I love nurses–they exemplify everything God would like to see in us, His children.

Augustus was the son of a god and he asked the whole human race to swear loyalty
to him as “Father”.
It’s at this moment that God the Father sent the real Son of God into the world…
God works His providence even in the midst of human foibles.

Dr. Edmund Mazza
from Rediscovering Christmas


(Vampire day, again / Julie Cook / 2020)

Well you may remember my tale from about a month ago…
my tale about having to go siphon off an entire pound of blood due to being a
Hemochromatosis carrier.

A hemo what you ask…??

Well, it seems that my body hordes iron.

And who knew that the body only uses what it needs—if there is excess,
well, the body simply stores it up in the organs…where it sits.
Think of a balloon simply filling up with more and more air…
eventually, something has got to give!

The high end of a normal iron level in the blood is 150.
I was sitting at 330…therefore, I have to be milked like a cow in order to
bring my levels down.
Sadly, I do not do well with giving blood.
I never have.
My blood pressure tends to bottom out and I basically get quite sick just before I pass out.

So yesterday was once again vampire day.
I had to go give blood.

I go to the hospital’s infusion center.
Folks are here for their chemotherapy, needed antibiotics, phlebotomies,
needed fluids, steroids…you name it.

Many are cancer patients.
They walked slowly and were pale.
They were minus all hair and bundled up due to the cold.

Many were on walkers or canes.
They were both young and old.

Four of us are divvied up into a quad with hospital chairs in each corner of the quad.
Some curtains were drawn some were not.

The nurses greeted each patient by name.
Many knew the regulars…mainly those who were the chemo patients.
“Hey darling” you’d hear a warbly voice call out to a familiar nurse.

The rapport was enough to make you feel that you were missing out
on some glorious secret friendship.
I felt almost envious as there were many
“I love yous” and “I love you too”—each sincerely and genuinely shared.
An intimate special moment shared between caregiver and patient…
human being to human being.

“Honey, you want me to get you something to drink?”
“How bout a ginger ale?”
“How bout a diet ginger-ale…it’s all we have.”
“That would be perfect!”

Some patients had recently undergone amputations due to infections or diabetes.
They were there to receive high-powered antibiotics.

“Mr. Gentry, we’ll see you back here on Christmas day, ok?”
“Christmas Day, really?!”
“Yes sir, we’ll be here…and so will you, you hear me?!”
“Well only if you wear your hair down…”
It seems that elderly Mr. Gentry, getting about on his walker, is a bit of a rounder
with these ladies—and they all seemed to love it.

He had part of his foot amputated this past week after having cut his foot this past summer
at the lake while playing with his grandkids.
These nurses were all well aware of his hijinks and played right into his devious intentions.
Mr. Gentry needs high-powered intravenous antibiotics every day for a couple of weeks.

I was enjoying soaking in these conversations all the while as I was slowly losing a part
of myself into a plastic bag dangling on the floor.

I really do ok up until the very end of my time being hooked up like a gas pump.
Right before I’m finished filling up the bag, that’s when things go downhill.

And true to form, today my BP fell to 63 over 34.
And true to their form, the nurses who saw all color fade from my body, came racing over
in order to flip my chair up so I was practically on my head,
they next threw a cold washcloth on my head.
They handed me a green puke bag…which thankfully I did not have to use.
My curtain wasn’t drawn and I would have hated being the show of my quad.

All of this was taking place while the nurses changed out the lines and immediately
began administering a bag of fluids.

It is amazing what these fluids can do.

I go from passing out and near-death to right back to the life of the living.

Slowly my BP climbed, but then oddly it dipped again.

This time it didn’t rebound like it did last time.
I didn’t rebound like I did last time.

The nurse had to walk me out to my car this time as I was still a bit woozy headed.

“Go straight home.”
“But I need to go to the grocery store.”
“Do that later!”

But before the nurses pulled my head up off the floor, one nurse came by each chair in our quad
and handed each patient a simple candy cane.
She made certain that each patient saw the story printed on the wrapper…
the story of the candy cane.

You can say what you want to say about Christianity and spirituality within such a setting…
You can throw in your sarcasm about faith in fairytales…but I will tell you one thing…
the folks in those chairs each appreciated their candy cane, mattered not their faith or creed–
they appreciated its story and the fact that one human being was offering hope to those whose
hope was starting to run on empty.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
1 Peter 4:10

we can do anything for two weeks… Right?


(the current veterinary hospital in my foryer)

We are four weeks and one day into our 12 week period of recuperation from
the joint fusion surgery.

I think from what I know now, I would opt to continue trying to exhaust the patchwork
fixes as this whole business is proving harrowing for both patient and caregiver.

Throw in having to race to care for ailing grandbabies—and you can just throw the title
exhausted nursemaid in front of my name and call it a day!

We have to drive an hour and a half over to the Veterinary surgeon’s office every
two weeks for a recasting and check on the progress of the leg.
In two weeks they will x-ray and hopefully transition from a club leg
to a smaller wrapping.

Oh did I mention that we had to have a special antibiotic compounded out at a
special Veterinary pharmacy in Arizona as he had a rare infection in the bone?

Have you ever tried administering a syringe of antibiotics into the mouth of a cat
who is less than thrilled that you are squirting things in his mouth that he
has deemed no good?!
Didn’t matter they flavored it tuna…he hated it.

The pain meds fared no better.

When it was all said and done, I would have happily taken the syringe of pain meds
squirted in my mouth!

Two weeks ago, they had put the latest cast on a bit too high up the leg for the patient’s liking…
it hit that tender underneath skin (the leg and whole hip are shaved) and it was too
irritating to bear, plus he had peed all over it…
so…. we had to drive all the way back the following day for a rewrapping.

Have you ever seen a poor cat with a club for a leg attempt to get into a litter box???

Bless his heart is all I can say.

He simply lays down to do his business.
And then proceeds to accidentally step in it with the cast.

And of course, the litter box is actually in the cage he is to be calling home for these 3 months.
Making for some tight quarters.
Of which is a lovely addition to the foyer of our home.

Have you ever tried to vacuum and sweep up after a cat who can’t maneuver properly while
scattering cat litter all over the place?
I vacuum mountains of litter up, that have mounded outside the cage, at least twice a day,
all the while practically standing on my head in the cage.

And since cats, and this one in particular, are fastidious cleaners, he is constantly
whacking himself in the head with the club leg while attempting to groom himself.

Sigh.

So we have one miserable patient.

The nurse isn’t too happy herself.

And speaking of cones…

There are times when one just has to be coneless.
Such as when it comes time to eat.

His head is too far into the cone for him to reach the food…so…
when it’s time to eat and have some water, I let him out and remove the cone.

I’ll let him use his scratching post and simply sleep unencumbered but I must sit with him.
He has attempted several escapes by clumping up the stairs, dragging a club behind him..
or he slips and slides back to our bedroom.
He even attempted to jump up on the bed and fell before I could get to him.

And trying to get comfortable is not always easy

So the Vet told me yesterday, after examining the incision, that there is a
small reopening of the wound on the hoc (aka back knee)—of which is a product of the cast rubbing…
and so it is imperative that he remain as incapacitated as possible.

Again, sigh.

You’ve heard the expression about attempting to herd cats right?
Well trying to keep one locked up 24 /7 is just about as equally impossible.

And so I am reminded of the mantra I used as a young working mother.
We can do anything for two weeks.

As a young wife and mother, I loathed having to work when our son was little.
Unfortunately, we didn’t really have any choice–especially since mine was our only insurance.

I was always very selfish with my time outside of school as I wanted my time away from school
to be dedicated only to both my husband and son.

That’s why I never went on to get any advanced degrees after my bachelor degree.

I didn’t want to go back to school, work and then try to squeeze in being a wife and mom.
Something would be shortchanged and it wasn’t about to be my husband or son.

But I certainly don’t begrudge those gals who have to go it alone and have to balance
so many plates in order to make it all work for their kids—I just have a problem with the
“I can have it all” mentality while thinking there are no casualties left in the wake.

See, I’m old school in that regard—I don’t think women can have it all and be successful
at either work and mothering…let alone being a wife for that matter.
One or the other is going to suffer. That’s just a fact.
And if you think you can be great at each, you’re only fooling yourself.

I can remember once lamenting to a principal, who was my boss but also my friend,
that I never felt I was truly good at being both a teacher and a mother as I was
always going to be “half-ass” at best with both.

I could not be 100% in whatever I did because something, or someone, was always demanding
my time and attention and that time and attention had to be split.

Plus I’m not one who thinks that a nanny, an au pair, a daycare, a sitter can ever do the
same thing a mother can do for her children.

And yet my son had to attend daycare.

I absolutely hated it but as my pediatrician always tried to reassure me,
daycare was the necessary evil in the lives of working parents.

I’d drop our son off each morning, then cry my way to work.

Guilt was my middle name.
As it often is with most working moms.

So once the summers rolled around, I guarded each and every precious second that I was able
just to be a wife and mom.
And that was one of the joys of teaching and being a parent—our schedules were in sync.

But as teachers, we were always required to earn hours towards our recertification
as well as participate in various trainings and workshops each summer.
Many of which would require about a two-week time slot.

So once we seemed settled, I’d find myself once again having to disrupt our “home” time
by getting up extra early, get my sleeping son up and ready for daycare as I’d then drive
an hour over to Atlanta for various teaching workshops at The High Museum of Art
or Oglethorpe University.
Returning back to town around 6.

I hated it but for both of us, but I would tell myself, I, we, can do anything for two weeks.

And so we did.

And now, as we seem to visit the Vet’s office for check-ups and recasting every two weeks…
I continue telling myself, as well as Percy… we can do anything for two weeks…
two weeks at a time.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

who’s the real hero

Ok, when I read the following story I realized that it said it all–
there was nothing I could add or even say…because this story does indeed say it all…
perfectly…
Please enjoy…..

The Quiet Hero Of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’
(Hint: It’s NOT Jimmy Stewart)
Entertainment Now
FOX News — Paul Batura


(Christmas classic celebrates its 70th anniversary)

As we approach the 71st anniversary of Frank Capra’s perennial Christmas classic
“It’s A Wonderful Life,” I think it’s time to reexamine the film’s heroes.
The result might surprise you.

As a child, I assumed the hero was Jimmy Stewart’s wholesome hometown character,
George Bailey. The American Film Institute agreed, listing George as the ninth
greatest screen hero of all time. After all, the whole point of the movie is to
show us what life in Bedford Falls would be like without George.

We quickly discover it would be pretty grim – a dark and foreboding shantytown
owned by an evil millionaire named Henry F. Potter,
a miserly character played perfectly by Lionel Barrymore.
The film revolves around George,
the congenial and affable everyman who bravely stands up to Mr. Potter’s greed.
The hero had to be George, or so I thought.

In my teens and twenties, when my faith became my own and I began studying
more closely the mysterious and spiritual side of life,
I thought the hero had to be Henry Travers’ character,
Clarence Odbody, Angel Second Class.

It’s Clarence who saves George – so that George can continue to help save
everybody else. Though theologically questionable,
the thought of a guardian angel is comforting.
Plus, it’s Christmas and angels play a significant part in the Yuletide story.
For years, Clarence had my vote.

But now that I’m in my forties, and as a husband and father,
I’ve come to realize that the biggest hero of the movie isn’t George or Clarence.

The biggest hero is actually a heroine, Mary Hatch Bailey,
played by Donna Reed.
She’s George’s poised and unflappable wife and the mother of their four children,
Janie, Pete, Tommy and Zuzu.

Here’s why:

Mary is patient: George and Mary are about to head off on their honeymoon
just as there’s a run on the Bailey Building and Loan.
George abruptly cancels the romantic trip to New York City and Bermuda,
instead spending their savings to keep the business solvent.
His bride doesn’t complain. She pledged to be his wife for “richer or poorer” –
and Mary quickly keeps her sacred vow.

Mary is long-suffering:
The newlywed couple moves into a dilapidated and drafty old house.
Does Mary want more?
She never lets on but instead gets to work making the rickety house a home.
Later, when George foregoes a big payout by declining an offer to sell the
business to Mr. Potter, Mary doesn’t criticize her husband’s idealism.
Instead, Mary throws herself into the care and nurturing of the children.
She’s content.

Mary is responsible:
With World War II raging and her husband deferred from military service due
to his poor hearing, Mary eagerly volunteers to do her part for the country.
Despite being a busy mother of four, we see Mary running a local branch of the USO.

Mary is a woman of prayer:
When George, stressed over the missing $8,000 now owed to Mr. Potter,
rages red-hot and hurls insults in every direction on Christmas Eve,
it’s Mary who keeps her cool.
After George storms out of the house,
Mary urges the children to pray for their father.
She prays, too, and she also gets to work.

Mary is a woman of quiet action:
It would be easy to sulk and sour in the midst of the family’s traumatic day,
but after urging the children to pray,
Mary immediately picks up the phone and rallies the help of their family and friends.
When George returns with a new and improved outlook,
Mary doesn’t lace into him or even question where he’s been.
“You have no idea what happened to me!” George cries.
To which a smiling Mary, about to welcome in an adoring and jubilant crowd of friends, responds,
“You have no idea what’s happened.”

At a time in history when popular culture is being reminded again about
the importance of respecting women,
the many positive attributes of Donna Reed’s seven-decades-old character affirm
anew what William Ross Wallace first wrote in 1865:
“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

Heroism manifests itself in many forms in the overlooked or understated people
of this world, most especially spouses who sit outside the spotlight and mothers
who sacrifice on a daily basis for their children.

Christmas is a wonderful time to remember that greatness often comes quietly,
as it did in the form of a helpless baby to another quiet woman named Mary.

Waiting and arrivals

“Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life”
Simone Weil

boucicaut-meister
(Illuminated manuscript from the Book of Hours, the Annunciation 1410)

We have entered a new season within our faith…
Those seasonal cycles of the Church.
For we have now entered the season of waiting…
Otherwise known as Advent.
Taken from the Greek word, parousia, meaning arrival.

As in we are waiting for an arrival.

Yet do we not seem to spend our lives waiting?

Waiting on things to take place, to happen, to hurry up, to change, to come or to go….

However Father Henri Nouwen, in his essay Waiting For God, reminds us that
“for many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go.
And people do not like such a place.
They want to get out of it by doing something.”

So waiting seems to be something we are relegated to suffer.

But Father Nouwen continues…
“Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state
determined by events totally out of our hands.”

“But there is none this passivity in scripture.
Those who are waiting are waiting very actively.”

“Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction
that somethings happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.
A waitng person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”

“A waiting person is a patient person.

The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and to live the situation
out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and
therefore want to go elsewhere.

“Waiting, then is not passive.”

“To wait open-endedly is an enormous attitude toward life.”

So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that
God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.
The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment,
trusting that new things will happen to us,
new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.

“That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

And so we begin to wait…
actively and radically waiting….

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

James 5:7-8

(Father Henri Nouwen’s words taken from Watch for the Light
Readings for Advent and Christmas
/ Plough Publishing House

Simple things

“For those who listen for Christ’s coming,
a knock sounds over and over again.
The things that come forth are not necessarily highly spiritual.
Sometimes they a very simple things…”

Christopher Friedrich Blumhardt

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(a pomegranate spent on the bush / Julie Cook / 2016)

There are no spotlights.
No need for fanfare
Nor promotions
No celebrations or applause…

No need for advertisements
No billboards nor banners
There are no commercials
No ratings
No rewards
No honors…

Debates, campaigns, battles, elections, coronations…
do not impress…
nor does strength, or bravado, or self promotion, or might, or power…

Rather…
it is in the simple, the quiet and the seemingly insignificant
to which the veil will lift…

For it is in the humble,
the steadfast,
the patient
and even the mundane
to which both Grace and Glory will be found….

The work for God goes on quite simply in this way;
one does not always have to wait for something out of the ordinary.
The all-important thing is to keep your eyes on what comes from God
and to make way for it to come into being here on the earth.
If you always try to be heavenly and spiritually minded,
you won’t understand the everyday work God had for you to do.

Christopher Friedrich Blumhardt