The power of Chocolate

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

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(a decadent slice of chocolate heaven from Sprungli’s cafe Zurich, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2012)

For Mother, it was an icy cold Coke.
For Dad, it is chocolate, any and all sort.

Yesterday, late morning, I ran into one of my family’s favorite places in Atlanta.
Henri’s Bakery.
Henri’s is one of the oldest existing bakeries in the city, that and Rhodes Bakery. And granted there are better tasting bakeries within the city, Henri’s has long been woven into the fabric of my life starting when my mother was a little girl. I’ve never really thought much about it but I suppose having a very french sounding bakery in the middle of “old Atlanta” is a bit odd, especially to those transplant yankees and / or visitors to the city.

Henri’s is in the exact same location it’s been in since I was a little girl. Tucked away on a small unassuming little side street and now prime real-estate corner lot, lacking adequate parking, almost cowering in the shadows of high-rise office buildings, uber chic condos and the elegant St Regis Hotel. . .in an area that is at the center of what one considers to be the heart of true Atlanta or more commonly known as Buckhead.

Today’s Buckhead area is known for its posh and ultra chic shopping, Michelin Star dinning, eclectic watering holes, and 5 star hotels—a playground and shopping mecca of the famous and not so famous.
I simply just know it as the place where I spent my childhood and my growing up as both my grandmothers lived in Buckhead. It’s where my mom and dad grew up. . . walking to attend school, riding bikes to the movies, eventually meeting on a blind date and lucky for me, marrying.

Buckhead’s humble beginning was a far cry from today’s scene of upscale prestige. There once was an old general store at the crossroads of what is today’s Roswell Rd and Peachtree Rd. A single dirt road diverged into two separate dirt roads exactly at the site of the general store, with the store being the stopping point on one’s journey up either of the two roads. On the front of the old general store, up above the door, was a mounted head of a buck—hence Buckhead. This was a time long before Sherman had even set his sites on Atlanta, burning it to the ground.

Henri’s opened up in Atlanta in 1929, owned and operated by Henri Fiscus–a man who immigrated to Atlanta from France where he had been trained as a classic Chef. The original location was actually in downtown Atlanta–the location where my aunt remembers visiting every Sunday evening, along with my mom and grandmother, as they would go pick up Sunday’s quick and easy, but oh so fresh and good, supper. To this day, when she comes back to Georgia for a visit, I have to take her over to Atlanta to Henri’s for one of their famous Po Boys on the savory house made French Baguettes. I happen to be partial to the shortbread cookies. . .

I had driven over to Atlanta yesterday to run a few errands before going over to see Dad.
I had told Dad that I would pick up lunch.
“Oh no you don’t have to do that, I think we have something here”
“Dad, just ask Gloria if she’d like for me to pick up lunch.”
“GLO”
“Dad, if she’s not close by just ask her later and call me back”
I think he was afraid he’d forget to ask her as he continued hollering her name.
I suppose getting up and going to see where she was would have been too much to ask.
“GLO”
“IT’S JULIE ON THE WIRE”
Wire Dad?
Long story of yelling short, Gloria said yes, she’d like for me to pick up lunch.

After running a few errands in town, I headed over to Henri’s.
The last place my grandmother had lived was across the street from Henri’s.
Her condominiums having long since been torn down, now making room for a sprawling modern upscale living and shopping development. As I fight off the sweeping cloak of melancholy and longing that always finds me when I drive past my memories, I fretted about finding a parking spot.
Henri’s gets very very crowded at lunchtime–so much so that they have an off duty Atlanta policeman directing traffic.

Today I was lucky, a spot at the front door! Woohoo!!
Walking in the door, I immediately grab a shopping basket and head over to the shelf containing the sandwiches. There is only a limited number of the “famous” sandwiches that are made up for the day–if you’re not early, you miss out but there is now a counter where you can have your sandwiches custom made if you prefer. I grab two of the Po boys and a regular turkey on white for dad, a couple of sacks of chips as I make for the most important counter in the store. . . the beautifully displayed pastries, cakes and cookies.

As I ogle the decadent goodies through the glass, a woman behind the counter asks if she can help me.
I ask for 2 dozen of the shortbread cookies, the ones with the little colorful sugar dot in the center, with each dozen going in a separate box. One box to stay with dad, one box to go home with me.
Next I ask for the most important item of all on my list—two chocolate bombs.
A most decadent conglomeration of chocolate cake, cream, chocolate ganache, a chocolate shell covered in chocolate shavings—for I know my father’s weakness. . .Chocolate.

Dad let’s me in the house as I carry in our lunch.
Like a little kid, he can’t wait for me to pull out the magic little white boxes.
“What’s that?”
“What’s in there?”
“What’s in that box?”
“Cookies Dad.”
“Oooo, I love cookies”
“What’s in that thing?”
“That Dad is your chocolate bomb–2 of them” I proudly proclaim knowing that I have just made his day.
“Oooooo”

Dad eats only half his sandwich before he asks for a cookie.
He chooses the cookie with the chocolate dot on top, opting the eat the chocolate center while leaving the shortbread cookie part behind. At 87 I’m thinking he’s acting more like 7 but I don’t say anything.
“Can I have my bomb now” as glee filled expectancy fills the room.
“You’ve got two of them Dad, you can eat them whenever you’d like!”
“I want one now” which is more of a demand than a polite statement.
In less then 10 minutes, the only thing remaining on his plate are a few chocolate crumbs.

Happy, chatty, friendly and the most attentive and focused he’s really been in a long time, Dad has had a good day, which in turn equates to my having had a good day with Dad.
There is often no substitute for the familiar, the tried and the true.
In this case a humble little outdated bakery which is still owned and operated by the founding family, throw in a couple of sandwiches, a box of shortbread cookies, a chocolate bomb or two, and you’ve got the making of a magical moment.
May we never under estimate the power of chocolate.

Sweet, fuzzy and demure

Cold blows the wind against the hill,
And cold upon the plain;
I sit me by the bank, until
The violets come again.

Richard Garnett

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(small tiny fuzzy African violet bloom / Julie Cook / 2014)

The African violet, the sweet demure blue, purple or white blooms of the Saintpaulia, originated in Eastern Africa. The plant was officially “discovered” in 1892 by Baron Walter von St Paul-Illaire, (from which the name derives) a german district commissioner in today’s Tanzania. Seeds made their way back to Germany as well as to the Royal Botanic Gardens near London, helping to ensure the plants popularity during the Victorian Age.

The tiny blossoms, which are edible, are often “candied” and used in decorating cakes or tossed for added color in various salads. The flowers have long been associated with both Greek and Roman mythology where they were attributed to those of chaste virtue and often given as tokens of enduring love. They are the official state flower to 4 different states as well as the official flower of Greece.

Throughout history the plants have been associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and therefore denote modesty and chastity. It is said that the violets were all originally white but as Mary deeply mourned, having witnessed the agonizing death of her son, the flowers turned purple, reflecting her sorrow.

It is my desire today to offer to you a small token or gift—-a gift of gentleness and remembrance—as well as a gift of color, a much needed dose of bright beautiful color. So many of us are finding ourselves crawling out from under the sudden blast of winter weather overload, which is currently gripping the entire Nation.
Weren’t we just wearing shorts last month!?

50 of 50 states have recorded freezing temperatures this week (Hawaii has mountains remember).
6 feet of snow blanketed upstate New York in a single day, as an additional 3 to 4 feet followed yesterday.
Tornadoes, flooding rains and straight line winds reigned havoc upon an unsuspecting South and are forecast to return by the weekend. All this was immediately followed by record breaking freezing days and nights. While out in the Pacific Ocean, a massive lava flow continues gobbling up land and homes in Hawaii.
Crazy weather and climates. . .
. . .and it’s only just Fall.

Yes, a little jolt of sweet tender color is much needed. . .

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.

Isaiah 35:1-2

“Baby it’s cold outside”

Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

As the mercury in the old glass thermometer begins to make its steady descent, falling lower and lower in the tiny glass stem, reaching that crucial 32º F, magic begins to unfold in the ancient crumbling birdbath.
Liquid collides with frigid air as molecules slow.
Interlocking and spreading outward from itself as frenetic now becomes static. A surface oddly appears where moments before there was none.
Dripping, sloshing and evaporating, everyday miraculous occurrences taken for granted, are now trapped and caught in a single moment of time being transformed from the familiar to the foreign, as a season shifts and a cold stalk reality settles in making itself at home.

And as we are told that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” we must remember, know and claim that even in the simplest act of water changing from a liquid to a solid, from the overflow of rain water in an old birdbath to a thick sheet of ice, this act of the miraculous, does not pass or escape the knowledge of the Master Creator.
Something as commonplace as water freezing during the coming of the winter months, all takes place with the knowledge and observation of a Heavenly Father who has set the planets and the seasons in motion, who has cast light into the darkness, and who continues to offer hope in a world full of hopelessness.

Even in the insignificant discarded birdbath, God’s mastery is on display for any and all to take note. His fingerprints are present in the warmth of the sun as well as in the devoid nature of ice.
Who is this who has set forth the scientific laws of motion, gravity, combustion, transformation, energy. . .man may be able to replicate and create change, for good or bad, but he can only take from what he has been given—and much has been given.

Rejoice then shall we, in the light of day, the twinkling stars by night, the warmth of the sun, the blooming of the flowers, the abundance of the field and even in the barren, harsh frozen nothingness of the silence known as Winter. For there is no place on this planet where God is not—that we may learn to rejoice even as the earth transforms from the welcoming and enveloping seasons of warmth and abundant color to a time of lonely cold and unforgiving ice.
. . . As this amazing lesson and reminder now unfolds and is on full display in a lone and forgotten birdbath.

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(a frozen birdbath on a frosty November morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

Winning or the tale of a “Damn Good DAWG”

“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. Thats the essence of it.”
― Vince Lombardi

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(one dog in the continuous line of the last 7 UGA bulldog mascots / AJC image)

Attending the University of Georgia during the late 1970’s and early 80’s was a magical time full of pure wonderment and joy.
It was a time of National Championships, Heisman Trophies, broken records, sUGAr raining from the sky, and all of the things of which legends are made.
Those were heady days in which to be a college coed.
It helped if you liked football.

Being raised in the South, I indeed not only liked, but loved college football, as I still do. I do not speak of the round variety of futbol played world over—but rather I speak of the humble and odd oval pigskin variety which is the epitome of the quintessential slice of Americana.
Blame it on my father, for I was raised watching as well as loving college football.

Those exciting days of fame made oh so sweet by the likes of Herschel Walker, Vince Dooley and Larry Munson have all but long disappeared from the forefront of University of Georgia. Those legend makers have retreated back into the shadows where they now live as the ghosts of Glories past. Their phantasm images remain ready to haunt old, as well as new, fans and coaches alike as each season the hopes of the DAWG Nation silently, noisily, fantasizes “will this will be the year???”

That same nagging and haunting question hangs painfully and often bitterly over the heads, as the awkward elephant in the room, of colleges and schools nationwide. As time marches on and Legends come and go, their parting often brings the anxious anticipation and hope of recapturing those long past days of not only winning and bragging rights, but of fame and fortune. Because isn’t that what football is all about now, the fame and the fortune?

We need not look only to The University of Georgia as a school, a team and a fan base which seeks out those days of glory gone by, but we may cast our glances to schools such as Ohio State who wistfully wonder if their glory days, which harken back to the likes of Woody Hayes, may rest on the steely shoulders of Urban Meyer, as Buckeyes continue to exorcise the demons of the ingrained image of a beloved and aging coach, who’s frustration with a player and a game gone a rye, lead to the infamous punch seen round the world.

Ghosts of glory may also be found on the campus of the University of Alabama who’s legendary Coach Bear Byant is the standard bearer for all of college football and of what it takes to create winning programs. His image is hallowed with not only Bama fans, but with college football fans, young and old nationwide as no one can deny the immortal houndstooth.

And then there was the sad and tragic toppling of a legend in Pennsylvania which was shrouded in mystery, denial, pedophilia, fame and the defamation of a once almost holy character. I won’t go into the details of Joe Paterno as I was once a stalwart Penn State fan. I continue to sort out the horrendous accusations of a heroic legend of a man who I can’t wrap my brain around having not known what evils were taking place in his “backyard”. . .

Yet it is to the hallmark of the ultimate American tale, the one of seeking a better life, hard work and success, coupled with a tragic premature ending, which most likely captures the imagination of many a sports fan—that of the legendary player and coach of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, Knute Rockne. Rockne immigrated with his parents to the US from Norway in 1903. He grew up in Chicago playing neighborhood ball. He played football in high school, but the lack of funding forced the would-be gridiron standout to head to the workforce. Four years of working at the Chicago post office, a 22 year old Rockne finally saved enough money to attend Notre Dame where he not only played football, earning the honor of All American, but where he also coached immortalizing the emotionally charged phrase “win one for the Gipper”

Sadly however, today’s college football, for good or bad, along with collegiate sports in general, has morphed into something almost unrecognizable, falling victim to the all mighty dollar. Today there is television and savvy marketing which brings not only popularity but millions upon millions of dollars to schools clamoring for a piece of the pie. Scholarships, advertisements, colossal stadiums, notoriety and endorsements run amuck. These are the things which now drive and dictate college sports. The winning at all costs mentality is sadly what keeps coaches with a job. And who wants to lose a multimillion dollar job?

Fans, alumni and sportscasters become a fickled lot. No longer is a winning record important but things such as key rivalry games and national titles now loom paramount. A beloved coach who “allows” the team to lose the hope of playing for, not only in a bowl game, as it must be an important bowl, but the loss of a potential national title, can quickly find any coach in the proverbial hot seat come Monday morning following any loss during the usual round of the sports talk shows hitting the airwaves.

Fans and alumni begin clamoring for a “head on the plate” as something must change and change quickly because we are a Nation of winners.
Americans do not like losers.

Enter Mark Richt, the current head football coach at the University of Georgia.

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If I had a son who played football, I would want him playing for a man like Mark Richt.
Richt is a man of conscience, who is driven and steered by a faith based compass. His is a deep based unwavering faith in a God of mercy and grace.
Ohhh, I can hear those who lead the atheist protest groups and those of the ACLU raising their wary little antennas worried we’re mixing Christianity on the field of play. My observation of Coach Richt is not of a man leading a team of Christian soldiers—he merely happens to be a Christian who happens to be a leading SEC football coach who happens to merely be a ‘lead by example’ sort of man.

When Auburn’s current quarterback, Nick Marshall, who was recruited and signed by UGA, was caught stealing from fellow teammates, Richt cut him from the team. Richt believes that for all actions there are consequences and that everyone must see those consequences through, as painful as they may be for everyone involved, even at the risk of winning. Nick Marshall has since worked his way back to a leading role in the SEC, much to Richt’s delight. Never smug or condescending, Coach Richt is a believer in second chances and the turning around of misguided character. He was pleased that lessons were obviously learned and that this young man is finally seeing a dream come true.

The guidance and teaching of young men is a big factor as to why Coach Richt is in the business of coaching—for you see coaching goes well beyond the calling and formulating of plays–anyone in education or who has ever played on a team under the leadership of either a good or bad coach knows.

Yet frustratingly, positive events for Mark Richt do not always come easily or readily as they do for his counterpart head coaches who seem to bask in the ever constant lime light of the big wins and success. Why that is, I’m not sure but somewhere I hear the idiom “good guys finish last” rolling around in my head. He and his team often seem plagued and deluged by a constant series of bad luck, bad breaks and bad calls year after year after year. The latest incident of famed running back Todd Gurley, who just finished sitting out a 4 game suspension handed down by the NCAA for the profiting of signing sports memorabilia, is just one case in point—

The crowning blow of Richt’s season, a season that had been so highly anticipated as the Bulldogs were highly touted, sitting atop leading polls back at the end of the summer, in this now surreal world of a college football playoff. . .yet all of the hopes and dreams which had slowly faded from losses to both SEC rivals, South Carolina and Florida, came crashing down on one particular play at the end of Saturday’s game against Auburn. Todd Gurley had come back from the suspension chomping at the bit to play.

His Heisman Trophy hopes already dashed by his own poor choices, Gurley still had some things to prove. The first play of the game, Gurley ran the kickoff back for a touchdown which was then immediately called back due to a Bulldog penalty–the continuing curse of the penalties has been a self inflicted slow bleeding demise for the Bulldogs. Gurley continued to work in tandem with teammate and fellow running back Nick Chubb throughout the game, gaining yards and racking up points. Yet it was during one of the final plays of the game when Gurley, running the ball, was hit. He goes down grabbing his leg yet eventually gets up, walking off the field under his own power. He wasn’t carted off the field, he could even be seen walking the sidelines. However it was a MRI which later confirmed the fears of the Bulldog Nation, Gurley had blown out his knee, tearing his ACL– ending not only his playing season, but his tenure at UGA.

Does one player make a team?
No.
Does one play make a season?
Sometimes.
However Gurley’s suspension and now torn knee are but a few pieces of the never ending litany of bad breaks which have besieged this most mild mannered coach and of this often maligned and under respected team.

Todd Gurley will have surgery to repair his knee. He will rehab and be as good as new. He will most likely be a high pick in the draft, going on to a lucrative career in the NFL.

There will be those who question Richt’s decision for having left Gruley in the game when it was clear the game was in their hands. There are those who have thought that Richt is not aggressive enough, too nice to be a head coach in one of the biggest powerhouse conferences of the game. There are those who clamor that Richt just can’t win “the big one” or that the team lacks consistency. He hangs on to his offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, when others have called for Bobo’s head on a platter. Anything and everything that is wrong with the Bulldogs all comes back to Richt.

Yet one thing is certain, Mark Richt is consistent.
He does not bend under pressure. He does not acquiesce, he does not put his moral compass aside if its inconvenient for his audience.
He is a leader,
a quiet man,
a kind man.
He is often unruffled on the playing field.
He is steadfast, not one given to the emotional fits and tirades often displayed by so many other emotionally charged college coaches.
He is a rock during a crisis.
He consistently does the right thing by all under his command regardless of position, his paycheck, or pressure.
He is the example of how one human being should treat a fellow human being.

College coaches are often compared to opposing strategizing generals who formulate plans of attack against “the enemy”—a steely game of chess with the elusive checkmate hanging in the balance. I know that I would be more than happy to follow a man like Mark Richt into battle as he is cool under pressure and always has the best of his men in the forefront of his mind.

All those attributes are great and grand you say, but they don’t win football games.
What about the Glory days you ask.
What about the multimillion dollar endorsements?
What about all the money generated and brought to the schools that win?
What about the fame, the fortune?
Yeah, you’re probably right. . .
. . .but there once was a time when winning wasn’t everything.

Now

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Henry Stanley Haskins

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.
Pope Paul VI

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(tufted titmouse enjoying breakfast / Julie Cook / 2014

Don’t look now, but like it or not, Monday morning is here again.
Adding a bit of the proverbial insult to injury, it’s pouring down rain. . .
yet I suppose it could be worse. . .and we do need the rain. . .

So for better or for worse, we don’t have much of a choice now do we?
Yes Monday it is and it is here. . . as in it is here all day.
The weekend has officially passed and is now “in the books”. . .it has come and gone and for some of us, the passing of the weekend is a good thing—for others of us, the end has come entirely too soon.
Last week, is just that, last week. . .as in, for good or bad, it is well behind us.
And now, spread out before us like a wonderful new book waiting to be explored, is this brand new day and this brand new week complete with its rain, cold and snow.

As in here it is, right NOW!!!

Tomorrow, followed by the end of the week, then followed by the upcoming weekend, and then the following week, only to be followed by next month. . .are all simply ahead of us—as in there is nothing we can do as we have no control as to when or how or if those days will ever come. . .

The importance of today is simply that, the importance of the now. . .as in the only thing that really matters is today and of the now of today.
Do you think it possible to learn how to embrace the now of this moment of today rather than worrying about those things which took place yesterday or fretting about the things that will happen tomorrow?

When I was in high school, Pope Paul VI was the pope occupying the chair of Peter and the overseer of the Catholic Church.
Giovanni Montini, the prelate from Milan, was what I always considered to be a rather austere, seemingly quiet and a bit cold academic—a most learned man–yet very different from his predecessor, the jolly and loving John XXIII as well as for his two successors, the ever smiling and shy John Paul I and the most charismatic and mystical John Paul II.

For this rather bookish academic to have uttered the words of today’s quote, that we should learn to seize the day, seemed to be a bit out of character. And yet it is for this very uncharacteristic comment from a very reserved spiritual leader on the world stage, which has brought a smile to my face and a small spring to my step.
If Pope Paul VI says that life is too short and therefore each day, each “now,” is to be embraced, enjoyed and celebrated, then by george, who am I to refute such sage advice??

So on this new day to this new week of this month of thanksgivings, may we be mindful of the words of Pope Paul VI . . .”whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows. . .”

Plea for Prayers: Baby Facing Major Neuro- and Plastic Surgery

May we all come together in prayer for little Emmett and his entire family–especially on the day of his surgery, November 19th and throughout his recovery.

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Craniosynostosis – the coronal suture has prematurely fused10734237_10154773675155074_7184992145092792769_n

My ten month old grandson is a happy, quick, engaging little fellow who was born with the plates of his skull fused together prematurely. As a result, he is facing major surgery to cut the plates and reshape his head which has grown lopsided. Emmett’s surgery is on Wednesday Nov. 19 at 9am Eastern Standard Time. The surgery will take between 5-7 hours, but it could take up to 10 hours.

Details of the surgery are as follows: an incision is made from ear to ear, the skull is removed from the orbital bone to the centre of the head. After the neurosurgeon removes a piece of his skull that has fuse prematurely, a plastic surgeon will reshape the skull.  Then the surgeon will put it  back together using plates and screws which are made of a dissoluble substance. They use…

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Embrace

“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

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(the lingering colors of fall / Julie Cook / 2014)

Flavors of the season,
orange sherbet
lemon custard
and
cinnamon–
envelop us dripping lusciously down trees like ice-cream from a cone on a warm sunny afternoon.
Dazzling displays of color,
tantalize
tempt
and
tease–
whetting appetites and visual tastebuds.
The warm yet vibrant hues of the Master Artist’s palette sweeps across the season’s canvas as a jewel toned curtain descends on yet another delicious November day.

What was. . .and will be

All that’s bright must fade, The brightest still the fleetest; All that’s sweet was made But to be lost when sweetest.
Thomas Moore

“God can make a new beginning with people whenever God pleases, but not people with God. Therefore, people cannot make a new beginning at all; they can only pray for one. Where people are on their own and live by their own devices, there is only the old, the past.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

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(frozen and wilted gerber daisies / Julie Cook / 2014)

Brilliant and masterful, the truth once stood
Where luminescent colors mixed and mingled, flowing gently down upon the dirt.
The choice was presented, more times than once, but only the innocent could hear the offer.
“Prepare ye the way,” as the cold swept in, this time from the Northwest sky.
Heeding the warning, we gathered all we had.
The time to seek shelter had arrived.
The advancing forces prepared to route all the followers.
Heads now bowed, no strength remained, “it is done” whispered the wind.

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(frozen and wilted gerber daisies / Julie Cook / 2014)

Fading joy now sorrowfully droops, turning brown and crisp to the touch as the fluids of life simply drain away.
Limp and dying, yet held sweetly in strong arms, the silent foe claims victory at last.
Dormant and silent life now yields its glory.
No sounds nor growing objects dance to fill the silent void which stretches beyond empty ears and eyes.
Barren and desolate prop up against a monochromatic canvas now painfully empty as the sinister thief makes off with all we had.

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(frozen, wilted and brown a once white hydrangea / Julie Cook / 2014)

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(sickening gray and yellowing once vibrant blue hydrangea droop in the cold / Julie Cook /2014)

3 hours gives way to 3 days which gives way to 3 months, as a flat muffled world now waits in devoid silence.
Yet hidden, under the cloak of darkness and buried beep within, a mystery unfolds.
Trembling and twisting, that which was thought to be lost, begins to take form as the Master Creator secretly breaths hope in a world filled with hopelessness.
Hesitant color gingerly and slowly returns to the ashen gray cheeks of death.
Life reaches desperately upward, bursting through its burial chamber, as the gaping crevasse is thankfully bridged.
The resilience of a cyclical world, marked by the miraculous seasons of life, death and life again, offer to all who so choose to believe in the everlasting redemption of Hope.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
(John 10:10)

We can’t go back home. . .

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermuda, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
― Thomas Wolfe

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(kitchen window at Dad’s, my childhood home which has also changed / Julie Cook / 2013)

There is only one thing in life that is certain, other than death and taxes, and that is change.
Change is the only one true constant in life.
A constant state of flux with an undulating fluid forward motion
Growing
Shrinking
Evolving
Morphing
Changing
Nothing stays as we once knew it to be.

And yet, everything, everything that was, everything that helped to define us, that comforted us, that taught us, and nurtured us, is trapped in a static time warp buried protectively deep in the recesses of our mind.
Where it all stays nice and safe.
Safe from progress,
from age,
from growing,
from dying,
from changing

And so it is, when we travel back–back to that place where we were who we were before now. To the place that was and and to the place where everything was and in our memories remains safe.
To the place that was familiar and warm.
To the place that knew us and accepted us for who we were, for what we were, which at that time, was not very much at all.
Not like today.
Not like we are now. . .
For we are no longer that person, the person we once recognized as simply ourselves.
For we are now an important person, a busy person, an adult person, a tired person, a stressed person, a lost person, a new person, a bruised person, a broken person.
And yet all we want, all we long for, is to go back, back home.
To the place that was.
To that place that knew us and we knew it.

Yet looking around at the now grossly unfamiliar, the vaguely familiar, the surreal familiar. . .
as in. . .it all looks oddly familiar yet now oddly different. . .
as in. . .we once knew that this one particular road would take us here and that one particular road would take us there, but this road, this new road of today. . . where will it lead?
No longer will we be going where we thought we were going.
The hometown, the place where we thought we would recognize some minuscule tiny remaining fragments, there is now sadly, oddly more new than old.
The familiar has been:
Torn down.
Built up.
As in. . .
It’s all bigger
It’s all smaller
It’s moved
It’s shut down
It’s repurposed
It’s expanded
It’s grown
It’s crowded
It’s now all so complicated.
So different.

We now find ourselves sad, melancholy and aching for something that is now tangibly long gone. . . lost to the ebb and flow of the changing tides of life.
We desperately seek comfort and solace, we need to be embraced, remembered, taken in to the fold one last time–
For isn’t that what home, the hometown, the childhood is all about?
Acceptance, comfort, solace, a warm embrace, the familiar. . .
And then, as if out of no where we hear a voice, a soothing comforting voice.
A voice that is Love personified.
A voice that sounds familiar and speaks to us in tender familiar tones.
A voice that knows us.
As in knows our inner being, the good, the secret, the bad.
A voice that knew us back then and acceptingly knows us now.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
(Isaiah 43:1)

A familiar sounding voice that calls out in the now cold and unfamiliar, and tells us, tells me, that we are, that I am, claimed. We, you, I, are all acknowledged, remembered. . .in all of the unfamiliar, in all of the longing for what was and is frustratingly no longer, a voice that offers a welcome, an embrace, a welcome home, has thankfully called out to you and to me and has claimed us as His own.
Welcome Home.
Hallelujah!!

What’s in a number?

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
C.S. Lewis

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
Sophia Loren

55-mph-speed-limit-sign-on-rural-road-jpg
(milage sign taken from the web)

To be defined by numbers or to define those numbers?
That is the question this November 13th.
Which by the way, in 1959, was on a Friday.
Bad Luck?
Nope, not at all.
Only good. . .as in it’s all good.

A rite of passage
No passage
Enter
Do not enter
Admittance
No admittance
Legal
Not legal
Speed limits
No limits
The sky’s the limit
Wisdom
Folly
Too old
Too young
Too much
Too little
Too late
Retirement
Medicare
Blood pressure
Cholesterol
Weight
IQ
Height
Birth
Life
Death

To define numbers
or
To be defined by numbers
a choice
or
a restriction
a significance
or
just another day
either way. . .
it’s all good

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Psalms 90:12