the sound of silence…can break the heart

“In the silence of the heart God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness,
your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers


(courtesy the web)

The school year has finally ended and thus our little extended family clan headed home
yesterday for good.

And I cried like nobody’s business.

There is now such a deafening silence that neither my husband nor I find comfortable.

No shrieks, no cries, no shouts, no laughter, no bumps nor bangs…

March 15th until May 22nd.
Holidays, birthdays, milestones, and seasons have all came and gone.

And now they are gone…

And there is still a Pandemic, a lockdown, a ‘new’ normal…
The silence isn’t helping…


(the attack of Da / Julie Cook / 2020)


(a warm spring day /Julie Cook/ 2020)


(snuggle bug siblings / Abby Cook/ 2020)


(a first hair cut / Julie Cook / 2020)


(the last morning with “mom” / Julie Cook / 2020)

ALMIGHTY God, heavenly Father, who hast blessed us with the joy and care of children;
Give us light and strength so to train them,
that they may love whatsoever things are true and pure and lovely and of good report,
following the example of their Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

1928 Book of Common Prayer

choose life over fear

“Nothing in life is to be feared,
it is only to be understood.
Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Marie Curie


(Two grandparents overun / Brenton Cook / 2020)

After nearly three months of going nowhere but to the grocery store,
the curbside pickup liquor store, occasionally to Target and most recently to a
Chick-fil-A drive-through…

After three months of being cooped up…caring for wee ones while others work from home…
Living life shrouded daily within a veil of trepidation, questions
and fear…today we opted for living life a bit more boldly and actually ventured
forth on Mother’s Day.

We took our small show on the road.

We drove southeast to a small quaint town, about 45 minutes away, in order to enjoy
a lovely alfresco Mother’s Day lunch.

Actually sitting outside, basking in the lovely May sunshine along with a
slight cool breeze, we couldn’t have been happier.
.
When we arrived, we were greeted by several gracious masked waitresses and waiters,
along with hand sanitizer at the ready…a familiar staff despite the covered faces.
Their twinkling eyes said it all…”Welcome back!”

It was finally a real sit-down meal away from our own kitchen of chaos.
A truly treasured moment.

Eating out has always been a treat and a diversion from the rut of the every day…
but today…today was different!
Everything seemed brighter, lighter.

This little restaurant is one we have enjoyed visiting over the years.
One we don’t mind driving to.

The husband and wife team who own the restaurant, where she is the chef,
have made the most of a farm to table restaurant with a relaxed french flair.

The host and husband of the duo, who I know, asked me, before we left if we had enjoyed ourselves…
my response was one of a long exhaled sigh of relief.

I told him that after almost 3 months of going nowhere…today was absolutely grand!
I could tell he smiled in satisfaction despite having a mask cover his face.
His eyes said it all.

They have provided curbside pick-up throughout the state’s lockdown but
today was their trial run for a “soft opening.”

After a delightful afternoon, when we were headed back home, satiated and content with
having enjoyed both a peace-filled afternoon and good food,
a small sign outside of a little country church caught my eye…
Choose life over fear.

Today on this Mother’s Day 2020…we chose to live life just a little bit freer
pushing aside the nagging fear of the past three months…

Here was to a Mother’s Day not to be forgotten but absolutely cherished
for all sorts of reasons…


(“mom” and The Mayor / Gregory Cook / 2020)


(Dada with his brood/ Abby Cook / 2020)


(mama with The Sheriff /Gregory Cook / 2020)


(Da with “Je” / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine.”

Isaiah 43:1

not exactly the Mother’s day you may have wanted…

“Be a Mother who is committed to loving her children into standing on higher ground
than the environment surrounding them.
Mothers are endowed with a love that is unlike any other love on the face of the earth.”

Marjorie Hinckley


(the styling and profiling Mayor / Julie Cook / 2020)


(The ever smiling Sheriff / Julie Cook / 2020)

What does a Pandemic Mother’s day look like?

Well, I’m not certain.

I wasn’t certain what a Pandemic St. Partick’s day would look like.
Nor what a locked-down Pandemic Easter would look like.

I didn’t know what a 1st birthday would look like as we hunkered down inside…
Nor did I know what a festive Cinco de Mayo would be from home.

What I do know, however, is that we celebrated together none the less.
We lived through and did the best we could with what we had
and with what we could do…making the most of the simple and reserved.

And now I suppose this Mother’s Day will be much the same.

We will miss those who are not with us to celebrate just as we will mourn those who
have gone on ahead of us.
We will grieve for those who now grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice.

It has not been easy on you living here these past two and half months…
away from your own home, your comfort and familiarity, as well as that of
your own complete little family.

Yet we’ve each done the best we could do.

And so, on this Pandemic Mother’s Day,
I want to thank you for allowing me to share your children.

I want to thank you for allowing me to share in the day to day caregiving
and responsibility.
You have been gracious in allowing me to be that now missing and yet extra parent.

There are only three people in my life who I am related to by blood—
and you and I share those three people.

One of those three I have shared with you while you in turn have shared two with me…

And so I thank you for that.

Long ago, one of my own mother’s favorite folks was Erma Bombeck.

She was that folksy, common sense female author and journalist so endeared by
“the commmon woman.”
She was a woman who didn’t need hashtag movements, protests, marches or amendments to know that,
as a woman, she could and would make a difference in the lives of others…all the while, doing
so with a deeply rich and delicious humor.

She was self-deprecating in the best sense of the word.
She knew how to laugh at herself as she invited others to laugh as well.

At that particular time in our culture, Erma Bombeck was the sole spokeswoman
for the most underappreciated being on the planet…that being the mom…
and in particular, the stay at home mom.

My mom was a stay at home mom.

An often lonely and mostly underappreciated role.

She was a woman who did not have extra money like those of her working friends.
She was a woman who didn’t have fancy clothes or a nice car, or a super nice house.
She was a simple woman who probably would have enjoyed being complicated.
A woman who knew how to make $50 dollars a month feed a family of four
while sewing clothes for school.

A woman who knew what it meant to hurt and suffer as one of her children
battled mental illness.
A woman who bore cancer, and its eventual loss of life, without nary a complaint.

And so I share with you a tale by Erma Bombeck—a piece
about when God created mothers—-something my mom certainly understood
and something I think you may already understand.

Happy Mother’s Day to my daughter-in-law…

“When God Created Mothers”

When the Good Lord was creating mothers,
He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said.
“You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”

And God said, “Have you read the specs on this order?”
She has to be completely washable, but not plastic.
Have 180 moveable parts…all replaceable.
Run on black coffee and leftovers.
Have a lap that disappears when she stands up.
A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair.
And six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said.
“Six pairs of hands….no way.”

It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” God remarked,
“it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
God nodded.

One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks,
‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows.
Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know,
and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say,
‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”

God,” said the angel touching his sleeve gently,
“Get some rest tomorrow….”

I can’t,” said God, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself.
Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick…
can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger…
and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.

But tough!” said God excitedly.
“You can imagine what this mother can do or endure.”

Can it think?”

Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

There’s a leak,” she pronounced.
“I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model.”

It’s not a leak,” said the Lord,
“It’s a tear.”

What’s it for?”

It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”

You are a genius, ” said the angel.

Somberly, God said,
“I didn’t put it there.”

― Erma Bombeck, When God Created Mothers

politicians, the ugly, the bad, the good…

“In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything.
I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency.
This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic.
But I do not repine, for I am a subject of it only by force of arms.”

H.L. Mencken


(oh the Mayor / Julie Cook / 2020)

It is during such perilous times as these that chaff is separated from wheat–

Meaning…we learn who amongst our leaders rise to the top as we disappointingly
watch others sink to the depths of deceit and self-absorption.

Case in point— here in our local locked-down town of Woobooville…
we see how the Mayor is acting somewhat shady—as seen in the paparazzi gathered
clandestine photo above.

Next, we see how easily a politician can head down the toilet…as in literally trying to
put one’s head through the potty seat…

Or what of those politicians who are known as pork bellies–
gorging themselves on taxpayers dollars (or baked beans and ribs)
while trying to pad frivolous and unnecessary money pits…


(The Mayor has a thing for all things beans…/ Julie Cook / 2020)

But in the end—our local politician and head of our sheriff department do their best
to keep our spirits raised


(the Sheriff is learning to walk!/ Julie Cook / 2020)

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11

a nudist beach at….

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.
Helen Keller

A nudist beach at Camp Cookie????
It seems that some folks at Camp Cookie just couldn’t wait for their bathing suits!!!

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Oscar Wilde

One man’s torment is another man’s gift

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength,
and whosoever loves much performs much,
and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

Vincent Van Gogh


(a box of absente or absinthe / Julie Cook / 2020)

Let’s talk about art and food and drinks…
let’s talk about torment and gifts…

And so I must share a small revelation.

One that I have discovered during this time of lockdown****.

(**** a lockdown being a state of never-ending sheltering in place—
A state of being, of which, we have all been living now for nearly two solid months…
a state that started back on St. Patrick’s Day…but I digress)

I have learned that throughout this virus imposed social exile…
well, probably there are multiple things that I have learned but for today,
we shall leave it at one thing…
I have learned that we each possess a seemingly innate desire for some sort of
creative outlet!

The desire to find creativity within the mundane has oddly become a most
dire consequence of being ‘confined”.

The choice is either we go bonkers from madness—
or instead, we release the pent up weariness and channel it into something grand.

Yet perhaps that is simply my delirium talking.

Cooking, cleaning and caring for family who are now all living together
under one roof, while some are working from home, leaves one drained
both physically and mentally.
Throw in a 1 and a 2-year-old who are in constant motion, plus who are in constant need,
from sunrise to sunset…thus, the desire for some sort of diversion, any diversion,
becomes critical…critical for all who reside under the same said roof.

For if one blows, they all blow!

Enter the colorful picture of the box shown above.

The portrait should be familiar.
It is a picture of Vincent van Gogh but not exactly a portrait we are familiar seeing.
It is on the packaging for a bottle of absinthe.
A bottle I recently purchased.

Now before you say anything, let me explain.

During this lockdown, I have been cooking three big meals a day.

Those who know me, know that I have always loved to cook.
It was oddly this art teacher’s outlet into the creative.
I was always happier cooking than I was painting.
Go figure.

It was a joy, as well as a foray, into the world of taste, texture, and visual imagination.

But now let’s throw in a pandemic…
of which means cooking has suddenly become both a necessity and a chore.

Gone are the days of excitement and the desire of what might be—gone is the frill and flair…
as that is now replaced by the need for speed, fulfillment, and satiation.

Only to wash the dishes and get ready to do it again.

Enter the l’heure de l’apéritif or the aperitif hour…
aka— the happy hour.

There is an American ex-pat who lives in Paris—he is a cook, author,
as well as food/travel blogger.
His name is David Lebovitz and just before the pandemic hit, he had just released
his latest recipe book for classic Belle Époque French cocktails.

Drinks that harken back to a time of sophistication and elegance

So guess what…
L’heure de l’apéritif has become my new creative outlet.
The moment of the day, other than the bed, that I look most forward to.

For each afternoon, I am offering the adults in this lockdown of mine,
a sample of days gone by…as I concoct libations found in David’s book.

Libations that have me pulling out and dusting off my grandmother’s finest crystal glasses.
Coupes, flutes, sherries, and highballs.

Libations that have sent me to the curbside liquor store in search of liquors and liqueurs
some of which, I can hardly pronounce.

Enter Absinthe.

According to Wikipedia:
Absinthe (/ˈæbsɪnθ, -sæ̃θ/, French: [apsɛ̃t] is historically described as a distilled,
highly alcoholic beverage (45–74% ABV / 90–148 U.S. proof).
It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers
and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise,
sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.

Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color but may also be colorless.
It is commonly referred to in historical literature as la fée verte (“the green fairy”).
It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a liqueur,
but it is not traditionally bottled with added sugar and is,
therefore, classified as a spirit.[6] Absinthe is traditionally bottled at a
high level of alcohol by volume, but it is normally diluted with water before being consumed.

Absinthe originated in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland in the late 18th century.
It rose to great popularity as an alcoholic drink in late 19th-
and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers.
The consumption of absinthe was opposed by social conservatives and prohibitionists,
partly due to its association with bohemian culture.
From Europe and the Americas, notable absinthe drinkers included Ernest Hemingway,
James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust,
Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, and Alfred Jarry.

Absinthe has often been portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug
and hallucinogen.
The chemical compound thujone, which is present in the spirit in trace amounts,
was blamed for its alleged harmful effects.
By 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and in much of Europe,
including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria–Hungary,
yet it has not been demonstrated to be any more dangerous than ordinary spirits.
Recent studies have shown that absinthe’s psychoactive properties
have been exaggerated, apart from that of the alcohol.

A revival of absinthe began in the 1990s,
following the adoption of modern European Union food and beverage laws that removed
long-standing barriers to its production and sale. By the early 21st century,
nearly 200 brands of absinthe were being produced in a dozen countries,
most notably in France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Spain,
and the Czech Republic.

In fact, the 1875 painting below, by Edgar Degas, of a lonely stupified woman is rather reflective
of the effects of what imbibing too much in absinthe could lead to.


(L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas 1875 / Musée d’Orsay)

And thus I have always been leary of absinthe.
It was cloaked in intrigue as well as the forbidden.

That is until I needed a bottle of it for one of my new recipes.

So off I trotted…driving myself to the local curbside liquor store where
I handed the masked and gloved young man, on the curb, my list of needs–
I asked for a mid-range priced bottle of absinthe…
and he returned with the same box you see above in the picture.
Complete with an absinthe spoon.
Ooooo.

I felt a slight thrill and rush as I placed a single toe into the world of the forbidden
as I marched my new bottle into the house.

And so this is the spot where the gist of my post comes into play…
that of both torment and gift.

As an art /art history teacher, I have always had a soft tender spot in my heart for
Vincent van Gogh…the ever tormented, isolated Dutch Impressionism painter…

Vincent never sold a single painting during his short lifetime—except to his loving
brother Theo.

It is true he cut off his ear.

It is true he loved a prostitute.

It is true he originally wanted to enter the priesthood.

It is true that he was sickly much of his life and in turn, ate very poorly.

It is true he lived with and fought physically and vehemently with his friend and fellow
artist Paul Gauguin.

It is true he was mentally troubled…most likely what we today might call bi-polar
or even schizophrenic.
And thus, he spent time in and out of mental hospitals.

It is true he was broke and financially destitute throughout his life.
His brother Theo provided financial assistance throughout most of Van Gogh’s life.

It is also true that he drank—and drank heavily.
Depression has a way of leading the depressed to that which might dull the unending ache.
And for van Gogh, much of the drinking was of absinthe.

Was it the wormwood?
Was it the hallucinations that lead to his vision of beauty, of colors, of texture?

At the age of 37, Van Gogh committed suicide by shooting himself in a cornfield.

It is debated as to what exactly lead to van Gogh’s mental instability.

Was it genetics?

Or was it the effects of a poor diet, artistic frustration, romantic rejection, or
was it just the alcohol?
Or perhaps…it was merely a combination of it all.

There is no doubt that Van Gogh was both troubled and tormented—this much we know.
But we must also know that it was in his death that we, the world, was actually given the
true gift of his talents..that being his art.

His brother Theo made certain, after van Gogh’s death, that the world would
finally, see his brother’s art.

In 1990, one of Van Gogh’s paintings, the portrait of Dr.Paul Gachet,
was sold at auction for $75 million dollars— making it, at the time,
the most expensive painting to have ever been sold.

A tormented soul who would be loved by a different time and a different generation of people—
He would finally be embraced by a world that would fall in love with him and his art.
Yet it is a relationship sadly too late for Van Gogh to have ever known and enjoyed.

And thus, in this vein of thought, I was struck by the notion of both torment and gifts.

A ying and yang of life.
A conundrum.
An anomaly.

My thoughts turned to a different man.
A different time.

A man who was not haunted by personal demons but rather a man who came to quell the demons.
To quell the demons in man.

A man who was loved by some yet hated by others.
A man who is still deeply loved as well as deeply hated.

A man whose gifts healed the souls of those he touched.
A man who was willingly tormented and was, in turn, killed by his tormentors…
killed in order to give others the gift of life.

So yes—it seems that there can be beauty found in torment.
As therein can lie the gift of life.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9