A short story

The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren
is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life,
but rather a legacy of character and faith.

Billy Graham


(early 19th century tombstone / Colonial Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2014)

****Once again I’ve found myself looking back and re-reading previous posts–
posts that might need to be re-shared…this little story popped out from
all those posts and asked to be re-shared as I’ve gone back and tweaked it a bit.)

Hushed voices whispered across the back porch…whispering from under a
sweltering blanket of an oppressive late August evening.

It was almost 10 PM and the old galvanized thermometer was reading 86—-
It was a most welcomed drop from the triple digits which had only added
insult to injury earlier that day, as a grieving family gathered in a tiny
crowded church.

Her thinning frail hand was now working harder than it should,
waving the paper program back and forth as she hoped to stir up the
stifling night air…or were her hands simply nervous and in need of some
sort of distraction?

The screen door creaked to life, breaking the unbearable silence as
familiar steps began tp echo cross the well-worn wooden planks.

“I thought I told you to oil that door last week”
her words now taking more effort than she had strength to offer.

“Has anyone seen Ellington?”

“Not since lunch” was the whispered response.
Ellington was named for the legendary Duke Ellington.

He had always loved listening to the Big Band orchestras.
This love began during that most surreal time, back in ’44,
when he and the others waited on their orders.
Orders for when the offensive assault would begin.
Orders that would mark that fateful June day for all of eternity and
perhaps change the lives of his small world forever.

The days leading up to the invasion were passed nervously while everyone
just sat fidgeting, waiting and wondering.
Like the darkening clouds of an impending storm,
the cigarette smoke hung heavy in the air.

There were the endless games of cards, letters written and rewritten home
all the while those same familiar bands were playing over and over..
playing on the only record player aboard ship.
If he ever made it back home, he promised himself,
he’d get himself a dog and name it Ellington.

“I haven’t seen him since we got back from the Church.”
“You know how that dog loved your daddy.”
“How old is he now, 12?
“Yeah, I bet he’s sitting down by the gate still waiting on Daddy to
come driving up the road in that stupid old pick up.

“It isn’t a stupid pick-up!” she shot over her shoulder
at her brother– sounding angrier then she had intended.

“Mama, can I get you some more tea?” she asks as she stands
and stretches muscles now stiff from sitting in the ‘old man’s’ rocking chair.

“It’s not as comfortable as your Daddy would have made you think, is it?”
“No mam, it’s not.
How in the world did Daddy sit out here every night reading that paper of his?
I’d rather sit on a fence post. . .”

Catherine mutters the statement as she gently rubs a weary behind.

“Your Daddy had a bit more padding back there than you do sweetie.”

At 92 she was a woman still full of warmth and grace.
They had been married almost 70 years.
He had actually asked her to marry him in a letter, written from France,
once he knew he had survived the worst part of the war.

It took the letter 6 weeks to make it home.
Six weeks of her not knowing if he was dead or alive.
When her father brought the mail in the house that evening
and once everyone had sat down to supper…
he silently slipped the letter across the dinning room table.

She looked nervously at both her mother and father, and then slowly
opened the thin airmail post, hands trembling over what
this long awaited letter might say.

Suddenly, sending her chair crashing on the floor as she jumped to her feet..
she shouted, apparently to no one present in the room,
“Yes, Yes Yes. . .”

That was August 1944.

It would be two more years before they would marry,
once the war was finally over and he made his way home with several citations,
a silver star and an honorable discharge.

It had not always been an easy life, but it had been a good life.
They had raised 4 decent and caring children on that small farm–
managing to always pay the bills while keeping everyone feed,
especially the three boys.
They even made certain that the kids would have the option of going to college
if they so chose.
And choose they did.

As Catherine made her way inside to the familiar kitchen, pulling open the faded door
to the old Frigidaire, relishing the blast of fresh cool air,
she hunted for the pitcher of tea.

“I thought we were all going in together to buy them a new one
of these last Christmas?!”
–Catherine mumbles while lingering in the
coolness of the refrigerator’s contents.

She knew her younger brother had followed her inside.

Gathering the courage to speak his mind, with her back now sufficiently turned
in his direction, her younger brother boldly begins to blurt out his
quasi-rehearsed speech.

“I think you ought to take mom back with you and I’ll take Ellington back with me.
It’s not like she. . .”

This younger brother doesn’t even have time to finish his first thought
before Catherine slams the door to the refrigerator and whips around so fast
that it catches James off guard.

“WHAT?!” she hisses through clenched teeth as she fights back the
angry stinging tears.

She always did have Daddy’s quick temper.

“Are you crazy!? she practically screams as she proceeds to unleash
the full wrath of fury laced with the pain and frustration built from
the past few days..
unleashed all upon an unsuspecting yet well meaning,
if not clueless, younger brother.

“I’m not taking her anywhere and you’re certainly not taking that dog back to Boston.
You want to just kill both of them right now?
Taking them from here, especially now, would certainly do it.”

James, now a bit frightened, doesn’t recognize the ranting woman
standing across from him.

“Oh I get it”…Catherine continues.
“Robert knew you were coming in here didn’t he?

James nervously twists his wedding band.

“I bet you both have been planning all of this when Daddy first got sick.”
“He’s out there right now ready to tell Mama ya’ll’s plan isn’t he?”
“And Paul???”
“What about Paul?”
“He’s not even here for Christ’s sake.”
“He can’t even get a plane out of Venezuela for the funeral and you two
have already moved her and that dog!
How dare you James!”

Catherine is now seething in a mix of anger, pain and sorrow.

And just as quickly as the furious storm is unleashed upon a hapless younger sibling,
the rage thankfully subsides.

Catherine suddenly feels as if all the energy, all the anger,
all that once was is now mingled with a terrible heaviness of  immense sorrow.
Any remaining energy has now simply evaporated from her very tired body—all the while
a tempest wind has suddenly and thankfully vanished…
taking all of the energy from the raging storm with it.

Her brother, her younger brother,
is no longer looking at her but rather standing with both hands stretched
out on the counter, his arms are painfully straining to hold up his now
very weary lanky frame–with his head cast downward, he mumbles
“I just thought the boys would like having the dog.”

Catherine, reading the pain in his words, reaches her hand to cover her brother’s.
She’s amazed by how much James looks like a much younger version of the man
she lost only yesterday.

She begins slowly…
“It’s not like Daddy owed any money on this place.
He paid it off 10 years back when he sold off the cows.
Mr. Johnson has been paying them for the hay—
and Randal and Wilton pay Daddy for renting the fields,
plus they’re giving them a percentage of the corn.
They can now simply pay Mama.”

Catherine is now looking at James with the compassion that can only be found in that
of a protective older sister while she begins her stance of conviction.

“I know you think Richard and I never can agree on much…
but the one thing we do agree on is Mama and Daddy.
I know how much Richard loved Daddy and he in turn has only wanted the best
for both of them.”

We’ve talked about it.
I’ve got enough years in at work.
I sent in my letter of resignation last month.
I’m going to stay with Mama for as long as she needs me or wants me.”

“With the girls now gone, the house is really more than Richard and I need.
We’ve talked about letting Robert list the house and we’ll just come back
here to the farm until we find something smaller.”

“Richard can commute to the college.
I can stay a month, six months, a year…”

“And you can go back to Alice and the boys…
buy the boys a dog, but Ellington has got to stay here with Mama!”

“Robert is less than two hours away in Des Moines,
he can be here when and if I need him.”

By now a wealth of tears has finally come to both weary faces.

Whoever would have thought this pair of once rough and tough siblings
would be standing at the counter of the kitchen,
the same kitchen that had once witnessed a myriad of mud covered frogs
swimming in the brand new porcelain sink.
Or a lethargic lizard placed in the freezer for safe keeping.
Or one too many missing cherry pies from a lone windowsill
And what of those late night secret ins and outs of restless teens,
teens who were now sadly finding themselves, all these many years later,
deciding the fate of an aging mother and dog.

“Look at it this way” Catherine interjects attempting to put a much
needed smile back on her younger brother’s face..
“this will finally give Mama the chance to teach me how to make that
famous gooseberry jam of hers.
You know how much she always resented Daddy for turning her only daughter
into a 4th farm hand, dashing all her hopes for a little feminism
on this male dominated farm.”

James lifts his tear-streaked face to meet his sister’s glance.

“You know how I hated that crap” he sheepishly replies.
“Yeah, I know, just as much as Daddy did.”
Catherine now gently squeezes her brother’s hand.

James is now wide eyed as he stares in disbelief at his sister.

“Yep”, Catherine states matter of factly, “he hated it”

Catherine continues, “he said it reminded him of eyeballs covered in sugar,
but he’d eat it any way cause he knew how hard she had worked on it”

By now that captivating yet distinctive boyish grin was slowly returning
the face of a man whose heart was breaking.

“I suppose that’s what happens when you love someone for 70 years”
sighs a very tired Catherine who is now smiling back at her equally
tired kid brother.
“You’d eat anything they cooked and in turn love an
old hound dog named Ellington.”

A gentle reminder

“The measure of love is to love without measure.”
St. Francis de Sales


(wild turkey Cades Cove, The Great Smokies National Park, Tennessee /Julie Coo / 2015)

****It’s time to resume taking our place in our small family’s yearly pilgrimage…
and since I will be out of pocket for the next few days, I’ve
opted to revisit a previous post from 2016—I needed to re-read this post
for all sorts of reasons—if not simply to be reminded that there is so much more
then my narrow sighted surroundings…remember, we must all remain grateful…
Enjoy a rediscovered moment seemingly lost in time…

Late one afternoon last week, I had a doctor’s appointment.
It was one of those late in the day appointments…
the kind of appointment that puts a kink in the entire day….
as in you have to be dressed and ready to go all the while making
certain that you aren’t doing anything else that causes you to overrun
the appointed time.

You know how doctor’s offices can be…

Either they scold you for running late…
as in the receptionist will either actually say something about how you’ve
messed up everyone else by being late,
or rather she will just give you that stare of annoyment while curtly
asking for your insurance information.
Or even worse…they’ll fine you for missing the appointment because
they canceled it when you weren’t there on the dot.

Never mind that you will proceed to sit for hours waiting to finally be seen
despite your punctuality.

I arrived right on time but noticed that the office seemed rather
sparse for that time of day.
This was actually an appointment that had to be rescheduled following my nerve block
as the two coincided and they couldn’t work me in for a solid month,
so I’ve had to wait and wait….
I am happy I wasn’t in total dire straights.

The receptionist asked which doctor I was to see.
When I told her she informed me that he was actually in a different office
in another town that day.

Huh?

“What’s your birthday so I can look up your time…”

I gave it to her while I was now almost certain that for some reason,
maybe the fact that my brain no longer worked,
the appointment was actually to be the following day…
the day I was having to be Atlanta with Dad.

Sure enough it was.

Despite my having gotten the text to confirm the day and time…
despite that the date being marked on my calendar and
despite my cell phone alerting me when to go…

So since I now had to cancel the now following day’s appointment, again,
as I had to be with Dad,
the earliest available was not for another full month…
maybe by then I will be or won’t be in dire straights…

Anywhoo, I exited the office now mad.
Mad at myself…
mad at my crazy life…
and mad that the doctor can’t seem to see me for months at a time…

Aggravated, I got in the elevator with my nose to my phone making certain
I was putting the new date and time in correctly.

I was so preoccupied that I didn’t notice the man coming out of the
same office I had just exited,
right behind me as he entered the elevetaor with me.

I pushed the ground floor and was taken aback a bit when I realized I wasn’t alone.
I asked the gentleman which floor he needed.
He told me the ground floor.

We all know how awkward it can be with just two strangers on an elevator together…
as in what do you say, what to you do, where do you look…I put down my phone and
asked my elevator mate if he was having a good day.

“Oh yes mam I am” he said with a distinct country accent.

Here in the south, true southerners either have a deep southern drawl
or one that is what is considered to be more country than southern.
Much to my mother’s disdain, when she first met my husband,
who was at the time my fiancé of their first meeting,
his accent was and still is more country than was her very genteel southern intonation.

My elevator mate was wearing a green and white checked shirt, neatly tucked into his
nicely pressed blue jeans.
He was an older black man, graying throughout his neatly cut hair.
He was rather thin yet spry and was squinting in the dimly lit elevator…
all the while ginning from ear to ear.

He continued…
“I don’t have to come back for 6 more months cause I just got me a
good report from the doctor.”

“That’s great!” I injected, genuinely happy for him because I know all too well
about those bad reports.

“Ever since that operation when he cut on my stomach,
I’ve quit hurting and I”ve gained 10 pounds in a month’s time!
I aint scrawny no more!!!” he proudly boasted.

I told him that that was great and now he’d be able to truly enjoy his Thanksgiving.
“Oh yes mam I plan to…”

By now we were both making our way toward the parking lot.
As we exited the building, I noticed that it was a very warm late fall afternoon.
The sun was shining yet heading deep toward the west…
all the while a warm breeze blowing.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day” he announced more than asked…
as I respond that that indeed it was.
I added “it certainly doesnt feel very fall-like since we’ve not had any fall
or winter-like weather.

“Well that’s about to change this weekend because it’s going to be cold on Sunday.”

“Really?”

I’ve not paid much attention to the weather as of late as we are in an extremely
unseasonable spell of warm weather that is actually hot and dangerously dry.

“Yes mam, but until then, you enjoy this nice weather and you have yourself a
good Thanksgiving holiday.”

“And I hope you do too….”

And with that we went our separate ways.

Suddenly I forgot that I had been mad, aggravated or feeling frustrated that
I’d wasted the better part of the day with stupidity…

Because in that elevator, I had met a spry and happy reminder to the things in our
lives that truly matter….
and it didn’t have anything to do with missed appointments…
or maybe…it really did…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God
.
Philippines 4:6

Sense of scent or the simple act of breathing

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be
inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth;
in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea,
bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where
you feel it touching the first sounds.
Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words,
appearances, emotions, or will.
The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off,
it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up,
imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

Patrick Süskind


(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

(I found this little nugget from 2014 and thought it worth repeating…)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome.
When I first opened the jar, in order to use it,
I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany.

Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume,
hair permanents, and medicine, but rather the smell of sudden nearness.
It is a palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom.
I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are
readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party–
a grandmother and both of her granddaughters.
It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory
was so strong.
Not only did I smell the smells,
I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind.
The white cabinets, the double sinks…

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle.
Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff,
I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent.
Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic,
to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s.
I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a
new store that sells candles.
On a round brown table in the center of the store,
I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top.
At the time, my dad had a blue bug.
I loved the smell, sweet and light,
being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug–
I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to
the growing eclectic treasures of a teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs,
not even knowing if they still made those things.
I had brought home a box of old papers and what-nots from Dad’s.
I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling
of the minuscule critters that were already doing damage
to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin,
a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing
in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in my grandmother Mimi’s closet,
my mom’s mom.
Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s.
It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom.
I was playing hide and seek.
Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes,
shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner,
I’m now consumed with a smell, that to this day, reminds me of my grandmother.
Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting,
are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s.
To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s,
but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of
our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory.
The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents,
smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus,
the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing
of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose,
which are caught by the olfactory receptors,
allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with
those initials smells from childhood,
the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells.
Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed
to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting,
processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching,
that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume,
specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly”
just prior to the time of death or immediately following.
It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various
saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt,
followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish
customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead.
There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint
the dead body of Jesus.
There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene,
who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus.
It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body
yet some believe it symbolized his bringing the grace of forgiveness
into an unforgiving world.
This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day,
that there is indeed a change in the air.
Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm
of crackling fires…
I can smell its presence in the air.
As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind,
those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift,
sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life,
waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing…

But thanks be to God,
who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being
saved and those who are perishing.
To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other,
an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.

2 Corinthians 2: 14-16

discernment, obedience and wandering…

“A man must go through a long and great conflict in himself before
he can learn fully to overcome himself,
and to draw his whole affection towards God.
When a man stands upon himself he is easily drawn aside
after human comforts.
But a true lover of Christ, and a diligent pursuer of virtue,
does not hunt after comforts, nor seek such sensible sweetnesses,
but is rather willing to bear strong trials and hard labors for Christ.”

Thomas a’ Kempis, p. 64
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ


(a lone willet wanders in the surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook /2021)

Long ago and far away in a lifetime other than this current one, I was
a young, rather naive
no, make that a stubborn and hard headed 20 something.

20 something seems to be the age in which we tend to make
some of our more major decisions…be that college majors,
career paths, relationship choices, moving, staying, coming
or going…the ground work of life seems to really get serious
when we are in our early 20’s.

I have always been one who has tried desperately to listen to that
still small voice found within.

It’s just that the majority of my life, that voice has been more or less,
inaudible.
As in I really need, want, prefer to be hit in the head as I can’t ever
hear that resounding yes or no.

It just seems that I have had to guess throughout so much of my life,
feeling my way blindly in the dark.

For me, I have always believed that that still small voice is
not my own. It is to be the voice of God…
or simply put, the urgings of the Holy Spirit.

This is where the notion of discernment enters into the picture.
We listen, hear and prayerfully discern…God’s will for our lives

So what exactly is discernment you ask?
Well Merriam Webster tells us that discernment is the quality of being able
to grasp and comprehend what is obscure

Grasping and comprehending the obscure.

I think one’s future can certainly be the stuff of the obscure.

And since I’m recalling a past tale concerning an obscure future…
let me continue with said tale.
.
So yes…many lifetimes ago as a young 20 something,
I made a major life decision…hoping I had discerned correctly God’s
desired choice for my life.

The problem, however, was that I had never heard God’s audible yay or nay.
I was rather going on some sort of rote autopilot…following that
which I thought I was supposed to do.

And so, once I had made such a decision, I was set.
There was no turning back.

Obedience or stubbornness—that is yet to be seen.
But when I commit, I tend to do so with both feet.
It’s all in or nothing.
No waffling here.
It’s for better or worse.
Wise or stupid.

And so it was, at this point of my life, I can remember that my godmother
had gotten wind of this particular major decision of mine.

My godmother was a very Godly woman.
Wise yet doggedly determined…as in, her feet were firmly planted
and there was no straying…because she had prayed, heard, discerned
and was now firmly set.

She just always seemed to have a direct line to God and was always lead
by that very resounding direct line.

So when I went to tell my godmother of this particular decision of mine
on this particular day in time, a debate most severe ensued.

She did not think my decision was made with prayerful discernment
but was more of a youthful whim.

A 3 hour roller coaster of back and forth filled the afternoon.

Eventually, I left mad and more determined than when I had arrived
and she, I know, was frustrated and equally defiant.

She had time on her side…a lifetime of experience.
I had only but the gut feeling of a young person still
finding her way.

So where is all of this going you ask.

Well, the other day, our dear friend Oneta, over on Sweet Aroma
(https://onetahayes.com), made mention of this same sort of notion.

She wrote of decision making.
Decisions made inside and outside of God’s will.

Oneta spoke of discernment vs having to wander in a desert.
Meaning that if decisions are made outside of God’s will,
there will be consequences…as in wandering in deserts.
Meaning that God will allow us to wander…
allowing us to go nowhere no time fast.

That is until…

So back to my little story.

At this particular time in my life, I had a good friend who
was about 12 years older than me.
She had watched me grow over the years, often lending a guiding hand or
word.
She too got wind of my decision…plus she got wind of the rift
between godmother and goddaughter.

Unbeknownst to me this wise friend of mine went to my
equally wise godmother.

She told my godmother, as she later told me, that whether or not
my decision was, at the time, within God’s will or not…was not
my friend’s worry because what she knew was that regardless,
God would eventually, in His perfect time,
work that decision of mine to be within His perfect will.

My wise godmother yielded to the wisdom of another…
adding more wisdom to the arsenal.

Now how all that works is beyond my mere mortal’s brain, but I am grateful
that is does work.

The lesson here…
an oft decision can indeed become God’s will because of God’s will.

Not to say there won’t be struggles, frustration, or suffering.
God, however, works all things to His good…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

but wait…you want to know if I wandered or not right??

Well, I’m not certain.
If I’m like the Israelites, I might have two more years to figure that out.

But just know, there has been a lot of other wanderings I
been walking…

somewhere in between..then and now

“We should take as a maxim never to be surprised at current difficulties,
no more than at a passing breeze, because with a little patience
we shall see them disappear. Time changes everything.”

St. Vincent de Paul


( Highlands, NC / Julie Cook / 2021)

There will always be ‘the then’—and following that—is “the now”…
everything in between is what we call life.

Sometimes we are given a precious gift…we are allowed to reunite with
“the then”… merging it into “the now”.

The middle, that which is known as life, simply fades out of sight.

Time, as well as life, is forgotten.
Years fade blessedly away.
And so ‘what was’ is suddenly and tenderly embraced by ‘the now’
Grabbed up and held tightly in aching arms that have been oh so
empty for far too long.

And we find ourselves exhaling slowly, whispering a grateful thank you to
a Father who knew all along that “the then” was bound to always
be a part of ‘the now”

Thank you Father…

“God never hurries.
There are no deadlines against which he must work.
Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.”

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine

the times of which we now live…non typical or is that atypical??

“Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


(the fallen bud of a mountain fraser magnolia / Julie Cook / 2021)

Typical…non typical…atypical…

If I was a betting woman, I’d bet that you would wholeheartedly
agree that these are indeed some more times!
As in twilight zone and frustrating times.
No longer typical.

So you may or may not have noticed that I’ve been MIA from bogland for a
couple of days.

If you noticed, thank you…if not, that’s ok.

Life has just been a tad busy the past several days.

Firstly, the Mayor and Sheriff came to visit Saturday, spending the night.
And as is the usual case, they each had a good case of the snoggy noses—
aka daycare crud…of which is pretty typical of any kid in daycare.

Daycare and schools—petrie dishes of germs dontcha know.
Plus it probably didn’t help that the Sheriff thought it would
be fun to toss the little decorative soaps I have in a pretty little
antique bowl in our guest bathroom into the toilet.
Of which I had to retrieve by hand—and yes, I did then wash my hands.

So now, just so we all know and understand…
that which was once ‘typical’, back in the good ol olden days…
those glorious days before COVID, is no longer simple or
‘typical’ today.
Because ‘typical’ today, must always be suspect.

So back to story…

The kids came and went.
And in rapid succession and a near blink of an eye,
we then had some old friends come up from Florida for a two day visit.
A bit of revolving door company—but I do love company.

In the midst of the comings and goings, I noticed that I was coming
down with something…a good old case of daycare crud…
because we all know that when the Mayor and Sheriff have daycare crud,
I too get daycare crud.

I do try to be facetious with the hand washing and the sharing of food
with them but you know toddlers—if they are anywhere near you,
they will inevitably sneeze, cough and drool all over you.
Or take a sip from your drink glass without you even realizing that.
Toddlers and germs just go hand and hand.

And I swear, since I retired from teaching—I am no longer as immune
as I once was to the typical school fare fodder of germs.

So our guests weren’t paranoid Covid worriers but I certainly didn’t want them
to have some inward angst that I was a typhoid Mary.
And since I couldn’t breath, I opted to call the ENT to see if I could
get an appointment early morning, leaving me time to “entertain” our guests.

Ok, so remember, typical is no longer typical.

The ENT explains to me that they booked out for several days
and next suggested I try Urgent Care.
Booked??? For days??? What???
I could understand nothing perhaps available that particular day, but days???

Remember—not typical days.

So it was off to Urgent Care I would go.

I am glad that I did have the foresight to call first.

In case you are unfamiliar, Urgent Care facilities are those little medical
popups in and around shopping areas that help fill in the gaps
when a doctors office is closed, or overrun, and you’re not
so bad off as to go to an ER.

They are typically a walk-in basis.
Note ‘typically’ and remember these are not typical times.

When I called and explained that my ENT recommended that I
needed to go see them since they were booked up and out,
the gal told me I’d need an appointment.
Dreading the worst, I asked for her first available.

I was calling a tad after 8 AM and blessedly she has something
at 10:40.
She told me to arrive at 10:30 and sit in my car and text them
as soon as I arrived.

This particular Urgent Care is located on the end of a Publix Shopping Center
in a small town near us.

When I pulled in, the parking lot was jammed packed. I next noticed
an odd long line of cars snaking around the side of the building
around to the back.

Huh?
Maybe they are getting Covid tests.

I text the number letting them know I was in the parking lot.

A text popped back asking for my symptoms.

After I typed, hitting send, I received another text asking for my
car’s make and model.

I figured that a nurse was coming out to do temp checks
before allowing folks inside.

Well next, I got a call from the desk asking for my copay to be paid
over the phone and for me to get in line on the right side of the building.

Huh?
Was that on the right to go inside or was that right to join
the car snake line?

I saw a nurse on the sidewalk and walked over to her and asked.
She told me to get in the snake car line.

And so I did.

Nurse after nurse was coming out of backdoors and going from car to car
as the snake line would slowly roll forward.

Finally it was my turn.

I rolled down my window and had to wear my mask.

The nurse asked about my symptoms—well, I couldn’t breathe,
had pressure, headache, scratchy
throat, lovely colored nasal drainage…this being all from my grandkids
I explained…typical grandmother toddler sharing

She then said we’ll do a Covid test.

I explained that I had had Covid and that I had had the vaccines
and I knew this was my type of typical sinus infection.

There’s that word again…typical!

Next thing I know she’s telling me to tilt my head back and breathe through
my mouth.
I was already doing that because my nose was not working!
And then bam—up went the extra long swab stick in my nose.
Never mind my nasal passages were closed up, she jammed that
sucker up both sides.

And then I went back to sitting with the other cars in the snake line.

Finally a PA came to my window and handed me the negative Covid results.
Of which I already knew was indeed negative.
I told him I had a history of sinusitis and I knew this was that.

And usually with my former ENT practice they would hit me with a shot of steroids
give my a prescription for an antibiotic and off I’d go.

This young man begins to explain, in a very cloyingly sweet condescending way,
that what we think is typical is really no longer really typical.

Huh?

Internally, I am rolling my eyes while I’m wondering how will I
be getting my steroid shot through this car window as it’s usually
administered in the hip.

He then proceeds to tell me that I can come back in two days to repeat the test.
RPEAT THE TEST? I practically scream.
Calmly, again, I explain to him that I could not breathe and that
my head and teeth were killing me all from my typical type of sinus infection.

“Well,” he began, I believe, like Covid, this is a viral infection.”
‘Like Covid’???!! I’m thinking…for crying out loud!!! THIS IS A SINUS INFECTION!!!!
And by using the word viral, well it’s their way of saying,
‘you won’t be getting any medicine’–as in go home,
tough it out and when you are still sick in two more days you’ll be back
getting the meds that you should have gotten in the first place.

Seeing that I was in a bit of dire straits without being able to breathe
with lovely colored discharge acting like a slow lava flow coming
out of my nose, he tells me he will prescribe me some oral steroids.

Fine!

After an hour and a half, I pull out of the snake line of cars,
make my way around the back of the shopping
center and pull into a parking spot in front of Publix so I can run in
to pick up the prescription.

The nice gal at the prescription counter tells me they’ve not gotten in
the call-in yet and that I would need to wait.
In the mean time I ask if she could get me a box of the sudafed which was
behind her on the counter.

She gets me the box and then proceeds to ask for my license, makes a copy
and has me to sign some book stating that I had asked for sudafed.

It was more of a rigermarol to get a non prescription box of sudafed than
had I been getting a prescription for narcotics.

So once again not typical.

Happily I can report that whereas I am still puny, I can blessedly breathe.

And thus our lesson of the day is that Covid has turned everything we
once thought to be typical into a life of anything but…
a life now lived in the atypical—
so once again, thank you Wuhan, thank you China…

trust and confidence

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

St. Augustine


(The Mayor with training wheels / Julie Cook / 2021)

Do you remember when you first learned how to ride a bike?
I started my journey on wheels with a tricycle.
Eventually graduating to a small bike with training wheels—

And in due time, off went those training wheels…
and thus, for better or for worse, I was suddenly on my own.

No broken bones but a lot of skinned knees, elbows and stubbed toes.
And this was a time long before we knew helmets were important.

At my current age, I hate to admit that I don’t exactly remember a
whole lot of this particular rite of passage—
however I can remember my mom and dad, taking turns racing behind me,
holding onto the bike if I started to veer too far to one side or the other
or God forbid…started rolling way too fast for my level of
expertise.

And thus today, the gauntlet has been passed…it is now the Mayor’s turn.

Of course there is a great deal of hesitancy and trepidation.
“MOM, MOM, I NEED YOU!!!!” (yes she calls me mom, her mother is mommy…
daddy is dada, my husband is da)…

And in like fashion, how many times have I cried out to God… “Father, I need you!”

“I’ve got you Boo” I reassure her as I hold onto the back of her seat as she
laboriously attempts peddling up the street…Peppa Pig rain
boots probably do not aid in one’s peddling.

I let go once she hit level ground.

“Look at you Boo—you are riding your bike!!!!”

And right then, in that moment, there comes the obvious and visible
sense of self satisfaction.

So as I stand there, looking at my granddaughter riding a bike on the very
same street where I learned to ride my own bike,
my thoughts are transported to thinking about my own learning to ride
as well as to something else…that of learning my way on the journey
as a child of God.

A juxtaposition of life’s journeys.

How many times have I set out, unsure of myself, sitting in a driving seat
position, while God had His hand on my back?

“Steady” He say’s…”Ive got you Julie”

I wobble, teetering and leaning, trying desperately to keep myself
upright. I feel His hand resting on my back so I have a sense of
serene security.

Then, ever so slightly, He removes His hand…”you’ve got this”
I hear as I peddle off heading straight ahead…knowing all the while
He’s standing behind me, smiling.

And right when I get going too fast, losing control…He’s the first
one there… either to grab me by the shirt and or pick me up once I fall.
Once again He gently repeats…you’ve got this…because I’ve got you.

And whereas I won’t always be able to be with my granddaughter as she takes
off on her own life’s journeys…I have given her over to God…knowing that when
mom or da, mommy or dada can’t be with her…
Abba will always be by her side—

“How can we not ask at every turn,
‘What is going to happen? How will this turn out?’
The main thing is not to consent consciously to anxiety or a troubled mind.
The moment you realize you are worrying,
make very quickly an act of confidence:
‘No, Jesus, You are there: nothing–nothing–
happens, not a hair falls from our heads, without Your permission.
I have no right to worry.”
Perhaps He is sleeping in the boat, but He is there.
He is always there. He is all-powerful;
nothing escapes His vigilance.
He watches over each one of us ‘as over the apple of His eye.’
He is all love, all tenderness.”

Jean C.J. d’Elbée,
I Believe in Love:
A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux

God Blessed Texas

‘God blessed Texas’
First He lit the sunshine, then He made the water deep
Then He gave us moonlight for all the world to see
Well, everybody knows that the Lord works in mysterious ways
He took a rest, then on the very next day
God blessed Texas with His own hand

Songwriters: Porter Carleton Howell / Brady Seals

Now I can’t really brag too much on a personal level about Texas because
I’ve only visited the state twice.
But those two times were great trips.

And yep, Texas is as big as it is wide.
They say they do things bigger in Texas, and I suspect that might be so.

So thinking about Texas, I’ve started another book.
It was a recommendation offered by Dawn Marie over on https://hugsnblessings.com

And no, this book is not about Texas, but stay with me for a bit.

The book is by Peter Kreeft—
a professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College.
He is a convert to Catholicism and a prolific writer.
This particular book is titled
How To Destroy Western Civilization And Other Ideas From The Cultural Abyss.

The book opens with the following sentences…

The single most necessary thing we can possibly do to save our civilization—
the single most necessary thing citizens can ever do to save their civilization,
at all times and all places and in all cultures, whether they are good or evil,
religious or irreligious, ancient or modern–is to have children.

If you don’t have children, your civilization will cease to exist.
Before you can be good or evil, religious or irreligious, you must exist.

And this is when what I’ve been reading collides into thoughts about Texas.

I have been a huge proponent of Georgia’s House bill 481,
aka the Georgia Heartbeat bill.
A bill that was put into place to protect the rights
of the unborn.

The gist of the bill is that when a heartbeat is detected, life is detected.
And if life is detected, then abortion would be considered murder.

Several states have put forth their own versions of a heartbeat bill.
Life begins with the heartbeat and therefore abortion is no longer an option.

And so with each bill introduced by various states,
protests and lawsuits have ensued.

Sadly but not surprisingly, Georgia’s bill has been deemed unconstitutional.

Many cases have been going from court to court, with many eventually
falling on the desks of the highest court in the Nation,
The Supreme Court.

This week Texas’s version of the heartbeat bill was allowed to pass
via the Supreme Court.

And the oh so Catholic President Joe Biden…as in Catholics are deeply
opposed to abortion because abortion equates to murder, is now loudly
protesting the Supreme Court’s ruling on this Texas Law.

But I say, God Bless Texas!!!!!

headlines, headaches and heartache

Yesterday’s headlines consisted of stories about a former president partying
like it was 1999…with about 500 of his closest friends.
This all on the posh isle of Martha’s Vineyard…
It was reported to be a most “epic” party by several of the rappers who
were in attendance.
Rumor has it that even Madame Speaker was there to shake a tail feather.

Forget the frenzied called for masks and mandates…Forget our dear old godfather Dr. Fauci.

What’s  500 partiers and 200 staff members when one turns 60?
By gosh, there was a party to be had!
You can’t  really shake what your mama gave you if you’re all masked up…

Another story, on the opposite side of the country, involved a family oriented
prayer event down near the waterfront in Portland, Oregon.
If any city needed some prayer right about now…it would be Portland.
A city still under siege by lawlessness.

Disturbingly this event literally came under fire by our country’s lovely
anarchists and antifascists.

When does Christian worship call for anarchy’s knee jerk reaction??
Well, obviously now.

Not even the children nor toddlers attending were spared from the violence
as the antagonizing groups clad in black took to throwing rocks and spraying
colored gas and flash bombs into the family oriented crowd gathered.

Where were the police you ask.

Standing back and watching…don’t you remember, we want to defund them.

Meanwhile back on the east coast, the police of Martha’s Vineyard called the
ensuing traffic nightmare following the end of said presidential birthday party
a s%$t show of a mess.
Well naturally those elite partiers wanted the police to help sort out
any and all traffic woes, never mind about protecting innocent folks elsewhere…

All the while, the news is still rife with the cries of good ol squad
member Ms Cori Bush.
Ms Bush, along with her personal security detail, simply will not rest until
all the police are defunded.

What is the irony of a congresswoman crying for defunding the police
while she surrounds herself with her very own private police force…
forget the “little” people…we’ll be ok.
But wait…who’s paying for her security entourage???
Why do I think it’s you and me, said taxpayers.

Then there was the sad story of the passing of longtime college football
coach and Florida State University legend, Bobby Bowden.

Bobby Bowden, who retired in 2009 had coached at the college level for 55 years.
And like any coach, he was both loved and hated.

Loved if you were a Seminole, hated if you were a Gator or ‘Cane.
Yet I would imagine respected by most.

Bobby Bowden, who alongside his wife Ann of 51 years, raised 6 children.
3 of which went on to their own coaching careers.

I once heard Coach Bowden tell a story about a family vacation they took when
their kids were all little.

They had stopped for gas and for something to eat.
It was probably sometime in the early 1960’s.
These were pre cell phone and stranger danger days.

The family loaded back into the station wagon
and hit the road again.

It wasn’t until about 30 minutes down the road when the family realized
that not all heads had been counted.
One was missing.

Naturally they turned the car around and went back and found their wayward
child patiently waiting.

That kind of stuff just happened when you had 6 kids, Coach Bowden chuckled.

Coach Bowden was once quoted as saying
“The heck with political correctness. I’ve never believed in it.”

I appreciate folks like Coach Bowden…they are old school, like me.

So heres to old school…
while we forget the woke, the elites, the daft, the tone deaf,
the hateful, the arrogant…

Time to remember the desires of the soul…

“The human soul, by its very nature,
is endowed with the faculty of knowing God and the capacity for loving Him.
The intelligence of the soul, transporting itself above all that
is created and finite, has power to raise itself even to the
contemplation of that Being who alone is uncreated and infinite,
who is the source of all good and all perfection;
it is able to form of Him an idea that is clear and accurate and indelible.
The will of the soul is made to love this sovereign Good,
which the understanding presents to it.
The desires of the soul,
which no created object can ever satisfy and which reach far beyond
the limits of this life, tend necessarily toward a Good that
is supreme, eternal, and infinite, and which alone can content
the soul and make it happy.”

Fr. Jean Nicholas Grou, p. 3-4
An Excerpt From
The Spiritual Life

entrust them…so so hard

Raising children is an uncertain thing;
success is reached only after a life of battle and worry.

Democritus


(the children / Rosemary Beach /Julie Cook 2021)

“Avoid worrying, then, about anything else for your children except
whatever may contribute to bringing them up virtuously.
For the rest, having entrusted them to God,
try to see what His will for them is,
to help them along the path in life He has chosen for them.
Never be afraid of relying too much on Him,
but rather seek always to increase your trust more and more,
for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be
the measure of the graces you will receive.
Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.”

St. Claude De La Columbiere, p.46
An Excerpt From
Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence