May we all remember…

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon, For The Fallen

“All we have of freedom, all we use or know –
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.”

Rudyard Kipling


(BBC)


(News.com.au)

I know what you’ll say.
I know you’ll shake your head.
I know your pride will cloud your agreement.
You’ll disagree…
You’ll say I’m wrong…
Or you’ll simply be dismissive…subjecting me to a land of ignorance and deplorables.

But never the less… there are just some things that I believe our cousins from across
the pond get right…so much more so then we do ourselves.

And one of those things is the pausing of the day in order to remember…

A Queen, clad in black, sporting the tri bloom of the red poppy.
A stalwart and determined 93-year-old monarch flanked by wreaths of red poppies.
A usually stiff upper lipped emotionless woman who stops to wipe away a single tear.
All because she remembers.

She remembers.

But the question is, do we?

Perhaps she remembers more clearly because she has lived on the soil where
wars have been fought.
Or that her family has borne the brunt of carrying an ancient Nation during those wars.

Our soil has, on the other hand, been spared.
Other than our own war of division and now a new odd war of terror, our land has remained
basically untainted by world wars.

However, we cannot say the same about our people.

We have sent countless numbers of young men and young women toward the sound of gunfire rather
then holding them tightly in our arms, safely back home.

Some of them returned, some did not.
Some returned…different.

For those who did and have returned, they have done so changed…
both physically as well as emotionally.
And as long as humans have wars…this sad reality will continue.


(Dailymail)


(US wounded at Omaha Beach / US Army file)


(image courtesy American Grit)

Remembrance Day
Armistice Day
Veteran’s Day

Call it what you will.

It is a specified day in November, always the 11th, in which the British Commonwealth,
Canada, the European Nations, Australia, New Zealand, The US…
each pause to mark the recalling of the sacrifices made…
sacrifices that were readily and freely offered so that our collective nations might remain free.

Originally it was a day to mark the end of WWI—it was on the 11th hour of the 11th day
of the 11th month that the war ended when the Germans signed the Treaty of Versailles.

Sadly and most ominously little did the world know then that that treaty would actually usher
in a new and even larger horror—only to follow suit not long after…
A more terrible horror than the first…

And so thus the UK, who marked Remembrance Day yesterday on Sunday with the laying of
poppy clad wreaths on tombs, monuments, and graves, now remember two world wars.

Perhaps one of the more poignant moments during yesterday’s ceremony in London was when
the Queen’s wreaths were placed on the Cenotaph.

The Cenotaph is an empty tomb and monument in London that is a physical and tangible reminder that
not all soldiers come home…as many physical remains still lie elsewhere…
on foreign soil, long forgotten.
Buried or merely lost to the decay of time.


(The Telegraph)

And so we Americans will pause today, on this Monday, November the 11th, to offer our
own remembrance.
Banks and the Postal services will be closed.
Some schools and businesses will close.
Some communities will have parades.
As a president lays a wreath in Arlington at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


(courtesy Conservative Daily News)

But I fear that this nation of ours will not unite in its remembrance.
It will rather remain divided.

Say what they will about their monarchy, seeing their Queen shed tears during her public
remembrance of those who gave their all will draw the British closer, not further apart.

Our Nation will continue to throw caustic jabs at her President.
Her governmental leadership will continue insulting and publically hating one another.
Some in leadership will continue to cry out, hoping to drown out the somber markings
with their own shouts for socialism and that of antisemitism and progressive liberalism…
All of which are the makings of the unforgiving black hole that only aids to usher in the very
thing we now pause to remember…
that of broken nations, wars and eventual loss.

Her people will continue attacking one another over perceived political wrongs.
There will be little in the way of a national coming together in order to remember.
The bias will be heard and seen throughout the newsfeeds.

And so yes, I believe the United Kingdom, who has her own wealth of woe, as Brexit comes to mind,
does a far better job standing united in order to recall and to remember those that
they have loved and lost.

There are a few lessons this proud nation of ours still needs to learn…
A humbling remembering is one of them…

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by Major John McCrae, May 1915

No, No, No

I am reminded of the saying that “those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.”
We need to learn.

David Roberston regarding the book The Great Deception: Can the European Union Survive

There is a particular book that our friend the Wee Flea has painstakingly and slowly
been offering tiny tantalizing morsels, chapter synopsizes if you will, to the readers
of his blog ever since the first of the new year.
It is a book that I have not read myself but will most likely add into the queue of my
ever-growing and now burgeoning ‘must reads but haven’t the time” pile.

The Great Deception: Can the European Union Survive by Christopher Booker and Richard North

According to David,
This is one of those books that is culture changing.
Written by Christopher Booker and Richard North, it is a detailed,
well-researched and brilliantly argued book about the history of the European Union.
It was first published in 2003 but this updated edition was released in 2016.

“A superb history of the EU and of Britain’s relationship with it…every MP, every senior civil servant,
every journalist with any claim to understanding the current state of the country,
should read it” Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday I would wholeheartedly endorse Hitchens view.
I spend far too much time arguing with politicians and others who have bought into the EU’s myth about itself.
My challenge is very simple. Every one of our lawmakers and opinion formers should read this.
If they can prove it wrong, so be it. I would probably change my mind.
But if it is right in its main thesis then it is a devastating expose of the EU,
and should make every rational person, glad that we voted to get it and should add to
our determination to get out.

So why might I, an American you wonder, be interested in a book that addresses issues
concerning the EU?

Why would I, or should I, ever be interested in not only the EU but that of Brexit?
That whole ‘should she go or should she stay’ fiasco plaguing our friends across the pond?
Do we not have enough troubles here in the States without my having to borrow
any more worries from our neighbors?

Well, I believe that The US and our cousins across the Pond, The UK,
are mirror images of one another… albeit images who literally spell our words a bit
differently, yet mirror images none the less.

We’re cut from, more or less, the same cloth.
So the saying may hold true for each of us…” so goes the UK, so goes the US” and
then “so goes the US, so goes the UK”

Like it or not, agree with me or not, but the two of us have always been the lynchpins
of Western Civilization.
Joined at the proverbial hip for better or for worse or for both.

So I think it behooves all of us to keep a wary eye on Brexit.
Albeit now morphing into some sort of hybrid water-downed version of
it’s original self.

I have been a pro-Brexit person from early on…but that matters neither here nor there as I
have no vote, no say and really no dog in the fight…but yet…I do…we all do.

We have a dog in that fight because what happens to the UK will impact the US tremendously.
That how it is with families—one might be ailing while the other in turn renders comfort and aid.

So why would I favor to go rather than to stay?
Because the EU is not what it was ever intended to be nor will it ever be.
I believe the UK would be a stronger sovereign nation by herself rather than tethered to
a leech.

And maybe I’ve grown jaded over the decades, but I am no longer really keen on the UN either…
but we’ll save that thought for another day.

So if you ask me, we’re both going to hell in a handbasket.
We’ve lost our way.
We’ve lost our moral compass.
We’ve lost our respect, let alone belief, in our God.
We’ve lost our humility.
We’ve lost our identities.
And we’ve lost those in leadership who were never afraid of leading…

President Trump, I believe has been trying, but our Nation appears to no longer want
strong definitive leadership…

Margaret Thatcher has always been one of my “heroes”–albeit a hero for one who never
lived under her leadership…so I understand that some may question my choice…
but you need to understand that I did live under the leadership of her counterpart…that being Reagan.
And as a team, they were an unformidable team.

Thatcher knew how to lead.
She knew her facts.
She knew her history.
She knew her agenda.
She set her sights.

She kept a level head and she would not back down from a fight that
was fought for the sake of Western Civilization.

And whereas she had many detractors in the UK…
those who did not like or even resented her leadership and or policies…
personally, I have always thought the tandem forces of Thatcher / Reagan was the last great
world leadership team that we have ever seen since that of Churchill and Roosevelt.

So I was keenly interested in David’s take on Thatcher as revealed in the Great Deception.
The link to his full post follows at the end…

The Great Deception Ch. 13 – No! No! No! – 1988-1990

This is a fascinating chapter which gave me a lot of information I did not know –
not least that the EU planned Thatcher’s fall –
and the Tory ‘men in grey suits’ were quite happy to do their bidding.

“I wanted to change the policies, not the leader.
But if that meant the leader had to go, then so it had to be.” Geoffrey Howe.

After her Bruges speech, Prime Minister Thatcher had become the great obstacle to the European
project and so she came under sustained attack – not least from the Euphiles in her own party.

Delors was desperate to get the Euro set up and a European bank.
For that to happen he had to get the Germans on board and especially the Bundesbank.
Much to most people’s surprise they did not block monetary union but merely insisted on certain conditions.
This was because Delors had rigged the committee and skillfully \ flattery and persuasion.
He made them this incredible promise – which is directly relevant to today’s situation.

“There will be a new, Super- Bundesbank at European level,
totally independent of governments and consequently able to exercise a degree of power beyond
the wildest dreams of many heads of government.”
This week as Big Business and the Big Banks are stepping up the pressure on Brexit
(and gleefully being cited as support by so called left-wingers, liberals and greens),
remember that the current EU was set up by them and for them.

Nigel Lawson, the British Chancellor,
tried to promote the ERM and ERU as an agreement between sovereign nations.
He failed to realise (until too late) that the EU’s central purpose was not co-operation but subordination.
This is a failing that most pro-EU UK politicians today refuse to acknowledge.

British Conservative politicians argued that we should go along with the first stage because
we did not ‘want to miss the bus’ and we could ‘change from within’.
Sound familiar?! Thatcher was the only one who really saw the danger and she stood firm. Even when Lawson and Howe threatened to resign she stood firm.
And yet in Madrid she said that the UK would join the ERM
(Exchange Rate Mechanism) but did not specify a date.

Meanwhile Lawson decided to shadow the Deutschmark, so interests rates in Britain soared to 16%.
He resigned. The French Prime Minister Rocard warned “Britain is like a slow ship in a naval convoy.
Sometimes, for the good of all, the last vessel must be abandoned to its tragic destiny”

Meanwhile in November 1989, the Berlin wall fell.
Delors saw this as a great opportunity to promote a federal Europe –
rather than a Europe of independent nation states.
A single currency, a single economic policy, and a single government.

In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.
And in October of the same year, Thatcher reluctantly announced that Britain would, after all, join the ERM.
Delors by then did not want the UK to join – he just wanted rid of Thatcher.
Britain however joined (much to the delight of Labour, the Lib Dems, the trade Unions, and the CBI) –
only to be forced to a humiliating exit in 1992.

The two main protagonists
Delors saw an opportunity at the GATT talks (world trade) with 125 countries.
Britain which was still the worlds second largest trader at that point,
did not have a seat at these talks.
We were represented by the EU.
The USA wanted a cut in agricultural subsidies.
The EU was totally against.
The EU Council then set a trap for Thatcher.
It refused to discuss GATT and instead focused on monetary union.
“Mrs. Thatcher would be forced into the open; either she would agree, conceding game, set and match…
or, more likely, she would have to refuse, leaving the door open for a strike by her British opponents”

Thatcher then made this famous remark:

“The president of the Commission, Mr. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted
the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community.
He wanted the Commission to be the executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate.
No. No. No.”

Whilst there were many things about Mrs. Thatcher which I disliked and disagreed with when I watch this clip,
I realise that she was streets ahead in terms of leadership and courage than any of today’s leaders.
There is not a chance that Mrs.T would have been pushed around as much as Mrs. May or the ‘we must surrender all’
politicians have been.

Thatcher recognised – too late – that the EU was not about an open market and free trade –
but was and is, in fact, a protectionist bloc.

The Sun summed up the whole situation with their “Up Yours Delors” headline.
And Howe resigned.
Heseltine stood against Thatcher in the leadership election and although he lost it was only by 204 votes to 185.
Thatcher resigned.
Heath rang his office shouting “rejoice, rejoice’ and bought his staff champagne.
But Heseltine did not become leader.
Thatcher was replaced by John Major who wanted the UK to be at the heart of Europe.
Given that the EU was about to move towards political and monetary union
it was a forlorn hope.

This whole chapter serves to show the stark contrast with today’s politicians and the leadership
of Mrs Thatcher.
She was prepared to say ‘No, No, No’ to the EU and act upon it.
Our leaders would never say no the EU and instead are prepared to say No, No, No
to the British people and to once again hand over sovereignty to the EU.

https://theweeflea.com/2019/02/14/the-great-deception-14-no-no-no-the-fall-of-thatcher/

(statements in bold case are mine for emphasis)

smoke gets in your eyes

“There may be a great fire in our soul,
yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it,
and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.”

― Vincent van Gogh


(image The Smokey Mountians, credit Pixabay)

A hundred moons ago, my cousin and I…
a cousin who was more brother than cousin,
…well we’d spend the better part of our latter teens and early 20’s perched at a British Pub
in Atlanta listening to such classics as Waltzing Matilda and Over There…

Despite this being the late 70’s and the early 80’s, one would think it was actually the early
part of the 20th century during a First World War.

Of course, that was on the weekends when the lovely older woman would come in to play
the piano, while we’d all gather around said piano, singing such classic songs of days gone by…
songs such as those sung while our boys were indeed still “over there”…
in a different lifetime, far removed from our own but one we still knew.

Yet on other nights, the bar would play the songs of such groups as the Platters…
my cousin’s favorite group.

My cousin was killed in a car wreck in 1980…
he was 23 and I was 21…

There were a handful of tapes found in his car at the time of his accident,
I kept two of the tapes–one being the Platter’s tape.

‘Smoke gets in your eyes.’

Oddly this wee granddaughter of mine seems to love riding in the car while listening to
such golden oldies…

“Joy belongs to those who understand that
earth is but a rehearsal
for heaven. Nothing in life is wasted
that remembers this.”

-Calvin Miller

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

Blessings in the busyness

“One of the most convicting things I have recently come to realize about
Jesus is that He was never, not once, in a hurry.”

Mark Buchanan,
Your God Is Too Safe: Rediscovering the Wonder of a God You Can’t Control


(blooming lilly / Julie Cook / 2018)

It was Sunday evening after a long busy day—
7:30 PM, and I was sitting in my car in the Publix shopping center
in Atlanta near dad’s house, aka my son’s, waiting for my daughter-n-law who
had run in the store.

She had run in to pick up a few items for my son who would be staying behind
while the rest of us hit the road back home to Carrollton.

Ode to the logistics of our lives right now.

We’d spent the day visiting my dad’s side of the family…they all had wanted my
94-year-old aunt to be able to “get to know” her new great, great niece.

My aunt is in a word, a hoot.
She’s never met a stranger.
She is elegant and high class yet one of the funniest people you’d have the
pleasure of spending time with.

She still drives, solo travels, drinks… and yes…smokes regularly.

And has been a widow now for nearly 10 years.

She’s old school Atlanta and old school southern.
But not pretentious whatsoever.

She was my dad’s sister-n-law who had married, what I always said, was the better
of the two brothers.
She married the older and more “normal” of the two—and so we’ll leave it at that.

Growing up, I did feel a bit intimidated by her and their whole side of the family
as my parents were quieter, more subdued and not social whatsoever.
We were a more casual family, more simple and yet more splintered and dysfunctional.

Yet she always went out of her way to make me feel welcomed and a part of their clan
when I’d be sent off for weekends to spend time with my older cousins.

There are only two of my dad’s “people” who remain—his sister-n-law and his first cousin,
both now in their mid 90’s.

Today, it was my cousins and me who are now the grandparents…
Complete with greying hair, extra pounds, wrinkles, pains, and wobbles.

These are the days, these sorts of gatherings, of which are now both few and far between,
which only make me long for day’s long gone…

Yet as I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store, I grabbed my phone and pulled up
the latest homily offering by my favorite rouge Anglican Bishop.

It was a homily offered for the third Sunday after Easter and focused on the
Resurrected body of Christ and the Renewed Mind…

A comfort as I sat in my car, on a chilly, wet Sunday evening,
ruminating over the whats that once were, as I sat pondering those yet unanswerable whats will be…

the small gift of the holidays— or when a cousin comes to visit

“It’s an universal law–
intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education.
An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience,
whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(the cousins on the couch resting after the big meal / Julie Cook / 2017)

With the arrival of this almost two month long “holiday” season–that time
prior to Thanksgiving, of which usually is now ushered in just following Halloween,
with the big lead up to feasting and fellowshipping—
all the way to just after New Years, with its big exhale and let down…
many of us will experience the comings and goings of family and friends
those who come home to roost or those who are simply passing through.

Perhaps it’s us who are the ones doing the visiting…
making those often precarious trips here, there and yon

Either way…all sorts of folks are coming and going.

College students return home.
Schools shut down for the holidays
Work schedules become erratic.
Vacations begin…
Things just become topsy turvy… for what was once just a couple of weeks
to something now which has morphed into almost a 2 month celebration.

As a kid, do you remember having family come visit for the holidays…
or maybe you were the one traveling with family to do the visiting?

Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins…. folks you wouldn’t have seen but
maybe once or twice a year,
but folks who your parents would read you the riot act over….
Strongly reminding you as to what it means to being kind, patient, polite
and not to grouse when having to share your toys, your room, your time,
your space–or to, in turn, tolerate having to be the recipient of perhaps
the not so most hospitable relative.

Older great aunts who would pinch your cheeks, kissed your face with bright red lipstick
as their extra strong perfume lingered cloyingly in your nostrils….
Or of that very loud and very obnoxious uncle who just made for awkward conversation…
yet would always slip you a dollar when no one was watching.

You could see your dad biting his tongue, your mom “playing nice” and you’d figure
if they could handle it, you could handle the little cousin who constantly
followed you around the house while your older cousin hid your favorite stuffed animal while having to sit by that aunt who insisted on your trying her best pickled ham casserole.

Family…friends…visiting—it’s what the holidays bring.

And therein lies the hidden gift of the holidays…

I thought about all of this today when I finally sat down,
exhausted from the days of lead up cooking and the few hours of cleaning
for what amounts to about a 20 minute meal…
when looking at our son and daughter-n-law’s dog, Alice the grand-dog, who had jumped
up on one the end of the couch, making herself at home,
home on the end that one of our cats, Peaches, stakes out as her own.

Disgusted, she left the room.

Percy however was not to be displaced.
He loves his mother and doesn’t want to share her with his usurper cousin….
so he jumped up and settled in right by my side—

17 pounds of cat verses 85 pounds of black lab….both wanting, needing, to be
by the one they look to for food, comfort and security.
Yet not particularly caring for one another.

And so they tolerate one another…they share their space, albeit it precariously.
They “play nice” to coexist in close proximity because they are “family”—
like it or not.

Alice is here until Monday.
Percy is here for the duration.
Yet they will make the best of this not so favorable situation of time
because this time of year, these holidays just bring out the better, the kinder,
the more generous in us all.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting
to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great,
and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:35-36

indebted

“I don’t know who my grandfather was;
I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Marcel Proust


(the cousins circa 1966 )

Family.
A difficult and delightful hodge podge and conundrum all rolled into one.
For good or bad…we all have family….

Do you see the wee awkward one there, the little one in green sitting in the
middle on the couch in this grainy old family photograph?

That would be me.

Little did I realize then that the two cousins, brother and sister, sitting to my immediate right and left would eventually come to be two of the most important people
in my life.

The age difference is 5 and 8 years respectively.
Enough of a deep and wide chasm to keep the young cousin at, what was hoped to
be, a safe distance.
Being just that, I was the little cousin who was to be endured during holidays,
for what was hoped to be only for a day at best.

The only catch was the fact that the two girls were also just that—
the only two girls in a sea of boys with a doting grandmother who had raised
two boys yet always yearned for a girl.
Of which forced these two mismatched girls to spend more time together than either
one particularly cared.

So should it come as any surprise that the older of the two girls tried twice to do
away with the younger one?

How was the fact missed that when these two cousins were once visiting their
grandparent’s farm, deciding to go out for a ride on the horses,
the older one opted not to secure the younger one’s saddle, leaving her dangling precariously between a deep raven or a bed of overgrown brambles…
with the only choice of survival being the brambles….

Or what of the time the older one was told to prepare the younger one something
for supper…and so, what was dubbed a cannibal burger, was quickly served…
simply being a raw hamburger patty that perhaps was hoped served as a last meal….

The teenage boy you ask??
Well he simply had no time for any such foolishness, opting instead to spend
time his own way…away.

And little did any of us know that on that picture day so long ago that
two in the photo would leave us far too soon.

I lived in the family of the younger of the two brothers.

A quiet lazy man who called Atlanta home.
Ours was a small family of four.
The other and older brother lived with his young brood up north in a rural
city in the same state.

The distance often limited the times spent together as “family.”

The oldest cousin in the photo was soon to move states, off to college,
where he would eventually go on to medical school,
marrying and forging his life there, away,
as it is to this very day… so his presence now is of little consequence.

Add also to the photo the fact that two in the picture had been adopted…

And so it was with my having been one of the two adoptees.

Such was that I always had felt a deep void in my heart.
I always felt a disconnect from my cousins…
as if I really wasn’t related and therefore I was always an outsider,
not really related.

We all shared the same last name,
but at some point prior, I actually had had a different last name.
Different family traits, different everything.

Of course today my grown mind knows better and that such a thought never crossed
the minds of my cousins. Simply put, I was just the little cousin…
Yet in my mind I always felt separate from what made the family just that,
a blood bonded family.

As time passed all the cousins went their own separate directions…to school,
careers, marrying and forging lives of their own.
All except for the two youngest boys.

The youngest cousin there on the floor was only 3 years older than me.
We were very close growing up, as our ages dictated that we were the two
relegated to spend the most time together.

We were the best of friends, growing very close over the years as we each dealt
with our own varying family dysfunctions, that was until he was tragically killed
in a car wreck at the age of 23 while at age 20, I was left to pick up our pieces.

My little brother, the youngest of all the cousins would eventually commit suicide
as he could never reconcile himself to having been “given up” and then in
turn adopted…despite the fact that he was always loved and cherished within
this family.

There would always be the occasional wedding or funeral that would bring everyone
back together….
but time, age and distance had placed a divide in the family,
creating a group of strangers rather than bonded relatives.

My family of 4 eventually became a family of 3, then it was down to 2 and
this past March, it became only a family of 1.

Their family of 6 eventually became 5, resting now at an original 4.

But as theirs was the greater in number, it only made sense that their family’s
numbers would grow exponentially…
blossoming to the current total of 31 while mine is up to 4 with a
5th on the way.

But oddly and blessedly enough, time would be kind as it always has a way
of coming around full circle.
It has allowed for the bridging of the chasm of both age and distance…
in turn rendering all of the divides no longer relevant….delightfully
null and void.

Each cousin has lived through, as well as survived, their own life’s tumults…
And the realization and acknowledgement of such has provided a bonding effect.

Those two cousins who sat on either side of me all those many years ago,
along now with their spouses, swooped in to take my small brood of
a family under their care when it was most needed.
And when things became really difficult, they merely intensified their care.
And that care continues as I continue putting the pieces of loss back together again.

No longer was I just the little annoying cousin but I had become more
like the younger sister…
a sister who they each knew would need their love and support.

Family, as we most all know, is a complicated affair.
Never perfect, never what we hold in our minds.
However we are blessed when we realize that our adversities can actually provide
a unifying factor.

Despite having known these people my entire life, I don’t think
we actually got to truly know one another until we became adults.
And since neither of them read this blog I don’t think they’d mind
me telling you how very lucky I consider myself having been “stuck” in the
middle on that couch so very long ago…

Family, for good or bad, we usually all have one….
and how so appreciative I am that this adopted child was blessed by one
with such a tenacious zeal.


(both of my cousins with their mother, my aunt, my now 92 year old aunt,
almost 3.5 years ago in Savannah at my son’s wedding / Julie Cook / 2014)

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their
own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8