Fading beauty? I think not!

Smiling always with a never fading serenity of countenance,
and flourishing in an immortal youth.

Isaac Barrow

DSCN7896
(decaying stump topped by shelf fungus / Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2014)

I made mention the other day that I will soon be turning 55.
Whereas I don’t put a lot of stock in numbers but rather in just a good ol dose of “get up and go,” I suppose advancing age does give one pause for reflection.
However I promise not to heavily reflect today. . .not about myself anyway.

I have also made mention in previous posts, pontificating my aversion of our culture’s refusal in allowing any of us to age. I’ve also added my 2¢ in various posts concerning the millions of dollars needlessly spent on lotions, potions, chemical this and thats, surgical augmentations—all for the perpetual quest our society seems to have for the elusive fountain of youth.

It troubles me watching what people do, particularly woman, in the name of acquiring ageless beauty.
I suppose it doesn’t help when woman are inundated by advertising, television and Hollywood as to what is considered “good looking,” drop dead gorgeous and sheer beauty. You’re considered a washed up prune if you don’t color your hair, don’t botox your wrinkles, don’t lift your lids, your breasts or your butt and survive off of kale and green smoothies.

Let’s not talk about our culture’s current obsession with weight. I’m all for health—healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, healthy weight. I’m NOT all for the current chronic obsession for pencil thin, 0 fat BMIs, and what the Marketing world deems to be the “perfect” body.

Whatever happened with striking a balance? A happy medium?

And I best not get started on dress and appearance and the obsession grown, dare I say, older woman have with dressing more like their daughters or as woman in their early 20’s. Trying to put a 40, 50, 60, 70 year old body into something a 25 year old would be wearing is just not appealing, no matter what you may think. It’s great if you can still fit into and rock that look, but there comes a time when it’s really not “cool” doing so, as one comes off looking more silly, even, dare I say pathetic, verses classic, timeless, stylish and chic.

So what if one’s body is not meant to be a size 2?
So what if one’s hair turns gray?
So what if one has wrinkles?
So what if one doesn’t want to live at the gym?
So what if one enjoys something other than a constant combination of soy, tofu, qunioa, kale or spelt?

I’m not saying that I don’t “fix” myself up or care about my appearance. I do care. And I have to work at my weight and health. I fret over my hair as it’s thinning terribly due to a bum thyroid. I like to dress up wearing nice clothes—however, I don’t color my hair, my wrinkles are all present and accounted for, all sorts of things are giving way to gravity, and when I look in the mirror I wonder where my eyebrows have gone and if I ever had eyelids. But what I see is simply me, life and time and how those three things mix together making me, me.

I am however deeply troubled over the message all of this obsession over appearance, weight, youthfulness and anti-aging sends to our youth.

Boys are taught to build up and bulk up as we see countless young men and boys gobbling up protein powders, muscle milk, creatine powders and daring to gamble in the murky and dark world of performance enhancement drugs and steroids. For to be deemed the fastest and strongest, with a better “built” body, is the bottom line of athletic prowess and success, not to mention the envy of others.

Girls are taught at an early age that thin is in and that Victoria Secret’s models are the body’s to ascertain to, as they are “perfect”—-REALLY?
Woe to the young girl who is not slim, trim and svelte and does not possess the long legs of a gazelle.

The news is riddled daily with stories of some sort of cosmetic surgery gone awry, where clients / patients have actually died or been maimed by merely attempting to turn back the hands of time. Hollywood is full of aging actors and actresses who have had so much “work” done to their faces that they are no longer recognizable.

Oh it is all simply so sad.
So empty.
So shallow.
So fleeting.

I am not one to watch much television. I don’t keep up with the rag tag tabloids of who’s who. I don’t read People, I don’t watch talk shows, I don’t watch shows such as the Grammys or the Oscar award shows and I really don’t care about people walking up and down red carpets.
None of that is “real” to me.
It speaks of falsehoods.

I don’t hear or see much about the important matters of life—those things that God would wish for us to be in the business about—those things such as caring for the sick and the poor, ministering to shut-ins and the infirmed, feeding the hungry—none of that in the world of glitz and glamour. . Imagine if all that energy and money spent on fighting aging and chasing youthfulness was turned towards feeding the hungry, clothing the needy and housing the homeless. . .

So imagine my surprise when I caught a brief clip today of an interview which addressed this obsession of ours with ageless beauty by an actress who has refused to give in to the propaganda and hype. I was going in to check my email when the title of the interview caught my eye. Not one to watch folks like Oprah or Katie Couric as their idea of news is more or less gossip or trending fads, I actually stopped long enough to watch the clip and I admit, I was impressed.

Katie Couric was interviewing Frances McDormand concerning the actresses refusal to “augment” her aging process and what that means in the world of acting and Hollywood. She is certainly in the minority but is quite content with her looks, as is her husband of 33 years, as she notes the various lines and wrinkles on her face tell her life’s stories, she even laughed explaining how several “wrinkles” belong to her 20 something son–why would she want to do away with those story telling lines, as those are the lines from the life events which define who she is and what has made her life just that, her life.

The title of the interview is ‘I’m happy with the way I look and how I age’
and here is a link to the Yahoo news interview:

http://news.yahoo.com/katie-couric-interviews-frances-mcdormand-210921583.html

I applaud this woman, who at 57, is happy with her face, her body, her choice, her life—despite her profession’s culture of brainwashing everyone into thinking what should be the perfect body, face, life. . .

Here’s to aging and here’s to real beauty which is so much deeper than surface appearance!

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Humility and a hero

Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.
William Temple

_78589435_aad6b298-4b31-48a5-889d-553a24d6c0c4
( Sir Nicholas Winton, seated in wheelchair, being honored by the Czech President, Milos Zeman)

A few months back I wrote a post about Sir Nicholas Winton entitled “When does 669 equal 15,000”
His is a remarkable story of bravery, ingenuity, compassion, hope, intrigue, longevity, but especially noted, his is a story of humility.

I encourage you to read the previous post as it gives the story of Sir Nicholas as based on a report taken from the news magazine, 60 Minutes as well as the BBC.

( https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/when-does-669-equal-15000/ )

At the age of 29, in 1938, a young Jewish London stockbroker made a trip to Prague where he witnessed first hand the perilous situation taking place as Hitler was methodically beginning his annexation of Europe. At the time, most of Europe, Great Britain and the United States had turned a blind eye to Hitler and was taking a stance of Appeasement—an attitude I liken to the mindset of “if I don’t see it or acknowledge it, it is not actually happening.” Sir Winton knew better and he knew that time was of the essence. His mission became clear. He had to get as many children out of harms way before the eventual annexation of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia as quickly as possible.

With little to no resources, no government or military assistance, Sir Winton arranged passage, as well as the eventual housing and “foster care” back in England, for 669 children all before the Nazis sealed the borders making travel or escape impossible. He organized the running of 8 trains from Prague to London. The last train scheduled to leave Prague was stopped due to the closing of the borders and it is believed that none of the 250 children abroad that train survived as the majority of the children were Jewish.

It was 50 years, long after the war, before anyone became aware of Nicholas Winton and of the heroic act he took upon himself in order to save hundreds of children from a fate of certain death. It was not until his wife discovered an old faded musty scrapbook in a trunk in the attic of their home which contained photographs of a much younger man holding child after child that the story was finally acknowledged. He had not even told his wife.

There are those stories that one hears over the course of a lifetime which make a deep lasting impression—the story of Nicholas Winton, for me, is just such a story.

Earlier this morning, while reading over the BBC’s web news postings, I noticed a story regarding Sir Nicholas being honored earlier this week in The Czech Republic. Sir Nicholas was awarded that country’s highest honor, The Order of the White Lion. Sir Nicholas is now 105 years young. Happily his humor, wit and humility are still very much intact and are most quick and keen. Upon receiving the award, surrounded by many of the now grown children, many of whom are well into their 80’s, Sir Nicholas humbly commented “that I shouldn’t have lived so long as to give everyone the opportunity to exaggerate everything in the way they are doing today.” He went on to thank the British people who helped by taking in the children, the majority of whom, after the war, had not homes nor family to return to.

When asked about life in today’s world, Sir Nicholas replied:
“I don’t think we’ve ever learnt from the mistakes of the past…”
“The world today is now in a more dangerous situation than it has ever been and so long as you’ve got weapons of mass destruction which can finish off any conflict, nothing is safe any more.”

For the video clip and full story from the BBC I’ve provided the following links

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29809556

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29798434

Merriam Webster define Hero as:
a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities
a person who is greatly admired

Humility is defined as: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people

May we be mindful that heroes are not born from the scripts of Hollywood nor of athletic prowess on the playing field. Heroes are born from the hearts and minds of humble men and woman who simply see a situation and know that things must change and then go about to create that change with no regard to themselves or of their own wellbeing. They require no thanks, no recognition, no accolades. They merely do what needs doing then quietly and simply move on.

669 children, who grew exponentially to 15,000, are the better for a man named Nicholas Winton.
You and I are better for knowing his story.

Life’s fragile moments

Beauty is a fragile gift.
Ovid

DSCN8305

DSCN8309
(gerber daisy, with a small shield bug / stink bug / Julie Cook / 2014)

This beautiful gerber daisy continues blooming like nobody’s business, unaware that in a few short weeks, the first frost of the year is predictably scheduled. Until then, I suppose we shall bask in the vibrant colors and beauty of the last hoorah of a slow fading season.

Beauty of a flower, with it’s often quickly fading glory, is not the only fragile “gift” I’ve recently been privy to observe. . .rather, it is Life herself, that is most tenderly fragile. . .as I have so poignantly observed over the past couple of weeks. . .

I did something this morning that I have never done before. I finished my 30 minutes of pure torture on the elliptical when something unexplainable inside myself made me push the start button—again.
A double run.
It must have been an outer body experience.
Sweat was already pouring down my face, my toes were already numb and luckily I had yet to inhale my gum.

Maybe it’s because in two weeks I’ll be turning 55.
Maybe it’s due to the black cherry juice (yes black cherry juice but more about that another day).
Maybe it’s because of the cheesecake.
Cheesecake, did she just say cheesecake?!
Yes.
And I’m proud of it.
I made the most heavenly and unctuous cheesecake over the weekend. I haven’t made, let alone eaten, a cheesecake in years.
What’s so bad?
It’s got all the major food groups—dairy, eggs, grains —graham crackers are a grains right?
And for all of you über svelte individuals out there who post your latest marathon number on the back window of your cars and nosh on kale chips and who are currently rolling your eyes over my paltry 30 minutes of weights and a 30 minute elliptical “run”, now doubled, on this fine Tuesday, may it be noted that I work rather hard at striking a balance, trying not to go too far off on any one tangent— or ledge for that matter.

Life is all about a healthy balance. . .
A balance of activity, spiritually, health, relationships and butter. Yes you heard / read me correctly, butter.
Remember, I grew up as a member of the Julia Child butter is life club. . .life is no fun without butter. . .

Yet it is my having witnessed and observed a couple of “encounters” over the past several weeks which has not only touched my heart, but has brought my attention around to this precious thing we call Life. . . with all of her tragedies, her triumphs and her fragility, of which has maybe pushed me a bit further this morning in the pushing of myself. . .

Two weekends ago a friend of mine popped in on a Saturday afternoon for a visit of catch up. Her daughter, who went to school with my son, has moved far way. And not that she’s not been away before, she has. It’s just that now, her mom ( my friend) always knew it was temporary—as in away at college, away on trips, away on study abroad programs–always knowing she’d be returning . . .home. . .
This time however, the move is more of a permanent nature.
As in moving to Chicago to live and work sort of permanent.

She and her husband had just returned from a quick weekend visit–the first visit since the big move.
The daughter had plotted and planned a grand weekend adventure for her parents as it was their first trip to the Windy City. At one point during the adventure, the daughter looked at her mom asking if there was anything special she wanted to do or see before having to head back south to Georgia.
My friend then said something that struck such a deep chord in my soul. She turned to her daughter, locking her arm around her daughter’s arm and said– “I didn’t come up here to be entertained. I don’t care if I do or see a single thing. . .the only thing I wanted to do was to be with you”

WOW!

That took my breath away not to mention the sudden tears filling my eyes.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a mom anymore who can say that to me or that I can now finally truly appreciate hearing that from my mom–or that I would long hearing that from my mom.
I suddenly felt a tremendous sense of sadness missing my mom.
Maybe it’s because I was thinking sightseeing mode for my friend and the fact that she just wanted / needed to see her daughter, as that was all that simply mattered, caught me by surprise.
Only the love of a mother. . .

The next observation came Friday evening. My husband and I had gone to dinner at a local restaurant. The place was packed as we were lead over to our table. Scanning the overtly crowded restaurant, I thought I recognized the face of a former student but thought better of it as I knew he was now making his home in Atlanta. Out of the blue, a friend who had seen us being seated, made her way over to say hello. It turns out she and her husband were actually dinning with this former student and his family.

In the midsts of her conversation, she began telling me something about this particular student, when suddenly she said “after his accident. . .”
Accident? I inquired as I had no knowledge of him having been in an accident.
She proceeds to tell me that yes, he had a diving accident almost two years ago and was now paralyzed from the shoulders down.
“WHAT??!!”

Long story short. . . I got up and went over to his table to speak with him. He had come to see me just before I retired a little over two years ago. He had graduated college and was actually working at the State Capital. He had had this diving accident shortly after seeing me at school and has since been in rehab and therapy working on some hoped for mobility.

As I made my way back to my husband and our supper, I was still so terribly shocked. Such a vivacious, joyful young man perched on the periphery of a long career and happy future when BAM, he’s thrown a devastating curve ball. Yet he still possesses that most vivacious smile and joyful spirit.
I wondered if I could or would have any sort of spirit if I was sitting in his place or if I were his mom. The unfairness of life plagued my heart.

The last situation came about yesterday.
I had run up town to a local little farmer’s co-op when I ran into a young man I had had the pleasure of working with many years back. I had also had the pleasure of teaching his wife many years ago. I actually had worked with both this young man as well as his older brother as they each began with careers in education at my school. Having long left teaching, he now owns his own investment firm and is quite successful.

As this was a Monday morning and he was not dressed for the office, I asked if he wasn’t working today or did he take Monday’s off. He seemed to be a bit reserved which was quite out of character.
He hung his head a bit, telling me that “no, this is the second anniversary of my son’s death and I just couldn’t go in to work today.”

Hit with the enormity of his words, I felt winded.

Two years ago, as he and his beautiful family, his wife and three young sons, were leaving a restaurant off our town’s small downtown square, just as the family was crossing the street, a truck made a shape turn into the intersection, not seeing the young child at the end of family’s journey across the street, the truck struck and killed the little boy.

It was a terrible accident. The young teen driver had simply not seen the little boy. It was a devastatingly tragic accident. An accident which shook our entire community.
I had not realized, when I saw my friend, that this particular day had marked the very sad day of remembrance for his family. Again, the unfairness of life plagued my heart. As a parent, who has not suffered though such a tragedy, any and all words of solace on my part ring terribly empty, as simply, there are no words.

And so it is on this October day that I am most mindful of Life and of her most fragile nature.
Her Triumphs and her tragedies.
We are joined together, you and I, by the ties of such events which take place each and every day.
It is what joyfully or sadly grants us a unifying humanity. For good or for bad we journey together on this planet. We are all given choices. We may either join together supporting one another as the global family we are, or we may rile against one another with suspison, distrust and hate.

There are those who are bent on destruction and hate.
And I wonder, what is the point.
I am reminded of the lyrics of Gary Jules song, It’s a mad world:
“And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world, mad world, mad world, mad world”

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5

May we choose caring, may we choose compassion, may we choose love, may we choose Life.
Life is simply too fragile to choose anything else.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:3-4

DSCN8303

It’s time to reclaim my friends

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.
Rabindranath Tagore

RSCN8291
(long abandoned blue bird eggs / Julie Cook / 2014)

I know they were just two trees.
I know they were sick.
I know they needed to be cut . . .
. . .yet they were more than just trees.
They were homes.
They were alfresco dinning.
They were shelter.
They were shade.

Adjusting to their absence is not proving easy.
Just walking outside, immediately into the blinding sun, is a constant and very hot reminder–as are the two massive bare spots now covered in straw.

There is one glaring change, however, that is proving almost too painful to bare.
The sound.
There is no sound.
No rustling of leaves.
No rush of wind.
Yet the most startling loss of sound is from my feathered freinds.
No chirping.
No singing.
No fluttering of my birds.

DSCN8311

This image of St Francis is on a little card I picked up several years ago when visiting Assisi. It is one of my favorite images of Francis. There is adoration, joy, wonderment, and even serenity.
Arms outstretched, wounds of a stigmata are bourn on hands and feet. . .and the birds rejoice!

The birds rejoice.

And so, with that notion in mind. . .it was time I took matters into my own hands—It was time for me to bring back my birds!! The bevy of constant activity and action taking place on a daily basis just past my window in the two beautifully majestic oaks–both now gone, now silent, now bare.

Fast forward to this morning. . .

I pulled into the massive parking lot, practically jumping from my car, immediately grabbing a buggy (aka for non southerners, shopping cart) and making my way inside the store like a crazy woman on a mission, I then make a bee line to the source of my need.

I push the cart past the ant poison, grabbing two cans–can’t ever have enough ant poison, past the displays of fake christmas trees (helllooo we haven’t even had Halloween yet. . .I digress), past the tropical plants,ooooo pretty orchids–pay attention!! all the way to the back wall.
Looking past the rows of fertilizers, past the potions of weed be gone, past the bottles of gopher poison (do we even have gophers and why should we be killing them??)
Oh, look, sacks upon sacks of rattlesnake killer. . .interesting. . .do I need that?
FOCUS!!!

Moving methodically along the shelf, I finally stop dead in my tracks, for at last, the path of searching and seeking has finally lead to that which I have so desperately sought—-the bird feeders, the bird seeds, the bird houses, the bird suet, the mealy worms?!. . .
EXCELLENT!!

“Cut down my trees. . .huh uh”
Defiant thoughts run through my head as I gleefully pile my buggy (cart) to the brim as if in a trance.

Once back home, it’s assembly time.
I bought a telescopic “pole” thingie, of which will take the place of a tree. I know, I know, it’s a stretch yes, but I was a girl scout—one must always be prepared and must make do with what’s available!!!
Locating a sledge hammer, I proceed to pound that sucker into the ground. It will afford me to hang up 4 feeders. Woooowhooooo!
I found a cute little suet house which holds two suet packs.
I found a really interesting feeder that holds 4 pre molded pods of seed. Oh the advancements in feeding the birds!
Ooooooo!!

DSCN8299

DSCN8301

DSCN8314

Finally putting on all the finishing touches, I step back to admire my bird “retreat”

DSCN8302

DSCN8313

Hummmmmm. . .
Too much?
Ok, so maybe it’s a bit over the top.
Maybe it makes me look a tad desperate. Don’t answer that.
Maybe Peaches is not exactly a welcoming mat (welcoming cat, get it. . . digressing)
Now it is time to head back inside and wait.
And woe to first raccoon, with hot little paws, attempting to undo what I spent all afternoon doing–otherwise I’ll be right back at that store taking a close second look at that gopher poison. . .just saying.

Vibrancy

“The more ugly, older, more cantankerous, more ill and poorer I become, the more I try to make amends by making my colors more vibrant, more balanced and beaming.”
Vincent van Gogh

DSCN7739
(American Beauryberry hiding out deep in the woods, Troup Co, Ga / Julie Cook / 2014)

As Monday morning has rolled around once again, with many of us heading back to a long grinding week of school, travel and work, I decided we could all do with a little jolt color—just enough as to evoke a smile verses too much which might leave us a bit unsettled.

I could think of no better example than the American Beautyberry bush (callicarpa americana), also known as the French Mulberry–bedecked and bejeweled with its skittle like candy colored berries?

DSCN7738

DSCN7734

The Beautyberry is a member of the verbena family and cousin to lantana.
The Beautyberry’s fruit, also known as drupes, those lucious looking clusters of vibrant lavender berries are a favorite food of the Northern Bobwhite, also known as Quail. The American Whitetail deer enjoys foraging on the leaves of the Beautyberry and Native Americans used the roots, leaves and berries to create teas which would treat such ailments as rheumatism, malaria, fever, dysentery as well as colic.

Botanist and scientists continue to study the Beautyberry’s powerful ability of warding of mosquitoes, gnats and ticks with some proclaiming the chemical compounds found in the leaves may equal the chemical Deet when battling such bloodthirsty pests.

I found a lovely site by a Florida forager who makes Beautyberry Jelly and has even concocted his own Beautyberry insect repellant cream that he claims to be “hands down” the best repellant he’s ever used.
Who knew ?!

Beautyberry Jelly
as excepted form the site:
http://www.eattheweeds.com/beautyberry-jelly-on-a-roll/

1 ½ qts. of Beautyberries, washed and clean of green stems and leaves. Cover with 2 qts. water.Boil 20 minutes and strain to make infusion. Use 3 cups of the infusion, bring to boil, add 1 envelope Sure-Jell and 4 ½ cups sugar. Bring to second boiland boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until foam forms. Skim off foam, pour into sterilized jars, cap.

Repellant Cream
I pretty much chopped up a plant(leaves and stems) and boiled it in a pot and let it cool and strained the brown liquid into my blender, about 1 1/2 cups. In a separate pot I warmed some organic neem oil (1 cup) with 1 ounce of beeswax until melted. Then you turn the blender on and pour in the oil mixture very slowly and it becomes a cream. I have to say hands down the best insect repellent ever! Because its a creme on july/august days one application is all you need for the entire day even when your sweating.”

DSCN7733

DSCN7736

DSCN7735

DSCN7737

Here’s to a happy and vibrant Monday!!

Rays of Hope

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
Desmond Tutu

DSCN8270
(a late afternoon setting October sun casting rays through the trees / Julie Cook / 2014)

As you may recall I ventured over to visit my dad on Friday.
He was so so.
Gloria was her typical ornery self but had made a wonderful Greek salad for lunch.
Dad doesn’t eat any lettuce other than iceberg, so he wasn’t happy. God forbid he should live dangerously by trying a bite of romaine. . .

Just after arriving, I made pleasantries with Gloria who was struggling in the kitchen.
I happily asked if I could help her as it appeared she was going to such trouble.
A sarcastic quip and smart response of “oh, I suppose I don’t ever go to trouble any other time!?” flew back. . .ooookay I thought, fumbling now trying to explain what I meant. . .ugh. . .
“No, that’s not what I meant, it just looks like you’ve really done too much, I didn’t intend for you to go to any trouble. . .”
She told me she didn’t need any help. . . of course. . .so I wandered in to chat with dad.

He was sitting in his chair watching, you guessed it, a black and white movie with this one being a bit newer, as in 1947 new , Cass Timberlane.
Spencer Tracey and Lana Turner.
“So Dad, how are things” I asked trying to sound perky.
“oh, I don’t know” comes the rather dejected reply.
“Well what’s the problem Dad?
“Oh the things I see in my mind’s eye. . .”
“WHAT did you just say?!” as in when did he start talking like Yoda and a mind’s eye??
“Every morning when I wake up the first thing my mind’s eye (really?) sees is Ed laid out on that table.

“Oh dear lord, here we go again” I silently moan.

For those of you who may be new to reading cookiecrumbs, I’ve previously written about my brother and his suicide and of my coming to terms with that crazy time in my small family’s story, shortly after beginning this blog.

( https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/ )

I’ve also written about my rather dysfunctional family, as well as about having been adopted, as well as having lost my mom to cancer when I was much younger, as well as now dealing with a parent in the mental decline of Alzheimer’s disease along with the continued steps of coming to terms with all of the above while maintaining sanity complete with a good dose of humor.

I share my stories in hope that they may bring comfort, a smile, a thought, an idea, the encouragement that none of us are ever truly alone in our various trials. . . a hope that others who may find themselves dealing with or living with and in similar circumstances never feel totally isolated. I also share my stories because I am a strong believer in the power of HOPE!

My hope comes from my faith and the knowledge that I am only the created and NOT the Creator. Meaning I am not the one who is in control. There is One much greater than myself and that I constantly need Him to be very present in my life. I marvel that a loving God, sent a part of himself as a sacrifice for a woefully fallen and dark world in order to offer me, and anyone or everyone who so chooses, salvation from the despair of living in a fallen world. Hope as well as Life in the Resurrection of the One who over came Death. Yes, we may still have to fight the battles, but our Hope rests in the knowledge that the War is truly already won.

It is to that very Hope which I have chosen to cling to because the alternative is most grim.
My dad has always chosen grim.

My dad continues to blame himself for my brother’s death. My brother was, if memory serves, 30 when he took his life, and I in turn was 35 as there was a 5 year difference in our ages.
Before that fateful day there had been years of great trouble.
Years of our family living in a dark place with a member spiraling out of control with metal illness.
Violent outbursts.
Living with genuine fear and misery.
Eventually he was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia.
Mother had long succumbed to the cancer, as a means of release.
And my brother had gone on a meticulous and manic search for his adopted parents–only to be rejected again by the mother he so desperately sought.

Doctors had told us he was dangerous.
Finally, after years of maintaining a life of codependency and enabling, Dad thankfully took some initiative. He told my brother that he was no longer welcome in the house—unless he sought help and maintained that help.

Dad had to change the locks on the house–even putting a deadbolt on his own bedroom door.
At the time I was married, pregnant with our first child and living off in another town. I was told to be vigilant and to avoid my brother if he attempted any sort of contact.
Our relationship had always been strained at best—I wasn’t expecting contact.

The short of this long story is that he committed suicide up in the Ohio town to where he had tracked his birth mother. After shutting him out for the second time in his life and rebuffing his gesture for a reconnection, he was devastated, choosing the sad alternative of simply taking his life.

After that tragic time in our family’s history, Dad spiraled deep into his own dark place of mental isolation as he took on the full responsibility which was never his to take.
Our family doctor prescribed for him anti depressants, encouraged him to talk with a psychiatrist, but after years of his refusing to work toward some sort of understanding as to why my brother was the way he was, which had nothing to do with my dad or mom or me, and for refusing to let go of constantly blaming himself, our family physicians threw their hands up in frustration.

Dad bit onto the guilt, and everything associated with it, savoring each sad piece and proudly wearing it like a hair shirt—almost relishing the negative place it took him.

My uncle, when he was still living, was the only person who could get my dad to “act right and fly straight” as he was Dad’s older brother. One word from him and Dad would shut up his “oh woe is me” business turning to the forward moving reality of life at hand verses the dark murky business of a past who’s ending was always the same.
I miss my uncle.

So on this particular Friday afternoon as Dad continued babbling on about “his mind’s eye” nightmare, of what he did and didn’t do, I simply reminded him, for the zillionth time, that that was a long time ago.
Ed was sick and we / he had nothing to do with that sickness and it was time to let all of that go, for his own peace of mind.
Then I immediately brought up Spencer Tracey staring at us thankfully from the television.

Thank God for Spencer Tracey!! I don’t think I ever thought I’d be thankful for Spencer Tracey!
And thank God for Gloria arriving at the door to announce that lunch was ready and thank God for romaine lettuce!

But more importantly I truly and sincerely thank God every day for the Hope He has provided and for its place in my very being.
Hope, joined together by Faith is all any of us has—the alternative is a long, deep, dark hole of emptiness and despair.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see
Hebrews 11:1

May we choose both our enduring faith and the power of hope. . .

En Masse

Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself.
Carl Jung

DSCN8258
(an October Georgia evening as a flock of starlings seek a place to roost for the night / Julie Cook / 2014)

Their numbers are limitless.
Their sound is deafening.
Their precision is inspiring.
They are just a bunch of birds,
and yet. . .they represent so much more. . .

DSCN8259

DSCN8262

DSCN8260

RSCN8269

Upon first glance, it appears as if there is a giant moving, living, breathing black cloud undulating overhead.
It glides across the sky to and fro, with no particular rhyme nor reason.
It is not following the current of the wind as it sets its own course.
It defies any law of gravity as it goes where it chooses, when it chooses.
The cloud descends, en masse, onto power lines or within the tops of trees with a deafening din of chatter.
It is as masterful as it is precise.
It is greater and more artfully versed than any human could ever hope to choreograph.

To watch a flock of birds in flight, especially a large mass of birds such as starlings and / or blackbirds, is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of birds in one maddening swarm move in and out, up and down, shifting and weaving with such precision, it’s simply difficult to comprehend.

These birds, although individuals, combine to make what appears to be a single living and breathing mass or entity which for all apparent purposes appears to have a mind of its own.
They, these individual birds, must interact with such agility and precision as not to fly into one another as well as avoid colliding with trees and / or power poles. Their ability to work effortlessly in tandem is nothing short of humbling.

As I stand staring, as if in a hypnotic trance, gazing skyward–listening and watching the ethereal ariel spectacle, my mind fumbles for words. I think of the verse in Matthew, Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

That the omnipotent one true God of all of Creation knows the birds.
That He knows each bird. . .
Each bird in this massive, confusing swarm of precise madness, and yet. . .
I am told that He also knows me.
He knows me even more so then He knows these birds.
Knows, as in an intimate relationship. . .
as in everything known and hidden, good and bad. . .as He is said to have formed me (knit me together) in my mother’s womb. . .
the same mother I never knew, yet it is He who knew me. . .even before I was formed, He knew me. . .
I am also told He cares for me more so than these birds.
These birds who are able to dance across the sky with grace and magic, soaring and diving in grand unison.
And yet, He is aware of me.
More than aware. . .He has a deep abiding knowledge which goes beyond acquaintance.
He knows, He sees, He loves.

And as I continue staring at a black cloud dancing across the horizon, a tremendous sense of well being engulfs a weary soul. . .