Happy Mother’s Day to my son…now that’s a switch

“A mother is the truest friend we have,
when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us;
when adversity takes the place of prosperity;
when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us,
still will she cling to us,
and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels
to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace
to return to our hearts.”

Washington Irving


(“mom” with her two lambs…The Mayor and The Sheriff / Greg Cook /2021)

Okay..
so I’ve said it before..there were three primary women who
were integral in making me into the person I am today…

First there was my birth mother (and NO I do not subscribe to this
latest woke nonsense and crap of “birthing person”…total BS!!)

I had a birth, or rather biological, mother who gave me up for adoption in 1959.
Next I had an adopting mother who came along in 1960.
(and no AOC, planned parenthood does not help out in that area contrary
to your foolish line of thinking)

My adopted mom did the long haul hard work.
She went through diapers, terrible twos, potty training…and Lord knows
and bless her heart, adolescence.

Yet sadly, she left me in 1996 when cancer marked her name.

Lastly I had an adopted godmother who came along in 1974—she picked up the
spiritual pieces…working meticulously until her death several years ago.
And let me just say, if you don’t have that kind of person in your life…
find her–a Christian mother who will guide you…

Throw in my two grandmothers (adopted) and I had some great ground work.

I, in turn, became a mom in 1988 to our only son Brenton.
We were going to name him Collin after my godpoppa, but
the name Brenton spoke to my husband…and after an arduous birth,
the nurse turned to me and asked me what was to be the name of this
new son of ours and all I could muster
was…”ask my husband what he wants…”
and so Brenton was his name-o….

As life would have its way, we discovered that we were actually very
fortunate to be able to have just the one child.

So let’s just fast forward to today…our 32 year old son being dad to
both the Mayor and the Sheriff.

I must say that I have absolutely marveled over how our son
has grown into the role of being both father
and dad.

And so just maybe…. this should be more of a father’s day post…
but since this is my day, mother’s day…I’m going to focus
on what makes me a mom…
and that would be our son and now our grandkids.

Recently, our son took off a day from work in order to
spend the entire day with his 2 year old son, aka the Sheriff.

It was the Sheriff’s 2nd birthday and since birthday number 1 was
during the height of lockdown pandemic, our son wanted to make certain
that birthday number two was special.

It matters not that the Sheriff probably won’t ever recall birthday
number two.
What matters is that the tales will transcend time that his dad said
“no” to work just so he could spend time with his young son.

Now that is what I call putting one’s priorities into place!

I am a firm believer that we grow our children…
We nurture them, care for them, feed them, clean them, clothe them,
teach them, instruct them, defend them…
Our sons need fathers.
Our daughters need fathers.

And I dare you to argue with me otherwise.
So don’t mess with mama bears….just saying

I know not all family situations are ideal…
mothers must be fathers and fathers must be mothers…
But our kids need balance.

They need both female nurturing and they need strong male guidance.

Call me old fashioned, call me out of touch, but I’ll tell you one thing…
balance…male and female…it works!!

So happy mother’s day to all the moms and dads…
as well as to grandparents…along with the aunts and uncles
and to all those godparents out there filling
that spiritual role!

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old,
he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

what’ll ya have?

“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”
W. Somerset Maugham


(a welcoming image as seen from out of my car window / Julie Cook 2020)

If you’re familiar with either Atlanta or Athens, Georgia, you no doubt know about
The Varsity.

The Varsity is as synonymous with Atlanta and Georgia as is Coca Cola.
The snappy “What’ll ya have?!” is equally synonymous as that is how each
counter customer has been met at The Varsity since its inception in 1928.

This anchoring mainstay has weathered the ravages of time and has managed to
survive when other seemingly enduring institutions have given way to the various burdens
of fickled consumerism.

The Varsity was the drive-in restaurant dream of a man named Frank Gordy.
Ironically this 1928 drive-in was born the same year as my dad,
So I’m certainly not surprised that my dad had a life long affinity with this
car hop ladened hamburger / hotdog joint.
From that of a hungry young boy to that of cash strapped college student whose dorm
was within walking distance of this iconic drive-in, my dad loved his “Varsity.”

And so the irony has never been lost on me that thirty years later,
the Athens drive-in was within walking distance from my sorority House in Athens.

It was the place of late night exam runs.
It was the place you went after your date had brought you home… or…
it was the place you went after you dropped your date off at her dorm or sorority house…
each hoping not to run back in to the other…
It was, and is, the ritual place of both pre and post football game meals.

This was the case for both me and dad…spanning the course of separating decades.

The funny thing is that it’s just that one of us went to Tech and the other went to Georgia.
The two schools known for their good old fashioned hate.
Two rival schools who love to hate one another but who are bound together by a love
for classic Georgia cheap eats.

So yes, grease dripping from onion rings, hand cut french fries, chili dogs and fried
peach pies running throughout both the veins of me and Dad is the ultimate
comforting calling of “home”…
Not the greatest of foods…not the healthiest nor always the tastiest…
but there is just something to be said for traditional consistency and staying power.
The Varsity has both.

Fast forward to this past week.

It was spring break for many school systems…
Our daughter-n-law was blessedly out of school.
We thought we’d volunteer to keep the Mayor for a day or two—
splitting up the madness at their home from having both the
Sheriff and Mayor constantly under foot.

And so, in this new outskirts of Athens home of ours,
it only seemed fitting that we had to pass the torch, bringing forth a right of passage
by taking the Mayor to The Varsity.


(the Mayor visiting during “spring break” visits the Varsity with mom and da)

The Mayor is three years old.
In her young life, she’s already been a time or two to the Varsity in downtown Atlanta…
Her dad took her.

Her dad, our son, spent his own time with his granddad joyfully dining many times
at Atlanta’s Varsity, making lasting memories.
He thought he would be the first to introduce his daughter, this young member
of our clan to the tradition of good ol fashioned grease…however…
I happen to know that our memories really begin to percolate to the surface
at or about the age of three.
So despite her ‘dada’ thinking he was the first…
I’m banking on this latest trip being the visit that will stick.

“What’ll ya have…What’ll ya have…”
Two dogs, walking all the way
A sack of rags, and an FO– or maybe a PC
(aka, two loaded hot dogs, an order of onion rings, and a frosted orange…an orange sherbet
based drink or chocolate milk over ice)

expect the unexpected

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city,
spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

James 4:13-14


(the back of my dads old Philco radio/ Julie Cook / 2021)

Some of you might be old enough to remember that radios, televisions, and other pieces,
of so called old school electronics, all once required vacuum tubes in order to work.

Wikipedia offers us a small history lesson:
A vacuum tube, an electron tube, valve (British usage) or tube (North America),
is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes
to which an electric potential difference has been applied.

The type known as a thermionic tube or thermionic valve uses the phenomenon of
thermionic emission of electrons from a hot cathode and is used for a number of
fundamental electronic functions such as signal amplification and current rectification.
Non-thermionic types, such as a vacuum phototube however,
achieve electron emission through the photoelectric effect,
and are used for such purposes as the detection of light intensities.
In both types, the electrons are accelerated from the cathode to the
anode by the electric field in the tube.

The simplest vacuum tube, the diode, invented in 1904 by John Ambrose Fleming,
contains only a heated electron-emitting cathode and an anode.
Electrons can only flow in one direction through the device—from the cathode to the anode.
Adding one or more control grids within the tube allows the current between the
cathode and anode to be controlled by the voltage on the grids.

These devices became a key component of electronic circuits for the first half
of the twentieth century. They were crucial to the development of radio, television,
radar, sound recording and reproduction, long-distance telephone networks,
and analog and early digital computers.
Although some applications had used earlier technologies such as the spark gap transmitter
for radio or mechanical computers for computing,
it was the invention of the thermionic vacuum tube that made these technologies
widespread and practical, and created the discipline of electronics.

In the 1940s, the invention of semiconductor devices made it possible
to produce solid-state devices, which are smaller, more efficient, reliable,
durable, safer, and more economical than thermionic tubes.
Beginning in the mid-1960s, thermionic tubes were being replaced by the transistor.
However, the cathode-ray tube (CRT) remained the basis for television monitors
and oscilloscopes until the early 21st century.
Thermionic tubes are still used in some applications,
such as the magnetron used in microwave ovens, certain high-frequency amplifiers,
and amplifiers that audio enthusiasts prefer for their “warmer” tube sound.

As a young man hoping to tune into his favorite radio program during the early 1940’s,
The Shadow, my dad would eagerly await the week’s latest new episode…
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”

Yet if the radio suddenly blew a tube, there’d better be a replacement or there’d be no
new episode but rather, there would only be silence.

Recently rummaging through dad’s old attic, I actually found an old box
of replacement tubes.
Dad always wanted to be prepared lest he miss an episode of his favorite show.
He never felt the need to toss the tubes despite the advancements in technology.
He wanted to be prepared…old school or not.

And just like Dad, I prefer to always be prepared for the unexpected.

So imagine this move…

We only thought we had everything plotted and planned…but this house,
this new nemesis, is testing our mettle on preparedness.

A leaking roof…
a need for an electrician…
a need for a plumber,
the need for a painter…
throw in a few trees that needed to be cut from around the house…
and the list of needs has grown exponentially.

Nothing that had been anticipated.

Just today, we experienced yet another unexpected surprise.

A gentleman came out to grind the stumps from those cut trees—
the trees that were only adding insult to the house and roof,
and as he worked his grinder, he hit the main waterline.

The sun was quickly setting, the rains were moving in,
and we had big problems on our hands.

Yes, we did think to have the utility lines marked…
but…
somehow, someone forgot to mark the water line.

Ode to the unexpected.

So the one thing we do know…life is not neat nor tidy…
no matter how much we plan or wish it were.

So my advise… always expect the unexpected!

That Unexpected Last Day
Would it not be good for us to put away the vain dream of countless earthly days and face
up to the blunt fact that our days on earth may actually not be many?

For the true church, there is always the possibility that Christ may return.
Some good and serious souls hold this to be more than a possibility,
for it seems to them as it seems to this writer that
“the earth is grown old and the judgment is near,”
and the voices of the holy prophets are sounding in our ears.

And when He comes, there will not be a moment’s notice,
not an added day or hour in which to make frantic last-minute preparations.

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation,
drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.
For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.
Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen,
and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

A.W. Tozer
https://www.cmalliance.org

(Repeat)The brine, the rugs, getting lost and a grateful heart

*****Since it’s going to be such a crazy week, I thought I’d pull out a memory from
Thanksgivings past…November 2013.
It was the first Thanksgiving I had the bright idea of brining a turkey.
Dad was still with us, our son wasn’t yet married so there was no Mayor or Sheriff.
It seems so long ago…and yet the tie that binds…a grateful thankful heart!

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
― Oscar Wilde

DSCN2663
(the blasted turkey sitting in it’s brining bag in the basement refrigerator)

Last Sunday afternoon I accompanied my husband to Lowes as he was in need of some bolts and caulking.
I love going to Home Depot and/ or Lowes as there is always something that catches my eye…
a new plant, some birdseed, new rugs…and that’s exactly what I had in mind—
some new throw rugs.

New rugs for the kitchen as the existing rugs are in a word–nasty.
They were cheap and have not withstood life in the kitchen of a cookie.

As my husband headed off to the nuts and bolts aisle, I casually mention that I’d be
heading over to look at the rugs, catching up to him in a minute.
“What?” he irritatingly asks / states—
as in ‘oh no, we don’t need rugs, we’re not here to spend a bunch of money, no, no, no…’
Of which I reply “don’t get bent out of shape, I’m just looking”
(please note the inflection that is used by a wife who says she’s “just-looking”)

I cruise the carpet aisle spying the giant rugs hanging vertically
from the massive warehouse ceiling.
Hummm….
I pull a couple of the throw rugs and runners out of their cubbies,
laying them out on the slick concrete floor…
Hummmm…
I read a couple of descriptions, pull my phone out for a picture or two.
I roll everything back up, putting the little rugs back in their appropriate bins
before heading off to nuts and blots where I find my husband studying
the various sizes of cement bolts.

As he finds what he came for and we begin heading back the direction of which we had
actually entered this massive warehouse store, making our way to where the check out counters
are located, I casually state that I need to run back and check the prices of those throw rugs again.
This is when I can actually feel his eyes rolling back in his head as I cut off for the rug section—
again.

We meet up at the checkout.
As we are leaving, pushing out his buggy that now has a 2 x 4 dangling precariously
out the front, I causally throw out that I just may come back tomorrow and get those
little rugs for the kitchen.
Note the use of the word “little” strategically placed in the sentence.
Silence in the resignation of new rugs.

Monday afternoon I happily return home from Lowes with 3 new throw rugs and one runner
as I’m more than ready to move out the stained existing rugs.
I sweep, mop, and sweep some more before laying out the new rug pads.
Next, I gingerly roll out the new runner, smoothing it into place.
I then lay out the 3 smaller rugs… strategically placing each in its distinct place–
one by the cooktop, then one in front of the refrigerator and finally one in front of the dishwasher…
the three places I spend the majority of my life.

I step back admiring the colors.
“Oh, dear! Are they too busy?” I muse.
I ask the cats.
Percy immediately goes over to the runner and lays down.
I take that as a sign of approval.
Once my husband gets home from work I clock him to see how long it takes
him to notice, that is, if he notices at all.
2 minutes.
Not bad.
And even better, he’s complimentary, he actually likes them.
Relief.

Fast forward to Tuesday.

I think I’m going to be really smart, I’m going to spread out this Thanksgiving
cooking business over the course of two days verses making myself crazy by doing
it all on Wednesday.
Piece of cake, I’ve got this!
Dad and Gloria have agreed to come for lunch with our son and his fiancé coming in that evening—
I’ll be cooking and serving in shifts, but at least, everyone will be here, albeit in intervals.

Last year I thought I’d mix things up a little by attempting to brine my next turkey.
I’ve never had a problem with my turkeys being too dry, I just thought I’d do something
a little different, as brining does seem to be the vogue thing to do.
Impart a little flavor and try my hand at something new and different.

I prepared the solution–a couple of gallons of water, ice, salt, spices, salt,
apple cider, and did I mention salt?
I get the 5-gallon brining bag in the sink, place my 20lb bird in the bag, and then gingerly
pour the giant black kettle of solution into the bag.
I seal the bag, heaving the now massively heavy bag into a roasting pan to help balance it as I prepare to carry it to the refrigerator in the basement.

I take maybe 5 steps from the sink when suddenly there’s a snap then a sickeningly slurping sound erupts.
This is followed by the glug, glug, glug of 3 gallons of liquid cascading out all over
my wooden kitchen floor, the new runner, and 2 of the smaller new rugs.
“NOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
I scream for no one but me and the cats to hear, sending them running.
I am paralyzed… because if I move, more liquid will flow. “NOOOOOOOOOO”
“AGGGGHHHHHHHH”
Surprisingly I don’t cry.
I’m in a panic!!

The wooden floors!!!
The rugs!!
AAAGGGHHHHH!!!
Towels, I need towels!
I run to get every bath towel we own.
I proceed to sop up all the liquid before it destroys the floor.
I pick up my new, now saturated rugs” – — did I mention that it was 34 degrees
outside and pouring down rain.
I run outside in the cold rain, throw the rugs down on the oh so wet driveway,
pulling out the garden hose to wash off the salty solution now soaking into my new rugs.
Anyone driving by most likely thought I’d totally lost any brain I had.

DSCN2667
(waiting for the runner to dry out)

I lay the remaining towels, including beach towels, in the garage,
dragging my now heavy soaked rugs in from the rain, laying them on the towels,
layering other towels on top. I proceed jumping up and down attempting to “blot”
them dry as best as I can on a pouring down rainy day.
Did I mention it was 34 degrees?

Back inside I continue sopping up the salty solution,
mopping the kitchen floor, more towels.
Not to mention how many times I now had to run the washing machine.
The damn turkey (please forgive my language, it just seems appropriate at this moment in time)
is still sitting in the brining bag waiting for transport to the basement sans the brine.
I pull out another jug of apple cider, pouring it over the turkey,
reseal the bag and drag it to the basement.
I eventually bring the rugs inside to the laundry room where I drape them over the dryer and
washing machine and the heat vent hoping they will dry out by Thursday.

Fast Forward to today, Thanksgiving.
The rugs are back in place, a little wavy and a bit shimmery,
even after vacuuming, as the salt seems to now be ingrained.
The oven is full of delightful dishes offering up heavenly aromas.
The stove has simmering and bubbly pots of savory goodness.
The table is set,
Round I may begin.

The phone rings.
“JULIE?”
Hey, dad are y’all almost here?
Dad yells into his cell phone as if I’m on another continent and the connection is poor.
“NO, WE’RE LOST AGAIN”
Ugh…are you freaking kidding me?

They got lost last time.

They’ve only been coming here to this house for the past 14 years several
times a year.
Gloria is not one for the interstate–an hour’s drive takes her 3 hours as she likes
to go by way of Tennessee to get to our house.
“Where are you, Dad?”
“THE SAME BAKERY WE STOPPED AT LAST TIME”

“Tell Gloria to stay were y’all are and I’ll be there in just a bit”

I cut off the oven and everything on the stove, grab my keys, and off I go.
I find them sitting in the parking lot of an empty bakery and just like the commercial,
I roll down my window and holler, “FOLLOW ME”

We won’t talk about Dad sneaking a drink of his favorite libation,
of which he’s not supposed to have, and then of him practically falling asleep
in his plate, but at 86 I can’t scold him too badly.
Or of him biting into a chocolate turkey and breaking his partial.
Or of the hour drive here which takes them 3 hours and yet they refuse
for us to come pick them up.

We won’t talk about round 2 when our son and his fiancé came for dinner and of
how he and his dad got into a fuss over money and school at the table.
We won’t talk about my husband dreading opening his business tomorrow as the madness
known as “black Friday” brings him such discontent.
Or of how hard it is to run a business and not conform to being open on holidays
and on Sundays, as nothing remains sacred in this country.
We won’t talk about the things that worry us as parents for our children
or as grown children for our aging parents or of how we will manage to make ends meet
for them as well as for us and of what the new year will bring to the business.

There’s so much not to talk about and yet there is so much that needs talking about…
as in my being so so grateful…grateful for the fact that I still have my dad,
that he and Gloria still manage to visit despite getting lost;
that my husband who has worked so very hard to make his business survive given our
country’s economy keeps tirelessly working to make it a go;
that I was able to retire after 31 years of teaching to “tend” to this family of mine;
grateful that our son can attend college and that he will be taking the LSAT next weekend;
grateful that I can have food on the table which is lovingly prepared to share despite
brining disasters;
grateful that there could be new rugs; grateful that I have a family,
for good or bad, who loves and supports one another the best way it knows how.

So on this day of reflection and of Thanksgiving,
with the clear knowledge that God has blessed me and that He has blessed
all of us beyond measure, it is with a grateful heart,
I say AMEN!!

refuge found in a memory

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche, Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and treasured memories…
especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments that have stayed
near to my heart…and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again, that
peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall afternoon in 2012
in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open
echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, and too arrogant
to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling
against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age
of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting,
as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria
that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered
here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman
who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

to the second best father I know…

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments,
when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”

Umberto Eco


(Mother’s Day 2020 / Julie Cook)


(calendar page by Abby Cook/ 2019)

Here is to the second-best father I know.

Happy Father’s Day son!

You are the son who has made us so very proud each and every day.

We marvel as you lead your children by example–for that is the best gift you can ever
give them—a strong role model.

And so I say that you are the second-best dad…
because you know that you had the best dad out there…


(Julie Cook circa 1992)

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
For I too was a son to my father,
still tender, and cherished by my mother.
Then he taught me, and he said to me,
“Take hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands, and you will live.
Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get[a] wisdom.
Though it cost all you have,[b] get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will give you a garland to grace your head
and present you with a glorious crown.”

Proverbs 4:1-9

the in between is what really matters

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Anne Frank, Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex:
A Collection of Her Short Stories, Fables, and Lesser-Known Writings


(looking down on the top of the original grave marker for my grandmother’s
great grandfather / Julie Cook / 2020)

Yesterday, I wanted to escape.

I wanted to go anywhere—anywhere where there were no protests, no looting, no riots,
no fires, no pandemic, no hate…but oddly I wanted to go to a place of death.
Or more aptly put, a place of final rest.

Odd yes, but I just really wanted to go away.
Just for a little while.

So where do you go to escape the world and her madness on the final Sunday in May?

I had a thought.

We got in the car and drove for a while.
Driving to a tiny rural middle Georgia town…
It was the birthplace of my grandmother.

There isn’t much to this tiny speck of a town.
It is a rural area with its share of farming and cattle.

My grandmother isn’t buried here but her mother, sister, and brothers are.
She, on the other hand, is buried in Atlanta and Atlanta is under siege so I wasn’t
about to go back over there…the middle of rural nowhere Georgia was much more appealing.

My grandmother’s father was killed in 1900 during the Spanish American War and
in turn, she and her three siblings were raised by their 26-year-old widowed mother
along with her father–their grandfather.

It was in this small rural town where they were raised.
But how in the world did they get to this place in the middle of
nowhere I’ve often wondered.

I knew that their family had come to this small middle Georgia area by means of Savannah.
Their great grandfather had been born in Savannah and before that, their great-great
grandfather was born in Germany finding his way to Savannah via London and North Carolina.

He fought in Chatham’s Artillery during the Revolutionary War.

The son severed in the Georgia Legislature and later as a state Judge.
Following the Yellow Fever outbreak of 1820 that killed 4000 in Savannah,
the elder man took his small family to rural middle Georgia as a hope
to avoid the sickness found in a swampy coastal region.

And since neither man, grandfather nor great grandfather were buried in
the hometown of my grandmother, I wanted to know where they were.

It didn’t take long to locate them with a quick google search.
They were only about 12 miles away in a small cemetery located in another small town–
the county seat to this particular rural county.


(the grave of the man, along with his wife, who raised my grandmother / Julie Cook / 2020)

And the irony found in my day’s journey was that I got a call while we were exploring the second
cemetery from our son, asking where in Arlington, the Atlanta Cemetery in north Atlanta,
where my dad, his Pops, was buried.

It seems that seeking peaceful rest was a running thread in my small family today.

He wanted to visit his grandfather’s grave, introducing his young son to his great grandfather–
and in turn, my mom, my uncle, my grandmother, my grandfather, and my cousin.
My brother was elsewhere in the cemetery.

A family reunion of sorts.


(my grandson meeting my mom, his great grandmother/ Brenton Cook / 2020)


(my grandson meeting my dad, his great grandfather/ Brenton Cook / 2020)

So with all of this notion of death, eternity and yes, even peace, swirling in my head,
and obviously in my son’s as well, I shifted gears right back to the madness plaguing our land.

For you see, I couldn’t truly get away.

I kept thinking about an article I had read the previous night.

It was an article by a black woman who was riling against anyone using
the phrase ‘all lives matter….’
In her mind, the folks who were saying such a phrase were white and due to their skin color,
“they didn’t get it”—
and thus, such a comment was to be considered racist…
so we can only say black lives matter…while forgetting all the rest.

She was angry.

And the odd thing is that I actually wrote a post about this very thing back in 2015…
five years ago.

Imagine that—five years ago we were digging the same divide we see continuing today.
Five years ago we still had national trouble.
We were riding the wave of the Occupy Wallstreet movement.

Antifa and Black Lives Matter were rising violent groups who sought change by the use
of force and violence at any cost.

Police officers were part of the problem.
In particular white police officers.

We don’t seem to change much in this country because we continue having the same
tragic incidents over and over.

Here is a portion of that post I wrote in September of 2015:

Fast forward to September 1st 2015…
Breaking News…a Fox Lake, Illinois police officer is shot by 3 assailants
and dies from his wounds.
He’s a 32-year law enforcement veteran who leaves behind a wife and four children.
The suspects are still at large as the entire community is put on lockdown.

This incident comes on the heels of a coldblooded assassination,
which took place over the weekend of a Texas Sheriff’s deputy who was shot while simply pumping gas,
filling up his police car.
A man approached him from behind, shooting him executioner style.
When he fell to the pavement, the gunman stood over the body,
emptying his gun into an obviously dead body—an exclamation point of murder.

This incident comes on the heels of a coldblooded assassination, wait, didn’t I just say that…
of two television journalists in Virginia…etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum.

There’s been a lot of banter recently about “Black Lives Matter”…
However, I heard a response from the Sheriff of the deputy who was shot that I think sums up
all of this craziness best…
his response to the press just following the murder of his deputy was, and I’m paraphrasing…
‘that there has been lots of talk surrounding the Black lives matter conversation
but we all need to drop the qualifiers and understand one thing…
that ALL lives matter—doesn’t matter black, white, brown, yellow…
ALL lives matter…’

For you see, in this one man’s grief over the wasteful loss of life,
he gets it–he can actually see to the core of what is yet just one more divisional line
to so many divisional lines in this Nation of ours…

…for in the heart of God, there are no distinctions…
there is no line of separation, no color, no status, no sides, no qualifiers…
all that exists is a Love that is as wide and tall as it is deep…as in never-ending.

It does not discriminate, nor does it look twice…
it does not set limits nor does it demand anything in return…
It is equal, all-inclusive, welcoming, and offered to each and every one…
who so chooses to accept it—-
and that’s the kicker…
choosing to accept it––
choosing love, forgiveness, surrendering of self, of pride, of ego, of hate, of suspicion
in exchange for Love…
a Love that has been offered from a Father and bought with the ultimate price by a son,
so that you and I could stop the madness and live a life that finally lets go of the hate—

So today, these five years later, I still say all lives matter.
I still say folks who seek violence as a means to an end are thugs.
I still know that we are all born and that we will all die.
And I know, more importantly, that it’s what happens in between both that living and that dying
that is what matters most.

I always find solace in knowing of those who went before me just as I find hope in knowing
that it is particularly important that I leave a path of goodness for those who
follow after me.

I would think that George Floyd would have desired that his life and death be remembered
not for the begetting of more deaths and violence but rather for the possibility of positive
changes for a future generation…

May God have mercy on the United States.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed,
and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:26-29

Bears, wanting to be God, goodbye St Patrick, pandemic, mayhem, drinking the bitters and will the last one out please turn off the lights…

“Don’t Panic.”
Douglas Adams,
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Pan again!” said Dr. Bull irritably.
“You seem to think Pan is everything.”
“So he is,” said the Professor, “in Greek.
He means everything.”
“Don’t forget,” said the Secretary, looking down,
“that he also means Panic.”

G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


(ABC News)

Bears and Bulls.

If you’re not hiding under a rock, of which I suspect many of us just might be doing during
these precarious days…but if you’re not under a rock, then you have most certainly heard
the dire alarm bells sounding…

Our stock market, the global markets, has/have all taken a downward turn.

Make that more like a free for all free fall…

Thank you very much Covid-19.

Wall Street has heard of your unrelenting spreading nature and turned
itself into a bear market practically overnight.

A bear market is not what we want.
A bear market drops like a rock.

A bull market, on the other hand, is good for our investments, our 401K’s,
our retirement savings…

According to thebalance.com, the average length of a bear market is 367 days.
Conventional wisdom says it usually lasts 18 months.
Between 1900 and 2008, bear markets occurred 32 times with an average duration of 367 days.
They happened once every three years.

Yet as my dad would always say…the market has to always correct itself…
it’s an ebb and flow sort of rhythm.
Ups and downs will each come and go..having their own day in the sun.

Personally, I like rhythm…
on the other hand, I don’t like getting pushed off a cliff and falling with no parachute.

But this was coming from a man who survived Prohibition, the Depression, a World war,
a Police action as a reservist and that infamous Summer of Love…while trying to shield
my eyes.

He was stoic in the face of panic.
Hence that Greatest Generation…

But then he could also be quite the Eeyore.
So who’s to say…

Amid all the Henny penny, the sky is falling mayhem taking place, there is still
news taking place.

I caught a recent little hissy fit offered by our favorite congressional darling, AOC.
That favorite fab four member—

It seems as if AOC became riled up because people were being just oh so racist and bigoted
for not going to Chinese restaurants due to fears over Covid19, aka coronavirus.

Think Wuhan.

Yeah…
I don’t think we’re any more likely to “catch” the virus by eating Chinese food than we
are if we eat Italian food…
but try telling a panicked populace…try telling them that its ok to eat Chinese,
Italian, Korean, Iranian foods…
Panic does not “do” reason.

AOC doesn’t get the notion of a panicked populace.
She wants to control the populace.
The populace is to bow to her commnad.
That’s what socialists want to do.
They control.
She doesn’t get panic.
You can’t control panic.
A politician can’t be God.
Despite their desire.

And if you think a Saint can beat covid19, try telling all the St. Patrick revelers.
Savannah, Georgia—one of our Nation’s largest St. Patrick day celebrations,
has canceled it’s St.Patrick’s Day celebration over the Covid19 pandemic.

Yep, pandemic.

The globally scary word of Bubonic Plague…
Get ready to slap the bells around the necks of the infected.

When was a pandemic used a political weapon?
Today.
As in NOW.

What better way can a defeated party defeat a booming president that they hate?

So yes, the stock market will plummet, our economy will slow and the panic will rise.

Icelandic volcanoes have come and gone, hampering global travel.
Terrorists have hampered global travel.
Now Covid19 hampers global travel.

This too will pass.

Our sporting events are being canceled.
Our large gatherings and celebrations are being canceled.
Schools are shuttering their doors.
Our normally free and carefree lives are suddenly being impeded…
Americans don’t like being impeded.
We are a nation of coming and going as we please.

Yet reality is what it is…

The real question is…will Americans come together as one Nation or will
she remain as a divided dual nation?

In the meantime, I’m finding that the consuming of bitters is both medicinal as well
as most applicable…for these are indeed bitter days…
despite the fact these bitters come from Italy…


(the Drink Shop)

Oh, and will the last person to leave to wherever it is we are either leaving or going…be that
a mandated or self-imposed quarantine, please turn out the lights….

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah 43:1-2

I’ll wait until October….


(Scrooge played by Alistair Sim and the Ghost of Christmas past play by Michael Dolan / 1951)

For all intense purposes…the calendar date reads December 6th—well past October.
But this was my lament and statement back in say, June…

“I’ll wait until October”

Let’s back up a tad…

At the end of spring and the start of summer, we had finally decided to “makeover” two
of the three bedrooms upstairs that were long in need of redoing.

The third room that was already up to speed, is our guest bedroom.
A room that we had lovingly dubbed “Martha’s room”
as it was where my aunt would stay when she’d come to visit.

Of the other two rooms–one had been out son’s room.
A room he vacated, for all intent purposes, in say…2007…upon high school
graduation.

He occasionally returned throughout college for a few extended stints
before heading off to a fraternity house and later various apartments…and blessedly
basically forever upon graduation.

He is now married for almost 6 years, with two kids…
I think we were safe and in the clear for changing out the room.

However, that’s not to say that the door doesn’t always remain open should a need ever arise…
but it’s just that the content is now drastically and delightfully altered
as the room has been brought up to speed.

The other room had been pretty much a catch-all for things such as a
weight machine (something our son never seemed to think much of in order
to take it with him when he finally moved out–sigh),
along with boxes and boxes of files that had been dad’s world, of which I inherited
when he was no longer able to care for himself.

So my husband and I discarded, sorted, thrashed, regrouped all the stuff that was to
stay and all the stuff that was to go, turning that last room into a lovely home office of sorts.

However, it now irks my husband to no end that I went to a great deal of trouble,
not to mention expense, decorating and arranging with some wonderful old pieces
I’d found, just to simply continue using the kitchen table for my “workspace.”

He, on the other hand, uses the office religiously.

When he retired, he was accustomed to having had an office.
A place where he kept his files, bills, notices and where he sat down
to pay bills and do paperwork.

On the other hand, as a teacher, I was used to simply grabbing space at a clean table.
Hence, my affinity for the kitchen table.
I also like the wall of windows in the kitchen which provides ample light.
Much like my classroom use to provide.

I did have an “office” but “the office” consisted of a computer table with the bulk of the
room being, more or less, storage space and where we housed the kiln.
I, therefore, preferred the open space of the classroom.

For a while, following dad’s slow demise, my home “workspace” was moved to the dining room
table as the papers and boxes were growing exponentially and the kitchen was simply not the place.
Following dad’s death and the gutting of the two rooms, I moved dad and my
“stuff” to the new office.

Since the closets in those two made-over rooms were now basically gutted,
I thought I would store a few of my more cherished and ancient family Christmas ornament
boxes in the two vacated closets.

“Get them out of the attic,” I told myself.
The summer heat, in a house’s attic in Georgia, is deathly.
The winter is equally as harsh.
Not the place to store things of “treasure” but sometimes
that’s all one has.

The boxes contained much loved and long passed down ornaments.
With each ornament telling a story.

One box contained the porcelain Christmas angels and tiny nutcrackers I’d been
collecting since I was in high school.
Gifts along with those offered by long-gone family members.
Boxes that always quickened my heart each Christmas when I brought
them out to the tree.

I thought the move out of the attic would help their survival.

HA!

Do we call that the best-laid plans…????

Almost as soon as I moved the boxes to the closet, I placed one on a shelf
in order to come back when I’d next move in a few more, allowing for me to
rearrange my sorting.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash.

UGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Before even looking, I knew.

Sure enough, the porcelain angel box was on its side as pieces of angels were
strewn across a closet floor.

I opted to play Scarlett–for tomorrow would be another day…


(Scarlett following Rhett’s departure / Gone With The Wind / 1939)

I uprighted the box, scooped up all the pieces, dumping them back in the box,
all willy nilly, and closed the top…
I stopped long enough to announce aloud to no one but myself,
I’ll worry about this little disaster in October.

The small disaster was more than I could deal with or bear that day.
Or seemingly any day thereafter.
I dreaded what I would find and I dreaded the meticulous gluing that would ensue.

Well as time past, I kept reminding myself about October.

July came and went.
August came and went.
September came and went.
October…came and went.
November came and went.
December is here.

I have decided there will be no tree this year.
The first treeless Christmas in 60 years of my life.

Nor is the manger scene box unpacked or moved from the closet.

It’s not so much over the broken bits and pieces of my Christmases past but
really because the kids won’t be able to come home before
Christmas comes and goes as both work and other demands of time will keep them away.

The plan is that we will go up on Christmas Eve to spend the night.
And I’ll go up in about a week to get the kids and help out at home.

The tree is a pain to haul up from the basement–it’s large and cumbersome.
The decorating requires various ladders.
Not to mention the hauling of the ornament boxes down from upstairs.

The fluffing of the tree, the sorting, and unpacking of the ornaments—
only to turn around and pack it all right back up.

A friend of my husband’s had offered to help him haul up the tree but I told him
not to worry.

“I don’t think we’ll put up the tree this year.”
“But why?” he implored.
“Because no one will be coming home, it’ll be just us.”
“Well, the two of you can enjoy it”
“Well, it’s an awful lot of work for just two people to stare at.”

Maybe it’s the melancholy of the season.
Maybe it’s the fact that the house will be quiet.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’re both a little older.
Maybe it’s the lunacy griping our Nation.
The country is being railroaded and no one seems able to stop the madness.
Maybe I’m simply tired.

The jury is still out, but I’m pretty certain there will be no tree…

One day, some cold rainy day, I’ll pull out that box of
debris and start gluing things back together…

But for now…I did at least manage to get the lights and decorations up outside…
so no one passing by the house is any the wiser that on the inside,
only the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Oh and by the way, my son stole the stockings I had made for his little crew…
they’ve been spirited off to Atlanta only to hang on the same mantle
my stocking once hung…
So the stockings I’ve hung are quite the hodgepodge.

Hummmmm…
maybe Ebenezer was right, “wouldn’t it be better if I just
went home to bed?”


(Alistair Sim

Ebenezer : [to the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come]
I am standing in the presence of the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come?
And you’re going to show me the shadows of things that have not yet happened but will happen?
Spirit of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have met tonight! But even in my fear,
I must say that I am too old! I cannot change! I cannot! It’s not that I’m inpenitent,
it’s just… Wouldn’t it be better if I just went home to bed?

“Our freedom always has this marvelous power to make what is taken from us—by life,
events, or other people—into something offered. Externally there is no visible difference,
but internally everything is transfigured: fate into free choice, constraint into love,
loss into fruitfulness. Human freedom is of absolutely unheard-of greatness.
It does not confer the power to change everything,
but it does empower us to give a meaning to everything, even meaningless things;
and that is much better. We are not always masters of the unfolding of our lives,
but we can always be masters of the meaning we give them.
Our freedom can transform any event in our lives into an expression of love,
abandonment, trust, hope, and offering.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 58
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

critical mass

I actually don’t think it matters how early or late you are as long as you
hit critical mass.

Drew Houston


(someone is hiding / Julie Cook / 2019)

According to Merriam Webster:
Critical mass, [is] in nuclear physics, the minimum amount of a given fissile material
necessary to achieve a self-sustaining fission chain reaction under stated conditions.

Critical mass is a term most familiar in the world of physics but it is also now a key
term found in the world of business, retail and even social media.

Having recently returned from spending a bit of emergency time with the Mayor,
I have come to the conclusion, along with her parents, that she has reached critical mass…

That being the state in which the chain reactions, under stated conditions, are self-sustaining.

In laymen’s terms, we call this phenomenon the ‘terrible twos.’
A tantrum of the utmost extreme as demonstrated by the only age that can do justice
to such…that being the toddler.

We have all decided that the Mayor is obviously highly gifted as she is demonstrating this
most profound attribute actually 4 months before officially turning 2.

Meaning, given just the right conditions…such as a heightened sense of anxiety,
extreme irritability, cutting teeth, being under the weather, overt frustration and the
lack of not getting one’s way…all creates the perfect storm of emotions.

A complete meltdown ensues.

Wailing, flailing, streaming tears, screaming, snot, drool, kicking, hitting, slapping…
and what we have my friends is not a pretty picture but rather the example of critical
mass as demonstrated by one of the most powerful forces on the planet…
that of an angry toddler.

So opting rather not to capture those red alert critical mass moments from this
recent visit of caregiving, I chose instead to focus on those calmer
and happier moments as they just seem so much more fun…and so less stressful
for this said caregiver / grandmother.

The Sherrif is channeling his inner “Pops” aka my dad by donning his driving cap…