chasing monsters

“We are each other’s harvest;
we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Gwendolyn Brooks


(the setting sun in a western Georgia sky / Julie Cook / 2017)

Like most folks I imagine, here on the east coast, I awoke yesterday to learn that a horrific tragedy had unfolded while I had slept..taking place out west.
In Las Vegas to be exact.

Shock, disbelief, raw and numb…
were just a few of the words used to describe my initial bleary eyed
reaction.

Readying for the day I gravitated between the television and my phone just
trying to glean the latest news coming in as I tried making sense of what
I was hearing, reading and seeing.

My son and I had a day of traveling on our agenda so once in the car, with me driving,
he pulled up the local Atlanta Channel 2 Action New’s live feed so we’d be able to
see and hear the President address the nation.

All I could think about was here was one more president coming before a somber Nation,
once again, to offer words of solace and comfort in the face of madness.
How many times has Trump already done this?
How many times had President Obama done this?
How many times had President Bush……

Below the streaming live feed my son kept watching and reading the scrolling comments
coming into the station from its viewers. He read some of these to me….
and I was sickeningly appalled at the words he shared.

There were no words of bereavement, no words of sorrow but rather words and feelings
from viewers expressing disdain and mockery.

From disgusting, vile and derogatory remarks about the President and his family to the
notion that this latest massacre equated to mere payback to whites….
I was quickly reminded why I shun social media.

One viewer finally expressing what I was feeling—“is there a way in which I can turn
off these terribly offensive and insensitive comments and just listen to the President?”

My son turned his phone off as the comments were simply too distracting…
too inhumane really, too monstrous…so we continued our drive mostly in silence as our minds worked to absorb the enormity of these latest events.

Later in the afternoon, as I finally made my return journey home alone,
I did something I normally don’t do while driving…I turned on the radio to the news.
I usually prefer to drive in silence, lost in my own thoughts sans any music or chatter..
but today was different… I wanted to hear and feel what the Nation, my Nation,
was experiencing.

I caught the live press briefing from the White House.

There is a big difference when listening to something verses watching it—

With the visual imagery being non existent, the words take on more of their true
intended purpose.

The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, came to the podium and offered words of both sorrow and condolence.

She began the briefing by talking about Puerto Rico and The US Virgin Islands and of the ongoing efforts to offer the necessary aid and support to help in the recovery efforts
for these islands following the deadly assault by the hurricanes.

Next her voice began to waver and crack as she began to speak about our common bond
as Americans and the unity of our shared humanity.

She addressed the current unfolding events coming out of Las Vegas.
She shared the various stories of the heroic acts offered during the melee.
The selfless sacrifices freely offered from stranger to stranger throughout the
surreal shooting.
The stories of those who offered their own bodies as shields in an attempt to protect others.
Such acts she noted recalled the verse John 15:13….
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Once finished she turned the remaining time over to the gathered reporters fielding their questions.

I don’t know.

One would think that the heaviness felt from this emotional observation would have been enough to take the wind out of the sails of that most caustic room of reporters.
One would have thought the enormity of what had recently unfolded, just as it continued
to unfold, would have been enough to soften even the most callous and anti-Trump
reporter. One would think, that while our Nation was currently experiencing a tragedy
of epic proportion, it would be reason or should and would be reason enough to have a quieting effect…
but it didn’t.

They did wait until the second question however before falling into their typical
patterns.
The questions began immediately over gun control.

Ms Sanders quickly reminded those in the room that this was a time of National
reflection, National mourning, a time of coming together in our collective
sorrow all the while as the investigation was currently active—it was all too fresh,
too raw and it was NOT the time nor the place to begin the questioning of or for
revisiting policy decisions or for the attacking of a president….the tit for tat of typical partisan politics.

And yet question after question, reporter after reporter began the litany…
There were those who pushed Hillary Clinton to the forefront of conversation with her
less than sympathetic knee jerk tweets regarding the NRA, there were those who revisited the President’s comments from 12 years ago regarding gun control….
on and on they went.

It all reminded me of a friend of mine who just won’t ever take to hearing the word
“no” for an answer.
She’ll turn and twit her query ever so until she gets the answer she wants to hear…
and that’s what this Q & A reminded me of—-someone determined not to hear the word or words “no” or “not now” as they turned and twisted their words over and over,
again and again as they desperately worked to have their affirmative moment…

And yet time and time again, Ms Sanders stoically redirected the focus to the current moment—
to the pain we are all experiencing….not to the what ifs, not to the would haves,
nor to the should haves….

I think I would have just thrown my hands in the air and walked away.
They just didn’t get it—they didn’t get that this is not the time nor the place….

There is however a time and a place…
but today, right now, was / is not that time nor that place for bickering over policies
failed or not. It is not the day to point the fingers.
It is not the day to be accusatory.
It is not a day of politics.
Not the time nor the place for right or left or anarchist…

For today is the day we sort through the shock as we allow ourselves to grieve.
Today is the day we mourn the lives lost and the lives forever changed.
We allow the pain and yes we even allow the anger…
As we mourn another lost piece to the puzzle of our American innocence.
As we digest that life once again, will never be the same as we knew it.

Yet as a Nation, we seem to have forgotten to allow ourselves our own grief.
The press leads the way, our politicians follow suit as now an angry and hate
filled Nation begins the ugly rhetoric.

Did we better grieve or mourn more honestly before this social media of ours—

Before the distractions and the million of tiny soap boxes we each now
climb upon offering up our hateful and accusatory 2 cents as if anyone is really listening…

When was it exactly that we became this way…?

I ponder these thoughts as I hear of the gut wrenching yet heroic tales of selflessness
offered from stranger to stanger—
sheltering, protecting, offering aid to strangers in the crowd… each
caught in the middle of a nightmare.

As a Nation we must allow ourselves time as well as permission for our collective
sorrow, for the shock, for the disbelief and for our own very humanness…
rather than heeding the call by those now jaded and who have forgotten that we are
more than right, more than left, more than anarchist…eschewing their cries in the meida or on social media to gather the pitchforks in pursuit of the monster—
because in our haste, we might just be chasing after the wrong monster…

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort
and relieve your sick servants, and give your power
of healing to those who minister to their needs,
that those for whom our prayers are offered may be
strengthened in their weakness and have confidence
in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

(Book of Common Prayer)

the sippy spoons

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in
and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better
hour because it is dead.
Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones,
while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(my grandmother’s silver sippy spoons / Julie Cook /2017)

Our trip to West Palm Beach was long, short, sad and wrenching.
653 miles spent driving down on a Friday…
only to then turn around and drive it all back again on a Monday.

It took about 10 hours, with only one quick stop for gas.
Coupled by a constant flow of bumper to bumper traffic hurling itself,
as if lemmings on some odd unknown mission, to an unforeseen southward destination.

We drove and we drove to what seemed to be the ends of the earth…
but that would have been Key West and that would have required more time with
more stops than our backsides would allow.

The color of the sky changes when one is traveling so far south—
It goes from the more familiar north Georgia’s typical hazy blue sky,
to a faint veiled gauzy cloudy azure blue…
Maybe it’s because the land lays so flat, punctuated only by pencil thin palms
as the soil is more white sand than dirt…
and with the sun so intense, light easily reflects back upon itself.

The heat of day does not dissipate with the waning of a day as it does at home.
It doesn’t back off when the sun finally sets, providing that long awaited
respite of comfort.
There is actually a tremendous heaviness that engulfs one’s whole being…
this being due to the overtly high humidity which makes breathing nearly
impossible.
And I thought our humidity was bad.

Moving from air conditioned buildings, which is essential to survival,
out to the oppressive heat and unrelenting sun leaves glasses fogged over
and skin and clothing feeling sticky and oddly wet even before one has had
proper chance to sufficiently break a true sweat.

This is the place Martha called home for the past 30 years.
A far cry from the years spent in Alexandria, Virginia during the early years of
her marriage.

I now understood why…for despite the apparently tropical beauty,
Martha would always protest…
“no no, let me just come up there”…
And because of that one fact, of her always wanting to come to us as she
would always prefer to venture north,
this was our first visit to West Palm Beach.

Martha would drive or fly up several times during the
year, staying for a couple of weeks at a time,
back to state she still considered home…
or more specifically near the city of her birth and raising….
Atlanta.

I can’t really say all that I should or would like to at this point
about all of this…not yet.
Having lost three of the most important people in my life in the past six months
has simply taken its toll…
As processing the emotions, memories and feelings of such emptiness
will take some time.

One by one… the supports and shorings are now gone…
Those that helped to hold up the life I had always known…
This is part of the transition where I become the shoring to others…
a transition that denotes change, loss, growth and new…
all rolled uncomfortably into one.

My cousin, Martha’s adopted daughter,
had asked that I come to the house the day following the funeral
to see what if anything I would like to carry back home with me.

Martha was an avid antique collector…
and her collections were eclectic at best…
old antique Papier-mâché halloween decorations with a proclivity for pumpkins.
North Carolina’s famous family of folk art pottery, the Meader’s ugly jugs,
along with the primitive pottery of Georgia’s Marie Rogers.
The Ohio Longaberger baskets numbering in the hundreds…
to early vintage RCA radio dogs..
all the way down to antique turkeys of every size and shape.

I was really overwhelmed when we walked into the house and actually saw
the level to which some of the “collecting” had spiraled.
Her house not equipped for the excessive spillover.

My cousin immediately asked if I would like Martha’s sterling silver
flatware set.

Once was a time, long long ago, when every young bride
looked to building her proper entertaining set of silverware.
Receiving the coveted wedding gifts of silver pieces was as common
as the throwing of rice…
That being a particular pattern of sterling silver complete with
utensils and serving pieces.
Everything from teaspoons to seafood forks to butter knives….
As that now all seems to be for a time that was more civilized than
our own today.

But already having my mother’s and great aunt’s sets…and truth be told,
as my world shrinks, entertaining and cooking is now not nearly what it once was,
I tried to instill the importance of her keeping the monogramed set for both her
and her own daughter.

But when she opened the dusty old silver chest, my eyes locked immediately on the
well tarnished bundle of silver drink spoons / straws…
or what we had always referred to as sippy straws or spoons, depending on who
was using them.

While growing up, whenever we visited my grandmother,
we were always served a tall glass of icy cold
Coca Cola complete with a silver sippy straw.

Coke never tasted so good as when sipped through an elegant silver straw.
It provided a seemingly civilized air of savoring verses gulping and quaffing.
Probably Mimi’s way of getting us to slow down, enjoying and not wasting…
as she was a woman who lived during a time when waste was indeed considered sinful.

The straws were always kept in a certain drawer in my grandmother’s kitchen…
inside the 1920s small Atlanta Buckhead home.
A pale wooden light green kitchen cabinet, I can still see clearly in my mind’s eye,
was where the straws, always shiny and polished to perfection, were stored.

In 1989, when my grandmother passed away, Martha and I were the only two left to
the task of sorting and emptying the house for market.
She got the straws.
I had always wanted just one…
just one to remember.

Over the years I’d see other straws at various antique markets and silver stores,
always thinking I’d buy myself just one,
but in the end deciding it just wouldn’t be the same…

It wouldn’t be one of the straws I’d gleefully
retrieve out of the pale green drawer, delightfully anticipating plunging
it into my frosty glass of brown fizzy liquid…
as I’d gently clench the straw between my front teeth,
feeling the cold drawn liquid being pulled up into a parched waiting mouth…
So refreshing because Mimi’s house, back in those days, was not air conditioned…
an icy cold Coke, on a hot Georgia summer’s afternoon,
seemed like the greatest treat a child could have been given…

I asked my cousin if I could have the straws.

She was 10 years younger than I was and did not have the same fond memories
from time spent with our grandmother.
Being so much younger and living so far away, never afforded her much time to
bond with the long widowed woman with the poodles there in Atlanta as I had.

I had been the only grandchild for many years and we only lived 10 minutes away.
Plus Mimi was not a warm and fuzzy grandmother like others and what warmness
there was, faded with her mind as the dementia grew more and more.

My grandmother had lived a hard life.
A life that she had forged alone for herself and her two daughters during
a depression and a World War as a widowed woman…
long before it was common for women to own a business and work outside of
the home.
Both of which she did very successfully for most of her adult life.

My cousin was more than happy to give me the straws and seemed almost
sad that I really didn’t want to take much more as her task is now daunting
as she figures out what to do with years of accumulated treasured stuff.

This as I still have my own years of stuff to sort through at Dad’s.
As both cousins are now left to the task of picking through,
as well as picking up, the pieces—
all of what stays and all of what goes.

My cousin tells me that she wants to sell the house, eventually moving northward
where there are actually seasons, hills and trees…
verses living where the sky meets the ocean coupled by the
oppressive heat, humidity, and an azure blue sky….

I think I’ll polish my straws and then do something I haven’t done in years…
I’ll pour myself a Coke, a real Coke…bottle only mind you,
over a tall glass of ice…and I’ll plunge a straw deep down into the glass of
cold fizzy liquid as I draw up the memories of lives once known but always loved.

see you at the pig….

“The paradise of my fancy is one where pigs have wings”
― G.K. Chesterton

The pig and the chicken were on their way to breakfast,
trying to decide what to have.
When chicken said,
“Let’s have ham and eggs.”
The pig then replied,
“That’s fine for you,
it’s a small donation on your part,
but it’s a total sacrifice for me.”

anonymus


(my view on the interstate / Julie Cook / 2017)

As most of you know, my corner of the world has been anything but happy.
Dad is hanging on by a thread…on a very much borrowed thread of time…
And given that it is all just a terrible time, I’ll spare you the dreadful details…

Plus, I am just very very tired…

However…

I learned long ago that it is in the little things found in life that we can truly
find a little piece of happiness and or comfort…

So while I was mindlessly moving onto the ramp to merge from I-20 to 285
Thursday morning, I suddenly realized that the happiest of faces was actually smiling…
at me!!
Nobody smiles on the interstate and to be honest,
I can’t remember the last time I actually
saw a genuine happy smile coming my way….

When I finally tuned in and focused one the back of the tractor trailer truck
in front of me, I saw the Piggly Wiggly Pig smiling and happily inviting me to visit
his neck of the woods..
It was then that I actually felt my face move…as in I too started to smile.

And naturally I had to take a picture because I wanted to share this momentary slice of
happiness with someone else who might just need a smile coming their way as well!

So here’s to happy smiles…
which in this case just so happens to be courtesy of the Piggly Wiggly Pig!
May you receive some genuine smiles your way today!!

(also, I’d like to dedicate this pig to both Wally and Kathy—sooouuuiiiieeeeee)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.

Psalm 34:4-5

bitterness

“The fiercest anger of all, the most incurable,
Is that which rages in the place of dearest love.”

Euripides

“Up from behind a sand dune close beside her rose the form of her enemy Bitterness.
He did not come any nearer, having learned a little more prudence,
and was not going to make her call for the Shepherd if he could avoid it,
but simply stood and looked at her and laughed and laughed again,
the bitterest sound that Much-Afraid had heard in all her life.”

Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places


(image of wormwood)

Anyone who spends any amount of time in a car alone… commuting or traveling…
knows that such time is spent basically as a virtual prisoner of one’s car…
yet it is time spent providing one with ample time for thought and reflection.
That is if the radio isn’t blaring or you’re not jabbering on the phone.

Finding myself commuting to and from Dad’s these days….
Just one way I am alone in the car from anywhere from a little over an hour to upwards
to 4 hours and beyond given the happenstance of life on Atlanta’s interstates….
One little wreck or stall or the never ending construction projects…
and I can find myself with plenty of “alone” time in which to ponder, reflect or fret…

The other evening I found myself quickly playing catch up with some of
my favorite blogs.
One of my brother’s in Christ and his wife are currently in Israel.

This blogging friend has been dutifully posting pictures of his trip along with a bit
of historical commentary as time has allowed.
I’ve enjoyed playing virtual tourist as have others who read his blog.

Yet sadly there have been a few commentators who have been very negative and even critical
of my fiend’s trip….likening such a trip to Israel, Jerusalem in particular,
as a type of Disneyland experience.

Now I understand that any sort of historic tourist draw is going to have its fair share
of those hawking to make a fast buck made on the backs of unsuspecting tourists.
Think posing with Roman clad gladiators outside of Rome’s Colosseum…paying
upwards of 20 to 40 euros for a shot and you get the idea of money being made
at historical sites.

I experienced a very similar sordid encounter at another overtly tourist site
on a trip once to Pompeii.
Pompeii being the ancient Italian city, just outside of Naples, that was destroyed in the year
79 AD by a catastrophic eruption from the volcano Mt Vesuvius.
The city is frozen in time and is a sad and eerie testament to what it means living in the
shadow of a volcano…

Pompeii is an ongoing archaeological site as well as a protected and perseved historical site.
Buildings have been identified as various homes, governmental offices, stores….
as well as the identification of even a local brothel.
Pompeii was a port town and well, one has always heard about sailors on leave…

The brothel was readily identified because of the stone carved man’s genitalia placed above
the threshold of this particular building.
It seems that the locals now capitalizing on the universal interest in sex and so
replicas of this particular “carving” are for sale all over the area outside the city gates.
Think Disney and Mickey’s ear and Pompeii has, well, male body parts for sale.

So I get the whole Disney mentality of tourism…
But there was more to this viewer’s comments than that of causal observation…
as his comments actually turned bitterly hateful.

For you see, this particular blog visitor is an avowed nonbeliever.
He is not a stranger to my friend’s blog, my blog, nor others who profess to
be believing Christians.
It would probably be more accurate to note that this fellow is a former believer now
turned ardent atheist.

I don’t know much about him but that he enjoys taunting Christians.

His taunts on my friend’s site, concerning this trip to the Holy Land, actually
began to border on almost sick…even as he alluded off color to my friend’s wife.

So naturally when I found myself in my car, alone, I began to recall those vicious words,
as well as the words of those who did not care for this
“raining on the trip parade” as it were.
The volley of insults began bouncing back and forth…

What I do know is this man lost his father several years ago—
to cancer is my understanding.
That he was a believer and also what I understand was actually a minister.

I realize that by watching those we love who suffer,
grievously suffering in anguishing pain,
can certainly test and try the faith of the most ardent among us.
And I must confess that I’ve been known to raise my fist to God during the various trails
throughout the course of my own life… so I do not begrudge anyone those emotions
of sorrow and frustration associated with heartbreak and agony.

Yet as I ruminated over those rather wicked words…reflecting even on the tone
to which they were delivered…
only one word kept coming to mind…
bitterness.

Pure unadulterated bitterness.

Bitterness, according Merriam Webster, is a deep-seated ill will caused by anger,
distress or sorrow.
Chances are we have all experienced bitterness or its fist cousin resentment, at some
point during life.

Yet bitterness which is not eventually banished, takes root within one’s being…
Allowed to fester and ferment it is easily recognized.
It is highly unattractive and the outward seeping and spewing of bitterness,
which easily bubbles up to the surface,
is readily and regrettably tasted by any observer.

Bitterness creates an isolating barrier…
Repelling anyone who dares to offer an open hand.

Bitterness is not a welcomed human trait nor is it tolerated for long by others…
It becomes a never ending cycle of brokeness….
as bitterness simply begets more bitterness…

It seems to me that more often then not, non-belivers and bitterness
often walk hand in hand…
whereas the followers of Christ are grounded in what many note as
an unexplainable settled peace…

So as I continue my journey of commuting and ruminating,
I know my friend is throughly enjoying his trip, just we are…
those of us who are enjoying reading of his travels as we
enjoy being virtual tourists…

As one thing I have gleaned…there is certainly no time for bitterness when one is selflessly
sharing with ones friends…
Happy travels Wally….

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

grits and magnolias

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces,
I would still plant my apple tree.”

Martin Luther

“Dripping water hollows out stone,
not through force but through persistence.”

Ovid


(a bloom from the magnolia tree my grandmother and mother planted when I was a little girl/
Julie Cook / 2016)

Driving home late this afternoon from Dad’s I passed a car that was sporting a bumper sticker.
I enjoy reading most of the stickers that either I pass or those that pass me…
stickers which are stuck on the various vehicles throughout my commute…
Some of them are cute and clever,
some are benign and boring and some are flat out truthful and or offensive.

One in particular caught my eye as I barreled out of Atlanta late today.

“GRITS”

I for one am not a huge grits enthusiast…
although my Dad has always loved his grits each morning as a part of his breakfast regimen.
If the truth be told, I actually prefer the more northern fare of home fries rather than the
southern ground corn with my eggs and bacon…
I also love some good hash browns…not smothered or covered mind you—just a little salt is good.
Grits are just so so….despite being doctored up with salt and butter…I still prefer potatoes.

I do however love a nice cheese grits casserole or a hearty bowl of polenta with fresh parmesan cheese grated on top…but as far as breakfast, I happily forgo the grits.

Dad actually use to question my being a true Southerner as due in part to my less then
enthusiastic desire of grits with breakfast…
loving watermelon however did help me save face as well as my heritage…

So back to today’s bumper sticker…
GRITS is short for
Girls Raised In The South….

I like it….
as in there’s a little grit in that craw sort of thing going on.
As true southern girls are not all lace and petticoats contrary to popular belief.
I think more of Scarlet O’Hara’s raised fist stating that she will never go hungry again
sort of tenacity verses that demure “well shut my mouth fiddle dee dee”
cloyingly sweet honey dripping sentiment.

For Southern girls are fierce and tenacious….
much like my beloved Georgia Bulldogs—
cute and sweet to look at, even appearing a bit lackadaisical or slow,
yet mean and fierce, just like a junk yard dog when necessary.

Which brings me to magnolias.
Another true southern staple…
but in my case, I’m thinking more like a Steel Magnolia…

A magnolia bloom is a quintessential fragrant flower of the deep south.
Lilly white when unfurled to its full glory…and full of heady aroma…
Yet a magnolia tree is no demure little tree.
Supposedly they are trees that are older than bees.
How that all works, I’m not sure, but after looking at some of trees whose roots
have grown upwards out of the ground as in the trees are now sporting “knees”…
…I have also known a few of these trees that are well past the 150 year mark…
Well, I suppose I liken them to cockroaches….
in that they would most likely survive a nuclear event and simply keep on keeping on….

I say all of this as I’ve been reading recently a lot about the continuing business
of all things feminist…female militancy at its worst, raising its ugly head….
As in the latest being some boycott and march, yes another drole protest…as in how novel,
is to take place Wednesday….

Haven’t we marched and protested a bit much as of late…??
surpassing our quota for say…maybe the next 10 decades?!

Feminism.
Despite being of the female persuasion I’ve never cared for “feminism.”
The Gloria Steinem, bra burning, Hellen Reddy I Am Woman Hear Me Roar,
contraceptive swallowing, in your face militant feminism.

And whereas much of that may sound of a former time,
today’s feminists are not much different in their militant banter, male emasculating,
in your face nastiness, band of hidden agenda sisterhood, sign waving, fist raised,
unappealing anger group of gals.

I have grown weary hearing women chant that most males are misogynists.
Just as I am tired of hearing about gender choices, vagina hats, abortion rights,
reproductive issues, inequality…
yada, yada, yada…

If memory serves, there is but One who ordained gender, ordained equality
ordained roles, ordained all of life but I digress….

I grew up when good ol boy networks were very much alive and well.
I grew up in the work force where I was sexually harassed over and over long
before it was a popular catch phrase.
I endured and persevered…because here in the South, that’s what we all do…
male or female…
we persevere.
We don’t whine and most often, we don’t complain, not publicly anyway.
Yet we have been known to get a bit even when necessary….

For we Southerners have a determination and a steeliness that gets us through much of what
life throws at us.

Black or white, red or yellow…we preserve.
As we’ve often had to make do with less while equally sharing any of our abundance.

And respect has always been a big part of being raised in the South.

Many folks have always equated the South with being backwards, backwoods, ignorant and redneck.
Think Deliverance, while hearing dueling banjos, and that’s what other’s have mostly
thought of us.

Our speech pattern may be a bit drawn out but that certainly doesn’t mean that our brains,
nor are our hearts, are anything but quick and large….

I am proud of being a woman, and a southern woman at that,
because it means that I have a strength that many men do not.
No matter our point of origin, the strength of a woman is found in the heart of a fiercely
protective mother, yet one who knows that letting go is simply part of life.
Think Mary….

I am proud of being a woman who can appear perhaps a bit simple, unassumingly sweet
but who can be complicated, deeply profound and hell on wheels when necessary.
Think Mother Teresa

A woman who loves and appreciates men—men who are masculine…
and whose mothers imparted upon them a sense of decency and compassion.
Because I know real men can and do cry.
Just as I know real men can stand alongside a woman while defending their nation…
all the while never blinking an eye…
Think Joan of Arc

I like what it means to be a woman—
to be nurturing while strong, sentimental while determined,
and tender while tenacious….
Think Clare of Assisi

This isn’t intended to be a complicated or political discourse on women’s rights,
gender equality, or the importance of the solidarity of women….
for I have neither time nor strength for that never-ending debate…

This is merely the observation of women by a woman…a southern woman.

A woman who has more in life to worry over than protesting and marching.
A woman who has been busy being a wife, mother, daughter and caretaker.
A woman who was so busy working that she never selfishly thought that
demonstrating or picketing was ever a priority during the forging, caring,
teaching and living of life.

No….there is no real place for the militancy of feminism when a woman
is busy living her life…as she cares and works for all those around her…
it’s what real women do—
fiercely and tenaciously caring, raising, nurturing, honoring and protecting…

Here’s to real women everywhere…those too busy to protest and march….
Those women who are strong of body, spirit and soul…
those who understand the true importance of what God has entrusted upon
them….
that of living a life of a woman…..

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

a dichotomy of time

“There are two kinds of light –
the glow that illuminates,
and the glare that obscures.”

James Thurber

the-melting-watch
( melting clock, 1954, Salvador Dali)

It was almost 31 years ago and I was soon to turn 26.
I can remember it like it was yesterday.
It was around 9PM
I was just merging from the downtown connector onto I20—heading west,
It would be about an 80 minute or more drive home.
Mother had just recently turned 53.
She had been in the hospital now for about 4 weeks…
and they had finally just diagnosed her with an aggressive lung cancer
that had already metastasized throughout her body.

I was tired, weary and devastated but intent and focused on driving.
I spoke out loud in a wavering voice, flat and matter of fact…
“I know I’m probably going to mad at you before this is all over”
Because I knew none of this would go well and that when it was all over,
I would be left stripped bare of both heart and soul.
And I knew that in my eventual frustration, God would take the brunt.

I was correct.

I did get mad and also very lost…
for about the next 8 years, I was lost unto myself.
I was on a inward downward spiral turning my back away slowly
from a life sustaining relationship…
And at times I didn’t even realize what I was swirling down into….
Yet it took what seemed a lifetime of getting myself back together.
Seeking and needing both healing and Grace.

It came, slowly, painfully and almost devastatingly ending… but come it blessedly did.
Life like an onion–layer upon layer of stripping away self destruction.
Known to no one but myself.

Fast forward to last Saturday.

I’d spent the day with Dad.
Helping the caregiver clean him, bodily functions no longer self controlled,
as he withered with pain at each turn, touch and move.
Seeing more of poor ol’ Dad to last a life time…
I administered the morphine.
He had asked my son to bring him the movie Hacksaw Ridge because he wanted to see
it before he died.
We all sat together watching it.
I readied to head home as I was feeling sick.
Not the kind of sick from catching a bug but rather
a deep down inside sick.
I left them to their movie.

I felt the hot stinging tears fighting for release before I merged onto the interstate.

I made my way over to my far left lane when the flood started.
On and off it ebbed and flowed for my 75 minute drive home.
Sorrow mingled with the melancholy of recalled memories.

But the difference between Saturday and that lone night 30 years ago…
Time.

Time filled with a continuation of both healing and Grace.
Gone is that youthful resentment and anger.
Replaced rather by a solemn resignation and acceptance of the inevitable.
But not in a negative defeatist sense…
rather with a sense of determination while standing
in the face of the storm and knowing I won’t succumb to the maelstrom and tumult.

Feeling shored up by something greater than myself.

It is the now the reality of the ‘is what it is’ of living and dying.

Does it make any of this any easier?
No.
It’s just a hard time.
Hard in a myriad of ways as there are many more involved that
require my attention, my decisions, my time, my words…
and there’s just not enough of me for all of the this and thats….

…and there are still those nagging ruptured discs, slowing me down.

Yet through all the tears and the stretching beyond imagine of this single self…
driving with the flow of the breakneck speeds, focusing on the road ahead
through swimming eyes, I feel a presence…not in some sort of otherworldliness…
but rather a steeliness that is silently yet relentlessly there…
ready to catch me when I finally let go, and fall—
because before it’s all said and done, I will fall…
There is this knowledge of a force which is allowing the heartbreak and overwhelming drowning
to flow,
all the while, being ready to steady me when the time finally comes.

And in that car on that late Saturday afternoon, I suddenly hear my own trembling voice…
uttering ancient words…
words of acknowledgement of the One to whom it is I cling….

“for you are my refuge, my portion…”

I cry to you, Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”

Psalm 142:5

in all of our tears… there rests the Divine

“A sense of the divine presence and indwelling bears the soul towards heaven
as upon the wings of eagles.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

img_0936
(ornamental cabbage / Julie Cook / 2017)

Obviously I am tired.
Not in a working-out sort of tired.
Not in the end of a really long day or week sort of tired.
Not in the sleep deprivation sort of tired.

I’m just weary.
And I am very tired.
And I am overwhelmed.

For such is the season of my life

And such is the life of a person who is caring for aging parents…
where one of the two is in the process of dying from cancer.

The daily commuting to and fro is hard.
The coordinating of the care, the medical issues, the groceries, the house…
that is all hard.
The lack of time for one’s own world and home is hard…

Life?
Who has one?

Friends?
What are those?

Clean house?
hahahahahaha……

Yet it is to the waiting and watching for the inevitable…
that is the hardest.
It is also the saddest.

For ever since mother died 30 years ago, it’s been pretty much, for good or bad,
just me and dad.
I took over the roll of parenting him when both mother and my grandmother died just
months apart.
I had just turned 26 at the time.
And despite his remarrying when he was almost 70, it’s really just been me and him.

Watching the body slowly failing and falling apart…
The moans and groans of pain…
The halting morphine induced thoughts and speech…
The sounds, sights, smells…
nothing good.
Especially when I’ve already done the same thing 30 years prior.

Add to that the now spouse…the one who suffers with the ever increasing dementia…
the one who has nary a clue as to who any of us are…
it makes things either really really comical or really really sad…
…and my money is on the comical.

Oh but I don’t want to waste our time here today bemoaning my life.
You really don’t want to hear about it anyway.
No one really likes a complainer…

Yet maybe we ought to try telling that to all those nutters out there who are currently
spending their time shouting, marching, demonstrating and protesting…
I bet they’re tired…
tired of fussing…
just as much as the rest of us are tired of hearing
and seeing it all…
but I digress….

I can’t even find respite in my sleep…
for in my sleep are the dreams of a mind that is over burdened.

In last night’s dream there was this scene of my mother’s funeral where my husband
decided to wear a Hawaiian shirt rather than a suit, rendering me mortified.

The reality is that my mom’s funeral was over 30 years ago and my husband doesn’t own
nor would he ever wear a Hawaiian shirt.

Or how about the other night when my husband had to shake me awake in order to get me to stop
“screaming” in my sleep…
all because I was dreaming that I had walked into the house that use to be our house years ago
and there were strange people, squatters, trying to take over the house…
I was screaming at them to get out.
A disconcerting moment at 3 AM when one’s spouse is sound asleep.

The reality was that I had flipped through the television and caught a bit of that alligator
Swamp People show…there had been a devastating flood in southern Louisiana last
year and one of the regulars on the show had to leave his home because it had flooded.
The episode showed him coming back to the house after the flood waters had receded…
leaving behind a house full of huge bullfrogs and a giant snapping turtle.

Or how about the other night when I was dreaming that I was trying to take my son,
who in the dream was a toddler but in real life is almost 30,
in order to seek safety because the planet was under attack by evil aliens…
space aliens, not the illegal variety…
and we were racing in a car, desperately trying to find safety as we were having to hit,
running over, the evil invaders in order to get away….

The reality was that I had flipped through, once again, the channels catching a brief
snippet of the movie Fury on the History Channel—
it was right when the Sherman tank, commandeered by Brad Pitt’s character,
went rolling over the heads and bodies of Germans in their fox holes, naturally crushing them…
I think that’s when I flipped it as I wasn’t up to the horrors of war that evening…
only to have them come flooding back oddly in a dream…sigh….

So not even in sleep is there a safe haven these days.

Yet…however…
no matter how bad things may be right now…
No matter how sad,
how heavy,
how hard…

I know I do not go this alone…
Despite often feeling very much alone.

I can’t make dad better, I can’t even make him feel better right now.
As this is now all pretty much out of my hands…

Yet I know that neither Dad nor I are alone in this.
Despite the naysayers cries, those non-believers who scoff
at the purported “fairytale” which is to be found at the center of all of this…
There is a Hand moving much deeper in all of this…

For this particular moment in time is but fleeting…
despite the seemingly never ending and endless melancholy
merry go round we now ride…
For there are blessings, there is Grace…
and there is the Divine…
the very hand of God…

“Rejoice in the Lord,’ said St Paul (Phil. 3 : 1).
And he was right to say, ‘in the Lord’.
For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice,
but in all probability we never shall. Job, as he described the life of men,
found it full of every kind of affliction (cf. Job 7 : 1-21),
and so also did St Basil the Great.
St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because
of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence,
is never happy because of his grief.
For, he says, we have not been found worthy even to have knowledge of the blessings
we have lost. For this reason nature teaches us rather to grieve,
since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin.
But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says,
‘I remembered God, and I rejoiced’ (Ps. 77 : 3. LXX).
For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God,
then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him,
and is no longer troubled or anxious.
Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks;
and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gift of grace it has received.
And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness,
and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.”

St. Peter of Damascus