“in suffering, God gives strength’

It is extremely liberating to know that God never demands more of us that we can give him.
He is always content when we do what we can.
The only important thing is that we never give up,
that with a holy stubbornness we do what we can.

Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen
from The Holy Spirit, Fire of Divine Love


(our little pecan trees are bearing their fruits / nuts slowly / Julie Cook / 2019)

“There is another reason also why the soul has traveled safely in this obscurity;
it has suffered:
for the way of suffering is safer, and also more profitable, than that of rejoicing and of action.
In suffering God gives strength, but in action and in joy the soul does but show its own
weakness and imperfections.
And in suffering, the soul practices and acquires virtue, and becomes pure, wiser, and more cautious.”

St. John of the Cross, p. 149
An Excerpt From
Dark Night of the Soul

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

pecans and prayers

“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

― Søren Kierkegaard

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( our first crop of pecans / Julie Cook / 2016)

First of all let’s start off on a positive foot this morning…

Look at our first pecans on our little pecan tress.

You may remember the post I did about a year and a half ago regarding the whole buying, planting and caring for our little grove to be of 15 pecan trees…

People are all the time asking
“what are those cute little stick-like trees out in the field…?”

And I like to tell them that they are my little green topped Q-tips—
because that’s what they look like, an orchard of 15 little green topped Q-tips…

But how exciting it is that one tree out of 15 has decided to bless us with pecans…
However the jury is still out on whether or not they will actually mature into full fledged nuts…

Now on to the more serious…

I arrived at Dad’s early this morning, just on time to get him up and out the door to head off to the doctor’s for a scope procedure to figure out why he’s bleeding so much upon urination.

Dad had his prostate removed almost 30 years ago so that’s not the worry.
His late brother did have a kidney removed, due to a contained kidney cancer, when he was about Dad’s age and did fine with all of that—but he was always much more spry, active and more positive than dad.

So let me just say that I have been frustrated by the lack of speed in which these doctors seem to be operating.

Over a month ago I called Dad’s primary doctor telling him about the blood we’ve all been seeing and wondered might Dad not have another UTI?
He says he doesn’t have time for Dad to come in that particular day, how about in two days…

Ok, really???…you don’t have time for an 88 year old man who is losing blood from a rather odd place to come pee in a cup?

Ok
Whatever…

So when we finally jump through that little hoop, the labs come back negative for infection.
Henceforth we are referred to a specialist urologist—
A specialist who doesn’t have an opening for 3 weeks.

REALLY???

An 88 year old man is now bleeding every time he pees and is leaking blood on his clothes and sheets and you don’t have something sooner than 3 weeks???!!!

I know I’m surely not the only one thinking that Dad is
now more pale and much more frail and feeble.
I am not a rocket scientist but if I had an 88 year old patient losing blood,
I think I might consider that he could now be anemic and that maybe, just maybe,
he might need to get said 88 year old in the office asap…
(after today’s event, I will be calling the primary doc back tomorrow for some immediate labs)

So anywhooo, we wait.
Meanwhile Dad is calling daily to inform me that he is now not long for this world.

“DAD…will you stop that!!!”
“Let’s try and think positive shall we….”

So today when my son and I show up at Dad’s door,
in order to whisk him away for the 20 minute drive north for this procedure,
Dad is still sitting in his chair.

“Dad, come on, we’ve got to go….”
“Uh, I need to go shave”
A collective “WHAT??!!” is bellowed throughout the room by me, the caregiver, my stepmother and my son.
As in what have you been doing all morning but sitting in that chair waiting on me to come
get you and you still need to shave?!

“Well just go get my electric razor and I’ll shave in the car…”

Really?!

I tell my son the grab the walker, I grab dad, who grabs his razor and out the door we go.

Walking out the door I see that Dad is wearing a very dirty pair of khakis—
“Been sneaking more chocolate again Dad…?”
“Uh, do you want me to change pants?”

“Heaven’s no, we don’t have time–maybe no one will notice you’re wearing both last night’s supper, a bag of candy and this morning’s breakfast….”

Once in the car, I need to use my trusty little Mapquest app to find where we’re going as it’s north of Atlanta, somewhere way up 400.
However I can’t hear the lovely Mapquest woman talking for the loud buzzing of Dad’s razor.

“Dad do you need to use the mirror?”
“No”

Great, he’s now going to look like some Chinese Crested Chihuahua dog…

6a1c1edb-b647-4ecc-815a-519b744935a5
(not exactly dad, but very close)

We finally arrive at a massive array of office buildings, high up on a hill, perched off a very busy road.
A, B and C.
We need building C.
Upon seeing building C’s drive, I turn immediately.
Luckily no one is behind me to rear-end me.

I stop the car long enough for my son to get both walker and Dad out of the car, allowing them to head on up into the massive maze while I go to the massive maze of a parking deck.

By the time I rendezvous with my people, it’s time for Dad to head back for the procedure.
The nurse takes us back to a room where she tells Dad to drop his pants and hop up on the table.

Really???!

She then ushers me out into the hallway to wait in a chair as I explain to her that she might want to help him with that whole dropping of the pants and hopping up on the exam table…
you saw the walker right?

Barely 5 minutes pass and I see dad exiting the door, holding his unzipped, unbuttoned, unbelted pants as he shuffles at breakneck speed down the hall.
I jump up but some nurse voice from behind me tells me not to worry he just needs to go empty his bladder.

Oh, that’s reassuring.

Dad makes his way back down the hall in order to take a chair by me.
I notice that the entire backside of his pants is soaked.

Really???

I tell the nurse we seem to have had an accident.
She then asks if Dad would like a pair of scrubs.
“No” he wearily replies as he tells me the doctor found a tumor.

WHAT???

Finally the nurse comes to check his blood pressure and to give us his discharge papers.
Discharge papers????
He wasn’t back there 5 minutes!
She again asks about the scrubs.
He declines so she gives me a pad to put in the car.

Great.

The doctor, with hands stuffed in the pockets of his white coat, saunters down the hall
to where we sit and pulls the curtain—
So now we can’t see anyone around us but we can hear everyone loud and clear as they can hear us.
Funny how we fearfully fret over HIPAA laws, yet we leave nothing to privacy in hospitals and procedure facilities…
perfect sense…just like this country, but I digress.

Mr personalityless doctor tells me he wants dad back—they will call me in about 5 days to schedule a procedure to remove what they can of the tumor and send it off for a biopsy and hopefully it will curtail the bleeding.

I look at the doctor explaining to him that Dad has a tendency to gravitate to the negative and fixates on all things cancer, and that I’ve explained to Dad that not all tumors mean a person has cancer…right?!
The doctor offers a dry and unreassuring “yes”

Great.

After leaving the maze of a building, finding the car, getting Dad and walker back in the car, we prepare for our drive home.

“So Dad, what would you like for lunch?

“I can’t think about lunch right now, I have cancer.”

“DAD, no one said you have cancer.”

“I think you should call the church and put me on the prayer list.”

“Dad, you aren’t dying, you don’t need a prayer list…and anyway, you’ve not been to that church
in over 20 years, you don’t even know who the priest is up there…”
“We’ll call Martha and get her to put you on her list”
“Now what about lunch…”

Finally getting a very dejected Dad back home with his soaking wet pants, to the safety of his chair,
my stepmother greets us at the door…

“well, how’d you make out?”

“The doctor says Dad has a tumor in the bladder…”

“A container in his bladder??”
(she can’t hear and refuses to get hearing aids)

“NO, A TUMOR”
“oh” as she chuckles to herself…as I figure she has no clue as to what I’m talking about.

Asking again what everyone wants for lunch, the consensus is Chick-fil-A.

As I head out the door, dad hollers out “DON’T FORGET THE COOKIES”
Nothing like a little sweet to take the worry out of the day….

So let’s put dad on the prayer list here please—

I’ll keep you updated….

Meanwhile may we all be mindful that something as simple as a cookie or
something even nice and chocolatey, as Dad will testify,
can definitely help cure what ails you!

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Mise en place

“Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.” Charles M. Schulz

DSCN7198
(one batch of the boxes of fall decorations / Julie Cook / 2014)

Is that what all this is about? Ill fated attempts at making our lives, our homes, more interesting than they are??

Actually this is more of a tale about a boat load of crap, uh, I mean, gourds, pumpkins, colorful leaves, acorns, straw, nuts, etc. . .anything and everything to do with Fall, Autumn, the season of Harvest. . . or whatever you may wish to call the 3rd season of the calendar.

I like to call it my favorite time of year–and no, that is not Christmas as Christmas is just another word for consumerism chaos but that’s for another day.

The Thermometer is currently registering 90ᵒ–it’s not yet noon. The news is telling me it feels more like 96ᵒ as our high today will be 95ᵒ, meaning it will feel like 110ᵒ –give or take–but I’m sure it will be more like give, with the humidity ringing in around 87% currently–higher later–ugh—-and whereas this is Labor day weekend, Summer’s grand final hoorah, I, for one, choose to look ahead—as to something, say, a little more comfortable and inviting. As in I don’t wish to remain naked when venturing out of doors because I am tired of my clothes sticking to my body —picture flies stuck to fly tape and that’s me with my clothes.

Nothing is flattering about this time of year. Hair, no matter how hard a woman may attempt taming her coiffure–and trust me, I try awfully damn hard–digressing, it will either wilt, explode with puffiness or revert back to its natural wavy state the minute it is introduced to the out of doors.
Humidity + hair = disaster.
And of course any and all freshly applied makeup will soon be oozing down a sweaty oh I forgot, we women of the South do not sweat—we glisten— glisteny faces which are responding to the 87% humidity.

A friend of mine in Texas, sweet Natalie, replying to a blog post, told me how she sings daily praises to the man whoever invented air-conditioning. I must second that praise. Which brings me to an interesting observation— the Italians do not like air-conditioning. They fear it produces “bad air” which equates to respiratory maladies—things like the croop, pneumonia, Legionnaire’s Disease. . . you name it and they think it will pour out of an air conditioning unit waiting to strike down any and all, exposed to such air, with immediate illness and death.

The Italians are fretful when it comes to health. They take great precautions to stay well. So this is why, if you ever go on Holiday to Italy say in July or August. . . why you would do this I am uncertain as anyone can tell you that these are the two months you do not wish to visit Italy as the entire country shuts down and heads to the shore or high up in the alps seeking respite form the heat and the malaria (I’m telling you, über health conscious). . .I know this as I have made such a fatal mistake, but again, I digress. . .you will suddenly go into apoplexy upon entering your hotel room, say in Rome, when you find your windows wide open with nary a breeze and nary an AC unit in sight and it’s 100ᵒ out with 97% humidity.

Which brings me full circle back around to my picture of all of the Fall crap, uh, decorations sitting in the middle of the floor on a soon to be 98ᵒ day.
Rather than venturing outside today to enjoy the sun soaked (hot as hell day) Labor Day weekend, I’m preferring to say inside like anyone with any sense. . .yet my husband is currently attempting to plow his deer land on a hot tractor in the middle of nowhere in 102ᵒ, which in my opinion is asinine, but again I digress. . .I am opting to decorate my house with a more Fall-like theme—of which I am hoping will have a psychological effect, making me feel much cooler than I am in my tank top, shorts and bare feet. Surely twig pumpkins, fake squirrels, dried nuts, a bunch of gourds and colorful faux leaves will make me feel cooler, almost chilly, right??

Which brings my thoughts, as I schlepp this crap , these boxes of decorations down from the 150ᵒ inferno, aka attic and up the steps from the dungeon, aka, basement, as to why it is, why in the heck, do we, I, feel the need to decorate, seasonally, in the first place?! It must go back to some paganesque ancient druid need hiding in our / my roots. Lest we forget, I am indeed adopted and as I fear, there must some druids hiding in my background someplace—and no offense to any druids currently reading this —I’m just saying.

Perhaps it is our consumer driven economy and lifestyle. . .
The stores are, as I type, filling their shelves with boxes of fake colorful leaves, fallesque wreathes, cute fake little squirrels, dried gourds, indian corn, acorns, dried straws and sticks that we buy by the boat loads in order to “decorate” our homes and even workplaces—we set the mood so to speak. In my case, the mood to cool!!

And let’s not talk about how next month we will be riding the Halloween bandwagon. What was once a fun little excuse for young children to dress-up, going door to door trick or treating for candy has morphed into a really scary time which calls on us to lock up our cats–lest some cult out there decides to have a little sacrifice session, as we scan and have our children’s candy bags x-rayed at local hospitals for any signs of sickos who sadisticly and maliciously may have put razor blades in apples or cyanid in Reeses cups, to those who protest trick or treat all together because it is no longer politically correct as all the witches and satanist out there take offense (no offense witches and satanists), or the fundamentalists who fear it will turn our children literally into withes and satanists, which has all actually lead to this little “holiday” being the largest and biggest sales event excuse out there for adults to throw a party—hence why that diva of domesticity, who will remain nameless as I don’t want to get sued, is set to sell a myriad of magazines giving her, at the ripe old age of 73, an excuse to dress up in elaborate costume hawking her blood red punch and eyeball deviled egg recipes. . .yes, we’ve lost our collective minds. . .

Which brings me back to the boat load of crap , decorations sitting on the floor and of my having to now “put away” Summer, making way for Fall. . .and could someone please remind me as to why I waste, spend my time doing this. . .

Oh yeah, that’s right, because it’s 103ᵒ outside in the shade and I want to psyche myself into thinking I’m feeling cooler, much cooler—like Fall cooler—not that the Fall cool temperatures will arrive here, before, say Thanksgiving. . .which means it’ll just be time to schlepp out all the turkey and Thanksgiving crap decorations down from the attic and up from the basement. . .as the never ending saga of decorations and decorating, putting crap in its place, never ends. . .

The difference between us and the trees is not just the nuts.

“And then Jonah heard God’s voice.
“Jonah, do you know what the difference is between you and the trees?”
He was confident it was God because God usually asked questions but gave no answers. Jonah didn’t need a divine answer to this question, he knew it.
“Yes,” he said. “The difference between me and the trees is that the trees let go of their leaves. I keep holding onto mine. The trees make room for new life. I don’t.”

― David W. Jones, Going Nuts!

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I absolutely love this little quote. I found it while looking around for a new insightful but lighthearted new read—this time of year, my mind oddly turns to mush with the body merely waiting to follow suit. Which just might have something to do with the endless jaunts to this store and of the endless searches for a parking space that is within a mile of the door to the store—even parking at the grocery store seems to be along the lines of Mission Impossible. Let’s not discuss traffic shall we, as it seems to only intensify during this time of year–the roads full of panicy idiotic shoppers. There just seems to be a heightened sense of anxiety out on the streets.

Madness is all about this time of year as people seem to have lost all sense and sensibility. Why is it that we spend almost a year’s salary in all of about 2 weeks–buying “gifts” for everyone we seem to know, doubting our original choices, only to dash out again, adding to the burgeoning sacks of the “perfect” gifts squirreled away as they await the ceremonial wrapping? And why is it that we spend hours (mothers and sales folks) laboriously encasing said gifts in yards and yards of colorful papers, struggling with ribbons, tape and bows just to have that artistic hard work torn off in mere seconds—why is that?

Why is it that we will get out of our car, in the middle of the mall’s parking lot, in order to drag the driver of an opposing car out by their collar, in order to beat them silly as they dared to “take” the parking spot we had been eyeing for the past 40 minutes as we circled the parking lot like a buzzard?! Why is it that just as we reach for the perfect size of the perfect sweater, which is the only one left on the hanger in that perfect size and color, it is suddenly pulled away by a little old lady who shoots a look as if to say “I’ll beat the crap out of you if you don’t let go”—

The madness has even filtered here to the bastion of civility, my house, my home. As I was making my 15th trip from the attic last weekend, carrying musty treasure box upon box, ladened with the Christmases of ages past, I ask out loud, for no one in particular to hear but me, “Are we having fun yet?”
I answered.
What is it they say about talking to one’s self??!!
It’s ok until you start to answer. . . hummmmmm. . . .trouble may be brewing. . . and by the way, “NO” was the answer.

Five of the dearest people in my life have birthdays within the next week, with the last one falling actually on Christmas day itself—My son, his fiancé (what are those odds?!), my godmother, my godfather and my stepmother. So not only will I be buying the perfect Christmas gifts, I will be buying the perfect Birthday gifts as I prepare 3 perfect birthday meals complete with 3 perfect individual cakes.

But what type of cakes. . .hummm. . . Rum cake sounds fun—might as well make something “medicinal”—a little for me, a little for the cake, a little more for me a little less for the cake—wasn’t this a full bottle of rum? Suddenly the room is spinning. . . maybe chocolate will be a safer bet.

I’ve always been bad to put pressure on myself to make things “magical” for those I love while, in the process, killing myself. Last year I thought it would be so magically special to order our son some little Austrian doozie of a cake–the picture just looked so pretty.
“Didn’t you like your cake, you hardly touched it?”
“Mother, you know I just like your cakes, this one is way too rich”
Oh well. . .so much for special and perfect.
Why is it that I feel the need to make each occasion so very special I wonder? I realize I don’t delegate, I never have been very good at that. I tend to hold on to the whole kit and kaboodle—only to wonder why it is that what I’ve done is simply nothing like the picture of perfectness as seen in the image of the magazine or book—and lets not talk about things like Pintrest that has all the younger generation attempting their hands at magical. . .

Maybe I need to blame the Diva of Domestic Goddess Bliss. Miss Perfect of the house and home. Her magazines, television shows, her guest appearances on the morning news shows—she’s everywhere, along with her perfect self and perfectly beautiful condescending smile. Her coif perfectly stationary as she shovels the sh*# from the stalls of her thoroughbred stallions, while wearing her $500 Le Chameau muck lucks and beautiful name brand barn jacket and jodhpurs making even the shoveling of the s#*t appear to be a fine and manageable art (you are now hearing the heavy sigh of resignation). . .

As we now enter the long shadows of yet another year, may we all remember the true reason for our madness ( I do think love is really hidden in there somewhere)— May we lay the stress and the odd need to be able to “do it all and to do it all right now for everyone” down at the base of the tree, the makeshift altar of a season that has unfortunately spun out of control. May we learn what the trees seem to know better than we do, that the letting go of the old, in order to make way for the new, is sometimes more important than holding on to things and traditions merely for the sake of “because it’s always been done like that.” Change can be good and new traditions can be just as special as those long entrenched memories.

Those beautiful autumn colored leaves eventually turn brown, sadly falling away from the trees. . . but come Spring. . .the tender new bright green shoots are such a welcomed delight. Some things must “go” in order to make way for the new—despite our stubborn clinging and holding onto–children grow up and lives change—it’s not the perfection that everyone will remember but rather, it is simply the magic of being together–the laughter, the hugs, the conversations, the smiles on the faces as contentment creeps in from just the mere fact that we are together again. . .

May you all enjoy spending time, over the next couple of weeks, with those in your lives who matter the most to you. Forget the perfection of cleaned houses, beautifully wrapped gifts and magazine worthy food, just enjoy the moments of love and fellowship of your family and friends. Happy Holidays. . .now where is that recipe for that rum cake. . .