joy….to give or to receive…

“I don’t think of all the misery,
but of the beauty that still remains.”

Anne Frank


(the work of a day / Julie Cook / 2017)

Thanksgiving afternoon, I was complaining to my daughter-n-law, dreading the notion
of having to begin the yearly arduous ritual, of “putting up” Christmas.
Some people will go into a feeding frenzy of all things consumerism and
I will go into light mode….

“Why do we do this?” I lamented.
“Why do we work our butts off, schlepping stuff up and down from basements
and attics every year….

Why do we move all this stuff in while moving all the other stuff out…
making way for holiday paraphernalia…
just to turn around to then put it all away again in just a couple of weeks???”

I lament so because I am the one who pretty much does it all….
all the lights,
all the decorating,
all the tree,
all the buying,
all the wrapping,
all the cooking,
all the cleaning etc…
because bless my husband’s heart,
he runs a retail business.

Suffice it to know that our lives are not our own right now…
nor will they be…not until about the middle of January.

Neither my husband or I truly “get” this Black Friday absurdity that consumes
this nation of ours.
He does nothing out of the ordinary for it and I don’t even acknowledge it.
Something about the wantoness of all the materialism consuming this country of ours
just oozes of emptiness.

Why do people stand in line for hours on end when they should actually be
home just enjoying Thanksgiving, family, time off, being outside, being inside, being someplace other than a strip mall, a big mall, etc…
oddly preferring to scoop up “stuff”????
Stuff no one really “needs” to survive.

Places like Syria just keep coming to mind when I see cars parked 4 deep,
wrapped around parking lots, just so folks can buy a flat screen TV or clothes,
a mixer or whatever it is they think they JUST have to have in order to survive Christmas…
along with all the other trivial things no one really needs in order to survive.
Like I say, I just don’t get it…..

So my daughter-n-law reminds me, “well you know he really does appreciate it”
He being my only child and son who was born a week before Christmas.
Christmas is his official holiday….but certainly not his dad’s.

The night our son was born, oh so many moons ago, in the wee hours of a December Monday morning…my poor husband had to leave us shortly after the birth so he could go
open the store and work all day…after having been up all night.
Missing his only child, his new son’s first day of living…
He is remorseful all these many years later, but it was how he fed us,
and for that we give thanks.
Yet how does one ever get back time?
They don’t.

In this family of ours, there is definitely some resentment concerning the consuming madness of holiday shopping…. on all sorts of levels…
and yet our son just adores Christmas…what are those odds?!

Sigh…..

So as I was lamenting, my daughter-n-law tells me about a movie they recently went
to see —-a movie I would never ever consider watching.

They are only in their late 20’s—they watch things on television and at the movies
that I pretty much consider toxic—
of which I hope they too will soon realize as toxic…but until then,
I just pray….

My daughter-n-law relayed a line from the movie which actually resonated with me….

She said that in the movie the main character was grousing, much like I was, about
this whole Christmas business.
In walks the mother who deadpan responds….
“don’t you know, mothers don’t receive
joy, theirs is but to give joy”
(a paraphrase)

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

An understanding as to what exactly a lot of this is really all about.
It hit in certainly not a martyresque sort of understanding…but a deeper sense of understanding.

It is an understanding that none of this is about me….never has been.

It’s not about what “I” can get,
not about what I can buy,
not about what I can have….
nor is it about what I want….
but rather it’s about what I can give.

It’s about the ability to give verses the ability to get and receive….
And that giving has nothing to do with stuff—not of things gathered
from a store, or from on-line or from any place else for that matter.
Nothing tangible….

It has nothing to with with savvy shopping, marketing strategy, deals, door busters
or the madness that has become what we know as Christmas in the modern world.
A time that won’t even allow most schools to utter the word “Christmas”
but rather “winter break.”

What this season is about…isn’t about all this decorating,
or about all this consuming, or about all this buying and wrapping of “stuff”….

It’s not about the amassing or consuming….or materialism.
It’s not about the biggest gift, the best deals, the nicest trip to some
exotic wonderland.
Rather it’s about what we can offer and what we can give…

Because the original notion of this holiday Christmas business wasn’t about
Black Fridays and sale margins…it wasn’t about cyber Monday’s or on-line surfing…

It was about a gift…. but not a gift in the modern mindset of what constitutes
as a gift…

It was a single tiny gift that was actually given in order to save…
to save both you and I, as well as all of mankind, actually from ourselves….

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything
we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

2 Timothy 1:9

what was

“I have always believed, and I still believe,
that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it
meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Hermann Hesse


(a once prized and regal chair now sits abandoned and discarded / Julie Cook / 2017)

this is a tale of that which once was….

Have you ever wandered through an antique store, thrift shop, rummage sale or a rarely
visited basement or attic….
finding things that harken to a different space in time?

Have you ever sought a treasure where others only saw trash?
Finding something of beauty hiding underneath the layers of grime, damage, neglect
and even abuse?

Have you ever wondered how something that was once so special and treasured
now sits shredded and torn, broken and sad, ignored and now forgotten?

I think we are very much like this chair.

Once upon a time we were energetic, full of beauty and grace…
Some of us were even stately and certainly noteworthy.
We were taken care of, kept clean, neat and ever so tidy..
Often we were paraded about by those who loved us
during those special moments of life.

We were treasured, cherished and the pride of others…

Then time and life took their toll.
And like this forgotten beauty, now broken, worn, tired and dirty…
we were passed over for things newer and shinier…
we had lost our luster and therefore were simply discarded, making way for the new…
as society deems us now less than….

But that is never how we are seen through the loving eyes of our Omnipotent Father.
Despite what the years of decay and dirt have done to us,
despite the brokenness, the raggedness, the age and wear…
He sees what was…
What was special, what was lovely and that which He had always intended…
that which was, and still is, beautiful….

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—
not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9

Mise en place

“Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.” Charles M. Schulz

DSCN7198
(one batch of the boxes of fall decorations / Julie Cook / 2014)

Is that what all this is about? Ill fated attempts at making our lives, our homes, more interesting than they are??

Actually this is more of a tale about a boat load of crap, uh, I mean, gourds, pumpkins, colorful leaves, acorns, straw, nuts, etc. . .anything and everything to do with Fall, Autumn, the season of Harvest. . . or whatever you may wish to call the 3rd season of the calendar.

I like to call it my favorite time of year–and no, that is not Christmas as Christmas is just another word for consumerism chaos but that’s for another day.

The Thermometer is currently registering 90ᵒ–it’s not yet noon. The news is telling me it feels more like 96ᵒ as our high today will be 95ᵒ, meaning it will feel like 110ᵒ –give or take–but I’m sure it will be more like give, with the humidity ringing in around 87% currently–higher later–ugh—-and whereas this is Labor day weekend, Summer’s grand final hoorah, I, for one, choose to look ahead—as to something, say, a little more comfortable and inviting. As in I don’t wish to remain naked when venturing out of doors because I am tired of my clothes sticking to my body —picture flies stuck to fly tape and that’s me with my clothes.

Nothing is flattering about this time of year. Hair, no matter how hard a woman may attempt taming her coiffure–and trust me, I try awfully damn hard–digressing, it will either wilt, explode with puffiness or revert back to its natural wavy state the minute it is introduced to the out of doors.
Humidity + hair = disaster.
And of course any and all freshly applied makeup will soon be oozing down a sweaty oh I forgot, we women of the South do not sweat—we glisten— glisteny faces which are responding to the 87% humidity.

A friend of mine in Texas, sweet Natalie, replying to a blog post, told me how she sings daily praises to the man whoever invented air-conditioning. I must second that praise. Which brings me to an interesting observation— the Italians do not like air-conditioning. They fear it produces “bad air” which equates to respiratory maladies—things like the croop, pneumonia, Legionnaire’s Disease. . . you name it and they think it will pour out of an air conditioning unit waiting to strike down any and all, exposed to such air, with immediate illness and death.

The Italians are fretful when it comes to health. They take great precautions to stay well. So this is why, if you ever go on Holiday to Italy say in July or August. . . why you would do this I am uncertain as anyone can tell you that these are the two months you do not wish to visit Italy as the entire country shuts down and heads to the shore or high up in the alps seeking respite form the heat and the malaria (I’m telling you, über health conscious). . .I know this as I have made such a fatal mistake, but again, I digress. . .you will suddenly go into apoplexy upon entering your hotel room, say in Rome, when you find your windows wide open with nary a breeze and nary an AC unit in sight and it’s 100ᵒ out with 97% humidity.

Which brings me full circle back around to my picture of all of the Fall crap, uh, decorations sitting in the middle of the floor on a soon to be 98ᵒ day.
Rather than venturing outside today to enjoy the sun soaked (hot as hell day) Labor Day weekend, I’m preferring to say inside like anyone with any sense. . .yet my husband is currently attempting to plow his deer land on a hot tractor in the middle of nowhere in 102ᵒ, which in my opinion is asinine, but again I digress. . .I am opting to decorate my house with a more Fall-like theme—of which I am hoping will have a psychological effect, making me feel much cooler than I am in my tank top, shorts and bare feet. Surely twig pumpkins, fake squirrels, dried nuts, a bunch of gourds and colorful faux leaves will make me feel cooler, almost chilly, right??

Which brings my thoughts, as I schlepp this crap , these boxes of decorations down from the 150ᵒ inferno, aka attic and up the steps from the dungeon, aka, basement, as to why it is, why in the heck, do we, I, feel the need to decorate, seasonally, in the first place?! It must go back to some paganesque ancient druid need hiding in our / my roots. Lest we forget, I am indeed adopted and as I fear, there must some druids hiding in my background someplace—and no offense to any druids currently reading this —I’m just saying.

Perhaps it is our consumer driven economy and lifestyle. . .
The stores are, as I type, filling their shelves with boxes of fake colorful leaves, fallesque wreathes, cute fake little squirrels, dried gourds, indian corn, acorns, dried straws and sticks that we buy by the boat loads in order to “decorate” our homes and even workplaces—we set the mood so to speak. In my case, the mood to cool!!

And let’s not talk about how next month we will be riding the Halloween bandwagon. What was once a fun little excuse for young children to dress-up, going door to door trick or treating for candy has morphed into a really scary time which calls on us to lock up our cats–lest some cult out there decides to have a little sacrifice session, as we scan and have our children’s candy bags x-rayed at local hospitals for any signs of sickos who sadisticly and maliciously may have put razor blades in apples or cyanid in Reeses cups, to those who protest trick or treat all together because it is no longer politically correct as all the witches and satanist out there take offense (no offense witches and satanists), or the fundamentalists who fear it will turn our children literally into withes and satanists, which has all actually lead to this little “holiday” being the largest and biggest sales event excuse out there for adults to throw a party—hence why that diva of domesticity, who will remain nameless as I don’t want to get sued, is set to sell a myriad of magazines giving her, at the ripe old age of 73, an excuse to dress up in elaborate costume hawking her blood red punch and eyeball deviled egg recipes. . .yes, we’ve lost our collective minds. . .

Which brings me back to the boat load of crap , decorations sitting on the floor and of my having to now “put away” Summer, making way for Fall. . .and could someone please remind me as to why I waste, spend my time doing this. . .

Oh yeah, that’s right, because it’s 103ᵒ outside in the shade and I want to psyche myself into thinking I’m feeling cooler, much cooler—like Fall cooler—not that the Fall cool temperatures will arrive here, before, say Thanksgiving. . .which means it’ll just be time to schlepp out all the turkey and Thanksgiving crap decorations down from the attic and up from the basement. . .as the never ending saga of decorations and decorating, putting crap in its place, never ends. . .