prepping for awareness…

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

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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

We should note that March is National Colorectal Awareness Month.

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

Also…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not average.

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

Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

As you may recall, I’m adopted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That episode left a lasting impression on me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Growing up

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
― J.D. Salinger

That’s one of the things we learn as we grow older — how to forgive. It comes easier at forty than it did at twenty.”
― L.M. Montgomery

DSC01099
(Guinea Wasp among the flowers / Julie Cook / 2015)

When did you know that you were all grown up?
Really grown up. . .
As in no longer childlike but rather the designated, tag you’re it, authority of all things known and those things yet known. As in you are now the expert, the one everyone has decided to turn to for help, advice, strength, guidance, knowledge, direction, responsibility. . . the one who had now been taxed with the hard decisions, the tough choices, the yeses and the nos. . .??

For some of us it was perhaps a catastrophic event early on in life. A harsh reality thrust upon us far too early and much too soon.
For others it seemed to come at the cold uncaring hand of fate, the economics of our world, the poor choices of others.

Some of us mark the milestone in much the same way as certain ethnic tribal groups who have ceremonial rites of passage. The hoopla of a 21st birthday, the last hooray of a bachelor or bachelorette party before one’s impending nuptials. Some of us know the passing of the torch occurs the moment our first child is born. . .

I thought my moment came at age 25 when my mom died and I had to care for a father who was suddenly a lost child, readily foregoing adulthood while wrapped in his utter grief. I was pretty certain it hadn’t come at 23 when I married—as I was still so green and terribly wet behind the ears back then.

I think it also happened again when my son was born. I had to put my wants and needs aside as I was now responsible for the well-being of another. Resposiblilty should equate to growing up, should it not? There was just something about losing a parent and then becoming a parent. . .
Surely that was it, the time. . . the time of losing a parent and becoming a parent that signified life as a grown up.

At 55 I figured I was pretty grown up.
No doubt about it, grown.
I had retired had I not?
One has got to be pretty old to be able to retire right?
One would think.

My son got married last year.
I have a daughter-n-law.
My hair is turning rather silveresque.
My bones are a bit more brittle.
My eyesight is eluding me.
My mind may not be exactly as sharp as it once was.
My husband keeps reminding me I’m not as young as I once was.
I’m not keen upon hearing that.

Yet events of recent weeks have once again reminded me, that I’m still not totally grown up. . .
not by a long shot.

It slowly dawned on me, as I sat splayed legged on the floor of my old bedroom, of which now acts as Dad’s office, sorting through a myriad, or more like a mountain, of unpaid bills, forgotten tax information, past due this and that, a plethora of saved junk mail, folder upon folder of the years past all while spending countless hours on the phone sorting out the disaster he had slowly created when, on the fateful day we can’t seem to recall which was which, that he woke up and his mind decided it no longer wanted to be the grownup mind of a dad, my dad.

It may have come when I began writing countless checks, signing my name where his name should have been. When I called the numerous insurance companies seeking help. When the nurse came from the insurance company to evaluate his needs. When I called a care service. When I had to tell him NO or YES to his insistence that there be no care service, that he indeed needed “help”.

Maybe it was today when we sat filling out the healthcare questionnaire for the new doctor. The personal, oh so personal, questions I had to ask, had to listen to his answers. Questions you never imagined asking your dad or having to have him explain. Maybe it was when I had to explain to him about how he had to work the blood occult test kit as he politely told me, “no thank you, I don’t want to do that.”

As he now looks to me, or rather at me, for reassurance, for direction, for help, for rescuing, with questioning rummy eyes, which now look while pleading and searching for answers. . .answers I don’t readily have. The same eyes that were the ones I looked to when, as a little girl, I would call out each night for the various stuffed animals elected to guard and protect me throughout the night, as he’d throw them to me from across the room from their daily resting spot, thrown to my excited open arms in order for me to catch them, one at a time, as we performed our nightly ritual. . .

We all know parents aren’t exactly human. . .they’re a lot like the teachers I’ve spent a lifetime alongside–superhuman, not like mere mortals. They don’t have the same ills or issues as others. They are invincible and beyond the ordinary.
That’s their role is it not. . .?

Theirs is to provide, to guard, to protect, to lead, to guide, to always be there. . .

. . . as now the child reluctantly finds herself becoming the parent,
the lonely role of grown-up. . .

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

The Journey

“Sometimes it’s the journey that is more important than the end result—“
quote by Julie Cook and countless others who have voiced a similar observation

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
― Helen Keller

DSCN0828
(McKenzie Pass Lava flow Oregon / Julie Cook / 2012)

(I’ve written about our son before and of his struggles in school.
Today my thoughts are of him as well as with him on this particular Saturday and of a potentially life changing test.
Today I am transported back to a life, many years ago, and to what it has taken to get us all to this particular day. . .)

I have had, in the back of my mind, the intention of writing a certain post one day. . .a post in the not so distant future. . .a post that is to come most likely, hopefully, in a couple of months, a little later down the road. . .
. . .and yet. . .
It is today in which these thoughts seem to be percolating up to the surface and laying claim to both my thoughts and my heart.

One thing I’ve learned during the course of my life is that if you’re thinking and or feeling things–those internal nudgings, pushing’s and tiny alarms which sound deep in the recesses of heart and soul, it’s best not to put them off, not to push them aside until there seems to be sufficient “time” in which to address them—it is important, perhaps even dire, to address, examine, act and embrace such thoughts now, today. . .

Come December, our son will turn 26.
That in itself is difficult for my aging mind to comprehend.

He arrived in this world a week earlier than predicted—thankfully.
“They” had given me a due date of Christmas day. At the time the thought of having a baby born on Christmas was overwhelming for all sorts of reasons. I certainly didn’t want to be in a hospital on Christmas, I wanted to be home. My mom had passed away three years prior so I was a bit afraid of entering motherhood all on my own with little to no advice or direction. My husband owned a retail business. Christmas was his busiest time of the year. Would he even be able to enjoy the birth of his first born (and unbeknownst to us at the time, our only born). I certainly didn’t want our child’s birth to be overshadowed by business, nor by the madness known as the marketing of, by our consumer driven Society, of Christmas.

Our son was born with a slight case of jaundice which later was oddly attributed to being breast fed.
He also had a difficult time keeping any nourishment down without vomiting.
By 3 months he was admitted to Eggleston Children’s Hospital for extensive tests.
From the onslaught of constantly vomiting, he had developed internal bleeding and an ulcerated esophagus.
He was prescribed medication along with a specialized formula that was thickened with oatmeal in order to help “keep it all down”

His eating habits, to this day, are picky at best.
Other than those early struggles with nourishment and being on the low end of the growth chart, he appeared happy and relatively healthy.

By the time he was a year old, he had developed those growing life skills parents thankfully tick off on the long list of growing accomplishments.
He smiled.
He cooed.
He laughed.
He rolled over.
He sat up.
He cut teeth.
He uttered little words (“da da” was the first word—why that is, after all the work done by the mother, the first word is “da da” is beyond my soul, but I digress)
He crawled, fist on his belly, then up on all fours–
However those precarious teetering first steps to walking were yet to be seen.

We fretted when he didn’t walk until he was 15 months old.
Naturally we were concerned because all the other babies his age had been walking, many, for several months. Yet thankfully that skill eventually came to fruition much to our relief.

All seemed well.
He attended preschool seemingly happy to be with other children, as he was an only child.
He was sweet with a gentle spirit accented by a vivid imagination. I think children who have no siblings and do not live in a neighborhood alongside constant playmates tend to develop a wonderful sense of creativity and keen imagination.

It was’t until he entered kindergarten that a red flag was hoisted up the pole of a parent’s fear.
His teacher called us in for a meeting as she wanted to let us know that she had some concerns—
She had decided that there was one or two things going on. . .either our child was “gifted” as his vocabulary and verbal skills were off the charts— yet, he wasn’t reading, his writing was not on par with his peers nor was his ability to spell simple words— she therefore sensed something was a rye.
She recommended we have him tested.

We took our son to a child psychologist for a battery of tests. Time will not permit me to elaborate on the worries which clouded our world during this time. The short of this long story is that he was diagnosed with a learning disability in written expression, a slight case of dyslexia coupled by ADD with the area of contention being an inability to stay “focused”. Plus his fine motor skills were slightly impaired.

As the psychologist explained, she did not think our son would ever be able to participate successfully in team sports due to the trouble with his fine motor skills, my husband had tears streaming down his cheeks–not because he was disappointed that his only son would most likely not ever follow in the steps of his own athletic prowess, but rather that he felt his son would perhaps miss out on so much of what it means to be a part of something bigger than himself, that of a team working toward a unified and single goal.

Yet it was for our own small team, our small family of three, to work toward the goal of getting him reading plus finding a place of success in school.

I racked my brain over what I had or had not done when I was pregnant. What had I perhaps done inadvertently to our child? Lots of unfounded guilt coupled with lots of worry for an unknown future engulfed us for many years.

The struggle and climb were both long and arduous.
There was the summer spent driving back and forth daily to a special school in Atlanta that worked specially with kids who had dyslexia and learning disabilities.
There were the countless tutors, the endless meetings with teachers, the tears, the frustrations, the long nights working for tiny and minuscule gains, the isolation of working day after day, night after night, alone all under the worried and weary eyes of a mom and dad.

Our son had to pour all energies into his studies, there was little time for anything but school. No fun after school with friends, no time for sports, no time for leisure. . .there wasn’t much time for the building of close bonds and friendships.
He grew tired, overwhelmed, frustrated and burned out.
We too grew weary and frustrated, yet we continued working and pushing–often moving 2 steps forward and 5 steps back.
This all before entering high school.
Exhausting.

Yet he continued to have goals.
He had dreams.
He had aspirations.
Those things, thankfully, never waned.

Even though I was an educator who was realistic, I was also a parent who was determined that he should be given every opportunity, just like everyone else who dreams of a successful future, of being afforded the things necessary to make him successful.
Success to us was simply to pass.
We rejoiced over C’s.
We cried.
We often felt defeated.
We got angry.
We worried.
We made ourselves sick.
We grew tired.

In 2007 our son graduated high school.
That was a wonderful day.
He didn’t wear cords or medals around his neck.
He didn’t have stoles draped over his shoulders.
He wasn’t highly ranked nor did his name bear any honors.
Yet he was standing on a stage, receiving a piece of paper many thought he’d never hold.

College, which was indeed in his plans, would not be easy.
Nor has it been.
He is in his final semester–we hope.
Others his age have long since graduated, some with multiple degrees.
They are working, making their way in their careers and life.
Our son is weary.
He has felt discouraged.
He has suffered multiple setbacks.
At times he’s been his own worst enemy.
He is stubborn.
He is hard headed.
Sometimes I think unrealistic.

However I am not the one who has been told time and time again that I couldn’t do something I’ve always dreamed of doing. There is a certain determination in constantly being told “no” or “never”. . .
Our son, thankfully, has always possessed certain inner strengths which have worked to compensate and offset the heavy deficiencies.

Today, after several miscues, he finally took a long anticipated test.
He took the LSAT.
That in-depth lengthy test those aspiring to attend Law School must first successfully pass before moving forward.
There’s a lot riding on the results of this test.
He’s been in school for the majority of his life.
It has taken a grave toll on him physically.
We want / need for him to work toward financial independence.
His well being wants him to be finally independent.
His new wife worries.
The future is still uncertain.

And yet, the mere fact that my child has actually arrived at this very day, the day of simply taking a test, is monumental.
I know he will be most anxious over the results.
I, on the other hand, have no angst over results.
It is quite to the contrary— I have an odd sense of peaceful satisfaction.
There was a time when colleagues and friends thought we were unrealistic in our aspirations for our son. There was a time when we all wondered if we had not bitten off more than we or he could chew.
I’m sure we will still have those days.
But for today, I may exhale.
I think he may actually exhale.

So whether or not he does or does not eventually attend Law School. . .
Whether or not he clears this latest hurdle or stumbles. . .
Whether or not he puts this goal aside and works toward a different goal, a Plan B goal. . .
It is, to this one mom, the mere fact that her child has actually made it to this day—this actual day which has witnessed his carrying a single admittance ticket through a door, to finding his place once again at yet one more classroom desk, to the taking of one more test in the long list of tests, all taken during the course of a long hard fought career spent in school–it is to this day, a day of an amazing accomplishment, that I can finally see a glimmer of peace.

It is therefore my heartfelt belief that it is not so much the end of a journey which matters in this thing we call life but rather it is the path along the long and arduous journey which matters most. There will always be the bumps and curves, the mountains and cliffs which we will happen upon during the course of the journey which will work in tandem for and against us, all helping to form the “real” person which resides within each of us–as we are all tried by the fires and furnace of life.
My son is testament to such a journey.

“Success is not to be measured by the position someone has reached in life, but the obstacles he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
― Booker T. Washington

Climbing the mountains of our lives

“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
― Edward Whymper

DSCN0995
(view of cascade mountains as seen from the rim trail of Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

I had a different post already for today. However last night around midnight it dawned on me that I needed to do something a bit differently. Today our son was to be taking the LSAT. It is the test those students take who wish to pursue a career in Law. It is the admittance requirement to any Law School— a more grown up version of the SAT, just more specific to Law.

It is with a prayerful heart that my thoughts are directed to my son this morning. There is a post waiting to be written about our son, but it simply is not quite the right time. There are, however, many a teacher and or friend who never would or could have imagined that he would ever be here, this day, poised to take this test.

The sad matter here is that he was ready.
And then there was the glitch.

He was diagnosed with a rather profound learning disability in the 1st grade. He did not learn to read until the 3rd grade, after attending a specific school an hour and a half drive from home each day during one long summer when other little boys were out playing ball and swimming. He has battled learning to live with the learning disability, as well as dyslexia and ADD. There are those who never thought he’d finish high school, which he did successfully. Nor those who thought he would get into a college, let alone that he should even try to attend college. But he did.

It has not been easy—on any of us. There was a time in his youthful arrogance that he did not “get” how much he really would need to spend of himself to reach his goals and dreams. Eventually it became quite clear. He rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to climb the mountain. He is an avid backpacker so the analogy of climbing a mountain is most appropriate for him and this journey.

Upon entering the testing facility this morning to take the test, he was told that his drivers license was considered a passport which would not suffice as a photo ID, that he was to have had an additional photo taped the a piece of paper. ARE YOU KIDDING?! The young lady ahead of him in line had the additional photo but it was not tapped to a piece of paper, they also refused her admittance.

To have spent over a year studying and preparing, only to be refused admittance because he had what he read to be the required photo ID, as we all read the requirements— the language of the instruction stated that if a passport ID was used, an additional photo was required. When did a drivers license become a passport? I am incensed. . .

He is not at the summit obviously just yet, there is a semester and a mini-mester yet to conquer until the long fraught climb of school is partially over. Then there will be another looming mountain beyond the first, more arduous than before. And who is to say that through all of this God may simply have a different plan. But for now, for this day, the climb of the important test of a dream as come to a halt.

I ask for prayers for him, his fiancee, as well as mom and dad. . . I ask for prayers of peace, calm, knowledge–those things that are needed in order to conquer the obstacle of this particular mountain. The ability to accept the current outcome with peace, yet the continued perseverance. Whatever the journey is to be. . .be it the continued pursuit of this mountain or that of a new and different mountain, to make a home on a different peak or not. Either way your prayerful support is most gratefully and humbly welcomed.

Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 24:14