live to see another day

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.
Voltaire


(a young bear scales the tip top of the trees in Cades Cove / Julie Cook / 2018)

We’ve come up to Tennessee, to Cades Cove for a couple of days.
It is by far one of my most favorite places on earth…as I have seen some mighty grand and
lovely places on this planet. But Cades Cove is special.

I’ve written about Cades Cove before so I won’t go into all of that all over again
but just know that it remains a small remnant of who and what settled this great
land of ours.

Today in the Cove (an 11-mile one-way loop around what was once an early 19th-century
mountain valley settlement and centuries-old Indian territory)
we actually came upon two bears climbing like nimble footed acrobats
to the tip-top branches of the trees…
there were berries.

Cars had stopped as everyone got out, careening necks upward while staring in amazement,
watching these two big black bears acting more like squirrels.

As the day waned, we made our way back to the cabin where we were staying and
decided to go hike some of the nearby trails.
We had been told upon check-in that there was a bear on the property so just be
vigilant when out and about.

Making our way up a narrow trail, my husband leading the way with his long spider stick
waving precariously in front of him like some sort of crazy conductor’s baton
(a stick or twig used to knock down all the webs that are prolific this time of year)
all the while as I lagged slightly behind with my camera snapping pictures of the various
mushrooms and toadstools and yes, spider webs…

Suddenly my husband stops dead in his tracks and urgently announces BEAR.

I freeze.

About 20 feet in front of us, at the bend in the trail, lumbers a very large mother
black bear with two tiny cubs in tow.

I threw my camera up as fast as I thought I had life left to do so in order to snap a shot,
a shot I didn’t even have time to focus, when mom and babies nonchalantly kept
walking around the curve in the path….
all the while as we prayed she wouldn’t turn and charge at us.

We just stood there as she rounded the turn and disappeared.
Then boldly, or brazenly I’m not sure which, we opted to take a few steps forward just
to see which way they were headed when suddenly one of the cubs pops back around
the corner to take a gander at us before he circles back to mom.

At which point we turned and took another trail.

Once back down to the main road we spied a maintenance worker who we decided should
hear our report of seeing a mama bear with cubs on the retreat’s property.

He casually replies “yeah…they’ve been around awhile, best to keep your distance
but that’s nothing…
two weeks ago I was standing right over there when a mountain lion came
out of nowhere and crossed the path right in front of me…
but these darn spiders…now they’re what really bothers me”

We opted to leave him our spider stick for protection.

The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,

Isaiah 43:20

God ain’t no fool

A fool thinks himself to be wise,
but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.

William Shakespeare


(the wee one two months ago wearing a “trash” onsie given to her by “uncle Lele / Brenton Cook/ 2018)

Every time you begin to think you know it all or that you are the king/queen of the universe…
stop…stop for just a moment and realize that God ain’t no fool.

There are reasons for everything.
Yes, everything.

No, not some happenstance cataclysmic big bang evolution, up from the primordial gook
of life sort of mumbo-jumbo but actually a real rational and reasonable plan.
All meticulously thought out and figured out nice and neat eons ago.

Put your ego aside for a minute and hear me out.

There are reasons why the more youthful among were meant to have babies.

Brigitte Nielsen case in point.
Brigitte Nielsen is an idiot.

I can’t say that from actually a personal acquaintance but from observations from afar.

And that may sound a bit harsh but I can say that after babysitting a teething 5.5-month-old
baby day and night now for merely two days!

For you see I am just shy of 59 and I am exhausted.

And no Brigitte Nielsen is not some sort of hero for having a baby at the tender age of 55…
rather she’s absolutely crazy.

She’s been married five times, had numerous affairs and has 4 grown children
along with now a newborn.

And I can guarantee you she isn’t up and down all night while shuffling through the day
in a fog doing what all was needed doing during the night…of which is now being done
during the day… all by herself…
As in feeding, changing diapers, washing clothes, tending to a home, cooking and cleaning all
while rocking a newborn…and God forbid there would be other small children who would
also need tending to.
I”m sure she has a nice helpful staff.

Forget being tired, forget hurting while recovering from delivery…

Crazy I say…

And so for all those uber feminist out there who are singing her praises…
as in “great for her, she’s having her cake and eating it to after having done it 4 times
previous many years ago…” well you’re equally nuts.

Those of us who are parents to grown children can vaguely remember those sleep
deprived nights, those fog filled days, those nerve shattering times of walking the floor
all the while holding inconsolable babies…
sick with worry as to is it colic, teething or something far worse…

I reread my post from yesterday.

The one I wrote while attempting to hold a very fussy 5.5-month-old baby who is
teething and cannot be placated or soothed.
No amount of children’s motrin or tylenol, no cold teethers, no nothing…
seems to ease the discomfort but to be held and move about constantly.
All the while I’d grab everything she grabs in an attempt to put it in her mouth.
Be it the telephone, the computer, the silverware, the cat…

There were copious typos, a gross lack of clarity, a rambling on about leaving my
phone behind in Atlanta…
the creative process gets put on hold while playing the grandmother who is filling in
as the mother momentarily.

I’m having to sleep upstairs in the guest bedroom with this wild little rabbit because
she won’t go down in a pack and play…
she wants the bed and she wants me in it too.

I never knew how many odd sounds our house makes at 3AM when I’m being kicked in the
stomach by one who wishes to sleep horizontally in a vertically positioned bed.

So often we parents of now grown kids, secretly find a bit a glee in the notion of
thinking that one day, as our children become parents, they will know…
they will know and even understand what we had put up with while trying to raise them…

And so I ask myself why…why is it that I’m simply reliving it all over again.

My daughter-n-law says that dressing or changing a diaper for the wee one is like wrestling
an alligator. Think death roll. Think a naked gator with a greased butt ready to
be diapered rolling and rolling and requiring two grown adults to wrestle her still long
enough to get diapered.

I remember all too well sleeping vertically with one who preferred being horizontal.
I remember barely being on the bed as I scooted as far over as I could while praying
my husband realized that someone had gotten in the bed while he was snoring and wouldn’t roll over.


(a wise moppie knows to get out of the water while the getting is good while
holding a baby)/ Gregory Cook / 2018)

Paying for your raising…
Something we often say to our now grown children.

I’m still waiting for my reimbursement…

So yes, God figured it out long ago…the younger ones are to ones to have children,
the old ones are to act as guides…anyone who thinks otherwise is, as I say, crazy!

And two parents, essential..as in it takes two…a man and a woman.
Yet as in our broken world, it often takes one…
with the help of the old ones acting as guides and helpers.
And in some cases, it takes a lot more than one or two…

Here’s to God knowing how it’s all supposed to work…

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on the Lord.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is their refuge.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Psalm 14

incommunicado or detached by forgetfulness

“Put your heart aside. Duty comes first. But when fulfilling your duty,
put your heart into it. It helps.”

St. Josemaria Escriva


(Lily Tomlin from the One ringy dingy skit from Laugh-In)

Once upon a time, human beings came into this world with 4 appendages.
At some point in the latter part of the 20th century, human beings added an appendage…
the cell phone.

This new appendage became attached serendipitously.
It seemed to bring a sense of well-being and even wholeness to most.

It became so indispensable, so oddly necessary, that when there would be some sort
of separation, human beings would go into apoplexy.

For you see, we humans can’t seem to part with this relatively new appendage.

I confess that I’m sadly and equally guilty of living in this surreal false sense of need.

Take for example today.

My husband and I were in Atlanta babysitting, even having spent Wednesday night as
we all went out a few days early to celebrate my husband’s upcoming birthday.
A birthday that my husband has decided will be his last to actually recognize but
a first in that we had a new little granddaughter in attendance at dinner.

The following day, Thursday…there was a pouring monsoon. Due to our daughter-n-law
starting pre-planning with her new school system and having to attend a faculty retreat
and our son having to work late, we opted to take the wee one home with us for a few days.

Maybe not a wise decision as the wee one is teething, but I digress.

As we were packing up, our daughter-n-law called making certain all was well.
Mindlessly I handed my son the phone.
After a brief conversation, he put down my phone.
We all then worked a joint effort in order to get the wee one in the car
without getting soaked.

With great trepidation, we bid our son a farewell (but I’ll be heading back Saturday to redeliver
the wee one home) as we made our way to the interstate for the long wet drive home.

Driving on the interstate in the pouring down rain, sandwiched between
tractor-trailer trucks who were oblivious to the weather or other cars or
that of their own speed, I saw an interstate road sign flashing deep
within the foggy rainy misty air…
DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE

For you see, Georgia just passed a law forbidding the use of a cell phone
while driving.
A few too many lost lives too late yet long overdue.

This means no calling, dialing, talking or texting.
Bluetooth through the car is ok.
GPS is also ok…so there are still a few of those grey areas but this is finally
a step in the right direction.

But when I saw that flashing interstate sign working its magic in the pouring down rain,
I thought to myself…”cellphone???”
As in… where IS my cellphone?

I quickly ask my husband to reach to the back seat to check my purse.
“Nope” he annoyingly replies.
For you see he figured I’d probably have done a U-turn right then and there on this
precarious section of 285 sending tractor-trailer trucks scurrying for cover.

But I didn’t.

I calmly kept driving.

I didn’t even frantically make my way to the nearest exit in order to backtrack to our
son’s house because I now remembered that the phone was sitting on the coffee table.
Right where my son had put it down after finishing talking to his wife…
all while we were putting the wee one in her car seat.

So I’m now missing an appendage.

A friend later called on our fossilized landline when word got out I didn’t have
my phone.
“Oh my gosh…what are you going to do??!!” was her incredulous query.

“I’ll get it on Saturday when I take the wee one home” I nonchalantly replied.

So on this day without my extra appendage…I do feel small moments of panic forcing
themselves up to the surface as I involuntarily reach for something that is not there.
I wonder who has text me.
Who has tried calling me?
I can’t track my Fitbit steps.
I can’t readily look up some unnecessary thing as if my life depended on it.

And to be quite honest…it’s all rather liberating.

Maybe if we felt the same way about our relationship with our loving Father and
blessed Savior as much as we feel about our phones…
maybe our lives would right themselves back upright…upright as they should be.
I think it’s a matter of priorities and living in the moment really and not living
in some another moment of some other dimension of both space and time—that being
the dimension of the life on those phones of ours.

What a small piece of joy…as well as freedom…

What else are we allowing to vie for our attentions?
What else is distracting us from our true nature of created of the Creator?

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:2

determination

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing,
great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions
of honour and good sense.
Never yield to force.
Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Winston S. Churchill, Never Give In!: The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches


(the wee one working on what it takes to crawl / Julie Cook / 2018)

Spending time in Atlanta with the wee one celebrating Poppie’s or Papa’s birthday
(depends on who your ask) )

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.
They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control,
lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

to be kind

“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush,
anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on,
so that children have very little time for their parents.
Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the
disruption of peace of the world.”

Mother Teresa

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.
It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain
of someone unloved in our own home.
Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

Mother Teresa


(the wee one letting her feelings be known during a shopping outing / Abby Cook / 2018)

I would wager that most of us would agree that it’s pretty easy to be kind to a baby
or for that matter, a small child.

That is unless you’re some kind of depraved individual but those are sad thoughts for another day.

Babies just seem to have a way of drawing us in…into their little worlds.
They do so with their large inquisitive eyes, their sweet and heartwarming smiles
and their openly unconditional acceptance.

You have a bad hair day — a baby doesn’t care.
You have visible scars — a baby doesn’t care.
You have internal scars — a baby doesn’t care.
You have issues, a baby simply doesn’t care.

They smile, they coo, they draw us in…

And suddenly we have no cares.

We don’t care about much of anything but for this exchange of warmth and kindness.
We are lost in the kindness.
It just feels good.
No cares, no worries…just basking in an exchange of endorphin pumping feel good
between two individuals.

That is of course until said baby or small child decides they are displeased with life’s
current circumstance.
All of which could be due to hunger, teething, a soiled diaper, colic,
too hot, too cold, too tired…you name it.

And it is at these very moments that our own capacity for kindness seems to quickly
dissipate as our nerves take over and kindness takes a back burner.

So we ask ourselves…does kindness come naturally?

I’m no psychologist or anthropologist or neurologist.
I don’t study people’s brains or actions or reactions.

Rather I am just a wife married for 35 years, a mom to a 30-year-old, and now a grandmother
to a 5-month-old. Plus I was a high school teacher for 31 years…
so I kind of know people and I often know myself…be that for good or bad.

Kindness seems to be more of a reciprocating response.

Now granted there are certain folks out there who just seem to be more innately
kind than others.
Think Melanie versus Scarlett.

And yet I’ve observed some really gruff individuals lose some of that bristled gruffness rather
quickly when met with pure kindness.

In our day’s quote, Mother Teresa observes that we often tend to be more gracious,
more kind to strangers much more readily than we do to those actually closest to us.

An odd human condition.

She notes that perhaps it is easier to be kind and gracious to those we don’t know rather
then those who actually deserve our kindness the most….those who are closest to us
in our lives. Yet it is those individuals who we often look over, take for granted or
just assume they care despite our brusqueness, attitudes, selfishness, curtness,
rudeness, and self-absorption.

I know this to be true.
I recall now in hindsight my days as an adolescent and I feel the constant need to offer up
my apologies to Mother.

I also know that during 35 years of marriage, I’ve had a lot to learn in the way of kindness.

Two imperfect people are joined in the union of marriage…to have and to hold…to
love, honor and respect, to live with until death does them part…
all the while, the perfect union and marriage is being lived by two very imperfect people…
a bit of a blind leading the blind.

I know that I tend to be a bit hard-headed and stubborn. I blame an Irish heritage.
I know that I tend to be the one who is always more right than wrong despite my
husband not yet figuring this out.

And yet I also know that I can be more Scarlett than Melanie…
wanting things my way…
I can be selfish, snappy, short-tempered, overwhelmed and moody.

And I also know that my husband has a high frustration level,
very little patience and is a 69-year-old by-product of a very abusive alcoholic father
who left deep lasting scars.
Add in the fact that my husband is nearly deaf so he can misinterpret, misunderstand
or miss everything I say…talk about over the top frustrating.

And so often in this life of ours, kindness has sadly taken a backseat.

And yet kindness seems to be a glue.
It is a binding agent.
It can bind two imperfect people together placing them under the blanket, or yoke if you will,
of the One who casts the perfect light of hope and healing over our human brokenness.

And yet we know this act of kindness must often be learned as well as worked on.
It is something I have learned that is a grace that more often than not
must be prayed for, cared for and nurtured.
It is a grace that God will and can work in our hearts.

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost;
he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

Saint Basil

pelicans

O loving Pelican!
O Jesu Lord!
Unclean I am but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Can purge the entire world from all its guilt.

St. Thomas Aquinas
from the hymn, Adoro Te Devote


(a brown pelican bobs with the surf of the sea / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

More often than not, while sitting idly outside…
be it either early in the morning or even late in the evening, shrouded in silence but for the
chirping of a passing bird, my husband will often muse that if he could be anything other than a
human being, he’d like to be a bald eagle.

While I immediately counter that I’d like to be a pelican.

“A PELICAN?!”

He practically screams with incredulous disgust.

“Those are nasty birds!
They sit around with dead rotting fish in their gullets”

“Maybe so, but how resourceful is that to keep supper and the supper for their children
always ready and waiting?”

I’ll cheekily counter.

Pelicans and humans have often had a contentious relationship as fishermen have perceived
these gregarious birds as rivals to their livelihood.
But the truth is that pelicans don’t actually compete for a fisherman’s catch…
they’re just a bit more opportunist than adversary.

Yet for over a hundred years or so they have been culled and their eggs destroyed–
to such numbers that several species have become dangerously endangered.

And yet, to me, these awkwardly shaped birds are synonymous with all things of the ocean.
Despite making no beautiful song of their own other than the odd
clacking of their bill or ballooning of their throat pouch, they are my troubadours of the sea.

I always know when I’m finally getting close to the longed-for destination of the ocean
when I spy my gangly looking friends perched sublimely on a pier’s dock or gliding
in regimental formation along the currents of the wind.

But I was surprised to learn the Christian history behind my beachy feathered friends.
It seems that in Medieval times, pelicans were actually symbolic of Christ.
It was believed that during times of famine and shortages of food,
a mother pelican would actually peck open her breast offering her own blood to her
young brood in an attempt to help sustain them when hungry.

A selfless act which reflects the same selflessness of Christ’s offering his own life’s blood
for our own survival.

St Thomas Aquinas, in 1264, wrote a hymn noting the similarity… “Adoro te devote”
And so it appears that my desire of opting to choose a pelican as my alter ego,
my choice appears to be much deeper then I could have ever imagined…

0 loving Pelican! 0 Jesu Lord!
In Holy Communion, Our Lord does not offer us only spiri­tual nourishment,
but gives himself to us as Food.
The Ancients thought that when the chicks of a pelican died,
the pelican opened his breast and with his blood fed his dead young,
in this way bringing them back to life.
Christ with His own Blood gives us eternal life.
When we receive Holy Communion with the right dispositions,
it rouses in our soul fervent acts of love, transforms us, and identifies us with Christ.
The Master comes to each one of His disciples with His love,
which is at one and the same time effective, creative and redemptive.
He presents him­self to us as the Savior of our lives, offering us His friend­ship.
This Sacrament is the food of· all intimacy with Christ, for which there is no substitute.

Catholic Exchange

life’s separation

“Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.”

Søren Kierkegaard

“The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends,
but let us not despair.
God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other.
The more we are united to Him by love,
the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton