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

“Everything is possible,
even the impossible”

Mary Poppins


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

Ok, so where was I…??

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

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

Well…we did…sort of…….

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

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

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

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

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

I calmly respond to a panicked first-time dad.

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

He practically wails apologetically with deep lamentations.

“Oh well” I quip a bit caustically.

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

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

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

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

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

“But it’s just 9 o’clock”

“I can’t help it, I’m freezing”

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

I asked for some Motrin.

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

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

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

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

Hummmmmm…

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

A preventative vaccine mind you.

Similar to the preventative flu vaccine our son had gotten.

It was the Shingles shot.

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

“Of course no problem.”

HA!

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

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

Eyes now rolling in my head.

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

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

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

In the meanwhile, the Mayor came home with us.

They had fretted how she might be feeling.

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

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

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

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

She calls back the following day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knew one to be immune from a virus?!

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

Go figure!

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

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

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

Ahh, but I digress.

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

That had been the plan.

The plan before all the shots made everyone sick.

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

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

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

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

All the makings of a worst case scenario.

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

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

despite the Mayor’s wailful protests.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 19:26

perspective

“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing:
it also depends on what sort of person you are.”

C.S. Lewis

(the Mayor Christmas eve / Julie Cook / 2018)

If you’re anything like me, then the past month has been more or less a blur.
December is just that kind of month.

And now we’ll spend the next few weeks in what I call a December hangover.

That heavy odd sense of bluesyness bordering on depression which falls sometime following
the New Year’s celebration. It’s a heaviness that seems to blanket us
following the high that lead us up to Christmas to those quiet doldrums of a
grey, wet, cold January.

And that’s pretty much because we’ve made Christmas so much more than what Christmas
really should be.
But then we already knew that right?

On my end, the culmination for us was, of course, the Mayor.
Because Christmas is all about children is it not?


(Moppie with the exhuausted one / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Santa brought the Mayor an extesnion to Woobooville…a Wooboo teepee)


(and a new Mayorial ride)

And whereas I think of our cultural Christmas being basically, more or less, a magical
time for Children that has sadly morphed over the years becoming something so much more…
with that notion of ‘more’ not necessarily being a good thing.

The contrast that our children are living with is what we’ve turned Christmas into…
that being, on the one hand, wonder, excitement, anticipation, the magical, the giving
and the getting but also being the chaotic, the frantic, the merchandising,
with the getting notion being the ultimate part…

A shift from what Christmas was…that being the celebration of a single birth…
to the Christmas that is… a month of mania followed by the doldrums.


But this first Christmas morning was more than this little Mayor could handle

May we be mindful to keep our focus on the one Ture gift we’ve each just received.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would
believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal,
immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.

Amen.
1 Timothy 1:15-17

up, down or through

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth
and be an atheist,
but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say
there is no God.”

Abraham Lincoln

What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.
Helen Keller

I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.
Charlotte Bronte


(view looking up a hollow tree that has a small hole on the way up / Julie Cook /2017)


(looking down the opening to a different hollow tree / Julie Cook / 2017)


(looking through a third hollow tree / Julie Cook / 2017)

God looks down…
We look up…
He sees through…

Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love
between human beings, but also God’s love for man and man’s love for God….
On the whole,
God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.
Nobody can always have devout feelings:
and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about.
Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will.
If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment,
‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’
He will give us feelings of love if He pleases.
We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right.
But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference;
and, therefore,
it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins,
at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 132-133.

Wise words

“God will not look you over for medals,
degrees or diplomas
but for scars.”

Elbert Hubbard


(robin redbreast /Julie Cook / 2017)

A dear friend recently shared this bit of wisdom with me…
and what is wisdom if it is not in turn shared once again….

“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head,
this you cannot change,
but that they build nests in your hair,
this you can prevent.”

Thank you Paul…..

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

a perspective

“We pay more attention to dying than to death.
We’re more concerned to get over the act of dying than to overcome death…”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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(a gull takes flight at the onset of a wave / Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

The past two weeks or so have felt like an all out assault.
On all fronts.
With both Dad and me, each dealing with all sorts of issues, stuck in the middle…
All the while I’m finding myself dealing more with Dad’s issues than Dad…
such is the lot that befalls one’s power of attorney and one’s legal healthcare advocate.

The irony is not lost that there was a time that he was all of that for me, his only daughter.

Hard issues, with hard conversations.

We went yesterday to see his primary care physician…
to have one of those hard discussions…and to get his flu shot.

When we got there, Dad’s blood pressure had bottomed out.
They took it three times…with him sitting, then standing…with help, then sitting again.

An immediate IV of fluids was ordered.

While Dad and the nurse were dealing with which vein might work,
as each attempted vein kept collapsing,
the doctor and I had one of two hard conversations of the day.

We went over the notes from last week’s visit to the radiologist, the one dad keeps
calling a screwball. The radiologist had sent Dad’s doctor his recommendation…
The hard 7 weeks of daily radiation treatments.

We talked— as we both pretty much reiterated earlier thoughts and our own takes on
the situation.
An eloquent perspective of living and dying I suppose….

I explained that, how the day following the initial visit last week and dad’s willy nilly
panic of impending death, once Dad had had a chance to think about it all…
that his desire to “do nothing” was met with a peace in my soul.

Not because I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to make the final call…
only to live with the guilt of was it or wasn’t it the right call…
and not that I’d no longer be taking him here, there and yon…
watching what 7 weeks of daily treatment would do to his already frail state,
but rather because there was simply a peace in the
midst of the madness that Dad seemed resolute.

At first I too shared that sense of impending disaster…
as I panicked wondering how I would manage two months of commuting and
transporting a heavy wheelchair and a sick man…
all with my own bad back and pinched nerves,
watching a man who would only be getting sicker daily with treatments…
treatments that would not cure, but only hopefully slow the inevitable.
Knowing I would be watching what would be a losing battle with only poor results.

After our conversation, the doctor then went into the the exam room…
with poor ol Dad flat on his back, hooked up like a car filling up…
where he proceeded to put it all out there for Dad.

Very frank and very honest.

What would most likely happen if treatment was sought…
What would most likely happen if no treatment was sought…
Both grim…
with neither being a victory.

But all rather an issue of quality.

He spoke of maintenance and dealing with things as they came.
Failing bodily functions…
And eventually that of pain, real, unrelenting pain.
He spoke of Hospice.

Dad listened….
and asked a few questions.

Why radiation verses chemo?
What would each most likely do to him?
What would the doctor himself recommend?

And finally being in agreement…

Life is ok right now…
so we do nothing…

And the doctor told him that when things begin to “change”
as we all know things will indeed change….
there will be conservative treatments of getting through…day by day…
all of which will suffice for now…

As we are scheduled to meet with the Hospice folks soon enough…

So it was not lost on me this morning when I just so happened upon this observation
of dying and death by Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
I’ve seen the quote before, and even used it a while back…but how timely it should find me
again…now…

Bonhoeffer was a man all too familiar with death and dying as he faced his own death
by hanging in a Nazi Death Camp….
He looked beyond his own dying…
and rather to the fact that his death
would give way to the release of joining the Resurrection of Christ,
The very one who overcame death…forever

As this is all a matter of perspective—dying and living…

Socrates masterd the art of dying; Christ overcame death as the last enemy.
There is a real difference between the two things; the one is with the scope of human possibilities, the other means resurrection. It’s not from ars mourned, the art of dying, but from the resurrection of Christ, that a new and purifying wind can blow through our present world. Here is the answer to Archimedes’ challenge: “Give me somewhere to stand, and I will move the earth.” If only a few people really believed that and acted on it in their daily lives, a great deal world be changed.
To live in the light of resurrection–that is what Easter means.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Hurdles

The boy who is going to make a great man must not make up his mind merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats.
Theodore Roosevelt

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(St Kevin’s Tower / St Kevin’s Monastery, Gleandalough, Co Wicklow, Ireland/ Julie Cook / 2015)

At some point or other during the course of living,
difficulties and trying times will engulf each one of us.

No one is exempt from the various hurdles Life places in our paths.
We will be faced with two options…

Either we just keep running and jumping
or
we stop.

We can stop before each hurdle, pondering the height and possibility of clearing each safely,
opting to drop out of the race all together…
or
we can decide to simply keep going.

Some days the prospect of continuing the race, with all of the hurdles needing to be cleared, seems more than we can bear.
We may actually even trip over the hurdles, temporally losing our balance…stumbling wildly while trying to recover…
Or
We may actually fall, crashing down onto the track scraping up knees, elbows and even damaging muscles and bones.

Then the choice will be…

Do we just lay there bleeding while grimacing in pain, bemoaning that the hurdles are simply too high and have just beaten us
or
Do we pick ourselves up, bruised and bleeding, and continue on with the race?

As I ccurretnly find myself laying on the track grimacing in the pain and bleeding, having stumbled over Life’s most recent hurdle… I received some very wise counsel…

“God always hears [sees] you.
You are just seeing things from the perspective of this moment,
while He is looking from the perspective of resolution of all these issues.
He is busy getting you to that point, too.”

So as my perspective,
while having tripped over life’s latest hurdle with me now being down for the count on a track that has just torn me to pieces, is limited.
I’m holding on to bruised, bleeding and broken limbs while staring upward at something that seems nearly impossible to clear…
through clenched teeth I pray…albeit it frustratingly.
Yet what I can’t see from my perspective on the ground,
is that God is already seeing the finish line…
He knows the outcome…
I just need to get back up to finish the race….

With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.

Psalm 18:29

Wisdom and understanding

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”
― Leo Tolstoy

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

DSC00297

Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.

(Proverbs 3:13-18)

The morning light, streaming through the kitchen window, hit the raspberries in such a way that it magically appeared as if a scattering of plump rubies had been randomly tossed across the bowl of cornflakes. Lusciously translucent, a smattering of iridescent and succulent gems beckoned to be tasted.
No longer did breakfast seem so unimaginably ordinary.

It was a morning, just like any other morning, as the early rising sun worked its magic to warm the kitchen, despite the bitter cold air on the opposite side of the window pane. The silence was heavy but pleasing as she was lost to her own thoughts.

Thinking back, racing backwards across time, back to the younger girl she had once known, a slight smirk formed at the corners of the mouth which was now anxiously anticipating the crisp crunch of the cereal. How does one start out as that, tossing in a few decades, and voila, is now this. . .as whatever “this” is, is perceived to be so much better than that. . .
A musing mind now ruminated over all of the events that had worked together to bring both she and the ruby red raspberries to this particular kitchen on this particular morning.

“Life is nothing but one big mistake right after another,” she heard a voice echoing off the kitchen walls, coming as if from some place far away other than that of the empty room as she realized she’d caught herself speaking the silent thoughts out loud to no one in particular but herself.
“Hummmm” she mused.
“Mistakes aren’t really mistakes now are they” . . .again hearing the silent thoughts spoken out loud.
“More like the continuous onslaught of life lessons, one right after the other—picking up steam, say around 13, and not letting up until 50 or so . . .”
“Some lessons simply being easier than others. . .as others are more fun with some being downright wearisome. . .” she chewed over the words with each crunch of cereal.

“Cut, honed and polished . . .”
Her thoughts trail off as she works to corral the last raspberry onto her spoon.

The younger girl wouldn’t have bothered with the raspberries, let alone the cereal, preferring to unwrap some sort of cardboradesque breakfast bar while driving to work. “Who has time to sit down for breakfast anymore–“grab it and go” being her mantra of the day.
“Maybe just an extra coffee instead.”
So busy rushing off to some place she didn’t really want to go, preferring to just stay home, as the fleeting thought raced across her mind “the baby wouldn’t stay so sick if he wasn’t having to go to daycare everyday of his life. . .” This as she pulled into the daycare center’s front drive.

Yet the choice not always hers right?
There were the bills. There was the career. Wasn’t that what this was all about. . .the marriage, the family, the career, the “things” that made the life “special”—isn’t that why we did it? What about his schooling, college. . .what about more kids. . .a bigger house. . .isn’t this what we do. . .the quintessential chasing of the “dream”. . .

“Juggling, balancing, and managing. . .”
Her thoughts trail off as she unbuckles the baby’s carseat.

The younger girl races through life hurrying everywhere she goes, never seeming to have time to enjoy, let alone savor, the moments of the present. Her mind is constantly working on the next step, the next errand, the next meeting, the next hour, the next day. . .never on the current time or events at hand.
What of the little boy?
Daycare sees more of the baby.
As do the endless sitters.
And what of her. . .doesn’t she see more of her own students than their parents?
Isn’t that the way it is, everyone raises everyone’s else’s kids. . .as everyone is just so busy tending to their piece of the pie, of this thing known as living. . .
Just part of the price paid for the job, the house, the car, the trips, the clothes, the life. . .
Maybe next weekend will be different, maybe this summer. . . she rationalizes there will be time sometime in the future. . . sure there will. . .we’ll have more time then, right?

The older woman merely casts a knowing smile

Insignificant

Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.
Mahatma Gandhi

DSCN8629
(ornament / Julie Cook / 2014)

Weighted down and burdened,
buried underneath the debris of our lives
Dreams, hopes and ideas fall to the wayside
Where went the passion, the drive, the fight?
When did we lose our voice?

There was a time when optimism ruled the day.
Confidence had its swagger.
Purpose and direction lead the way.
Nothing seemed impossible.

Then one morning we woke up and were at a loss for words.
We’d given up on our thoughts, our input, our gumption.
It didn’t seem to matter much anymore?

Insignificant, unimportant?
Tiny and so very small, no longer willing to fight

Done.

Beloved, be not discouraged.
Be not sorrowful nor faint of heart.

For I knew you before time began.
I saw your hopes and dreams long before they were felt or thought.
I knew the ending long before you even took your first step

The way was never promised to be smooth nor easy.
There were always going to be obstacles, hills and valleys.
For the bond between you and I had been severed long ago and you had been lost to me, forever.
Yet I loved you too much to ever lose you.

I fought a battle to bring you home that sadly was not without cost
For you alone I had to give away a part of myself
Yet I gave it freely
Your days may be difficult, your voice seemingly small
Yet I promised I would never leave you and with me, you will always be strong.

Signs of the times through the eyes of a piper

Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
Teddy Roosevelt

DSCN7495
(a lone little sandpiper wadding through the sand Watercolor Beach, Santa Rosa, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

A rather hopeless image is it not?
A lone little sandpiper, supported by tiny little nimble legs barely wider than a toothpick, dutifully trudges its way through an endless sea of sand.
Up and down the dips and hills.
No matter that the air temperature is 97 degrees and the sand barely tolerable to bare feet.
All day, every day, from sun up to sun down, the sandpiper marches on, on his life’s quest of foraging for food and of finding a mate.

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Yet if we zoom in, focusing more on the actual bird itself, blocking out the endless ocean of surrounding sand, the journey, the chore doesn’t appear to be as daunting or overwhelming. Rather we see a cute small bird dutiful to his task, nonplused by the uneven barren terrain.
Merely going about the task of daily life.

Two images of the same little bird which helps to bring us today to our quote by President Theodore Roosevelt.
President Roosevelt, quite the maverick and trailblazer of his day, reminds us that a life lived with numerous attempts and failed attempts is much better than the life lived by those who either, out of fear, ignorance or both, choose inactivity and complacency.

Those who attempt a venture, a quest, a goal will most likely eventually see some sort of progress, triumph or victory. Yet those who remain still, immobile, or sedentary will see simply the same ol thing day in and day out—a rather grayness of nothingness.

My poor Dad, he prefers a life lived in the grayness.
He has never understood my love of traveling nor of my desire for adventure.
I mentioned recently that’d I’d like to one day travel to Ireland.
His response was “just stay home, you can watch it on television”
“Watch it on television?!
DAD, I don’t want to watch Ireland on television!!!”
This as I had called to tell him we were driving down to Florida, to the beach, for the weekend.
“Why do you want to do something like that?”
“We’re celebrating our belated anniversary”
“Why can’t you celebrate at home?”
“Dad” (there is a tone there)
“Dad, there are no terrorists on the roads to Florida” (or so I hope)
“There is always danger; there’s danger driving up to Sandy Springs” (the city just above his home)
“Dad” (note the tone again)
“I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to come up until next week”
“Oh you don’t need to come up. There’s danger on the roads. Just stay where you are”
“Dad, how in the world am I going to see you if I don’t come up?”
“Oh there is just too much danger on those roads. . .”

My mom never got to go anywhere or do anything the least bit adventurous during her life.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, she died from a brief bout with lung cancer at the age of 53.
After her death I wanted to make darn certain of two things. . .
A. that I would beat my mom, living past her short span of 53 years.
and
B. that I would make her a promise– that I would go and do, as best I could, taking with me always her spirit as I knew my mom would have enjoyed and liked to have seen and done more in this world.

Sadly however, I’m afraid Dad may have a point as I think the times in which we find ourselves living are most precarious and frankly quite dangerous.
Dad is right in that regard.
The world has certainly grown dark as the shadow of Death and Fear work in tandem to engulf the lives of a world community.
Suspicion, doubt, apprehension have come to rule our daily comings and goings.

As we read our papers and watch the news, as each is laced with the dire warnings, statistics and predictions of these dark days of which we live, may we be mindful that if we succumb to the fear, to the threats issued by Madness itself, we are the losers who therefore allow Fear, Death and Madness their win.

May we never settle for less in life merely out of stagnation and fear.
Life and living are always going to be accompanied by risk.
That’s simply the nature of the game.
Even the old adage reminds us that “nothing ventured is nothing gained”

I certainly do not advocate throwing caution to the wind, that we should dash off half cocked into the abyss of Madness ill prepared or ill informed, but I do believe in moving forward by being watchful, mindful as well as vigilant, willing to see and do within the confines of good sense and good reason. . .but always moving forward.

May we not allow the times of which we find ourselves living hold us back as we dare to dream the dreams of hope and dare to live the adventure of going to those places and of meeting those people our hearts and minds have always imagined and longed for. . .

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole
creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve
those who travel
surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger;
and bring them in safety to their journey’s end;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Perspective

It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how things are in themselves. The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.
Carl Jung

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(aerial view of a traditional German wooden pyramid / Julie Cook / 2012)

Half empty, half full. . .it’s all in how we look at things.

During my interactions with folks within this past week, this last full week prior to Christians marking the birth of Christ or what most retailers mark as the final push toward Christmas with its ostentatious ceremonial gift giving and the annual madness known as Christmas shopping, I have denoted one single underlying theme—a burgeoning wearisome and tiredness–a general lamentation of–“I can’t wait for it all to be over” –always countered with a “I hate to say that” or “I hate to feel that way”. . .

The secular components interlaced and woven throughout the spiritual are sending so many, young and old, into a type of sensory overload. With the news media constantly reporting on retail sales, as if that is the blood pressure reading of an often ailing up and down economy, while also reporting on the traffic nightmares in and around a particular city’s retail giants known simply as “the Mall”. Our calendars are booked and marked with festivities such as the last day of school, which once upon a time was simply known as the Christmas Holiday, is now politically corrected to the Winter break—

There are the Christmas pageants, the Choral performances, the office parties, the neighborhood parties, the gatherings with friends and families, the deadlines, the holiday ski trips, the trips to not only grandmother’s but for some, exotic foreign lands with the “holiday” as an excuse to set sail on Adventure.

Life will come to a slow stop on the 25th as the stores and malls all close for a single day as families and friends gather for the solemn marking of the calendar, as others anticipate and prepare for the following day’s ensuring onslaught known as the “After Christmas” sales and the annual pilgrimage of gift returns and exchanges, marking round two of economic madness.

Amazing how a once young pregnant jewish girl and her young husband, who found themselves in the middle of delivering their first child, in a remote small village in the middle of nowhere Judea, under the light of an astrological phenomenon, sent out the shock waves of a dramatic occurrence which continues the life altering reverberations today.

But the key to the relationship we have with that single event and of how and what we do today in order to mark that single event of so very long ago depends greatly on our perspective. Is it “c”hristmas, with the madness and over the top spending with all of the doings and goings accented by the politically correctness of our overshadowing secularism or is it “C”hristmas which marks the birth of the bridged gap between a consuming Creator and his fallen creation?

It’s all a matter of perspective.