed we wouldn’t have to use it.

They started using it about three weeks ago.

The hospice nurse was also giving him a good going over….
from head to toe…checking the catheter, his vitals, etc…
When one is terminally ill, dignity is the first casualty.

Later my nurse friend came into the kitchen where I was waiting
and told me that she really didn’t think it would be much longer…
Maybe a week at best.

I reminded her that we said that two weeks ago…
yet I was very aware that we both knew the deal…
that no one can ever predict time in these sorts of matters…
however I also knew that she’s ridden in this little rodeo before…
her knowledge and intuitive skills certainly surpass mine in these sorts of situations…

And so after running to the grocery store and doing some errands for the
maintaining of their household…
I went back to sit with dad.

His speech was slurred, his eyes fluttered open and shut…
but he did have his cable news turned on and was attempting to go through
the motions of reading over the newspaper.
It is from Dad that I get my keen interest in all things news, political, football and history.

His legs were twitching back and forth,
As he told me that a former caregiver had died.

She had not died and is actually alive and quite well.
His mind is working hard to sort reality from that of dreams.

And as I sat with dad, watching news story after news story concerning the complete
idiocy of this nation of ours, I was suddenly and tragically aware that there were countless
other families doing exactly what I was doing…
and that is keeping vigil over a loved one.

The furtherest thing of importance that should be on our radars are these
ridiculous demonstrations, protests and marches.

When you cut away all the minutia of life…
all of the pettiness,
the bitterness,
the anger,
the tantrums,
the selfishness,
the lies,
the hate,
the lunacy…
you will see what is truly important…

And that is simply living,
as well as dying,
and most importantly the love that it to be found in each of those human functions.

Damn to pink hats, to rock stars, to actresses all performing for the mania…
those who now only live for the “will he or won’t he” that is gripping the minds of the hysterical,
It all matters not one iota when you find yourself slowly losing either your own life
or slowly losing the life of one you love…

It is the love found in that life that really only matters.
The love given, the love demonstrated, the love received…

May you open your heart not to the maelstrom of the mania that is currently
roaring past you…
but rather may you seek and find the love in life…
that one lasting piece of each of us that really truly only matters…

because in the end…it is only the love that will remain…

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height
nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-38

the kindred spirit of a chicken

“To love is easy and therefore common –
but to understand –
how rare it is!”

― L.M. Montgomery

What friends or kindred can be so close and intimate as the powers of our soul,
which, whether we will or no, must ever bear us company?

Saint Teresa of Avila

DSCN3747
(one of dad’s urban neighbors / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’ve written about Henny Penny before.
And no, Henny Penny is not the chicken in the picture above…
that’s just a neighbor.

The real Henry Penny is the heroine of a classic and timeless sweet children’s tale.
The story of a rather hapless and clueless chicken
who gets her knickers in twist when she’s out and about minding her own business,
when suddenly out of the blue, something falls from above knocking her in the head…

This falling object unleashes pandemonium in poor ol Henny Penny.

Convinced that the sky is now falling,
Henny Penny proceeds to run about chaotically alerting all her neighbors
that the time to panic has arrived…
while proclaiming that everyone must immediately seek shelter…
because the sky is…
falling…

henny_penny_02-1
(Henny Penny / art work by Thao Lam)

As it turns out the sky was never falling, as the sweet illustration above indicates,
yet try telling Henny Penny and her now distraught neighbors that it was
just a pesky little acorn falling onto poor Henny Penny’s head.

And not that I’ve become some sort of nervous nelly dashing about
in a frantic panic over a falling sky…
but it does feel as if the sky, or actually life rather, is indeed falling…
and that familiar primordial feeling of panic
is desperately attempting to rear its ugly head…

As I’ve just spent the past three days running around in circles over…
dad…

Add to that some other rather pressing issues of life and we have
our very own Henny Penny running around clucking like a nut.

If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who may have spotted a black car,
early this morning, out on the four lane driving in big circles…
about 3 different times back and forth…

As in driving out toward the interstate then turning back around,
then driving back out toward the interstate, then truning back around…
again…and again…
Not so much a panicky Henny Penny but more like a crazy moron…

Either way I’m feeling a bit Henny Pennyish as of late as I’ve been
twirling about in circles flapping my wings arms trying to make sense of things…

It’s a long story…as are all my stories as of late.
And I’ve promised myself that I will not be overtly verbose today,
for your sake as I wish to spare you the agonizing details…

However…is it not the details which make things all that more interesting??
as in the devil is in the details—
as in really, yes,
he is frighteningly in my details….

It all has to do with a catheter, a nurse, dad, a blockage, the caregivers, the ER
and a urologist that I had hoped to never see again…as I’m not a fan.
Add multiple calls beckoning me to come then don’t come,
come, don’t come… and you’ve got circles on the four lane…

Throw upon that not gas but confusion…adding all the other nuttiness in my life,
throw in the shenanigans of this county of ours just for kicks,
fan the fumes…
and you get me, driving around in big circles
while dad is blowing up like a water balloon refusing to be treated.

So I will take the water balloon dad back to the Urologist today, whether he wants to go or not while taking our chances that
a) the water balloon weren’t burst and
b) that mr nonchalant will figure out the problem
allowing us to get back to our regular business of falling sky….

I think I like Henny Penny…
I think we must be kindred spirits…

Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.

Joel 2:12

a shot of fortitude, knowing I can do anything for two weeks…

“True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace,
exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing
the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind;
and in steadfastly and freely exerting and following
good affections and dispositions,
without being hindered by sinful fear or the opposition of enemies…
Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and
counteracting the enemies that are without us;
yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing
the enemies that are within us;
because they are our worst and strongest enemies and
have greatest advantage against us.
The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more
than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness,
and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries,
strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this
evil and unreasonable world.”

Jonathan Edwards

dscn4419
(a jumbled mess of fishing line, fishing hooks and seaweed washes ashore / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

The other night, my husband and I found ourselves at our favorite restaurant celebrating
a month late anniversary. This particular restaurant is a place we love to visit whenever we are fortunate enough to find ourselves at the beach.
The restaurant is very nice and the clientele can be equally as nice…with the exception
of some not so nice diners, but that’s for another story for another day.

As we arrived a bit early for our 7PM reservations, the host kindly asked if we
wouldn’t mind waiting as they prepared our requested table.
“Not a problem” I replied as it is often nice to sit for a minute and observe
those who have also opted to come dine…
Folks at the beach are always most colorful in a variety of ways….

As we waited, we watched as two couples entered together through the front door.
Very attractive couples…say, mid 60’s.
The women were puffed and coiffed to the Nines.
Giving the air of overtly well to do.

They waited a bit and were shown to their table as one of the men excused
himself from the group asking for the men’s room.
About two minutes later the other gentleman wandered back out for
what we assumed was to direct his friend to their table.
But rather than wait on his friend, he headed straight to the bar.
He appeared very impatient wanting the bar tender to hurry to his aid.

He ordered what appeared to be a triple shot of scotch.
I know these things as my dad use to be drawn to the same sort of amount and
libation back in his younger years….

The man took glass in hand bringing it quickly to his lips as he threw his head back,
draining the brown liquid from the glass in one quick swallow…
As he just as quickly plopped the glass on the bar.
No savoring, no sipping nor enjoying…
more like a “wham, bam, thank you mam, sort of moment.

At this point his friend emerged from the men’s room and
off they went to join their wives.

My husband and I kind of laughed to one another as we wondered aloud
if spending time over dinner with his wife was such that he
needed a heavy shot before continuing…

Fast forward to today…
I was back at the Orthopedic’s office following last week’s MRI.
I sat in the exam room almost 45 minutes before the PA came in.
How are you feeling she asked.

“Well…
imagine that the top of your thigh is numb yet at the same time it feels
as if your inner thigh and groin have been flayed wide open
while someone is constantly scrubbing said area with a brillo pad…
All the while someone else has a drill and is drilling right
into your hip bone and lower back, just a tad over from you lower spine…”

“Hummmm, that good eh?”

I flatly looked at her and stated more then questioned…
“I suppose the MRI didn’t show a thing did it?”

“Oh no, it showed something alright…
that’s what took me so long, the doctor had to keep looking over the MRI”
The scan wasn’t as high as we wanted it to go nor as deep…
but there is definitely a distribution of disc material outside of the
column on the left side…and it’s squeezing the emerging nerve.”

In other words, a bulging disc with severe nerve inflammation.

I asked if they wanted to repeat the MRI…
with her response being “only if we have to do surgery.”

Surgery?

“We have two options…we can be conservative and do therapy and traction….”

The thought of traction conjured an image of me flat on my back in a dingy cell
tied to a dark wooden plank as my hands and feet are chained to a roller
all the while as the masked torture master cranks the medieval rack…
stretching me till I snap.
Which mind you might feel better than flayed skin and brillo pads….

“Or, and this is my recommendation, we schedule a spinal nerve block.”

Ahhhh another torturous device where a large long horse needle is wiggled deep into the spin,
injecting steroids and anti-inflamation meds directly into the source….

“Ok, I’m in” I said probably a bit too eagerly…
but I think she grasped the fact that the pain has got to go…as in now.

“We’ll need to schedule it with one of the other doctor’s who normally does this sort
of procedure…and I’m afraid it could be a couple of weeks…”

“WHAT?”

Sure enough, the first available time is in two weeks.

“I can do anything for two weeks,” I hear myself chanting in my head.
That use to be my mantra when I was a much younger mother and teacher.

I would always have to take some sort of continuing ed training or coursework,
usually during the short summer, and it always seemed to be for two weeks.

I despised having to give up my precious home-time–
Whenever I was home, that’s when I savored being like a full time wife and mom…
Having to give up any of the sacred home-time was…in a word, torturous…

But….

I would always reassure myself that both my young son and me could manage anything for two weeks…

Just as I reminded myself today, “I can do anything for two weeks…”
even if it means living with constant pain, no energy and no moments of rest…
while now dealing with poor dad’s conundrum….

All this while as thoughts of just running around naked seemed to make perfect sense as nothing
would then be rubbing on the skin where angry nerves recoiled at the slightest touch.

Which brings us back to the previous observation of the gentleman at the bar…

Whereas I feebly attempted to soothingly reassure myself that I could do anything for two weeks,
perhaps this particular gentleman, who found that he needed a shot of fortitude just to endure
dinner with his wife, had it more aptly figured out…

As I quipped to the nurse, “two weeks is fine, but please call me if anything comes available
sooner… as you may just find me at a bar drinking heavily….”

Here’s to doing anything for two weeks…along with a shot of fortitude!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

A traveling we go….

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh.
It cures a multitude of ills.
It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”

― Audrey Hepburn

“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”
― Robert Frost

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(Gloria ready to head over to dad’s)

So today, Gloria the dammit doll and I had to travel over to Dad’s.
I still can’t get over the coincidence of Gloria the dammit doll having the same name as my stepmother—what are those odds?!
Anywhooo, our week is a bit off kilter as we’ve had to deal with life here on the homefront, which in turn has put us off track for our weekly pilgrimage, or two, or three or four…you get the point, to Atlanta.

It was going to be a busy trip…
There were to be groceries to buy, bills to pay, visits to banks, trips to doctors, and a visit with dad’s tax folks…it is that time of year you know…

So…as Gloria was driving us over to Atlanta early this morning, she’s spies something with her wee eye….

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(Gloria behind the wheel on I-20)

A groundhog, running for its life frolicking along the side of the interstate catches Gloria’s eye…

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(Gloria was driving too fast for us to get a picture of the groundhog so we had to borrow one from the internet–the internet is nice that way)

“Well, this must be our lucky day” remarks Gloria.
What are the chances of seeing a groundhog running for its life playing alongside the interstate?? she exclaims….
The sun is shinning popping out here and there from behind the sea of remaining storm clouds, north Georgia is experiencing snow showers while we’re doing good to keep the car between the lines in the gale force winds, but if Gloria thinks today’s our luck day, who am I to rain on her parade?!

When we get to Dad’s we meet the new caregiver…one of these two Gloria’s gathered near me keeps running them off, I’m not naming names but Gloria the dammit doll is off the hook…
and so far things seem ok.

Dad is sitting in his chair, the one I sometimes wonder if he’s not glued in to…but I notice he’s not completely dressed—as in his pants are on, but the shirt isn’t tucked in, the belt isn’t fastened, nor are the pants.
“Hi Dad, what’s up with your pants?”
“Oh, uh, uh, they just won’t stay together.”
“Dad, I just bought you three new pair, where are they?
Oh, uh, uh, they’re back there, uh, uh, I don’t need them.
Suuuuureee you don’t…

Long story short, it seems Dad’s colitis is acting up—which happens every time things in that house become chaotic…
Of which they certainly have over the past month or so….as in all hell has been breaking loose, hence why Gloria the dammit doll has had to work really hard on overtime….and dad isn’t keeping his pants zipped, buttoned or belted as he’s running back and forth to the bathroom. Have you ever seen a very feeble 88 year old, who lists dangerously to the right, attempt to hurry to the bathroom—puts new meaning into scary viewing.

The caregiver fills me in on the latest trauma dramas.

The main bathroom, the one my stepmother uses, has been the crime scene for her last two catastrophic falls. Each time she has managed to wedge herself up against the door, preventing help from getting to her. Subsequently she has been emphatically told by the nurse, the doctor, the care service, her son, the EMT’s, Dad, me… to allow the caregivers to assist her in and out of the bathroom and not to lock nor completely shut the door.

Defiant to the end, the door has remained locked tight despite the cries of those imploring from the other side she open up the door.
So on Sunday her son removed the door.
(Shades of having a teenager…just a really old teenager)
As in he lifted that sucker right off it’s hinges and carted it off to the basement.
Replacing the door with a rather chic little curtain job, giving way to an air of a day spa happening in my stepmother’s bathroom. Easy and breezy in a fab chic sort of way.

My stepmother had become unglued prior to the door’s removal…
As in raging, manic, irate, irrational, hateful, threatening…you name it… as in it might be time to call in reinforcements.
Hence why Dad now has colitis…again.

A visit to the doctor earlier this week, along with some tweaking of dementia meds, and there is actually peace and clam at the day spa house today….odd and frightening at the same time

Gloria the dammit doll looked at me as we both wondered if we were in the right house.

Yet Dad was anything but peaceful..he was troubled…even fretful.
Quiet and agitated at the same time.

When my stepmother had to leave to go get the staples removed from her head…those staples from her latest catastrophic fall in the bathroom…of which shattered the mirror, which she had fallen into…cutting herself to shreds…the result of defiant stubbornness as in I won’t use the walker, I won’t allow help, as in I will lock doors….but I digress…
I stayed behind with dad, at the house, just to figure out what was troubling him…
as if I didn’t already have my suspisions.

He has worked himself back into a full blown sick tizzy of worry… and no matter the reassurance, the emphatic explaining on my part, he was hearing none of it…he was back to being a dog with a bone—a bone that is used up and no good.
He obsesses…to a very dangerous and unhealthy level–welcome to his dementia.
We couldn’t get lucky and have two with the same sort of dementia—nope–we’ve got to do battle on multiple fronts.

So I’m now wondering how best to help–
I’ve lined up a trip to the gastroenterologist.
I’ll be emailing the nurse for suggestions.
We may, God forbid, have to cut out his sweets and chocolate….
and I will keep my fingers crossed that my stepmother will now rest in this period of bizarre calm in order that dad’s guts can also get to a place of calm…

For life at Dad’s is anything but calm…as in, when it rains, it will indeed pour….and I usually won’t be holding an umbrella…

So finally late this afternoon, while Gloria the dammit doll was driving us back home, she poses a question my way…

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She mentions that maybe she should try her luck at a dammit doll dating match site.
She’s been working herself to death as of late, as in working overtime between both dad and my stepmother…
Maybe it’s time I get her a helpmate.
She had actually seen a fellow in a store front window when she was on a recent visit to Savannah..a fellow who she thought was really pretty cute…yet she was afraid to approach him.

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I had seen him as well, sitting there in that window with those big brown eyes, but I told her that he was not her type.
I explained to her that he appeared to be nothing more than a smooth talker and totally full of crap.
I promised her that once we got back home later in the day, I’d go on-line in search of a Mr. Dammit doll…one that she could call her own…

Well, I’ll keep you posted as to who shows up to ask Gloria the dammit doll out on a date…
Kind of reminds me of those long ago mail order brides…I just hope he’s not a Russian…not that I’m opposed to Russians mind you but I would like one who speaks the language.

Until then…it seems Gloria has had a day of it and needs a little rest….

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A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

*****It should be noted that my cheeky approach in this situation of life with my dad and stepmother leaves me in tears more oft than not—-so there are times, such as today’s post, in which I’ve got to reach for the humor when there is strength to do so… otherwise my spirit would indeed break and dry up–
Tending to them and their needs, maintaining their world as peacefully as possible.. for both of them… requires finesse, the patience of Job, stamina, sanity and a steady hand—doing it alone is none too easy. It often leaves my own world, home, family upside down and pulling the short straw.
Those of you out there who face similar situations of caring for aging and elderly parents..those with both physical as well as emotional and or mental needs..know how very difficult life can be.
Alzheimers and dementia are not kind.
Hence why Gloria the dammit doll has made these bad days a bit more tolerable
🙂

Out of the darkness, has come a great Light

“…the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”

Matthew 4:16

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(entrence to the 9/11 memorial in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The sound is almost overwhelming as the sickening thud of felled trees, one right after another, causes the entire earth to shake beneath my feet. The maddening buzz of saws fills the air as progress marches sadly forward on the property across the street. Once beautiful woods are now giving way to a muddy stubby mess as blue sky abruptly punctuates what was once a shadowy lush green canopy, all the while as worrisome thoughts of what is soon to be hangs heavy in the air.

Disconcerted and rattled with each crashing tree, my thoughts thankfully drift away, thousands of miles away across an expansive ocean, to a very different forest of trees.

Perched high on a hill overlooking the serene harbor of Kinsale, a colorful fishing town found on the southeastern coast of County Cork, Ireland, is an unassuming park. This park isn’t the sort of destination topping the list of must see places for those visiting Kinsale. Far from the shops, restaurants and fishing piers that make Kinsale a favorite stopping point for those visiting Ireland, rests a serene respite I was fortunate to visit.

We had spent the day driving around much of County Cork. We had visited the seaport town of Cobh which is steeped in history. It was in the city of Cobh which was most often the last piece of Ireland that many an Irish immigrant savored before setting sail for America during the infamous Irish potato famine. It is also in Cobh that the few remaining survivors, as well as the recovered bodies from the ill fated Lusitania, the passenger ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915, were received following the sinking of the ship. Cobh is also the town in which the Titanic set sail on its tragic maiden voyage.

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(a memorial to the victims of the Lusitania rests in the city center of Cobh, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Having spent the day stepping in and out of history as we enjoyed the idyllic coastal fishing villages around Ireland’s south easterly coast, we were ready to head on back to our hotel in Kinsale, to dinner and to calling it one more day rich in sights and wonders. But our driver and friend Paul had one more stop this day that he knew we needed to see and experience–this stop was to be much more current and personal in our lives as Americans then the sad exodus of immigrants or the tragic losses at sea.

Kathleen Cait Murphy was a local girl from Kinsale who spent forty years of her life living in New York working as a nurse. It was from her time working in New York that she both admired and befriended many a New York firefighter.

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(remembrance to Kathleen Cait Murphy/ Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Kathleen was a personal friend of firefighter chaplain Father Mychal Judge, who along with 343 fellow firefighters, lost his life on that fateful 11th day of September 2001.

Before her death in 2011, Kathleen envisioned a memorial to not only her friend Father Judge but to all the firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice that ill-fated beautiful blue sky September day in 2001.

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(a small view of Kathleen’s memorial park / Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland /Julie Cook/ 2015)

Kathleen, with the help of family and friends, planted 343 trees, one for each fallen firefighter. The trees have now grown creating a forest of gratitude and love.
Each tree has a small marker with the name of a firefighter, his fire house and rank as well as an individual American Flag.

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I stood in silence overwhelmed, as tears flowed freely down my cheeks, amazed and humbled by the image of the 343 American flags gently waving in the Irish breeze underneath a tiny forest of beautiful trees.

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So often, as a traveler, I am on guard as I know that Americans are not alway looked upon favorably by others. Even our own Government has us feeling almost ashamed as to who we are as a Nation. Yet here on “foreign soil” as I stood awestruck, I was a tiny spectator of a poignant tribute to the very Country I call home as well as a tribute to a portion of her very brave and selfless sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice. I imagine those who visit Normandy feel very much the same, albeit on a grander scale than this, but humbling none the less.

It is because of such a tribute and memorial that we are allowed to turn our hearts…as we are gently reminded that we mustn’t hold on to the anger and hate, the rage and righteous indignation which so often fills our minds and hearts as we recall such a fateful day. Rather it must be to the hope and to the light cast from the sacred bond we share as human beings—It is because of these very humanistic qualities which make us more alike than different–those shared emotions of both joy and sorrow which bind us, unconditionally in love and to the shared respect we have for one another as human beings.

No, we will never forget that tragic September day which remains still very fresh in our minds and hearts, yet it is to the selflessness and compassion of Kathleen Cait Murphy that we may recall such sadness with a ray of hope, the bond of kindred spirits and a wellspring of gratitude that others share not only in our grief but in our hope as well…
Thank you Paul…

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The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isaiah 9:2