Are you a blamer or maker?

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.
G.B. Shaw

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(lovely patch of wild flowers Boston Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014)

Our lives are an endless procession of choices.
To do or not to do
To go or to stay
To walk or to run
To move or to be still
To quit or to act
To speak or to be quiet
To act or to react

There was one thing, one bit of cookie advice, that I would tell my high school students. . .
“Life is full of choices and you will certainly have your share. . .”
“But the number one choice you’ll always have will be that you can either choose to be a victim in life or not—
you can choose to be proactive or reactive—-
always choose to be proactive!

Sadly today we hear so many people, from all walks of life, bemoaning the stacked deck of cards Life has dealt them— lamenting over the unfair, painful, paralyzing circumstances divid out by this cruel master card dealer.

There is whining, wailing, complaining and the heavy gnashing of teeth.
The energy and time spent over the layers of excuses, the rationalizing, the oh woe is “me-ing”. . .
Which in turn leads to the stagnant inability to move forward
“We’ll I can’t because of this”
“I won’t because of such and such”
“I wish I could, but. . .”

Layers upon layers of the cant’s, the “woulda”s, the “shoulda”s, the “coulda”s
We are creating a society that prefers to sit back, watching and waiting to receive rather than one which prefers to move forward. The recipients are beginning to outweigh the doers.
There are those who are so busy explaining their poor circumstances and the reasons as to why they’re down on their luck, spending precious time wallowing in inactivity, that they miss the opportunities to get up and move their way forward.

Life is about hard work.
The old saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” has been sadly transformed today into an expected free lunch.

It is important to offer help, aid and assistance to those hurting and indeed, as at some point in life we will all find ourselves in such a position—but, and this is the key, it to also exceedingly important to be able to offer opportunity for growth and movement forward as this is the essential key to the wellbeing of the Human Spirit.

A hand up will be needed by all of us at some point, but then to be sent forward is the most important component to that offerings of aid and service.

Human beings are wired to be doers in life.
We are not hard wired to be inactive receivers.
Sadly we grow spoiled and lazy, preferring to sit back waiting for whatever it is that
will seem to fill our needs and make us happy.
Life is still about building and making.

May we be mindful that we still have so much to be done
and it won’t get done with us merely sitting back waiting and watching.

The silent passing of life

Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
― Ernest Hemingway

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(small sparrow in the fountain outside of The Old North Church / Boston, Mass. / Julie Cook / 2014

“[S]he Is Not Dead

I cannot say, and I will not say
That [s]he is dead. [S]he is just away.
With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,
[S]he has wandered into an unknown land
And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since [s]he lingers there.
And you—oh you, who the wildest yearn
For an old-time step, and the glad return,
Think of him[her] faring on, as dear
In the love of There as the love of Here.
Think of him[her] still as the same. I say,
[S]he is not dead—[s]he is just away.”
― James Whitcomb Riley

Ann Alexander Cook
1928-2014

What? You talking to me?

We live in deeds not years In thoughts not breaths In feelings not figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels noblest, acts the best.”
― Philip James Bailey

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(wary eyed pigeon, Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

When my son was a little boy, he and I spent a great deal of time together. And not that it’s odd for a mother to spend a great deal of time with her child, my child happened to be only child with our living in a separate community from the one in which I taught, way back in the middle of 20 acres of woods. I was pretty much his only playmate, up until it was time to start school. His dad worked long hours so it was often just the two of us.

A favorite pastime would often find us curled up on the couch watching his favorite shows, with cartoons being a big part of our viewing. My dad had spent time with me watching cartoons so it just seemed natural for me to do the same with my child. And I must admit that those are some of the best memories I have of those simple easy days spent contently together–nothing special, no big deal–just he and I simply enjoying being together and laughing as we watched a silly cartoon

One of the cartoons we both enjoyed watching was the Goodfeathers.

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Goodfeathers was the cartoon’s world take on the movie the Goodfellas. I’d never seen the Goodfellas movie but I knew enough about the movie to know that it was a story about the Mob. The cartoon was so tongue and cheek and such a funny take on the stereotypical life of Italian Americans and Mob life that I think I probably enjoyed it as much, if not more, than my son–and if the truth be told, most likely on a vastly different level. That subtle little nuances that only I could pick up on.

The Goodfeathers even had their own version of Marlon Brando’s role from the Godfather–a role portrayed by the Godpigeon.

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And so it was, on an idle evening stroll, along a beautifully old victorian era street lined with the brownstones of days gone by, that I spied a lone pigeon lounging along the rim of a bird bath. My proximity to him seemed to make no never mind, so I stopped long enough to take his picture.

Later, when I was actually going through the myriad of pictures I’d taken throughout the day, I noted the wary eye this pigeon shot my way–with the immediate thought and words of a young Robert de Nero—“What, You talking to me?”
Which in turn immediately sent my thoughts tumbling back in time, many years prior to a delightful time of joy and innocence when a mom and her young son lived a simpler time of contentment. . .

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(cookie and little cookie, on his wedding day / June 7, 2014 –and it should be noted, he’s little cookie 😉 )

what’s Preparation H got to do with it?

“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.”
― Tennessee Williams

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(an expensive collection of spectacles from over the years)

Two things you may or may not know about me. . .
First, I got my first pair of glasses when I was a junior in college and secondly, I’ve got terrible sinuses.

And if you’ll just hold your horses, I’ll tie in the Preparation H in due time—trust me.
And no, we’re not going to delve into the whole hemorrhoid issue because I was raised that a proper lady does not discuss such in public. And for the record, this is not a tale about that.

My eyesight started out as a tad near sighted coupled by a astigmatism. Meaning my poor eyes did double duty just trying to focus– period. Which in turn meant, at the time, I was not a candidate for contacts—and that was certainly fine by me as I wasn’t too keen on the thought of constantly poking and dabbing in my eyeballs 24/7–or God forbid, I’d lose a contact in my eyeball as it would slip to the back of my eye and eventually into my brain. Ok, I admit I wasn’t up on the physiology of eyes.

It wasn’t until about 5 years ago when I started wearing my glasses religiously. As in now it’s troubling seeing both near and far.

You should also know that as I type this post, I am actually wearing two pairs of glasses. One on top of the other. As in I had to get new glasses last week and they had to mail in my frames to be fitted with the new lens—leaving me up the proverbial seeing creek.
I have had to get by wearing a very old pair which may be doing more harm than good. These old glasses are so weak that in order to see up close and read, I’ve had to put some dollar store readers over the old prescription pair—talk about a new fashion trend. . . as well as a headache–literally!

These substitute glasses are so bad that as I was recently reading an article about the latest, frighting and devastating stories about the Ebola virus spread in Africa it was my understanding that the article stated that the school of thought and latest theory about the spread of this deadly virus is a result of fruit bars.

Fruit bars??
“Oh dear God,”
I practically scream as I immediately think I must rid the kitchen cabinets of any and all fruit bars, when it dawns on me that fruit bars seem to be an odd item for the inception of something as sinister and deadly as Ebola.
I double up the glasses, rereading the sentence—ahhh, fruit bats!!!

Which now brings me around to my sinuses.
I never seemed bothered by sinus issues until I moved to this current town of mine almost 35 years ago. Of which was also the time I started teaching high school art. And you should know that our town is also home to a very large company which I will refrain from mentioning by name but just know that they do things with wire—-lots and lots of wire–all over the world, as in this is a big time global company. They have some smelting plants, retaining lakes, giant smoke stacks, and buildings for this and that important business scattered all over town.
I’m talking big time.

Urban legend has it that the fish living in the ponds near the plants have more than the required God given two eyes on their heads. There are also the stories of the mysterious green glow emitted in the wee hours of the middle of the night from the smokestacks of the plants. And then there are the dead pines and vegetation on the back side of the plant.

Correlation? hummmmm

For the record, I have had two sinus surgeries over the years. The first one on the right side worked like a charm—I could actually breathe and no longer battled an onslaught of infections. I awoke from surgery immediately aware of how freely I could finally, actually, joyfully breathe—it was short of miraculous!
The second surgery, which followed the first surgery by a couple of years, not so much.

There I was laying in recovery, just waking up, when the doctor, who, mind you was wearing pearls with her scrubs during surgery–of which made me feel terribly underdressed, triumphantly announced that all was now clear.
I however had to immediately counter her proclamation.
I knew without a doubt that nothing about my breathing through my nose was clear.
I was still just as “clogged” as I was prior to surgery.

A terrible waste of my money, my time plus my having to undergo a near death procedure as they made me sign all those papers about brain damage, going blind and of course– death. Not to mention a terrible waste of her having to have donned her pearls.

She never did understand that I couldn’t breathe and I never did understand the significance of donning pearls for a surgery.
Perhaps I missed the dress code–something about no make up, no jewelry, no nail polish–but nothing about pearls per se.

I have graciously volunteered for a sinusectomy, which sadly does not exist.
I’ve often wondered why we have sinuses in our heads in the first place. Air pockets inside our skulls which seem to act as ballast, keeping our heads above the proverbial deep waters of life as it were.
Wasted space if you ask me.
Pack um with cement and I’m good to go.

Which brings me back around to glasses, sinuses and Preparation H.

So between my feeling constantly clogged up, suffering from congestion, heavy watery eyes—not to mention the swollen bags under my eyes and pressure in my head, on top of the now strained vision sans my regular glasses as in I’m having to wear two pairs of glasses, I suddenly recalled a little beauty secret that surely could help elevate my latest sinus issues and swollen eyes, not to mention maybe bringing a little clarity to my vision—
enter Preparation H. . .

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There’s a little beauty secret in the world of runway models and photo shoots–Preparation H!
That thick white ointment used for years for the treatment of, how shall I put this delicately., hemorrhoids, or as George Washington would have known about such from his excessive time spent in the saddle.
As in hydrocortisone, as in anti-swelling.

Since the ointment is known for its “shrinking” abilities–once upon a time, some uber chic model out there, had the brilliant epiphany that she could use a little shrinking ointment to eliviate the puffiness under her eyes. Just before hitting the hay, for her much needed beauty rest, this uber model figured she could rub a little Preparation H underneath each eye in order to eliminate all traces of puffiness.

Voila, the secret to smooth, non puffy, eyes.

So last night, feeling way too congested, with lovely swollen puffy eyes and blurred vision too boot, I reasoned that if dabbing a little ointment under my eyes could relieve puffiness then obviously smearing it all over my face would surely help with congested sinuses and blurred vision.
Perfect sense.

After my evening shower, I proceeded to slather the Preparation H under my eyes, over my eyes, on my cheeks, on my forehead, over my nose–opting to leave it layered thick and heavy verses rubbing it in—heavier the better is my motto.
I now appeared a bit aboriginal dressed in complete war paint.

I top off my new beauty ritual with a nice thick layer of Vicks vapor rub smeared underneath my nose.
Nothing like the scent of camphor, menthol and eucalyptus trying to waft its way up through sealed nostrils.

Happily finished with my application of medicinal / beauty treatment, I head to bed.
Just as I crawl quietly under the covers, as not to disturb my sleeping husband— suddenly, with a jolt, my husband pops up, wide awake from a deep sleep as if he’s seen some sort of spirit or apparition.

“What in the world is that awful smell and what in the hell is that all over your face?!”

Maybe I need to work on a plan B.

Snippets of Life through a couple of Psalms

I am like a pelican of the wilderness:

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(pelican in flight, Destin, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

I am like an owl of the wilderness,
like a little owl of the waste places.

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(Vienna Zoo / Schönbrunn Palace / Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012

I lie awake;
I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.

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(pigeon atop roof of the Old State House / Boston Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014

When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.

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(praying mantis / Julie Cook / 2014)

For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears

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(embers in the BBQ / Julie Cook / 2014)


Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

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(seal swimming / Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2012)

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(basking sea lion, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2012

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(the tip top of an orca, Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada / Julie Cook / 2012)

lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,

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(Georgia clouds / Julie Cook / 2013)


you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,

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(Watten, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

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(espaliered apple tree, Mondsee, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,

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(neighboring Georgia bull / Julie Cook / 2014)

kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,

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(Web image of painting of Henry VIII)

young men and women,
old men and children.

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(homeless man, courtyard of The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(young boy posing for mom’s picture atop the duckings in Boston’s Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014)


Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

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(full moon over Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.

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(web image of a rally in support of Israel)

Praise the Lord.

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(happy flowers covering Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014 )

My small gift to you this morning… the joy of a little color

There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.
Pablo Picasso

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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(Millennial Park, shore of Lake Michigan / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Open air market flower stall, Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(Boston Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(Millennial Park, shore of Lake Michigan / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Millennial Park, shore of Lake Michigan / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

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(Millennial Park, shore of Lake Michigan / patch of black eyed susans / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

A consuming light

“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

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(rain clouds linger in the late afternoon mid west Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2014

Our days grow dark and worry abounds
When a deafening crescendo of exploding bombs breaks the tired silence
Wary souls now tremble in the shadows

As the planes fall strangely from the sky,
We know that Madness wanders the eroding land
Bleeding children lie stretched out in pleading arms,

Lessons learned long ago are easily now forgotten
We were warned but no one listened
Right and wrong collide madly into one. . .
Hell is happy here today.

20 lives
200 lives
300 lives
Each new day brings a sad new number
As the question begs–why?

We watch
We wait
We plead
We hope

And as we wonder when is enough enough,
with the last ray of faith growing helplessly dim,
a brilliant light victoriously pierces the blackened sky

As the battles wage onward across a sad weary land,
and with smoke circling like vultures over our trembling heads,
Courage and Strength rally the faithful few

For despite this unending march of Death,
as tears are shed and blood is spilled
Peace and Calm unite in Hope
for this bloody War is already won. . .

This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 42:5-7