the sippy spoons

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in
and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better
hour because it is dead.
Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones,
while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(my grandmother’s silver sippy spoons / Julie Cook /2017)

Our trip to West Palm Beach was long, short, sad and wrenching.
653 miles spent driving down on a Friday…
only to then turn around and drive it all back again on a Monday.

It took about 10 hours, with only one quick stop for gas.
Coupled by a constant flow of bumper to bumper traffic hurling itself,
as if lemmings on some odd unknown mission, to an unforeseen southward destination.

We drove and we drove to what seemed to be the ends of the earth…
but that would have been Key West and that would have required more time with
more stops than our backsides would allow.

The color of the sky changes when one is traveling so far south—
It goes from the more familiar north Georgia’s typical hazy blue sky,
to a faint veiled gauzy cloudy azure blue…
Maybe it’s because the land lays so flat, punctuated only by pencil thin palms
as the soil is more white sand than dirt…
and with the sun so intense, light easily reflects back upon itself.

The heat of day does not dissipate with the waning of a day as it does at home.
It doesn’t back off when the sun finally sets, providing that long awaited
respite of comfort.
There is actually a tremendous heaviness that engulfs one’s whole being…
this being due to the overtly high humidity which makes breathing nearly
impossible.
And I thought our humidity was bad.

Moving from air conditioned buildings, which is essential to survival,
out to the oppressive heat and unrelenting sun leaves glasses fogged over
and skin and clothing feeling sticky and oddly wet even before one has had
proper chance to sufficiently break a true sweat.

This is the place Martha called home for the past 30 years.
A far cry from the years spent in Alexandria, Virginia during the early years of
her marriage.

I now understood why…for despite the apparently tropical beauty,
Martha would always protest…
“no no, let me just come up there”…
And because of that one fact, of her always wanting to come to us as she
would always prefer to venture north,
this was our first visit to West Palm Beach.

Martha would drive or fly up several times during the
year, staying for a couple of weeks at a time,
back to state she still considered home…
or more specifically near the city of her birth and raising….
Atlanta.

I can’t really say all that I should or would like to at this point
about all of this…not yet.
Having lost three of the most important people in my life in the past six months
has simply taken its toll…
As processing the emotions, memories and feelings of such emptiness
will take some time.

One by one… the supports and shorings are now gone…
Those that helped to hold up the life I had always known…
This is part of the transition where I become the shoring to others…
a transition that denotes change, loss, growth and new…
all rolled uncomfortably into one.

My cousin, Martha’s adopted daughter,
had asked that I come to the house the day following the funeral
to see what if anything I would like to carry back home with me.

Martha was an avid antique collector…
and her collections were eclectic at best…
old antique Papier-mâché halloween decorations with a proclivity for pumpkins.
North Carolina’s famous family of folk art pottery, the Meader’s ugly jugs,
along with the primitive pottery of Georgia’s Marie Rogers.
The Ohio Longaberger baskets numbering in the hundreds…
to early vintage RCA radio dogs..
all the way down to antique turkeys of every size and shape.

I was really overwhelmed when we walked into the house and actually saw
the level to which some of the “collecting” had spiraled.
Her house not equipped for the excessive spillover.

My cousin immediately asked if I would like Martha’s sterling silver
flatware set.

Once was a time, long long ago, when every young bride
looked to building her proper entertaining set of silverware.
Receiving the coveted wedding gifts of silver pieces was as common
as the throwing of rice…
That being a particular pattern of sterling silver complete with
utensils and serving pieces.
Everything from teaspoons to seafood forks to butter knives….
As that now all seems to be for a time that was more civilized than
our own today.

But already having my mother’s and great aunt’s sets…and truth be told,
as my world shrinks, entertaining and cooking is now not nearly what it once was,
I tried to instill the importance of her keeping the monogramed set for both her
and her own daughter.

But when she opened the dusty old silver chest, my eyes locked immediately on the
well tarnished bundle of silver drink spoons / straws…
or what we had always referred to as sippy straws or spoons, depending on who
was using them.

While growing up, whenever we visited my grandmother,
we were always served a tall glass of icy cold
Coca Cola complete with a silver sippy straw.

Coke never tasted so good as when sipped through an elegant silver straw.
It provided a seemingly civilized air of savoring verses gulping and quaffing.
Probably Mimi’s way of getting us to slow down, enjoying and not wasting…
as she was a woman who lived during a time when waste was indeed considered sinful.

The straws were always kept in a certain drawer in my grandmother’s kitchen…
inside the 1920s small Atlanta Buckhead home.
A pale wooden light green kitchen cabinet, I can still see clearly in my mind’s eye,
was where the straws, always shiny and polished to perfection, were stored.

In 1989, when my grandmother passed away, Martha and I were the only two left to
the task of sorting and emptying the house for market.
She got the straws.
I had always wanted just one…
just one to remember.

Over the years I’d see other straws at various antique markets and silver stores,
always thinking I’d buy myself just one,
but in the end deciding it just wouldn’t be the same…

It wouldn’t be one of the straws I’d gleefully
retrieve out of the pale green drawer, delightfully anticipating plunging
it into my frosty glass of brown fizzy liquid…
as I’d gently clench the straw between my front teeth,
feeling the cold drawn liquid being pulled up into a parched waiting mouth…
So refreshing because Mimi’s house, back in those days, was not air conditioned…
an icy cold Coke, on a hot Georgia summer’s afternoon,
seemed like the greatest treat a child could have been given…

I asked my cousin if I could have the straws.

She was 10 years younger than I was and did not have the same fond memories
from time spent with our grandmother.
Being so much younger and living so far away, never afforded her much time to
bond with the long widowed woman with the poodles there in Atlanta as I had.

I had been the only grandchild for many years and we only lived 10 minutes away.
Plus Mimi was not a warm and fuzzy grandmother like others and what warmness
there was, faded with her mind as the dementia grew more and more.

My grandmother had lived a hard life.
A life that she had forged alone for herself and her two daughters during
a depression and a World War as a widowed woman…
long before it was common for women to own a business and work outside of
the home.
Both of which she did very successfully for most of her adult life.

My cousin was more than happy to give me the straws and seemed almost
sad that I really didn’t want to take much more as her task is now daunting
as she figures out what to do with years of accumulated treasured stuff.

This as I still have my own years of stuff to sort through at Dad’s.
As both cousins are now left to the task of picking through,
as well as picking up, the pieces—
all of what stays and all of what goes.

My cousin tells me that she wants to sell the house, eventually moving northward
where there are actually seasons, hills and trees…
verses living where the sky meets the ocean coupled by the
oppressive heat, humidity, and an azure blue sky….

I think I’ll polish my straws and then do something I haven’t done in years…
I’ll pour myself a Coke, a real Coke…bottle only mind you,
over a tall glass of ice…and I’ll plunge a straw deep down into the glass of
cold fizzy liquid as I draw up the memories of lives once known but always loved.

The Relic, the Mystery and there’s just something about those eyes

What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones,
The labor of an age in pilèd stones,
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a star-y-pointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?”

― John Milton

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“Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.”
Emily Bronte

“Like Roman Catholics, they (Eastern Orthodox) believe that the grace of God present in the saints’ bodies during life remains active in their relics when they have died, and that God uses these relics as a channel of divine power and an instrument of healing.”
Timothy Ware (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware) (1993-04-29)

“Orthodox Christians respect and venerate the relics of the Saints (bodily remains) because the body along with the soul is redeemed and sanctified; one day it will rise from the grave to be with God forever.”
Anthony M.Coniaris (2010-12-29)

In yesterday’s post I had shared a little bit about my love and fascination with history— as it is all basically a lengthy story–and who doesn’t like a good story?
I also shared the tale of a chair and a love I have with and for antiques—namely those things I’ve “inherited” along this life’s journey of mine–all from grandmothers and mother.

I left you with a bit of tantalizing intrigue asking you to stay tuned as there was a quasi Part 2 to the story—

This is a story about a visit to the big monthly Antiques extravaganza known as Scott’s Antique Market held at the old convention center located south of the city near Atlanta’s massive airpot. The show comes to town the second weekend of each month. Two enormous “convention” centers are packed to the brim with every sort of antique and dealer imaginable. Even the outside areas are equally packed with a more flea market sort of vibe but equally interesting.

You want to find a matching plate to the set of dishes your grandmother gave you years ago?
It’s here.
Looking for the perfect English corner cabinet for the living room?
It’s here
Looking for the perfect old new rug for the family room?
It’s here.
You need a piece of silver or silverware?
It’s here.
Wanting to find a special gift for that impossible person to buy for?
It’s here—whatever it is, it’s here!
Old toys, jewelry, furniture–big and small, gadgets, cookware, figurines, pottery, glassware, silver, trinkets and treasure–it’s a fun way to spend a day hunting and rummaging. And usually for the right price, it, whatever it is, is going home with you.

As June’s show fell just after our big wedding event down in Savannah, my aunt, who was staying with us throughout the big hoopla, wanted to take in Scott’s before she had to return back home to south Florida.

I also had two dear friends who wanted to tag along with us on this little antique adventure. Rummaging for treasure is always more fun with more eyes to take it all in–so off we all went looking for nothing in particular, but thinking that we may stumble upon some little treasure we just couldn’t live without.
Little did I know. . .

This show is a huge draw for the curious, the shopper and the dealer. Buses come from all over the South. There was a bus for the Junior League of Birmingham, a group down from Nashville, folks from North Carolina, Mississippi, etc—a regular “picker’s” paradise to be sure.

Once we found a parking spot, we made our way into the cavernous market. We wandered up and down the aisles poking and prodding through the various booths, tables and stalls when suddenly, out of no where, a rather large and very worn crucifix catches me off guard. I make a bee line for a closer inspection.

I stand.
I stare.
I marvel.
Remember, I am an art teacher who loves her art history and possess a strong penchant for Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque time periods—early Christian art.
The cross and figure of Christ had seen much better days, which was making me even more curious as to its story–yet there was just something in that face which held me in my place.

I took a peek at the price.
“Maybe she’ll take less” I muse in a silent attempt to reassure myself.
At which point the owner ambles over. . .”it’s French you know.”
“Yes, I thought so.”
“Plus it’s a relic”
“Really? Where, how?”

At which point she begins to explain the part of the story that she knows.
Located at the base of the cross, or what the cross is actually mounted on, is a small wooden and glass enclosed box which holds an ancient nail. She gently tilts the crucifix back so I can have a better view.
“When I found this, the glass was black with age and grime, I didn’t realize it was a box” she continued tilting the cross back as she continued with her story. “It seems that the monastery which originally possessed the cross,” a monastery she now has no idea as to its identity, “had a nail which they actually carried to Jerusalem,” or so she tells me, “to be blessed and to be held to the purported nails of the True Cross.”

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“Ah, a third degree relic” I interject.
“Yes, how do you know that?”
“A third degree relic is an item that has been brought in contact with a purported original relic in order to receive various graces.”
“Are you Catholic?”
“No” I lightly chuckle, “I just know these kind things”

I ask what she’d take for it as my aunt and friends now stand and stare at me as in a ‘have you lost your freaking mind’ kind of stare. One of them even asking “is this something you would want to look at every day. . .all that blood and agony?!”
“Oh yes, very much so” I murmur as if in a trance.
She then tells me her bottom line price, which she explains is way down from the original price but she has had it a while and is receiving a new shipment of items from France and needs to “clean house”
I tell her I need to walk around a bit in order to think about it.

We walk around about 40 more minutes. “Don’t you like this tureen” my aunt almost implores holding up a Mulberry ware covered bowl, as in, ‘get this china pot instead of that dilapidated old cross, it’s cheaper and not so “falling apart.’
“Yes, it’s nice but I don’t need more china” this as my mind is still churning over the crucifix.

I’m now mindlessly walking around, rationalizing and ruminating in my head about having saved up for a new purse and wallet, something of a small treat. Thinking to myself that perhaps I should forego something as trite as a new purse for a treasured piece of history. Something so terribly personal and immensely moving.

“I haven’t had a new purse in several years. . .but who needs a new purse when I can take home this ancient crucifix. . .it won’t go out of style. There’s nothing wrong with my old bag. This will be an investment in history. Plus there’s just something about those eyes. . .”
All this battle waging in my mind as we continue wandering about the maze of booths and dealers.

“Ya’ll can look around here, I’m going back to that booth to ask about the cross. Swing by when you finish here” this as I practically call out over my shoulder as I make my way back to find the cross.

Once I re-find the booth and the owner, I tell her I’ll take the cross.
She warily studies me for a moment.
I think she originally thought I had intentions of reselling it.
Probably wondering why someone like me, not looking to be the overtly religious type as in no collar or wimple, would want such a piece for personal use.

“It’s beautiful” I sincerely tell her.
I proceed explaining that despite not being Catholic, I have a profound draw to the Catholic Faith and that I am, believe it or not, a very devout believer. The cross, the lifelike plaster image, with it’s peeling paint and overtly dusty and fragile appearance, calls to my heart.
The face, his face, his eyes draw me inward, beckoning, calling.
“I am here, I suffer, I bleed, I do this for you. . .”

She then tells me that it’s her understanding that many of the churches in France, just prior to the Nazi’s invasion, took items such as this cross out of the churches, hiding them in fear of looting or even worse, desecration and destruction. It’s her understanding that this cross was moved and never made its way back home. She proceeds to show me how to open the box, showing me the nail which is anchored to a crumbling and faded burgundy velvet pad by a small piece of old wire. Ever so gently she retrieves a yellowed folded piece of very fragile paper. It is a certificate of authenticity–written in Latin and stamped, proclaiming the nail to be a relic of the true nail of the true cross–dated 1883.

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After I get the cross home, I immediately and precariously climb up on a stool, perched on the counter, in order to place it high on top of the book case–a perfect place for anyone coming in the house to see it. It’s also a perfect place keeping it safe. But just before placing it up and away, I retrieve the fragile piece paper from the box, one final time, in order to make a copy so I might do a little research of my own

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My current school of thought is that the monks only carried the nail to Rome, to a church named for Jerusalem, but I could be wrong. The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem—Latin: Basilica Sanctae Crucis in Hierusalem.
Many more questions than answers to be sure. I would love to somehow figure out where this cross came from–what church or monastery. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to be able to find its original home, returning it to its rightful place of reverence and worship?!
My new goal and quest.

I’ll be keeping you posted to be sure—but for right now I need to go decipher a little bit of Latin. . .

A chair, old things and a story of self

No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

“A house with old furniture has no need of ghosts to be haunted.”
― Hope Mirrlees

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(engraving from a circa 1890 copy of The Pilgrims Progress / Julie Cook / 2014)

I once taught with a woman who was an exceptional story teller.
No silly, not fortune teller, but rather story teller.
She oddly enjoyed teaching, of all things, freshman english–you know the ones—those young people caught in limbo somewhere between childhood and puberty who believe themselves to “be grown”. . .
Perhaps it was because she felt her young charges were still vulnerable and mouldable, much unlike their upperclassman counterparts. In her opinion there was still hope.

She was a delightful story teller—and that is exactly how she taught, by the use of stories.
It is said that we learn best by the hearing of stories. Perhaps that is how our brain best recalls information by placing dates and events into a story sequence verses simple rote memorization. Perhaps it is mere stimulation for our brains, increasing memory capacity as the imagination is at work.

I often envied her gift for story telling as I was not one to conjure up an immediate tale. Perhaps it was her keen use of imagination whereas I had let my imagination wane long ago. Either way, her students enjoyed her class as would I on those happenstance occasions when I’d be passing by her door as she was in the midst of a full regalia of the latest tale.

Which brings me to something I had told you about a week or so ago—it was a promised tale about a chair.
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(said chair seeking shelter on the streets of Savannah during a thunder storm / Julie Cook/ 2014)

Remember me telling you that I had found a chair at an Antique shop in Savannah when we were gathered for THE wedding? I happened upon it in a massive ancient cavernous warehouse just off River Street. The place was chock full of furniture all from England, France and Italy–dating from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

There were massive pieces of every size and shape fit for only the finest of homes. The most massive of homes. And most likely procured from such grand homes down through the ages. There were Tudor pieces, Georgian pieces, Colonial pieces and every type of Louis— but mainly there were heavy carved English pieces. Armoires, grandfather clocks, dinning tables, bar sets–as in entire massive wooden bars taken from taverns of long ago, wooden chests, cabinets, game tables, and chairs—a myriad of chairs.

We had actually wandered earlier into another antique store where I saw the loveliest group of Windsor chairs—old, as in 200 years or better, very early American Windsors—8 chairs going for the bargain price of $27,000! I knew right then and there I needed to leave that store. The shop keeper actually stopped me on the way out the door telling me he’d let me have them for $18,000.–a real steal. Good lord!! Who does that? Who can afford to do that?? Oh I digress. . .

So as I was weaving my way through the mazes which cut through the massive bevy of ancient wooden pieces, when suddenly, I stopped dead in my tracks. Perched up on a chest was this lone little chair–beckoning, calling out. . .”juuuullliiieeee. . .”
Rich dark wood, an ancient warm and woven cane back and bottom with the most splendid carvings imaginable. Cherubs, flowers crowns—imagine the story behind this lovely little piece!

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“ooooooo”
My husband wanders up behind me.
“What is it” he quips.
“Look” I breathlessly respond staring intently at the chair perched on an equally wonderful wooden chest.
“You like that!?” He quizzically asks as in I can tell he’s wondering why in the world I like it.
“oooooooo”
“How much is it?” he chirps
I look at the tag.
“Too much” I dejectedly respond.
“Where would you put it? The house is already busting at the seams with everything from your dads.”

My house is indeed more shrine than house I suppose. Most everything in the house is from either of my grandmothers or great aunts. A unique and eclectic blend of Italian, French, German and English pieces from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries with my own hodge lodge of 20th century shabby chic. Nothing matches.
There are figurines, china, paintings and furniture.
And my husband is right—almost too much stuff.

And yet this is the stuff of which I am made.

All of the stuff which is stuffed into my house is all the result of everyone in my life having died relatively early on. My mother actually preceded both grandmothers and great aunts to the grave. When you’re the lone surviving offspring, most everything comes your way. And as I happen to lean to the sentimental, I could never part with any of it–selling things away would be akin to selling away pieces of the very people who meant so very much to me.

And just in case you were wondering. . .no, I am not a hoarder thank you very much.

And this now brings us to, I think in part, as to why I love antiques. These pieces laced through my house were the pieces to the lives of my grandmothers, great aunt’s and mother. They made up their respective homes and their respective lives. One grandmother was very much the grand collector–acquiring this and that, then conventionally telling my grandfather, once he noticed some new this or that, “oh that old thing. . .we’ve had that”.
The other grandmother actually worked as a hair dresser in mid town Atlanta in the 1930’s-60’s. She would be given lovely things by her clients–mostly back in the 1940s when such gift giving was not so unexpected.

I can vividly recall where each item was in their homes and of my interactions and recollections. And as I’ve aged, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the pieces themselves.
For there is a history and a story behind each piece. A story that precedes even my grandmothers.
So many questions. . .
Who originally owned it when it lived across the pond?
Who may have touched it, come in contact with it?
Exactly how old it is?
What is its value?
Where was it located?
Why was it ever sold?
What attracted my grandmother to it?

As a history major throughout much of college, I hold a deep appreciation for the history behind things. It’s all about the story of a people–of how they, we, came to be— which is all so very intriguing.
Are we not all basically the same–those folks of the past along with those of us here and now?
We have not changed all that much over the centuries— as to what makes people, people, and what makes their things real.

The history is the story.
So many questions.
Who sat in this chair?
Who held this plate.
Who put flowers in this vase.
Who bought this as a present for a loved one?
Was this a commissioned piece or just the whimsy of a gifted carpenter?
Was it a part of a set?
What was the story of the journey from there, wherever there was, to here?
All this plays through my mind as I stand buried in a warehouse of ancient furniture staring at a lonely old chair marveling at how truly delicate the cane is woven–completely original–you don’t see such all that often.

My husband, who must have felt sorry for me as we were in the midst of wedding central and must have thought I was soon to be at my breaking point, offered to buy the chair as an early anniversary present (31 years in August)
“OOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
Then quickly,”Oh no, it’s too much” I exclaim regaining some composure.
“I’ll get it if you really want it. . .”

15 minutes later we’re on our way back to the hotel, chair in tow.

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(sweet husband with chair)

Imagine the sight—my husband precariously carrying an antique chair through the old historic district of Savannah, down busy Bay Street, about a mile back to the hotel, with my aunt and I in hot pursuit. People were staring and commenting on the chair.
“Is it South African?” one man inquires.
“Heaven’s no” I exclaim—as I think to myself—We’re standing in the middle of colonial America for crying out loud, as in the 13th colony, founding city, James Oglethorpe, Georgia, as in King George, for Heaven’s sake. . .South African, really. . .

Suddenly a thunderstorm appears out of no where. I shriek, yelling for my husband to seek shelter between some massive columns protruding form some downtown building. We hunker down into the narrow protected space— the 3 of us plus chair– all tightly pressed against a massive granite building waiting for the rain to subside.

The chair stayed in my hotel room during the remainder of the wedding weekend. Family and friends wandering in would exclaim “oh my, did that chair come with the room?” Again, really?!
Eventually, upon our departure, the chair was given a prime place in the car for the long journey back home. It now graces a corner in my family room—maintaining its aura of royalty.

Maybe its Scottish?
Maybe it hails from Mary Queen of Scots. Maybe she sat on it while contemplating her cousin Elizabeth’s quandary.
Maybe William Wallace or Robert the Bruce sat upon it waiting for freedom—I know, that’s a big stretch time wise.
or maybe more like Robbie Burns penning his latest forlorn thoughts or perhaps Rob Roy plotting rebellion. . .

Or maybe it’s just some little pub chair from some long forgotten little tavern– happy now to finally be out of the pub. . .
The history is truly the story. . .

(Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow regarding the acquisition of a most interesting object last week from Scotts Antique Show in Atlanta—talk about a story)

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

The sum of things to be known is inexhaustible, and however long we read, we shall never come to the end of our story-book.”
(Introductory lecture as professor of Latin at University College, London, 3 October 1892)”
― A.E. Housman

“Stories are meant to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”
― Finley Peter Dunne

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Not to say I made any bad decisions during my mini hiatus but boy, do I have some stories to tell. . .
I’ve been trying to put up a post since, I don’t know, what’s today??? I just walked in the door, the suitcases, bags and boxes now litter my house from the car to the bedroom.
I’m bleary eyed and slap happy–not to mention broke as a convict.

There’s a chair
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There were dinners, talks, smokers, drinkers, bushes, ghosts, walks, trolleys, parks, noise, horse races, bets, heat, humidity, cars, vows, a kiss, dances, toasts, prayers, food–good and bad, oysters for some, bushes again, rickshaws, torn dresses, carriages, a river, history, pirates, ice-cream, storms, rain, bills, friends, family, happiness, irritability, sleeplessness, youth, age, humor, security only once, an ill husband, shopping, viewing, hotels, rooms, flowers, crowns, keeping calm, Winston, tuxes, fraternities, sororities, principals, superintendents, students, teachers, preaches, locals, strangers, visitors, blisters, sunburn, laughter, tears, antiques—and just no time right now to go into to any detail. . .

I’ll get us all caught up ASAP–I promise, but first I need to figure out about the chair. . .

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And I need one of these right about now—not the dish towel but the drink!!!!!!!

Principles and Direction

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

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It is good to have ambition and drive. Goals, aspirations, hopes, dreams, etc. are all good and even essential components to one’s life but it’s what directs these goals, hopes, aspirations, etc– what motivates these dreams and ambitions—that is the truly important key behind the impetus to and eventually success of one’s life’s quests.

We can look at someone like Napoleon, whose quote is the basis of today’s post, as an example of someone who possessed great ambition. There is no denying that he was a great general and leader—that is, up to a certain point. His is the story we in America love—the small-town boy who comes from obscurity, the difficult, somewhat dysfunctional upbringing–a young boy who comes from very humble, and what many at the time considered very poor beginnings, certainly no silver spoon in his mouth. He is laughed at and scorned for his rough around the edges roots, even his accent is ridiculed….and yet he achieves a momentous level of greatness–all because he is driven to do so by an intense desire to succeed.

He does possess one very important attribute which proves to be a decisive factor in his life’s journey, the key to whether he rises to the top in life or remains a part of his very humble surroundings—and that attribute is ambition sprinkled with a strong dose of determination. The only caveat is that the principles and drive behind this ambition, this determination is a tad skewed. Napoleon wants so desperately to rise up and be someone of great importance, not so much as to lead people in the right direction, but rather to prove to others that he is capable of greatness—it is a very selfish and self-centered drive to the top—a sort of “I’ll show them mentality.”

When one’s goals are based solely in the “I’ll show them” category, the rise to greatness may be fast and glorious but the impending fall is blindingly disastrous.

It is my hope that you do have dreams and goals—that we all do. It is also my hope that those dreams and goals are backed by humility, purity, honesty—a desire to not necessarily prove anything to anyone, no aims to “show them” but rather a wish and a hope to make the world a better place. Sincerity of heart is easily recognized—or not. You must decide what is your driving force in life—if it is of a selfish nature, it will never come to positive fruition—history teaches us that.

Take time today to examine your own goals and desires of life looking closely at the driving forces behind them—are they pure and genuine, built upon sharing, kindness, being steeped in the betterment of others or are they laced with self-centeredness, revenge, selfishness, or even subject to the rationalized eventual harming of others? If they are of the former, they are bound for success, but if they are of the latter, then failure is inevitable–and most likely at a terrific cost

Take time today to examine the question “what are your principles and what directs them?” Doing so can make all the difference in not only your world, but in the world of those you inhabit.

Never be deterred by the closing of one door…

One door is shut, but a thousand are open. ~ Argentine Proverbs

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(Photograph: a door knob in Paris/ Julie Cook 2011)

A couple of summers ago, my aunt and I went to Belgium and France on holiday. I began taking photographs of the beautifully old, often times ornate, as well as the simplistic knobs that graced the myriad of doors in Paris. Some knobs opened the doors to businesses, others to homes or apartments. Some knobs were obviously very old while others quite new and modern.

It was always a funny situation as I would be squatting down in front of a door, posed to take the picture of the knob, when suddenly the door would open and an unsuspecting home owner or shop owner would find me at their feet. I would begin profusely apologizing…”Je suis tres désolé Madame, Monsieur…” but I was always waved to continue on–the owner/ resident proud that their lowly knob would be of interest to someone like me.

Being in a city that is so rich with history, I could only imagine who may have once turned the knobs. Things like that always intrigue me–as in who was here before me sort of thoughts… Once home, I put together a book of my photographs. Who knew that a simple doorknob could be so visually striking. Once again it is all a matter of how we look at things. Just as the Argentinean proverb eludes, is the shut door the end? Does the shut door equate to the end of the quest, the dream, the desire? One door in your life may be shut, but there are many more that are already open, it’s just a matter of looking for them.

Never stop looking for the open doors of possibility in your life. Happy Thursday

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(photo: Parisian knob/ Julie Cook 2011)

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(photo: Parisian knob/ Julie Cook 2011)