Natalie

I reached out to Nikki, Natalie’s daughter, late this afternoon—

Since I’m not on facebook, I didn’t know how things were going.

Sadly Nikki just text me that Natalie “went home Monday to be with Jesus”—

Maybe that’s why I’ve seen so many butterflies this past week, flitting about in the yard amongst
the newly budding flowers.

I had a feeling Natalie had transcended this earth.

Natalie loved the Spring and all the new birth taking place in the garden.
She adored her yard and garden.
And she always strongly proclaimed on her blog the joy and confidence she found in our Savior.

Au revoir mon Ami. Je voudrais vous voir bientôt—–
Farewell to the consummate French teacher and life long educator…
I will miss you, Natalie.

The stories as told by a tree

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”
T.S. Eliot


(ariel view looking down on the tree and boxes of ornaments / Julie Cook / 2013)

This is a post I wrote the first year I had started blogging.
It was actually written the day after Christmas but I think the sentiment
is still very much worth sharing and most timely…as I think such thoughts might
be best remembered now instead of in a few days when things are being packed
up and put away…remembered as we stand on the cusp of a most joyous
and sacred time.

I am amazed at how much our lives have changed in these few short years since
this post…
changed for both sad and joyous…
There have been deaths, loss, gains, marriage, babies…
the very visible continuum of just one family.

It is my wish for all of us that we may each remember how precious our
lives are and of how important it is to spend the allotted time given to each
of us wisely and lovingly…
Please enjoy….
And I wish for each of you a very Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas–despite the wicked weather and UPS delays. . .

It seems that life here was so hectic leading up to Christmas Day that my memory of
it all is now but a mere blur.
People came, they ate, they slept, they ate, they exchanged gifts, they ate some more—-
then they departed.
Now more people are coming today. . .
where there will be, no doubt, more eating, sleeping, eating, gift giving,
eating, shopping, football, eating, celebrating, eating, then departing some time next week.
Whew!

In between the shifts of company coming and going,
I have worked feverishly to purge my house of Christmas.
My mother always said you couldn’t carry anything from the old year into the new year
so all Christmas decorations–the tree, the lights, etc, must be down and packed away
all before New Year’s Eve.

I worked like a crazy person on “Boxing Day”–-boxing up, packing away, hauling up and
down steps, carrying out to the trash…yet another Christmas.

As “my people” never seem to be home when it’s time to decorate or time to take down,
I become a one-woman demolition team.
It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like my world being turned upside down
with the rearranging, moving, adding and taking away which results from decorating
for a holiday.
I like my world just so.

As it came time for me to dismantle the tree (and yes, our’s is a live tree),
I couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful as well as somewhat nostalgic–-
even as I lugged all of the ornament boxes, once again, out of the attic–
spreading them out all over the floor. No wonder they call it boxing day…not really
but it works for me.

I’m not one of those people who creates a “themed” tree.
Our tree is a hodgepodge tree full of ornaments dating back to a Sunday school class
in 1963 when I was a little girl—-
the ornaments create a bit of a timeline, moving forward through college,
on to the ornaments of the newly married followed by the ornaments of our son as a baby
then as a little boy coming to now, with an engaged couple ornament.
There are the ornaments from various travels and those of various countries.
There are the ornaments from my students throughout the years and the
cherished ornaments from friends…

It seems each ornament has a story.

There is the nutcracker ornament my dad gave me shortly after mother died.
I had collected nutcrackers when I was a young girl as Santa would bring me a
beautifully painted German nutcracker each Christmas–-
Dad carried on the tradition when I was older by giving me a nutcracker ornament.

I found myself a little sad yesterday as I reached for my nutcracker ornament,
gently lifting him from the tree then tenderly placing him in his designated place
in the ornament box—-
thinking about Dad when he actually “thought”—
unlike Christmas Day this year when he was just a shell of his former self as my
stepmother recounted through tears the ordeal of dad having lost the car keys
this past week—-thankfully no, he’s no longer driving–-
but hence the debacle of his having lost the keys that he doesn’t even use…

There are the ornaments that were a part of the trees from throughout my childhood.
They are, to me, mother’s ornaments which now tie a piece of her to my own trees
and of my life today.
There are her little porcelain British regiment soldiers whose heads
I have to glue back on year after year.
There are even the little glass Santa snowmen with the googly eyes that were actually
my grandmothers–then there are the painted Easter eggs that belonged to my
other grandmother.

There are the ornaments that various students have given me over the years.
As I remove each ornament, I can remember each student as if I’m suddenly being
transported to the very spot in the classroom or office when I first opened the
gaily wrapped package each student proudly presented.
It’s not as common for high schoolers to give their teachers gifts which in turn
makes each received present truly special and one of a kind.
I can recall each face as I gently lift the various balls and figures from the tree.

There are the nativity scene ornaments which my godparents gave me when I was in
high school.
I cherished those ornaments all those many years ago, so proud that they had thought of me.
He was the dean of a massive Episcopal Cathedral so for me to have received such a
remembrance was always extra special.

There is the collection of the porcelain angels, with one being what a friend gave me
following the death of my brother.
There are the beautifully fragile glass Santas, the hand-carved birds from Vermont…
And there are the two tongue depressors turned snowmen that at first glance look quite
cheap and homemade and yet they tell quite a story.

I actually first came about my life here in Carrollton by way of another teacher who,
at the time, I did not know.
She had decided to call it quits mid-year in 1982.
She was the art teacher of the local high school here and was married to one of the
history teachers.
She had decided to leave mid-year in order to go back to school at the
University of Georgia to further her degree.
I was the young, freshly graduated, college kid from Atlanta who was hired as
the replacement.
Eventually, I would make the school and the community my home and my life for 31 years.

When her two sons were little boys she was the type of mom who believed that the boys
should make their own spending money even at the ripe old age of 7.
One Christmas the youngest boy wanted some Lego kits.
In order to make some spending money, she had him make Christmas ornaments.
After school, one afternoon, she escorted him from classroom to classroom selling his
tongue depressor snowmen.
I felt rather sorry for him as he was so quiet and shy,
whereas she was rather flamboyant and quite “artsy”—
I bought 2 at a $1.00 a piece.

Several years following the sale of snowmen, she was diagnosed with cancer.
She raged a valiant fight, but the battle proved too much.
She departed this life leaving behind her then-teenaged sons and their dad,
a very distraught husband and father.
A couple of years ago, just prior to my retiring, I finally told my colleague,
her widowed husband, the story of the tongue depressors and how, to now honor
his wife, each year I place the snowmen in a prominent position on our tree.
With tears flowing down his face, he simply hugged me.
That seems like such a long time ago.

Each year as I put up the tree, only to be followed by the taking down of the tree,
I am constantly reminded of what was—-for happy or sad.
I am glad to have a tree that tells a story—and delightfully it is a continuous story.
There is indeed a beginning, but thankfully, there is no end as it is a
constant continuum–-with each year building upon the previous year.

Throughout the long year, from Christmas to Christmas,
there are adventures that usually witness the procuring of some new trinket intended
for a future tree.
These mementos are squirreled away until the designated time when they are pulled out of
drawers and cabinets gently unpacked and placed alongside their fellow trinkets,
doodads, figures, and balls—–all adding to the continued story of a single family who
travels along together on the continuum of a life, for good or bad,
inextricably linked forever by a life forged by those who went before us and only to
be continued by those who follow suit.
The story of a family, as told by a tree. . .

musings of a retired educator…

“The words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes a bit different,
as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly—yes,
and this is also very good, and I like it a lot, I also very much agree with this,
that this what is one man’s treasure and wisdom always sounds like
foolishness to another person.”

Hermann Hesse


(a bunch of wilted and rotting swiss chard in the trash / Julie Cook / 2018)

Or so that was the impetus behind my wanting to start a blog 5…ish years ago..
I was a retired teacher who still had things to “teach”…
or so I figured.

But then ‘it’ happened.

It happened not all at once but rather it came upon gradually…slowly and almost undetected.

It was life and we all know life brings with it…change.

Life changed.
I changed.

It happens.

But that didn’t mean that I didn’t have musings or things I still felt compelled
I needed to “teach”…
I did and I do.

Take for example the above image of the spent swiss chard.

I like swiss chard.
I grew it myself once when I use to have a garden.

I had a garden when I first started blogging.
I blogged about my garden…
then ‘it’ happened.

Life happened and things changed and now I don’t have a garden to blog about.

So now I buy swiss chard at the grocery store.
I like to chop it and sautee it with bacon, onions, a little chicken broth and salt and pepper.

The swiss chard you’re looking at is in the trash.
As has been the last five or so bunches of swiss chard I’ve brought in oh so many weeks.
They’ve all been sent to the rubbish bin…because ‘it’ happened.
Life happened and my swiss chard wilted and got past its prime and I had to throw it out.

Life can be that way…wasteful as well as expensive.

Life can also grow and expand or it can shrink and shrivel.


(two cousins enjoying the human’s couch / Julie Cook / 2018)

I had two cats when I started my blog.

I still have the two cats, but I also have a granddog that has come to stay with us since her new
human baby sister arrived.

They’re all staying with us.

Because ‘it’ happened.

Life brought new life and old life had to go back to work so now older life is caring for the
new life and the two cats and the dog.

And since all these lives are currently living under our roof,
I find that I visit places like the grocery store and Target a lot more often then I use to.
And sadly waste more and more and more swiss chard as life keeps getting in the way.

Take for example yesterday when I had to go to Target for a few things for the new life currently
living under our roof.

Look what I saw for sale…

Politically Correct band-aids.
For when life gives us boo boos.

They are marketed as diverse band-aids.
Skintone correct.

Yeah, right.

Kind of like a Crayola crayon box—talk about diversity in a box.

Because even band-aids have now decided to be all about diversity and the politically correct.

“Genius” some would muse.
“Why didn’t I think of that” others would lament.

All the while I look at traditional band-aids while shaking my head as I know they match
my skin tone about as much as a strip of duct tape does.

Simply put, they don’t.
So let’s not pretend that cream colored band-aids are just for creamed colored folks…
Next, we’ll be changing the color of gauze or surgical tape…

I think the clear band-aids were more along the lines of correctness.

These stips of sticky color are just one more example of members of the bandwagon
jumping on that proverbial train ride while touting that diversity brings everyone together…
yet failing to understand that diversity is really all about splintering.

And then there were these desk signs…

I’m a girl.
I have a granddaughter.
I’m all for equal pay for equal work no matter who’s doing the work…
But if the furture is all about being female…where does that leave our male population?
And where will that leave the making of more males and yes, more females…???

Sigh…

Another example of all things marketing taking life to the same level of
the militant movements of activism…
Hurray for more militant activism…

Sigh…

But happily, I am pulled back to thinking about that new life currently,
yet temporarily, living under our roof.

She got very sick this past week.
Life threw us a tremendous curveball.
A frightening, scary, grab you by the collar, curveball.

When we got home from the second hospital, after a very frightening couple of days
of touch and go, her grandfather presented her with her first bouquet of flowers.

See…this is what life and new life can do to older life.

It can make older life think and do things it normally would not have thought about
or done before…
Like walk up the sidewalk to a store selling flowers in order to bring the sickly little
new life a pot of pretty purple flowers.

Which brings us to a hard part of new life.

Sleeping.

Some new life is all about, well, life…sleep is not an important factor…
because sleep precludes one from , well, taking it all in.
It gets in the way of eating, being held, having diapers changed and missing out
on the older lives scattered about.

And so we now introduce the Finnbin

A couple of years back, before I had this new life in my life, I read an article about
babies in Nordic countries who sleep outside—even in the dead of winter.
Parents make no never mind about meeting up at a cafe for a coffee while their babies hang out,
outside in the sub-zero temps, bundled up, yet happy as little snuggly clams.
They claim babies sleep better out in the fresh air versus inside…
makes sense as I have been known to go a bit stir crazy when I can’t get outside.

I thought the concept intriguing at the time and that perhaps our Nordic friends
were on to something.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21537988

And so when this new life came into my life and had a nice new crib, a functional pack and play
and two Mama Roos yet still found sleep elusive,
I recalled the story of our Nordic friends and the other stories I’d seen about
Finnish babies sleeping in boxes…
yep boxes.

A box seemed a bit safer then shoving the new life outside to fin for herself in a stroller.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22751415

And so, in desperation…I found the Finnbins.

Boxes for baby sleeping—albeit made in America, The Finnbin is a Finnish style sleeping
baby box.

The concept tips its hat to the Finnish Government providing all new parents-to-be with
a baby sleeping box full of all kinds of goodies for new parents to be.
Finnbins make great gifts for expectant parents.
We’re hoping it will provide a happy and much cheaper alternative spot to this new life’s
other more expensive sleeping devices.

Or maybe the stroller will just have to do….

Maybe I’ll go to the store tomorrow and pick up a new bunch of swiss chard…

My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:20-27

Caritas

“Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments:
love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.”

Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth: Caritas in Veritate


(a modern day icon depicting Saints Benedict and his sister Scholastica)

Ok so if the truth be told, I have about 6 or so posts in the making just sitting in
the draft pile waiting for expansion and or completion.
Much like the pile of books that I keep accumulating…
the must-reads that must be prioritized…
add a heavy and liberal dose of life…
and thus so many good things are simply left hanging and or waiting…

But as I am a strong believer in the power of the Holy Spirit,
there will always be a good nudging or even a shove into the direction I need to go.

So since today (yesterday for those reading this as intended on Sunday)
February 10th is the feast day of St Scholastica.

“Who??” you’re probably asking…
We’ll get to her in a minute.

Sometimes I am so tired or weary when putting the finishing touches on a post
that in my strained eyed state, I’ll push publish rather than preview well before it’s time…
In turn, sending myself into a fit of near hysteria as I try to undo what I have
erroneously done lest anyone pop onto a half-finished and more ill edited post
than they should.

Add to my posting troubles that my favorite clerics,
all who oddly are each located on the Isle of Great Britain…
those being that delightfully rouge Anglican Bishop, that no-fuss,
no holds barred free Presbyterian Pastor and that rather conservative Orthodox Australian
Catholic monk stuck in the middle of the UK…
each has been serving up more than the ample plate of refreshing and deeply
heartening truths—all of which is making me run around like some sort of chicken
with my head cut off as I’m finding myself hard pressed just trying to keep up—
Trying to discern and pick what I must in turn digest and later share…

Father, or rather Dom, Hugh offers a most intriguing Latin-based themed post entitled
Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas—
or for us laymen, contemplation, consideration, and love, or charity,
whichever word you’d like to use.

Fr Hugh focuses in on St Benedict of Nursia and Benedict’s sister St Scholastica,
along with the power of prayer and what is the true nature of our actions and prayers.

St Benedict is considered to be the father of Western Monasticism and is the patron
Saint of Europe. A saint whose current job,
I would suspect, is quite busy given the growing secularism sweeping
across Europe but that’s a post for another day…
like I say, waiting in the queue.

This saintly brother-sister duo was born and raised in Itlay,
in what is modern-day Norcia, sometime
in the 5th century. Some historians believe the two had been twins,
others merely note them being merely brother and sister.

Benedict is probably best known for his Rule of Benedict.
A playbook of how to live…in a monastery….
but whereas it is most a relevant and practical book for those living a cloistered life,
it is also a book most relevant for those of us outside of the monastery.

This little book is still in huge demand and is widely read today.
In fact, many businesses have adopted Benedict’s Rule as part of a guiding
and directional tool for their employees.

The good Father relays the teaching found in the homily offered on the feast day
of St Scholastica during their morning mass.
Where the notion of Contemplatio, Consideratio & Caritas was put before the gathered monks.

The abbot offering the homily tries to explain the balance between body and soul,
prayer and our often misguided practicalities…

“Put another way, it is to apply the primacy of love to any situation;
not the schmaltzy love favoured in muzak, but the love of God and of our neighbour
as ourselves, seen in one harmonious whole.
A good example would be Our Lord’s healing on the Sabbath:
he did not devalue the sabbath but put it in a proper sense of proportion,
as being made for man not man for it.

The abbot shared a story about Benedict’s sister the nun coming for a visit to
her brother the monk.
Her brother met her at the gate. Benedict and a few of the brothers left the
walls of the monastery in order to visit and share a meal with Scholastica.

Scholastica was keen to spend the day with Benedict and his brothers,
sharing stories about God’s power and grace.

As evening fell, Benedict told his sister that he and his fellow brothers
needed to be getting back to their abbey as she must hers.
She implored him to stay that they still had much to share.
But he insisted that he must leave her.
At this point, Scholastica took her brother’s hands within her own and began to
earnestly beseech God to impress upon her brother the importance that he should stay,
even throughout the night, in order that they may share in God’s good word.

And so a storm suddenly ensued.
Benedict reprimands his sister “What have you done?”.
Scholastica replied, “I asked you and you would not listen;
so I asked my God and he did listen.
So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery.”
The storm was beating down too hard for Benedict or his companions to return to
his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.”

(solemncharge.com)

The storm had made it impossible for Benedict to take his leave back to the
abbey and in turn, he had to spend the remainder of the evening in his sister’s
company discussing God’s glory and wonderment.

Benedict felt that the rules of his order, that he and the others were bound to follow,
that their return to the abbey was far more important
then talking about God all night long with his sister.

Finally, as daylight arrived and the storm had abated, Scholastica bid her brother farewell
as they each retreated and made their individual ways back to their respective abbeys.

Three days later Scholastica died, and Benedict had a vision of Scholastica’s soul
ascending to heaven in the form of a dove.
He sent his fellow monks to retrieve her body to his monastery and they laid it
in his own tomb.
She died about the year 543.
Her feast day is February 10th.

(solemncharge.com)

Benedict later reflected that because his sister “loved” more in her prayer of pure
earnestness, her will prevailed over his idealism of practicality.
Think Martha and Mary.
For her prayer that night was one of the pureness of charity and of a deep abiding love
as she most likely realized that her time death was imminent—
and that to spend what time was remaining together was most important.

Dom Hugh notes that “if we truly have charity for even those who disagree with us,
who peddle a line that reeks of error,
then we will achieve far more by persuasion than intimidation.
The achievement might come in God’s good time rather than our own,
a salutary reminder that instant gratification is not of the Gospel.
A sense of proportion, a healthy discretion, will keep us to this way.
It is all there in the Tradition.

It is interesting to note that when dealing with sinners Jesus was mildness itself.
His more strident tone was reserved for those who should have known better
or thought they knew better.

Caritas indeed.

Contemplatio, consideratio & caritas

“I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse….”

“Jesus Christ is the source—the only source—of meaning in life.
He provides the only satisfactory explanation for why we’re here and
where we’re going.
Because of this good news,
the final heartbeat for the Christian is not the mysterious conclusion to
a meaningless existence.
It is, rather, the grand beginning to a life that will never end….”

James Dobson


(Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in The Godfather)

A curious thing happened this morning in my little corner of blogland…
(yesterday if you’re reading this on Friday),

I noticed it when I went to hit the publish button to my latest post offering
for the day ….
I noticed that there was a comment waiting in moderation.

It was early and I had just poured my morning cup of coffee when I noticed this
pending piece of business that was asking for my attention.

Now granted I have been known to end up in many purgatories on the blogs
of friends and acquaintances…and even for some who I just comment on as I might
not be a regular contributor or reader…
obviously when the WP gods deem me unworthy…it is to purgatory I go.

And despite being a regular on the sites of friends,
or the fact that my comments are neither foul, nefarious or offensive,
I’m left relegated to the simple fact that I must accept the fact that it is,
at times, just part and parcel of an inconvenience of Word Press.

And yes, it does often bother me that my “friends” and fellow bloggers don’t
necessarily know or won’t realize that I’ve actually visited—
as I’m in some sort of spam bucket of moderation purgatory,
trapped without being able to say “hey, here I am….
way down in the bottom of this empty barrel…..

So as I was pondering moderation purgatory, I had a red exclamation point
staring at me on the admin page,
as well as an email notification, that a person’s comment was awaiting
my “moderation”…it all seemed a bit urgent—

I clicked to see who may have been discarded without just cause….

This is what I read (and it is rather crude):
“Do not comment on ______ site. (I’m not saying whose site I was
to stay away from in order to protect the innocent or in this case, the much maligned)
It is a repository for farters and fundie theology. Go to sites such as Jesus creed,
Roger Olson and Christianity today for real news. Bye Bye”

Naturally I hit the spam and trash buttons as well as trashed the e-mail as I was
none too amused.
And yet perhaps that was the point…to be irksome while I in turn offer
a bit of immortality to this trouble.

Firstly it was a comment both crass and crude and I don’t like crass nor crude.
And it was laced with sarcasm.
I dislike sarcasm.
I’m one who still believes in decorum and manners despite this current culture’s
love of all things angry, mean spirited, rude, crude and downright vile.

Secondly it had the air of an unspoken tone of a threat—
and I don’t like being threatened—because as a 58 year old Christian,
I certainly resent being told what to do, what to see, what to read by some
upstart irksome trouble….
as I think I’ve got that area well figured out by now.

Thirdly this nefarious individual was trying to redirect me from one
Christian blogger’s blog to some other type of Christian blog fodder…for what?
What kind of “Christian” is crass and vile defaming a brother in Christ,
while attempting to steer readers to other supposed Christian sites….

A nut job that’s who…..who I suspect is no sort of Believer whatsoever.

But rather a misguided, sinful lost troll…

All of this was swirling around in these early morning thoughts of mine when suddenly
I had visions of Don Corleone’s raspy voice giving me some sort of ultimatum…
leaving an unspoken ‘or else’ hanging in the air.
As in this dude was telling me to steer clear and steer here instead…
in an oh so crude sort of way with an unspoken notion of something bad happening
if I did not comply….

Really??!!

Now those of you who know me know that I don’t do Facebook, I don’t tweet,
I don’t Pin, I don’t instagram…I dont do much of anything but this blog and email–
I like to keep it simple…
plus as a long time educator, I often saw the darker side
of all things social media—so I consciously choose not to participate….

So with that being said, my blog following is low compared to those who attach
their blogs to say their Facebook, etc…
and thats ok with me as I decided long ago that if God wanted someone to read what
I had to offer, He’d bring them my way…He’s good that way.

It also means on the flip side that our Ancient Adversary equally enjoys
bringing people to places they have no business going or in that
their motives for going are grievously wrong…and in part because the
posts and or blogs do bring glory to God….
and we all know this Adversary despises God and all His Glory….

And so now enters the misguided and mean spirited trolls that seem to
find some sort of sick twisted pleasure from becoming human beggar lice.
You know…those little brown things that stick to your clothing when you’re
out walking in the woods or tall grassy fields….

You can’t brush them off because of the velcro like stickiness that
has them attaching to your pet’s fur or your clothing. You have
to pick them off one by one…

So yes, I disdain a troll.

I believe their activity of “trolling” is a waste of human life.
There is so much that needs doing in and for our world and our
fellow human beings in order to better their lives and our entire
collective lives etc…
that wasting time cruising blogs and the net in order just to be a thorn in
someone’s side is just, as I say, a waste.

And yet here is the rub in all of this…
most of these blogs that these human beggar lice opt to stalk and harass
are witnesses to the Faith…

It is a testimony…and we know from the early followers of Jesus, shortly
following his death and resurrection that witnessing and testimonies were often
a dangerous practice but a much needed practice none the less….

And so those of us who offer the Word of God to those who happen by our blogs—
be they by choice of desire or choice of the nefarious…the message remains the same.
Jesus Christ is the Salvation of all mankind….
Praise God!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.
But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
Rejoice then, you heavens
and those who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you
with great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12″10-12

the underdog who wants its Sunday’s back

But I will go down with this ship
And I won’t put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door
I’m in love and always will be..
.

White Flag lyrics by Dido

The great danger for family life,
in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence,
lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.

Pope John Paul II


(Alice, our grand-dog, is not an underdog necessarily, rather a very much loved dog
/ Julie Cook / 2017)

I have always been a person who likes to pull for the underdog…
that team, group or individual who has the odds stacked against them, him or her.

Maybe that’s because, as a wife and mother, I have often felt my brood has
at times fallen into the category of the underdog.

Those who stare from the bottom of the barrel upward at those perceived to be bigger,
better, brighter, smarter, richer, luckier, more successful, more this and more that.
As the bottom is pitted against the upper—
with the odds never being good or favorable.

Maybe it’s that little college team that has no chance playing against that top
ranked huge opponent but who must play anyway…all in order to bring much needed
revenue in to their less advantaged school.

They are out coached, out weighed, out numbered and out financed..
To play is a risk both physically as well as mentally…but nonetheless,
play they do.

They go forward despite the odds.
The roll up their sleeves despite the inevitable.
They hold their heads up knowing they will soon be knocked down.

Yet there is never shame in trying and holding ones ground.

And so when I read the latest post, of which I have provided the link…
a post from a delightful blog I follow—
a blog that doesn’t post often, but when there is a post, it is usually very profound
and or powerful….
I was reminded again of why I like an underdog….

The blogger and family wouldn’t dare consider themselves profound or powerful—
for theirs is a simple sort of life but one that possesses a deep
rooted spiritual faith.
They are a Catholic family living in the shadows of Notre Dame…
who are just one more link in the chain of defenders of this collective
Christian faith of ours….

Thoughts from the side of the House…..

America Implodes on “Black Friday”…. Meanwhile, POLAND Leads the Way Towards Sanity

This post captured my feelings exactly of how I feel not only about Black Friday
but how I feel as to how America, along with most of Western Civilization, has turned
Christmas into something totally unrecognizable.

And maybe that has been the goal all along.
No longer is it Christmas as we thought we knew Christmas…
but rather it is a “winter” moment, or if in the Southern Hemisphere,
it is a “summer” moment…a moment that just so happens to have copious gift
giving attached.

And just when we thought the world had gone mad with all things materialistic
and secular… in steps the often mocked, maligned and overlooked nation of Poland.

I have written about Poland before, for various reasons.

I don’t think many of us living in this Western Civilization of ours actually
realizes the debt of gratitude we truly owe to Poland.

Poland for well over 1000 years has stood on the defining line between
Western Civilization and all sorts of barbarism, communism, socialism, Nazism, totalitarianism and now secularism.
For every ‘ism’ out there—Poland has stood against it as the defining line
of right verses wrong.

Poland was the line between the Mongols, the Saracens, the Nazis and the Communists…
just to name but a few of the invading hordes whose sites were always set on
freedom and democracy.

But Poland has said “NO!” time and time again,
even at the greatest cost to herself and her people.

She sacrificed herself more times than not…and yet was the butt of
every American’s jokes in the late 60’s and 70’s…
“how many Pollocks does it take to unscrew a light bulb?”
You remember the jokes.
Even Archie Bunker of All in the Family fame helped fuel the ridiculing fires.

Yet it is to Poland and her people who those of us enjoying life in the Western World
owe a great deal of gratitude to…
gratitude for the very freedoms we each enjoy today as it was Poland who stood on the
defending line of “us verses them” for over 1000 years.

Selflessness verses the often sought self preservation

She has even disappeared off the map more than once when she was gobbled up by
usurpers who ate the nation and her people only to later spit them back out.
A sacrifice made and given as that has been her lot and her role.

When we think of mighty nations, Poland does not come to mind.

Yet it was in Poland that Hitler had the majority of his Death Camps.
And it was Poland who was sacrificed to Stalin by Roosevelt.
And it was Poland who stood up to the mighty USSR.

And it is now Poland who wants her Sundays back.

Sundays back you ask…???

Sundays yes…because out of all the nations, Poland is still considered to
be a decisively Christian nation.

No other nation is considered such—not even
France, Ireland or Italy…as most of the the West, along with most of North America,
has fallen to the god of all things secular.

Here in the West, we have gotten quite accustomed to living life 24 /7
Meaning we can go, do, buy, see whatever it is we want on any given
single day of the week.

It use to not be that way.

Sunday was the sabbath….
It still is but most folks have forgotten that little fact.

Most everything was closed in observance of the Sabbath.
People were off from work, they would attend church, they would spend time
visiting, eating together, being a family together….

In the West we had what was known as blue laws—laws that restricted certain
activities on Sundays as Sunday was to be a day of Christian religious observation.
Malls were closed, banks and the Post offices were closed, many stores were closed,
bars were closed, most restaurants were closed, the sale of beer, wine and liquor was prohibited…on and on it went.

Then that all changed.
For a myriad of reasons— profits, selfish wants, greed…
The notion of wanting and having when and how one wanted things took precedence.
Laws were changed.

But Poland wants to see all of that changed…reversed back to Sunday being a day of
reverence, a Sabbath, a day for family….
“Just this week the lower house of the Polish parliament passed a bill to phase out unnecessary consumer spending on Sundays.
The law would curtail most shopping in order to allow the Polish people
to spend time with their families.”

Once again, Poland, that underdog of nations, demonstrates that despite being small
and considered by others as less than….no one will ever say that Poland is afraid
to stand up against what she perceives to be wrong,
standing even that means she stands alone for what is right…..

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all
kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven,
for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:10-12

a husband

The most important thing in the world is family and love.
John Wooden


(my husband during the latest trip to the beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

A while back, shortly following Dad’s death, a blogging friend inquired about
my husband.
This friend had been patiently and graciously following my sad daily
tale of Dad’s battle with cancer.
This friend had also joined in prayer and was an ardent supporter offering words
of consolation and hope during my 24/7 ordeal of driving over daily those many months
to care for Dad as well as my stepmother.
He had wondered in all of this ordeal about my husband as he was pretty certain
I had, form time to time, mentioned having one…
so he was wondering if he had been supportive.

And it did seem as if I was “alone” a good bit of the time during my time of constant
care management but that’s what happens…not everyone can drop everything, when life
comes calling, as there has to be someone who remains behind holding down the fort.

I do have a husband.

I’ve written about my husband from time to time here in cookie land,
but he prefers that I don’t.
He doesn’t quite understand this “blob” of mine and why I do it and what it’s all about.
He is why I don’t “do” Facebook as he was adamantly opposed when that thing called
social media first hit the forefront of our now virtual reality.

He doesn’t have time for virtual reality because he is really too busy in the literal reality
of the daily grind of working and living….

So if you will indulge me a few words, I will share a little about the role my husband
played and continues to play as I think father’s day is a most appropriate day to do so….

We’ve been married just shy of 35 years.
My husband was a confirmed bachelor and is actually 10 years older than I am.
He was 33 when we married and I was a fresh out of college, naive young teacher of 23.
We have one child, a son who is now 28.
We also have two cats and a grand dog.

My husband, who at 67 is tired and would very much like to retire, but likes
to be able to pay the bills…
and we do like to eat.

Five years ago when things began to take a nose dive in the health and wellbeing with
my dad and stepmother, it was my husband who told me that with 31 years in under
my belt, he had decided I needed to “retire” so I could be more available to them there
in Atlanta.
He’d pick up the economic slack so I could go and do.

I felt badly because my husband had been working since he was 14 years old, having
lied to a local manufacturing plant about his age.
His father was a long time and long suffering alcoholic and my husband actually
had lived in 8 different homes before entering 3rd grade for theirs was a life of
physical pain, mental anguish and uncertainty.
I felt if anyone deserved to retire, it was him rather than me.

He took over his family’s jewelry business in 1976 and has been running a small town
business ever since.
Anyone who has ever worked retail or owned their own business can understand the
overwhelming anxiety and uncertainly that comes with such.
It has not always been easy…as the business has ebbed and flowed.

Add to that that it took our son a while to get through school.
He has lived with, as well as learned how to cope with,
a very difficult learning disability that made school at times an
insurmountable obstacle.

My husband worked, as I worked, but I was afforded the time of summers to help our son
by ferrying him to a regime of various tutors as we spent one entire summer
driving daily to Atlanta to a school for kids with dyslexia…
We could not afford the school on a year round basis…so we paid for what we could
and took advantage of each opportunity.

My husband always made certain that our son would have the tools necessary
to succeed even if that meant he was constantly working at the store in order
to make it so.

And that success was made a reality last summer the day our son graduated college.

My husband attended college…. albeit briefly.
His saving grace growing up was football and he actually earned an athletic scholarship
when he was a walk-on with the school’s football team.
He had wanted to be a coach or a dentist but his father demanded he
quit college after just two years because the family business needed him—
he sent my reluctant yet dutiful husband to jewelry school in New York.
The last thing he wanted to be was a jeweler tied down for a lifetime
in a family business.

My husband went to New York under a sense of obligation to a man who had
caused him so much pain,
but thought being a dutiful son was more important in the bigger scheme of life.

And even years later, having spent years alienated from not only his father but
the majority of his immediate family due to the utter collapse of dysfunction
run amuck in an alcoholic family, my husband found himself caring for his
ailing 92 year old widowed father…

We’d cook his meals, and once my husband got off work, we’d drive several evenings
throughout the week to the small town his father called home….
all until his father’s death a year ago.

That story is a long mess unto itself, but a mess that my husband took on all
on his own.
Simply doing what he deemed to be the right thing for a man who never opted to
do the right thing by a once vulnerable young boy turned now grown son.
Yet I think God always has a way of honoring such selflessness…as I keep reminding
my husband when he laments doing what he did as it has now proven to be problematic
with those who chose to remain in the quagmire of dysfunction.

For that is what my husband does…the right thing when others, including myself,
would readily say forget it…that’s not your worry, your problem…
that bed has been made, let them all just lie in it…

But the thing is… my husband sees that the right thing, the selfless thing, in
the long run, is just that…the right thing…
and he’s never been one to keep a record of wrongs…
deciding long ago that life is bigger than keeping or settling a score.

And so it was, as I spent the past several years running back and forth, tending
to my own father’s life and eventual death…
my husband was working 6 days a week, 14 hours a day,
keeping things at home a float so I could focus solely on my Dad…his father-n-law.
Not a perfect man either, but a man who had had a child and having eventually
grown old and sick, needed that child.

And so today, this day of all things fathers,
I am left remembering the men in my life who have each come and gone,
leaving both this world and me behind…
yet I am forever grateful to and for the one man who remains…by my side…

For despite his having wondered, as I’m certain he has done from time to time,
as to why he has indeed remained so steadfast by my side,
he’s simply doing what he deems to be the right thing no matter what…
and I’m certainly the better for this most thoughtful and dutiful man!
so…..
Happy Father’s Day

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is
alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11