whose will?

“It seems to me that the spiritual answer is to be found in neither optimism nor
pessimism about the future, but in complete trust in God.

Fr Benedict Groeschel


(Percy sporting a “mimi” hat / Julie Cook / 2017)

And just incase you’re confused…the question is not who’s Will…?
As in who is Will…?
But rather…whose will…?
As in mine yours, ours or His…..

The past couple of days, weeks and even months I feel as if most of my posts
have had one central theme in common…the simple matter of will.

As in the constant tug of war we play with both ourselves as well as everyone else…
with the ultimate tug and pull and war being with God himself.

When I was a little girl my grandmother Mimi would crochet and knit up a storm.
Sewing, knitting, needlepoint…you name it, she did it.
Yet none of that ever appealed to me…it was not ever to be my forte.
I just didn’t enjoy it and I especially loathed trying to learn it.

I don’t know if it was a patience thing or rather that I just opted for
other creative outlets.
Today a reattached button is about the extent of my sewing endeavors.

My grandmother however was profuse with Mother following in hot pursuit.
Afghans, throws, bell pulls, pillows, samplers, seat cushions, stool covers…
all of which now oddly adorn my home.
But the specialty, or rather the pièce de résistance being always, the “mimi hat.
A crocheted toboggan like thing looking oddly like a flapper’s cap.

Everyone got a mimi hat.

Colors were limited to brown, beige, rust, cream, antique gold….
You’d put the hat on your head and immediately your hair was now a flat static
fly away mess. Wildly and weirdly standing on ends atop your head so you
had no other choice but to keep the hat pulled down tight on your head…
while looking a bit odd wearing the thing in the house especially in the summer.

Mother would make us put on and wear the blasted things when we went to visit
or if Mimi would come to visit us.
Not that Mimi would expect it, but Mother knew it would make my grandmother happy
seeing us “enjoying” her handiwork.

I hated them.

My choice in wearing the hat was that I could either fight and refuse or
I could suck it up, acquiesce and please…
I opted for the later because I did not want to make my life miserable while
making everyone else’s lives miserable.
Nothing like a 7 year old demanding no to a parent demanding yes.

The same held true when I was made to wear a dress every time we visited our other grandmother, Nany. Since Nany bought the bulk of our clothes, Mother knew that
if she wanted to keep her mother-n-law happy, she’d better be putting her kids
in those nice new clothes. Never mind that I was happiest in jeans or shorts.

Which goes back to mother having a choice…
She could either give-in to our whining and let us look like sloppy bumpkins
while drawing the ire of the woman who had bought us all sorts of nice clothes
or she could get us gussied up and uncomfortable while drawing the praise of this
matriarch.
She too chose the latter.

I learned early on that sometimes its best to give a little while giving in a little
rather then reveling in being self centered with a life short lived
in a sea of selfishness.

Yet our society appears to have forgotten about biting the proverbial bullet…
Living in a nation that is now in a constant state of in-fighting over the notion
of our own individuals wills, is proving both counter productive and most
oppressively destructive.

It says a lot about us as a society that we are constantly demanding our own
will to be done.
As we’ve moved from the consideration of others to simply damning others.

Fr Benedict reminds us of the importance of a will other than our own…
“‘Your will be done.’
This conviction should be the ultimate intention of all your prayers–
along with finding our peace in the acceptance of that will.
Certainly, to pray like this is a gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“It is out of two things, acceptance and obedience to God,
that we receive the great gift of peace.”

If we persist in this hellbent quest of ours, demanding our own will rather than
seeking out and yielding to His will,
we will be damning not only others but ourselves in the process….

When we went down last month to West Palm Beach for my aunt’s funeral,
As we sorted through my aunt’s belonging determining what should stay
or be tossed, I found a box full of mimi hats.
Funny how these some odd 50 years later, seeing those hats brought a warm smile
to my face and a most warming sensation to my heart.
I was immediately transported to a happier time.

How different that could have all been had I refused so long ago to have ever
worn one of those hats preferring to be self-centered and selfish.

Seeing them all these many years later may have actually brought back some very
difficult memories rather than the happy ones I felt suddenly seeing them again
all these many years later.

I opted to bring two of them home.
I won’t be wearing them, but I’ll be happy knowing that I now have them…
I just think the cats are probably now thinking what I use to think….
that these are really stupid looking hats….


(oooo lala)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

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.

when books were real

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero


(Dad’s 1932 copy of Jack the Giant Killer / Julie Cook / 2017)

Not a voracious reader…
not a fast reader…
not always an interested reader….
but a reader none the less…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…
oh how I do love books.

Real honest to goodness books.

No e-readers or iPads.
But the tangible, hold it in my hand, turn the page, smell that bookish
musty smell love of a book.

I know the arguments about books…
those being that books are expensive, cumbersome, heavy, accumulating,
outdated, hard to travel with… as the list goes on and on.

Hand a kid a “notebook”, iPad or something else equally electronic and techie
and you’ve got a quiet, occupied, engaged kid…

And sadly I suppose you do.

Engaging the mind you say.
Stimulating brain cells, building higher order thinking skills….
yet all the while lessening personal contact and personal connectivity.
As in isolation.

But there are those who will argue that that is exactly how it was
with a kid with a book.

There they’d sit for hours on end engrossed reading, alone…isolated….

…but oh what of that imagination building….
the dreams of those far away places, people and lands…
And what of the bonding that came from sitting next to someone special who would
read those tales and adventures as your mind raced off to a myriad of different
places and times…

These are a few of my dad’s books from the early 1930’s when he was just a young boy.
He was not a keen reader yet he loved a good story.
Those stories in those books would take that young boy to places other than
his own room.

Dad always treasured his books.

Having just recently rediscovered these books, I am awed by the color,
clarity and quality of these well loved childhood books.
They have remained relatively intact and are still very much treasured.

I can remember when I was a little girl as my dad would read these same books
to me each night before bed.
I couldn’t wait until he turned to the page with the pop-up image as my mind
and imagination would place me right down in the middle of the image and action—
making the story soar, becoming so much bigger then life…

Ode to the time when one’s imagination would take them on so many grand adventures….

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy,
and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Revelation 1:3

transitional nesting

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
or cool one pain,
or help one fainting Robin unto his nest again…
I shall not live in vain

Emily Dickinson


(a quickly snapped photo while mom was out worming / Julie Cook / 2017)

We live in a continuum of both space and time.

As in….
according to Wikipedia for those of us dummies in anything having to do with physics…
as well as in keeping things in a nice simple nutshell:
Space-time is a mathematical model that joins space and time into a single idea
called a continuum.
This four-dimensional continuum is known as Minkowski space.

Combining these two ideas helped cosmology to understand how the universe
works on the big level (e.g. galaxies) and small level (e.g. atoms).

However in my little corner of the world….
this continuum business simply means that there is a constant forward motion of
ever quickening momentum moving hurdling toward some yet unforeseen future…

Take for example the above image of bug eyed baby robins.

On April 14th, I shared a photograph of a nest with 4 beautiful blue robin eggs
looking ever so hopeful as one had the makings of what looked to be a bit of cracking.

Next on April 23rd I shared the shot of a mom robin’s head peering out over the top of
the same nest as she sat intently vigilant.

Today on April 29th I’m sharing an image of the same nest,
the same blue eggs which are now buggy eyed,
downy tufted little robins to be.

My husband and I were a bit fearful that this particular Mrs. Robin may have had a
bum batch of eggs as she has been sitting for quite sometime…
longer then the bluebirds sat.

He had surmised that she looked to be young robin whose time
of motherhood was maybe a bit overstretched, with this being her first clutch of eggs…
but she fooled us, proving she did know what she was doing…as we now have 4
alienesque little heads bobbing up and down in anticipation of a juicy worm.

And as my thoughts are now focused on nests and the comings and goings from such…
I am thinking of my own family’s current revolving door of a nest.

There has been a frantic frenzy taking place at Dad’s this past week.
There have been nurses, caregivers, security system guys, Xfinity guys, phone guys,
me, my son, Gloria’s two children and two grandchildren, her daughter-n-law,
with boxes, bubble wrap, moving blankets, newspaper…
as Gloria, and her time in the house, is currently being purged.

She moves today to North Carolina to be with her daughter.
However…all of that being said, they are known to butt heads…
so we shall see how long NC lasts.

My son already has gallons of paint at the ready.
One of the caregivers is coming next week for the refrigerator and couch.
The Kidney foundation will be coming for some remaining things.
My cousin is coming tomorrow to look over my brother’s old train set down
in the basement.
As Dad had told me, just before he died, to look in the attic for some things that were Mom’s.
All the while as I bundle up books, videos, DVDs, glasses, clothes, sheets, towels….
all for the Goodwill….

For 55 years Dad called this house home.
As the time has now come to pass occupancy over to a new generation…
As we soon look for a different set of movers to be bringing in
my son and his wife’s possessions…

And so with everyone coming and going, I thought it appropriate to add a link to a
previous post written in 2013…
a post which was the harbinger for the transition that has lead us to today…

That being…if a door could talk…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/if-a-door-could-talk/

a darker side of play….

“Grown ups are complicated creatures,
full of quirks and secrets.”

― Roald Dahl

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(Gaylord the walking dog circa 1960)

No, this isn’t a tale about child predation or anything as awful or evil as that.

No…. this is actually a story about the naiveté that we use to find in our
favorite childhood toys…
and to what those once happy and comforting memories may be sadly morphing into
during these odd days of the 21st century….

Candice Bergen has often lamented that when she was growing up she was actually
jealous of Charlie McCarthy.
Charlie was the ventriloquist doll, aka “dummy” that her Dad, Edger Bergen,
used during his early days of Vaudeville…
moving to radio and eventually television.
Candice was often introduced to audiences as Charlie’s little sister.

charlie_mccarthy_edgar_bergen_x
(Charlie and Edgar 1938)

Yet there has always been something rather creepy about a ventriloquist’s doll.
Hollywood cemented that notion deep within our psyches with the creation of those
infamous B rated horror flicks featuring the puppets dating back as early as the 1960’s.
Even later with children’s shows such as Goosebumps in the early 1990s,
our need to be creeped out was capitalized on with the notion of a puppet having a mind,
albeit evil, all to itself.

When I was a little girl I had a Chatty Cathy doll.
Not a ventriloquist’s doll, but one that “spoke” none the less.
I don’t really remember her but my Dad tells me about it all the time.
She was a doll who, when a string was pulled, would speak.
An early prototype to a conversing playmate.

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She was large for being a doll and had a complete ensemble of clothes that she could change into
with the aid of her “playmate”…aka me.

Personally I preferred Gaylord.
I actually remember Gaylord…although I am told I referred to him as gayhog….
He was a dog, complete with plastic bone that would stick to his magnetic nose.
Gaylord could actually walk when pulled on a leash.
My love for Gaylord was probably because we didn’t have a dog…

So yesterday afternoon as I was reading the latest headline offering from the BBC, imagine
my alarm over the words “German parents told to destroy “spy” dolls.”

Naturally I opted to read further…

It seems that the latest and greatest “talking” doll Cayla,
which somehow uses the internet in order to “talk,” can be hacked…
Allowing for the doll’s conversing with, say her real-life playmate,
to be anything but innocent or naive.
There could be all sorts of responses or commands that would be more sinister and twisted
in nature.

I have provided the link to the story…
be sure to click on the brief video clip as that it most telling

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39002142

I suppose we are sadly learning that there is no bastion of innocence remaining….
Which I suppose leads us to just another reminder that we can’t ever be too careful
as to who or what we listen to…

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.
For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Matthew 18:10

the cutest little worrisome concern

“There is a great difference between worry and concern.
A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.”

Harold Stephens

For as the eyes of bats are to the blaze of day,
so is the reason in our soul to the things which are by nature most evident of all.

Aristotle

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(a close up of my returning resident…who has got to go / Julie Cook / 2016)

I’ve mentioned before that I was not like most little girls growing up…
Whereas many a little girl donned fancy little party dresses,
complete with lacy little petticoats underneath…
whiling away their hours playing with baby dolls and the like…
I was in a pair of shorts with matching flip flops, wearing a Gilligan’s sailor hat,
while building pine straw forts in the woods….

On reading day, that most exciting day of the week, when we were all marched to the library,
in order to pick out a book for our weekly reading,
with most young girls choosing books about the adventures of Madeleine or
books about fairy princesses–
I was picking out science books about bats…

Oddly I found bats to be the cutest little things.
Brown and furry with tiny beady black eyes—
kind of like a teddy bear…
yet where there were to be arms and paws, the bats had wings and claws.

I don’t know where any of that came from…and bless my mother’s heart for enduring such…
but just remember…I was adopted…

However, fast forward to today…
to this now grown woman who has been around the block a couple of times or more…
This woman who has had much learning and experience now tucked safely up
under her belt.
She knows that things such as bats are good for the environment,
as they are Mother Nature’s natural insect eradicators.
They are our secret weapons against things like malaria and zika….

Yet I also know that bats are susceptible to things such rabies and the like…
And whereas their droppings make for great fertilizer, it is also rife with bacteria….
Several small caveats to having them in close proximity to humans and their pets…

So I was thrown into a bit of a tizzy when I walked out on the back deck this morning
just to find Percy, my dear sweet cat, sitting directly at the door.
His head cocked at an almost 90 degree angle making those
odd little sounds he makes when he spies a bird.

I follow his gaze….

Knowing there was no bird hiding up under the awning of the back deck…
just wanting to hang out with the resident cat…I had a sneaky suspicion what I was seeking…
And sure enough, wedged between the awning and the house was a lumpy dark mass….

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I snatch up Percy like he’s on fire, whisking him inside before he could utter a sound.
That’s all I need…a bat to bite Percy… sending all that money down the drain on rabies shots—
I don’t know how all that really works—is he, isn’t he now immune from rabid bats???

I grab a broom.
I poke the broom up in the crevice gently attempting to nudge the little bat loose in hopes
that he’ll opt to fly away.
The bat makes a crackling sound at me like a giant bug….
I drop the broom and jump in the house.

You may notice in the picture above what appears to be a dryer sheet stuffed up by the little bat.
You are correct.
It is a dryer sheet.
And I suddenly have a moment of deja vu….
as I think this little fella tried to move in here last summer.

Last summer I panicked, like I’m doing today, wondering if the bat I spied
wedged up between the awning and the house had actually bitten the cats…
Plus I fretted about bat droppings covering my grill…

So I did the only thing any former Girl Scout could think of at that very moment
which might act as a bat deterrent…
I grabbed a box of dryer sheets.

I stuffed dryer sheets in all the cracks and crevices between the awning,
the deck and the house.
However it soon became obvious that bats like a fresh scented crevice—
the now pair of bats paid the dryer sheets no never mind—
Continuing to fly out at night and back during the day only to roost
in a clean scented crevice.
At least they are clean scented loving bats.

As I was now to my last resort, other than taking a flamethrower to the awning which I would imagine would result in a small fire…I grabbed a can of hornet spray, aimed and fired.

Out shot the bat, narrowly missing my head…

So today, with this latest little guy back and obviously up to his same idea of moving in,
I have decided he must have a very short memory and now needs a refresher course in eviction.

So once again, this evening, when the sun goes down and this sleepy
little thing decides to finally get up, and seek the myriad of disease carrying mosquitoes…
I’m going to douse his bedroom with wasp poison—
and pray he decides to move on once the sun comes up….

Otherwise I might just go purchase said flamethrower….

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*****This little brown bat is native to Georgia.
Recently, their declining numbers have alarmed both scientist and
wildlife management specialists alike.

Bats, like frogs, are first responders to changes in the environment.
Their declining numbers indicate that environmental troubles are afoot.
Currently there is an epidemic, in the state of Georgia,
which is adversely affecting the little brown bat population.
It is known as WNS—white nose syndrome.
It is a fungus that is decimating entire colonies…by the millions.

This little bat is most likely a male as they tend to roost alone.
They are marvelous insect gathers.
But in close proximity to humans, they do raise a concern.

This little bat is obviously aggravated that I keep snapping his picture
all the while as he’s trying to get his beauty sleep…

And the broom is a real pain in his behind….

Please visit the following Georgia wildlife link for more information concerning
the plight of the little brown bats….

http://www.georgiawildlife.com/WNSFAQ

spin

“We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone.
Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never-so-little scar.”

William James

cotton-candy-spin
(image clowns4kids.com)

Cotton candy—the quintessential staple for both circus and fair.

Who among us seemingly mature adults doesn’t secretly yearn for their very own paper rolled cone of pink, bouffant whipped, magically melting surgery goodness when spotting any sort of advert for either circus or fair?

Who doesn’t fondly recall the yearly pilgrimage when the Circus rolled into town?
The sights and sounds of all the colors and music colliding as one…marking the magic of childhood wonder…
From the parades of the marching animals to the death defying flying trapeze artists…
from the clowns riding in tiny jalopies to the booming voice of the circus master…

Despite all of the sensory overloads, if the truth be told, it was the single chance to order a titillating cone of cotton candy which remains paramount in our memories….

Recalling one Christmas many years ago, when my son was a little boy,
Santa had delivered his very own, spin at home, cotton candy maker.
My son thought he had died and gone to heaven as he immediately wanted to make cotton candy for breakfast.

I, on the other hand, had regretted Santa’s choice from the get go as all I could envision was an endless sea of sticky hands, sticky faces, sticky clothes, sticky house…laced with the mother exhausting battle of a small child running on too much sugar….

Thankfully the novelty wore off quickly as there just wasn’t that same sense of delight about making cotton candy in ones kitchen verses the thrill of ordering it, watching it on the other side of the protective glass being spun onto your very own paper cone…add to that marvelous tantalizing moment
with the giddy savoring of the very first melt in you mouth adrenaline rush of sweet tasty sugary magic…

Oh how delightfully wonderful the simple act of spinning sugar can be…

Yet in this tale of spinning all things sugary should be a small consumer warning that not all sugary treats are as sweet nor as innocent as they may seem…

For there is one who is eagerly at work spinning, for both you and me, our very own cone full of sugary spun falsehoods and lies which he passes off as a delightful simple treat…
However there is nothing sweet nor simple to his deception.

For therein lies the importance we are to remember…
that there is one who toils in the shadows, working tirelessly…
taking the very Truth of God, as He spins it into something diabolically other than…

With the the real tragedy of all of this being that we unwittingly and eagerly hold out our hands while impatiently waiting for our very own offering of the twisted serving of his sweet insidious lies.
Which only leads to our coming back for more and more and more…

The prince of darkness happily spins every word of God into a cloyingly sick sweet false prosaic for our sadly spiritually hungry appetites…
as we are either too blind, too naive or simply too hungry to discern the reality.

It would behoove us to remember that too much sugar and too many sweets is never a filling nor lasting alternative to the banquet that has been lovingly prepared for both you and me…
A lavish feast which will fully satisfy all of our tastes, wants and needs…

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Luke 14:15-24

More than

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

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love.

Mother Teresa

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
― C.S. Lewis

“The harder the conflict,
the more glorious the triumph.”

Thomas Paine

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(remnants of Cong Abbey , County Mayo, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It whispers across a cool morning breeze…

Do you hear it?

It’s the sound of a thousand and one voices drifting endlessly across the ages.
It’s the mournful cry of a dove at dawn.
It’s the melodic symphony of an unseen orchestra of crickets on a warm summer’s night.

It rides along the ocean’s waves…

Do you see it?

It’s the wonderment you feel as you gaze upon the night sky awash in a million twinkling lights.
It’s the brilliance of color bathed endlessly across a skylit canvas as the sun offers a joyful good morning.
It’s the overwhelming eruption and dazzling display of a myriad of blooming wildflowers in a quiet hidden meadow…

It’s a familiar scent wafting upwards from somewhere unexpectedly…

Do you smell it?

It’s the fresh scent of grass from a newly mowed lawn
It’s the heavy smell of rain riding in on the winds before a storm.
It’s a long lost memory catching you off guard as you suddenly capture a whiff of your grandmother’s home

It races from touch to touch…

Do you feel it?

It’s caught up in the soothing memories from a now distant childhood.
It’s the sudden chill you feel as the sun dips out of sight on a cool fall’s night.
It’s the welcoming comfort found in an offered smile.

It’s much more than ancient history or the crumbling bits of mortar and stone now abandoned and long forgotten…

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(crumbling remains hidden away deep within Kevin’s Monastery, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s really more like the bits of sand found in your shoe after a walk along the beach…small and tiny, yet largely distracting,
rather uncomfortable and most difficult to ignore

The curious and the tourist alike each pick their way through the labyrinth of time long past, as they wander about pondering and musing what it all meant and wondering where it all went.

Yet you know don’t you….?

You know it never went anywhere.

It’s been here all along.

Buried deep within your heart.

But it was never meant to stay buried or forgotten.

Never meant to be for tourists or the curious to gawk and pick.

It was never meant to crumble nor decay

For it is living and breathing and yearns to be shared

It’s the gnawing ache felt in each beating heart.

It’s that nagging feeling of being out of sorts as your spirit seems lost in the fray.

It’s in the melancholy and sorrow that shadows a seemingly empty day

It’s the longing for home when you’re already there.

A Spirit most holy yet hidden, longs to hide no more.

A Spirit Loving yet concealed, longs to be revealed.

A Spirit Mighty and Great, longs to be proclaimed

You know It don’t you….?

Because It knows you….

What are we to do?

“Make up your mind,” Moab says. “Render a decision. Make your shadow like night – at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.”
Isaiah 16:3

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(a morning glory found deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both Lucy Lipiner and Gerda Weissmann Klein have a tale to tell. . .

Each woman weaves a story steeped in the sweet innocence of childhood which is suddenly and unimaginably lost in the midst of unspeakable horrors. . .yet thankfully theirs is a tale of eventual survival and of small yet victorious triumphs.

There are a few differences between these two woman of which create two very individual stories. . .
Differences such as their age and the fact that they were each born in different small towns.
Yet it is to the similarities between them that inextricably binds them together for all of eternity.
I am pretty certain that these woman do not personally know one another nor have they ever met, but I somehow think that in many ways they have known one another very well for a very long time as they have both survived the unimaginable stemming from the same wicked source. . .

Each woman was born in Poland and each woman was born into a Jewish family.
Whoever would have imagined that those two seemingly insignificant factors would mark these women for the rest of their lives by placing them in the valley of the shadow of Death. Had they been born say, in America or Canada, or England, their stories would certainly have been less then memorable. Lives lived as mostly anyone else’s.
But because they were born in a country lying in the path of a very hungry and vicious animal, tragedy was to be their lot.

I have finished reading Lucy’s tale and have now begun Gerda’s equally gripping story.
As I waited in the dentist office yesterday, reading until I was called back, I had tears flooding my eyes as I read the story of an individual family, like my own family or anyone’s family, being ripped apart as they stood by helpless to prevent the rupture.

Despite the fact that these two lady’s stories took place over 70 years ago, I have been struck by the similarities of the worldwide current plights now littering our news.

Each was a young girl when The War broke out–when Germany marched forth seizing Poland as its own.
Each girl came from a prominent family within their respective towns. They were loved, nurtured and happy living their lives as innocent children.

I think it is Lucy’s story that I have found to be most relevant to any story I might read in today’s paper—that of any number of families fleeing Syria or Egypt or Turkey or Somalia or Tunisia, or Eritrea, etc.— each seeking refuge from the unspeakable horrors of the upheaval of what was an average life.

Lucy’s family was on the run for almost 10 years. Starting when she was 6 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939– they became just another statistic of families in the throng of the displaced as they sought refuge in the Soviet Union and later Tajikistan then briefly back to Poland and ironically to Germany and eventually to the US.
There was death, violence, sexual abuse, grave hunger, incapacitating illness, loss, sorrow, separation and near madness.

They had been a family like any other family–they had a nice home, nice clothes, nice jewelry. They went to Temple. They enjoyed their extended family. They attended school. They had jobs. They played music as they lived, loved and laughed—-

Suddenly life took a turn beyond their control and they lost everything–they became hunted, like animals. They were reduced to wearing clothes turned to rags as there was no longer choice. They lost weight. They were hungry. They were infested with bugs, inside and out. They ate rotten trash and drank fetid water to quell an endless hunger. They were dirty, they smelled. They were sick both physically, spiritually and mentally.
They were shells of human beings.

Miraculously the family remained intact but it came at a tremendous cost to each member of the family. They survived in part due the kindness of those strangers and individuals encountered along the long and arduous journey who were willing to offer aid, shelter and comfort, as meager as it was. . .to dirty and seemingly unsavory subhuman individuals who were considered enemies of every state simply for being Jewish.

Yesterday’s news ran a story about the discovery of a lorry, or tractor trailer, abandoned on a road in Austria containing at least 70 dead bodies of migrants, or refugees, who were on what they thought to be a journey to freedom.

Today there was the story of another capsized ship losing possibly 500 individuals–men, women and children drowning while on their way to freedom.

There have been the stories of the Chunnel being overrun and shut down, day after day, by the thousands of migrants in Calais seeking asylum and freedom.

There was the story of an arson attack on a migrant shelter in Germany, as Angela Merkel was booed by those Germans not wanting to see Germany overrun by the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safe haven.

It is said that the current influx of migrants from both Africa and the Middle East is the largest exodus of people since World War II.

A humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

The worry– how will the small European Nations absorb the millions of people running away from tyranny, abuse and horror. . .how will they be able to provide for all of these “other” people as they continue providing for their own. . .?

These refugees are different–culturally, religiously and ethnically.

Later I read a story about the marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The story told the tale of how one group of New Orleans citizens did not want the “other” New Orleans citizens, those who were the evacuees coming from the more disadvantaged areas, to cross the bridge bringing them into the more affluent neighborhoods.

These citizens were afraid of being overrun with what was thought to be unsavory individuals bringing with them drugs, crime and violence—those citizens coming from the areas which were known to be rife with such—
And I suppose some of those feelings may have been justified after we heard the stories of the rapes and murders taking place within the Superdome when it was opened to those evacuating the lower 9th ward.

Is it fear that keeps us weary, holding our arms outward not as arms offering a welcoming embrace but rather as arms pushing away and repelling those who come seeking aid and assistance?

How can we take on an endless sea of people in need–economically absorbing the astronomical costs for healthcare, housing, education, employment and assimilation?

What of the hidden terrorists among the masses?

Are we not told to be hospitable and welcoming–offering sustenance and aid to our fellow human beings who are in desperate need?

Would we not want someone to do the same for us?

One country closes its borders.

Is that fair to the other surrounding countries?

How do we feed them all?

Where will they stay?

What of those who are criminals?

What of the illness and disease they bring with them?

What of the myriad of language barriers?

What will happen to our own way of life when it yields to the incoming masses?

Do we lose ourselves, our identity, while giving of ourselves to the “other?”

I don’t know the answers to these hard questions and I don’t think the rest of the world knows the answers either–
yet I simply keep hearing these words. . .

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40

Lusia’s Long Journey Home
A young Girls’ Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
by Lucy Lipiner

A Memoir
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein

Ironies and anniversaries

“Don’t underestimate the value of irony—it is extremely valuable.”
Henry James

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(a lone gull on the shore of Henderson St Park, Florida / Julie Cook / 2015)

32 years ago yesterday I got married.
Blessedly, I’m still married. . .to the same fella—loving him more today than I knew how to love back then. . .funny how that works—but Praise God it does!!
Fine wine and hearts do indeed seem to get better with time—or in my case they have, thankfully.
And yes, I know, it was a “dad day” yesterday but sometimes going over to take Dad to the doctors trumps a circled date on a calendar.

Traffic was a nightmare, which in turn put me in panic mode thinking that I wouldn’t / couldn’t get to him in time and we’d miss the appointment for sure.
But as luck would have it, or as I like to think Divine Intervention, we made it at 10:15 on the dot. Never mind we waited about 40 minutes until we saw a doctor. . .he, we, by George, were on time!

The follow-up was good, staying the course with the meds. His weight is still way down but he is back on his chocolates so maybe things will improve. Frail, pale and craving anything chocolate–could be worse.

My stepmother was in bed on a self imposed day of being in the bed—there have been a good many of those as of late. . .so I got them both lunch and went back to my old bed room the office to sort through the latest stack of mail and bills.

Sitting at the desk, the desk that was actually his as a little boy, a desk I never particularly liked when I was little as it was made out of wormwood—a hot commodity in the antique world these days but I thought it terrible to have furniture in the house worms had eaten. . .of which now sits in the room where I “grew up,” a room I found as both refuge as well as grossly claustrophobic. . .

I was suddenly struck by the irony of the moment. . .

August 13, 1983 was a summer’s day with a brilliant blue sky. There were no clouds as the humidity was surprisingly low yet it was still hot as hell as it was August and it was Atlanta for Heaven’s sake, so there were no surprises there.

Early that morning, I was in my room gathering the last of my things in order to schlep them over to the church so I could finish getting dressed. The room had been pretty much stripped of every and any remaining vestige of my having spent the last 23 years in that room as everything had been dismantled and boxed, with a good bit being moved to the house that I would soon be calling my own—a good 75 mile drive away–at the time, 750 miles would have suited me.

I was getting married at noon, to a man I had not dated very long—much to my mother’s and godmother’s chagrin—each had their reasons but the chief number one bother was that neither of them knew this young man, not to mention that he was 10 years older than his bride to be. . .

I’ve written about all of that before so I won’t bother with retelling that story. . .rest assured however, it’s had a happy ending.

My family had been the epitome of dysfunctional and I was quite happy about the prospect of getting the heck out of Dodge, so to speak. All I ever wanted to do was to find “Mr Right,” get married, and have a family of my own—- getting my very own chance at making that whole marriage and family thing right as my family had been the poster child of everything a family probably shouldn’t be.

There was no remorse in walking out of the room, no sense of nostalgia that had me linger while wistfully thinking back over life.
I was ready to go.
To move on to the next chapter of my life.
No looking back longingly with that familiar tinge of melancholy. . .
It was onward and upward with no regrets. . .
I was happy and resolute—time to get this show on the road, as in literally!

And anyway, it wasn’t like I was still living at home. I had taken a teaching position in a small town about an hour away, so I had already tasted independence. . .
Yet. . .
there was a very deep need within me to shake the dust from my feet. . .free from that room and from that house.

So here I was, finding myself 32 years later to the day and time, back in that same room and in that same house.
This time I had my 26 year old son in tow to help me with getting dad to the doctor’s office.

The dysfunction is still there, it’s just that now it’s different.
My mom has been gone almost 30 years next month. That in itself is hard to grasp.
I’ve also written about that tale before. . .about having to go to the house that fateful evening—of how I had to spend the night back in my room, while I began helping Dad in the very long, decades long, chore of putting the pieces back together. . .

Dad has since remarried.
Sadly their lives are now currently topsy turvy. . .

And oddly there I was. . .right back in that same room I had tried to shake from my feet, sitting at a desk I once never liked, paying bills and attempting to manage the lives of those other than my own–

Thomas Wolfe once wrote that we can’t ever go back home. And to some degree he’s right.
We can’t go back to what was and who we were. . . for good or for bad. . .
Life and time changes all of that—
Yet the thing is– we can go back sort of. . .We can go back different than who we were before. . .
we can go back changed, older, wiser, better.
That’s the thing about time—it dims the mind, the pain, the memories—and that whole Life thing helps in procuring focus—focus on what really matters, what’s really important. . .
all of which is all sprinkled with a hearty dose of maturity. . .

However there is one pivotal factor which allows us to return back to where we often began, it is the most changing of factors–the one that provides both healing and forgiveness, courage and hope. . .
that being Grace. . .

The Grace I received from the Holy Spirit.
The Grace that has allowed me to go back, to the beginning, to the place that wasn’t always good or happy to a place that continues to have trouble, and do what I need to do—demonstrate that same Grace in like turn. . .

So as my thoughts turned toward time and even fine wine on the day of milestones. . .as in there’s just nothing like that fine bottle of wine. . .I thought of life, my life and how both need to be equally well aged. . .

Cheers to 32 years and going. . .