A party without cake is really just a meeting.
Monthly Archives: April 2020
Happy Birthday James
“Today you are you!
That is truer than true!
There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”
(James, aka the Sheriff, turns 1 / Julie Cook/ 2020)
Not the birthday celebration we had exactly wanted nor planned–
but joyous none the less…
more to follow later my dear grandson…
“God gave us the gift of life;
it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”
piece of cake
“Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.”
(the wildflowers are now blooming / Julie Cook / 2020)
Oh, how the words of St. Brendan have touched my heart today–
(today, for me, being Monday and yesterday for you).
Walking into the unknown.
Journeying beyond the familiar.
Needing faith, as well as hope, while we leave the old ways, the old life, far behind.
Now left feeling helpless while trying to navigate uncharted waters…
Murky waters leading into something vastly different and to
something surreally new.
This is not to be a temporary change—not a momentary glitch to a set pattern or routine.
Such hiccups in life are not always pleasant but are made manageable in that we know they are
not meant to last…as in, not forever.
But this is not that.
This is not a slight bump or pothole in the road.
I think in all of this that what it boils down to is my simply yearning for what was…
And if the truth is really told, I think it is the feeling of freedom that I long for,
as well as pine over, the most.
To come and go as I once did…without worry or fear.
To hug an old friend who I’ve run into in a store.
To take a spontaneous road trip.
To save for, to plot and then plan a special vacation.
To actually linger in a garden shop…feasting on the colors and breathing in
the heavenly scents of beauty…free of masks or strips of tape that
keep me at a certain distance.
To simply being able to finally go back to the dentist for the new crown for my broken tooth.
Yet all those things are deemed “non-essential”, unnecessary to the basic day to day living.
So instead, I am left to precariously gather weekly supplies while spraying myself
with the sole sacred can of Lysol.
I tend to wee grandchildren as their parents now work and teach from home.
We cook, we eat, we clean, we wash, we huddle together and we wonder what tomorrow
And so yes, I pray that God will give me the faith to leave what was known and trusted
behind as we all now embark on a journey into the new…of that which is
untrodden fresh ground.
If I walk hand in hand with my Father…that which is unknown, will be a piece of cake.
You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you,
that you may live, and that it may go well with you,
and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.
Beautiful hope is found in the weeds
“You are like a chestnut burr, prickly outside,
but silky-soft within, and a sweet kernel,
if one can only get at it. Love will make you show your heart some day,
and then the rough burr will fall off.”
Louisa May Alcott
(a thistle prepares to bloom / Julie Cook / 2020)
Thistles, to me, are most alluring.
To Eeyore, they are a tasty ‘smakeral’ or so Pooh would observe.
They begin, in the early spring, as a spikey mass or clump, of uninviting serrated leaves
emerging oddly from the ground.
Trust me, don’t use bare hands in an attempt to pull them up in order to rid your space
of this most unwanted visitor.
They will eventually send forth one, or even several, shoots sporting a purplish fringed bulb.
As this odd bulb unfurls its full glory, the bloom is almost regal in a crown-like
explosion of texture.
(a thistle crown / Julie Cook / 2020)
And like all earthly glories, these odd blooming weeds eventually fade, turning themselves
back to seed.
(a field of thistles gone to seed /Julie Cook / 2020)
And yet the fact that these plants are considered useless and invasive and even noxious
weeds, there is a beauty found in their blooming and a bit of
respect found in their tenacity.
Saturday I was reading Kathy’s post over on atimetoshare.me —
Kathy was offering some waxing thoughts regarding our world’s current pandemic situation.
I found one passage most enlightening…
Our current younger generation are those who will not experience the pageantry of
a real graduation – those who will not go to their Senior prom –
those who have been through the good, the bad and now the ugly –
those who will be running our country in the next few years.
These unique young people will become a generation of problem solvers,
creative thinkers, money managers, inventive and innovative thinkers all because
their world was turned upside down by a little germ.
They will be the second greatest generation, because they have experienced plenty or at least enough.
They have been on the cutting edge of technology.
They have seen their nation at its worst and at its best.
Kathy noted that this current class of seniors, be it high school or college, are presently
experiencing a great many firsts in the way of loss.
Losses of certain rights of passage.
No Spring sports.
No state championships.
No Spring breaks.
No year-end award ceremonies.
No senior days.
No graduation trips.
Only a seemingly unending sense of loss, isolation with more questions than answers.
And yet Kathy notes that this will be the group to become our next class of problem solvers.
They will be our newest innovators and creative thinkers…in part because
such a role and responsibility has been thrust upon them.
They have been handed a mantle of burden and responsibility despite not necessarily seeing
such coming their way.
And it is perhaps not truly a burden they have wanted…but they have been handed such nonetheless.
And so in this time of surreal losses and misses, there is a generation
that will have to rise to the occasion of problem-solving.
They have the tools at their fingertips as a pandemic has now spurred them on–
be it out of frustration, resentment, or simple curiosity…
hope now rests in the beauty of a blooming generation…
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
carrying the cross–building the kingdom
“Since happiness is nothing other than the enjoyment of the highest good,
and since the highest good is above, no one can be happy unless he rises above himself,
not by an ascent of the body, but of the heart.”
(the blackberries are blooming / Julie Cook / 2020)
Helping Christ carry his cross fills one with a strong and pure joy,
and those who may and can do so, the builders of God’s kingdom,
are the most authentic children of God.
Letter of St. Benedicta of the Cross to her sisters in Carmel
from Communion with Christ According to St. Benedicta of the Cross
by Sister M. Regina Van den Berg
(St Benedicta, otherwise known as Edith Stein, was an intellectual German Philosopher,
Jew turned atheist and eventually committed Christian convert…eventually becoming a Catholic nun.
She took the name Benedicta upon her consecration and was killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.)
keep going…by all means, keep going…
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
(my Penley of Winston Chruchill /Julie Cook/ 2020)
My best-laid plans…
I started this post about 4 days ago…
such is my life right now…
Such is most of our lives right now…
So maybe I need a little pep talk.
Maybe you need a little pep talk.
I think that I might rather prefer a slight swift kick in the pants…
Swift kicks seem to leave a more lasting impression.
Plus they make for immediate forward motion.
I know we are all sick and tired of living in these “uncertain” times.
All you have to do is watch any commercial…be it for cars to credit cards…
every last one now speaks of ” these uncertain times.”
Some of them may use the word uncertain while others use challenging
and some opt for difficult or trying…
but no matter what, it is all most precarious.
But if you ask me, ever since that little apple-eating incident, we’ve long been in
“uncertain times”…but I digress.
If you don’t already know this about me, I live in Georgia.
And our governor announced earlier in the week a plan to begin “re-opening” our state
starting this Friday.
Now there is a tremendous amount of brouhaha ensuing following this executive decision.
All the way from the national level to a local level—
Georgia is now being scrutinized.
Are we crazy?
Have we lost our minds?
I, myself, am a bit torn about it all…yet I am all for jumpstarting our economy.
I’m torn mainly because a stagnant economy makes for a stagnant people,
and a stagnant people makes for a stagnant nation…and a stagnant nation makes
for a sitting duck.
And the flip to jumpstarting an economy is that of our health and wellbeing.
Start or wait then start?
The apocalypse, of which was forecast in all of this, did not materialize.
No booming voices from on high.
However we do know that people have gotten sick, people have suffered and people have died.
So I’ll admit that we do need to go about all of this mess aggressively but also very smartly…
However, we as a people and as a nation, don’t want to knee jerk ourselves into a fetal position
of Henny Penny, the sky is falling and the end is near.
That’s not who we are.
We are home of the brave remember.
We know those who have suffered…those who have lost jobs…
those who have lost loved ones and those who have simply lost their sense of security—
all from a virus…
And thus for some, there seems to be no solace…
and that, my friend, is one key reason as to why we need to propel ourselves forward…
Yet—we are afraid.
We are fearful.
And frighteningly enough, there are those of us who are even afraid to breathe…
as in literally breathing… as we are fearful of what is in the air.
But at some point, we will have to breathe, otherwise, we will all die.
So I wonder… where will we find the correct balance?
Do we press forward or do we continue to wait?
I’d like to think we need to press forward…
but at what cost, what time?
And so that is when I recall those immortal words…
‘when you find yourself in hell, [you mustn’t stop but instead]
you must keep going!’
Those of you who know me, know that Winston Churchill is a bit of a hero of mine.
So when life, be it my own or the larger collective thing we call Life,
proves to be difficult, daunting, trying, or even challenging, I often recall the
wisdom, tenacity, and even the panache of dear old’ Winston.
I will find myself imagining what Winston might do given the same circumstance…
So while I currently find myself so very tired, worried, bewildered, confused
and even mad about the current circumstance for which we are now finding ourselves,
I imagine Winston would bellow gruffly that we must trudge forward…
because forward is the ONLY way to go.
So while I was perusing several articles about dear old Winne,
I found an interesting piece written 8 years ago by Geoff Loftus for Forbes Magazine.
The gist of the article was written basically for business management and overcoming
various obstacles but I found it most applicable to our current world…
I’ve offered a portion of the article but the link to the full
article is listed below…
May 9, 2012
Seventy-two years ago tomorrow, a chubby, stoop-shouldered,
funny faced man with a speech impediment took a new job.
The man was 65-years old and until a year earlier was generally considered
to be a crackpot and a political has-been.
His taking the new job was one of the most momentous events of the entire 20th Century.
The man was Winston Churchill, and the job was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
On May 10, 1940, the British looked to be finished.
They stood alone against the vicious and victorious Nazis.
Two weeks after Churchill came into power, France was knocked out of the war,
and 340,000 British troops had to scramble to escape over the beaches at Dunkirk.
The Germans had absolute control of all of Europe.
It seemed impossible that Britain could survive.
In other words, his plan for success: Complete and total defiance.
“We shall never surrender.”
When you have nothing left but defiance, commit to it with everything you have.
Like Prince Hal in Shakespeare’s Henry V,
Churchill used language to rouse the fighting spirit he believed was
still alive in the British people, saying, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
And the line that summed up his personal career and the spirit that led
the British people to victory:
“Never, never, never give up.”
(one of my several chalk filled figurenes and collectables of Winston)
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit,
interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
1 Corinthians 2:13
“do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”
“Here is a rule for everyday life:
Do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”
St. Jean Marie Vianney
(blooming quince / Julie Cook / 2020)
“There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain
to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed.
All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His
It is really and truly there present, but invisibly present,
so that we are always surprised and do not recognise His operation until it has ceased.
If we could lift the veil, and if we were attentive and watchful God would continually
reveal Himself to us, and we should see His divine action in everything that happened to us,
and rejoice in it. At each successive occurrence we should exclaim:
‘It is the Lord’,
and we should accept every fresh circumstance as a gift of God.
We should look upon creatures as feeble tools in the hands of an able workman,
and should discover easily that nothing was wanting to us,
and that the constant providence of God disposed Him to bestow upon us
at every moment whatever we required.”
Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade
An Excerpt From
Abandonment of Divine Providence
Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.
Edgar Allan Poe
For whatever reason, I get daily Travel and Leisure as well as Conde Nash travel emails.
I suppose it’s because once upon a time, I most likely subscribed to something.
Yet during this time of quarantine, I have not much cared to be a virtual traveler.
I might be an armchair quarterback when watching my beloved college football
but I definitely prefer to be a real-life traveler.
And so I’ve pretty much trashed all the travel notices I’ve received these oh so many weeks,
as I’ve wondered if travel will ever be what it was.
While scrolling through emails yesterday, something interesting actually piqued my curiosity.
It was an article with 21 pictures of what a locked-down Italy looked like.
If you’ve ever been to Italy then you know it seems as if the country is comprised of
more tourists than local residents.
Tourism has gotten so overwhelming that the Italian government was having to issue hefty
fines to bring a bit of calm amongst the throngs of madness.
It is said that there are very few real Venetians or even Florentines who still remain
in their collective overrun cities.
And so I was curious as to what a mostly deserted Itlay might look like.
The images were eerily serene.
However, knowing of the death toll that Itlay has experienced and the hardship this tiny country
has endured, viewing the images was not necessarily for a cursory glance on a rainy
There was a poignancy found in the images.
There was the image of a single figure, a pope, clad in white and sitting alone in a darkened and
empty St Peter’s square observing the solemnity of the Easter Vigil…
To the ruins of the Coliseum surreally quiet and alone for the first time in centuries.
The empty gondolas bobbing up and down in eerily empty canals…
Yet I think it was the image (seen above) of the small church in Venice with photographs of
its parishioners taped to the pews that touched me the most as to how this pandemic has effected our
collective human family.
The small parish priest had asked his parishioners to please mail or email him
their pictures so he could, in turn, tape them to the pews in order that they could “be in attendance”
with him…there in the quiet and still little church, as he conducted Easter mass…alone.
Since all church services were canceled this Easter,
one pastor in Venice asked his parishioners for their photographs,
then placed them in the sanctuary and performed Mass for them on Easter Sunday.
I next read a heartbreaking story of a woman who was unable to visit her dying father in the
the hospital due to the quarantine.
The hospital was only five miles from her home, but her dad had contracted the virus
after having to go to the hospital following a fall at home.
He had been in good health up to his fall and was expected to be fine.
But while in the hospital, he developed a cough and fever…with the hospital realizing its greatest fear…
their patients were contracting the virus within the hospital itself.
The story is difficult to read as it is helplessly sad.
One of his four grown children relays how she and her siblings
stayed on the phone with their father for his final 36 hours of life
simply listening to his labored breathing before finally, there was no more sound.
‘We hear you, Dad’: A daughter stays on the phone for hours and hours as
her father dies alone from coronavirus
And yet the enormity of all of this heartbreak, sorrow, isolation and emptiness is contrasted
by petty partisan politics.
Following the first two articles, I read two very different types of articles.
Articles by Newt Gingrich.
Mr. Gingrich is indeed a very smart and astute man.
He is currently on lockdown in Itlay as his wife is US Ambassador to the Vatican.
A position the late journalist Cokie Robert’s mother once held.
The former Speaker of the House was expressing his frustration with the current speaker,
Speaker Pelosi, and the squabbles she is currently having with the President over passing
a bill intended to bring financial aid to small businesses.
If anyone is hurting right now, it is our small businesses.
They have had to either shutter their doors or operate
They have had to let go of employees.
Many cannot contiue paying their bills with no business to be had.
Yet the Speaker continues to refuse to work with the President.
The impeachment fiasco was bad enough…but we now have real people,
not celebrities, not high-end athletes, not entertainers, not politicians, but real people…t
he you and me kind of people..who need help— and they need it now!
And yet…we have people like Madame Speaker who continues to want to play cat and mouse.
Madame Speaker was being interviewed from her home by a late-night talk show host.
It seems she was standing in her kitchen in front of her two rather fancy Wolf sub-zero
refrigerators while babbling on about having to spend 58 dollars for 5 pints of ice cream as she
desperately needed to restock what she and her husband had already eaten.
58 bucks on high end ice cream while there are folks who can’t pay their bills
because they’ve lost their livelihood or worse, their health.
Something is wrong in all of this.
When we need help–many of the very people we elected to help us, choose to eat
expensive ice cream instead.
No wonder Speaker Gingrich sees the correlation between Marie Antoinette telling
a starving French population to simply eat cake while our Speaker of the house
eats her posh ice cream—as a President is trying desperately to bring aid
to those in desperate need.
Newt Gingrich: Coronavirus crisis makes some leaders believe they have god-like decision-making capacity
Newt Gingrich: Like Marie Antoinette, Princess Pelosi enjoys luxuries but ignores needs of desperate people
We joke, we laugh, we speculate…but…
“Will you come with me to the mountains?
It will hurt at first, until your feet are hardened.
Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows.
But will you come?”
(the blooming quince / Julie Cook / 2020)
I can’t say how this will all play out…how it will all end.
I think, however, I can speak for all of us in saying that we beg that it end.
We laugh at those online videos, those memes shared…
because we know that misery loves company.
We try so desperately to make light while trying so hard to laugh in our
seemingly unified endless misery.
Yet throughout all of this we must remember…
there are those who have suffered.
Those who have…
Suffered the loss of income.
Suffered the loss of livelihood.
Suffered the loss of stability.
Suffered the loss of wellbeing.
Suffered the loss of health.
Suffered the loss of life.
Let us keep in our prayers and hearts those who have lost…
Now when Jesus saw the crowds,
he went up on a mountainside and sat down.
His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven,
for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
A friend sent me this little quarantine meme a couple of weeks back.
It was the first week into our time of sequestering.
Now, a month in…I am the seal.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
and your lips with shouting.