storms will rage

“I know well that the greater and more beautiful the work is,
the more terrible will be the storms that rage against it.”

St. Faustina


(early signs of change / Julie Cook / 2018)

March enters like a lion and exits like a lamb…
while April showers bring May flowers…

or so we are reminded.

Spring is a tumultuous time here in the South.
It might snow one day while tornados wreak havoc the next.
A good two months of a seasonal roller coaster ride.

I’m beginning to feel much the same with regard to our Christian faith.
Our lives have become a roller coaster ride of ups and downs of attacks and assaults—
physically, verbally, mentally, and of course, spiritually.

It is the season of our times as Believers as we are reminded:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms

Ephesians 6:10-12

That we may be ready, come what may…

“Throughout Sacred Scripture, we find that when God’s people fast,
the power of their prayers is increased, especially when they are engaged in spiritual warfare.
In the Old Testament, the Lord told Isaiah that a fast properly undertaken would
‘loose the bonds of wickedness … undo the thongs of the yoke…
let the oppressed go free’ (Is. 58:6)…
In the New Testament, we find that Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the
wilderness in preparation for His battle with Satan,
who came to tempt Him (see Lk 4:1-2)…
If prayer is a spiritual weapon, fasting is the spiritual whetstone on which it is sharpened.
It’s the spiritual muscle that,
when exercised regularly,
strengthens the thrust of that weapon to pierce the Enemy and drive him away.”

Paul Thigpen,
Manual for Spiritual Warfare p. 42

I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

mothers…it’s complicated

“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children..”
John Steinbeck


(a bluebird nest with two remaining eggs that never made it / Julie Cook / 2017)

Perhaps it does indeed Mr Steinbeck,
perhaps it does take courage…..

It should come as no surprise that no matter whether you’re young or old,
Republican or Democrat,
Christian or Muslim,
Jew or Baptist,
liberal or conservative,
black, white, brown, red, yellow…
alive or even dead…
the one single thing that I think is safe to assume for every last one of us,
a matter in which we may all find common ground…
and is surely a topic which we can each unite upon is…..

the single fact that we have all have had a mother!

Oh we’ve had a father too, but since today is earmarked for all things mothers…
mothers shall be the focus.

Mothers and motherhood…

It’s complicated.
Ask any mother….

And getting more and more complicated with each passing day I fear.
Because that role, that contribution, that definition is now morphing faster
than I can blink my eyes..

There was a time in history when more women died from complications with childbirth
than from anything else.

So it would be safe in assessing that birthing is not a piece of cake.
Then there is the raising…

Some of us are better at the whole motherhood thing than others…
Pintrest being probably the current best portal into
the realm of successful mothering and of those who are up for the current year’s awards.

Yet we each must admit….that during the course of a lifetime….that we have…
loved our mothers,
hated our mothers,
loathed our mothers,
divorced our mothers,
disowned our mothers,
liked our mothers,
acknowledged our mothers,
ignored our mothers,
not claimed our mothers,
never known our mothers,
been angry at our mothers,
been embarrassed by our mothers,
cried over our mothers,
missed our mothers……

but in the end…
we each must admit…for good or bad, we had a mother…

And petri dishes and test tubes aside…

Some of us are good at mothering and nurturing and loving….
and some of us, not so much.

Some of us want a boatload of children while…
some of us give away the only child we had.

Some of us “mother” children who we did not birth,
as some of us choose our children….
while still others are given the children they are to raise.

Some of us mothers are actually fathers who have had to take on the role of mother
for a variety of reasons…

So yes, this one simple fact of a mother, mothering, motherhood…
is complicated.

I am not a Catholic…so no one can accuse me of bias or blindness…
but there is one thing I know for certain, that being the example we have been given as to
what a tremendous job mothering can demand…
an example is found in a simple woman named Mary.

Oh we all have some notion about Mary–something akin to a fairytale really.
An image of a benign gentle face, adorned with white shroud with blue tunic,
hands tenderly folded as her unblemished face looks lovingly down upon mankind
from atop some heavenly throne as the stars dance around her head….

And that may very well be how things are for her now…in Heaven….

But I actually think of a young dark haired, olive skinned Jewish woman who’s hands
are calloused as her feet are dusty…
She is neither fair haired nor do flowers adorn her beauty.

Oh she is indeed most blessed among women, but she is also greatly burdened.

She carries in her heart a burden none of us shall ever know.
We may glimpse her burden, her pain, her hidden anguish…but we will not know
exactly her magnitude.

I see her the day she is angry at this strange yet gentle son of hers who speaks with
adult leaders as though he is one of them…

I see her when he becomes lost to her for days during a family trip.
Literally lost, as in gone.
He is young and seemingly naive to the ways of a dangerous Palestine under Roman Occupation.
Panic has taken hold of her as she and her husband desperately search.

Has your child ever been out of your sight for even just a minute or two
and for those moments of uncertainty, did you not feel that nauseating hold on time,
the feeling of drowning without being under water…?

And I see her releasing both relief and anger as she finds him comfortable and selfishly lost
in his own time with no apparent concern that perhaps his family had been anxious
during the three day search.

There were no phones, no Amber alerts, no police who would aid in the search.
And yet, he is among the elders, teaching.
In his mind, a perfectly normal place for him to be
but so frustratingly odd for her….

What does the mother of God do?
Does she yell, punish, reprimand, perhaps even ground him…
or…
does she bite her tongue as he speaks to her words that come from some place else.
As she is pondering, wondering, bearing the burden hidden in her heart.

I next see an older woman, hair greying, the lines on her face run deep.
She is no longer young or vibrant, but tired.

She stands in the middle of an angry crowd.
She is hot after standing for hours in the midst of this pulsating mob
as her nostrils burn from the heaviness of both sweat and dust mingled
sickeningly together.

The shouts from these people, some she actually knows, pains her but pales in comparison
to the sight now standing before her.

A man striped of clothing, no dignity remaining, naked, bloody and bruised
head lowered in exhaustion.
He is bound, bleeding profusely as he is the image of a man who has
been savaged.

This is her son.

The once young, gentle naive boy who spoke of things she did not quite understand.
Her mind flashes to holding him, cradling him, soothing him as she now longs to do the same…
wishing to not only kiss away the hurt but to wash his bloody and torn skin
while shielding him from the abuse—
yet she is frozen and paralyzed knowing there is nothing she can do.

A mother who bore Salvation.

So yes, mothers, motherhood and mothering is indeed complicated
as it does indeed demand courage…from every last one of us….
Mary should know…

So on this springtime Sunday in May,
may we each remember the mothers in our lives…
with love, with forgiveness and with hope…

Happy Mother’s Day….

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2:33-35

tenacity

“Courage is not having the strength to go on;
it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”

Theodore Roosevelt

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(Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, wearing her mother’s curtains)

Think Scarlet O’Hara, Julia Sugarbaker and Steel Magnolias all rolled into one.
Who else would think to turn their mother’s prized curtains into
a matter of getting what they need…but a Southerner.

That’s because we in the South understand the significance of
desperate times requiring drastic measures…

For we are a resourceful lot when we need be,
especially during the thick of battle..
We are kudzu and honey all rolled into one..
Barbed wire and sugar spun together…

Because that’s just what we are down here in the South,
tenacious as a bulldog when needed,
soft as a cotton ball when called for….

We are also sweet and charming.
We are cordial.
We are warm.
We are hospitable.
We are not dumb, deplorable or rednecks…contrary to what some would have you believe.
We are educated.
Well educated.
We have great schools, colleges and universities.
People like our weather, well, maybe not in August…
I don’t like our weather in August, or even now, but I digress…

People like our food..think fired this or that, as in chicken and okra.
People like our drinks…think bourbon.
We are mannerly…for if we are not, our grandmothers are obviously not watching.
We believe in morality, decorum and being polite.

But none of that should never lead you to believe that we are
pushovers,
ignorant,
easy,
or lazy.

We are a strong kind people.

And I keep finding that I have to continually remind myself of such…

I have seen more of my poor father than any daughter should ever see of her father
and it is enough to last me a life time.
Bless him.
He can’t help it.
And sadly I can’t avoid it.

We got the water balloon dad unclogged today.
Mr nonchalant doctor was his typical rude, arrogant and non southern self during our visit…
He didn’t want to initially believe, let alone admit,
that there was any scar tissue from August’s surgery…
Well guess what…
there was.

No wonder poor dad was becoming a human water balloon,
a toxic human water balloon.
But mr nonchalant doctor assumed it was the tumor growing; the one we had opted not,
against his suggestion, to spend 8 weeks radiating on a daily basis.

“Has he looked at dad in that wheelchair of his” I wonder…

Quickly and without fanfare or even words, Mr nonchalant doctor performs a little procedure
then quickly leaves the room with us eventually leaving
with now a new sort of water balloon,
a catheter.
And thankfully free-flowing once again!!
No spreading cancer as dad was fearing…
just a little scar tissue fouling up the works…

Dad was having to get up literally 18 times a day and 9 times throughout the night living
like a human water balloon…filling up, but not flowing out.

The doctor walked out with nary a word….
No words of kindness, no words of encouragement,
no words of care nor words of what we might need to do…

Kind of like a wham bam thank you mam sort of moment.

Leaving me with the young nurse to attach everything…
getting everything in, on, up and poor dad back into his chair.

Where I come from a gentleman assesses the situation and lends a hand where
he sees the need.
We call that being a man…patient, kind, gallant and thoughtful.

When we finally walked out, me walking, dad rolling…
Mr nonchalant doctor was sitting at his computer in his office, directly across from us,
as we exited the exam room.

I was sincere and gracious in my thanks and gratitude for helping dad.
As I was always taught to offer thanks for a service rendered and I was genuinely
grateful that dad would now be functioning and flowing.
Plus there I was wheeling my cancer ridden, feeble, 88 year old father
who has just bared everything to everyone…did he not deserve a word?

There was a very long pause of silence before acknowledging that I had spoken…
without glancing from the computer came an “ah huh”…
and with that, dad and I were on our way.

At the elevator dad leans his head back in my direction as I push the button for down…
“he doesn’t have much personality does he?”
“I think he’s a jerk dad.”
“I just think he doesn’t have a beside manner” dad counters…

And that my friends is the response of a gentleman.

A man who just bore his feeble sickly body for violation and he merely chalks up
being ignored to a lack of personality.
Where I see a sorry SOB…

Had I not been wheeling dad, who was now hurting and asked for something for pain,
as mr nonchalant non caring doctor quips over his shoulder, “take some tylenol'”…
I think I would have marched in that office of his, slaping my hands down on his desk,
asking or rather telling him to do the polite thing by
looking me in the face when I’m speaking
and to acknowledge my father as an elder as well as a hurting human being….

Because that’s what we do here in the South, we acknowledge our fellow human beings as
what they are, fellow human beings….

And don’t forget, we also came up with iced tea…..
thank you very much…

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:27-28

decisions of life and death, as witnessed by the squirrel

“I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Douglas Adams

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(gray squirrel / Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2016)

If you’ve ever driven down a road, suddenly spotting a grey mass sitting in the middle of the road…
as you approach said mass, at a nice clip of speed…you quickly, and a bit sickeningly,
realize that the gray mass quickly coming into focus…is a frantic squirrel…
who now sits directly in your immediate field of vision and in the direct path
of your 50 mph plus some odd ton vehicle…
closing in for an immediate and deadly impact.

The squirrel seems stuck in time, shifting left then shifting right…
with this surreal dance of death going on a million times,
within what seems to be an eternity but in actuality is…
a mere few seconds…

If life is good–the squirrel makes the right 11th hour decision by darting
miraculously out of your path by the very hair of his tail.

If life is not good–it is a bad day for the squirrel as you feel badly for that slight bump you feel under your wheels….

I am that squirrel.

The car barreling down on me is dad with cancer…
add to that my on-going searing back and hip pain coupled by the myriad of tests
I’m squeezing in in-between trips to Dads.

The Radiologist oncologist told us today that radiation would be every day for 7 consecutive weeks—everyday I’d commute to and from Atlanta as dad would be zapped.

Not to cure him mind you…just to hopefully keep the tumor at bay….
but for how long, no one can say.

His primary care doctor says he is simply too weak and frail to endure such.
The side effects of radiation in the elderly is weakness, diarrhea and burning…
that is in the best of cases…

He’s already weak, already battles colitis and is not very well overall mentally or physically…
yet that did not seem to deter the doctor today who seemed
more concerned with his ever ringing phone…
as he would step out of the room for 20 minutes here and 10 more minutes there…

He told Dad that if he did nothing it wouldn’t be pretty with pain and misery…
which scared dad into wanting to begin zapping right then and there.
I explained to the doctor that we, as a family, would need to talk about all of this
and discuss this with Dad’s primary care doctor—
at which he seemed a bit incensed that I too didn’t agree to begin immediately.

To be honest, I felt overtly pressured.
He didn’t seem to consider that dad is weak and frail or that he is struggling with his cognizant abilities…
It was more like checking off a list…then wham bam you’re good to go, lets sign you up now…

I called a dear friend who had been one of dad’s nurses over the past year for her input.
I called back to dad’s primary care doctor for his opinion.
I called my husband
I called my cousin.
I called my aunt…
and I cried the entire rush hour traffic ride home…

Everyone who knows dad knows treatment is not the correct route.
But dad is scared.
And dad is very much like a little child.
And the cancer doctors are chomping at the bit…

So this squirrel is at a loss.

I may dip in and out of blogland here and there.
The first time in 3 years.
But I’m feeling my energy, creativity, my very life, ebbing away….
Depression is closing in fast…
it’s wicked hot breath has been on the back of my neck now for months.

Decisions have to be made…
and sickeningly, like the squashed squirrel, the buck stops here.
For I am now the parent of the parent who can no longer make those calls himself.
What is the right decision???
What is the right call???
Quality of life…
length of life…
yet at what state??
How much longer either way?
Aggressive cancer…
Fast growing…

I danced this dance with Mother 30 years ago…
I never would have envisioned walking down this road again…

I pray for a revelation or a Divine intervention—
One that directs our path without regrets, without second guessing…
That the road we go, is to be the right road…the only road…

I’ll be in and out as my strength and mindset allows…

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For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.
I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord,
“and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14

A storm is gathering…

You start out giving your hat, then you give your coat,
then your shirt,
then your skin and finally…
your soul.

Charles de Gaulle

DSCN3552
(the gathering storm on a southern summer’s night / Julie Cook / 2015)

Our prayers, once again, are offered up to our ally and friend…to the nation of France.
To the French people, especially the citizens of Nice, we offer our hearts in solidarity.

It is apparent that there is a war raging.
A war that is being waged and carried out by a hostile and ever morphing Islamic state.
A war that is apparently one-sided.

For you see, the Western World has yet to acknowledge it is being attacked, relentlessly.

Once upon a time…

In a different time and place…
there was a lone voice…
A lone voice that was relentless in sounding an alarm to the gathering storm clouds.

Yet no one wanted to listen.
No one wanted to hear the hard truth being offered by this lone voice…
And so the voice was ignored.

By the time the storm had come, raged and then passed…
Well over 60 million people had lost their lives.

It appears that today, we continue not to listen.

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Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them,
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.
He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

not for sissies

“Walking the streets of Charleston in the late afternoons of August
was like walking through gauze or inhaling damaged silk.”

Pat Conroy

RSCN3493
(yellow sulphur butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

Summer in the deep South is not for the faint of heart…

98 degree days coupled with 98% humidity…
Clothes cling to bodies like wet toilet paper dangling from a tree limb after a rain.
Hair doos are non-existent.
And sweat becomes an accessory rather than an unsightly bodily function

Then there are the…

98 degree days with low humidity which equals no rain, no moisture whatsoever…
for days and days and days and days…
Everything dries up…
the grass crunches,
green things all turn brown
and earthworms shrivel into brown sticks…

Yet there are a few among us who remain unfazed…
who actually seem to thrive, coming into their own.
The higher the temperature, the more excited they become….

And you just thought butterflies were for sissies….

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(clouded skipper on the butterfly bush / Julie Cook / 2016)

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(gulf fritillary butterfly / Julie Cook / 2016)

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

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

IMG_1967
(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….

IMG_1968
(Gloria behind the wheel on I-20)

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

woodchuck-at-house
(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
🙂