selfishness and self-preservation vs selflessness and the love of the game

“It’s that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first and you come second.
This was the whole ethic by which I was brought up.
Others matter more than you do, so ‘don’t fuss, dear; get on with it’.”

Audrey Hepburn


(UGA kicker Rodrigo Blankenship)

Anyone who knows me, knows I love college football!

I’d say it was simply because of an innate love that was passed down to me from the sports-loving
genes of my dad…
but since I’m adopted…it must simply be from the gene pool of another.

But that’s the thing, my dad loved college football.

He lived and breathed for New Year’s day…that holy day of all things football.
I’ve written about this love affair of his before.

Back in the dark ages, back to the time of my youth…those early heady days of the 1960’s…
it was a time before things like a picture within a picture, split screens, Hulu, red zones…
or even color TV for that matter…were a thing.

My dad would haul every TV in our house into the den so he could
have all three major networks playing simultaneously…just so he wouldn’t
miss the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl or the Sugar Bowl…
or any other bowl game that was airing.

I obviously inherited that love by osmosis I suppose.

And as I’ve settled in to enjoy this year’s bowl season, I must confess, I have a few issues.

Issues such as the way the powers that be have set up this playoff mishmash.

The top 1, 2, 3 and 4 teams that are all vying for the top prize are sitting pretty
while other very deserving teams are left out of the coveted top 4 positions.
Cinderellas with no invitation to the ball.

And on top of that wouldn’t you know it…those powers that be also wrote in a little clause for this
playoff business that it can’t be revisited for discussion for at least 12 years.

Really?
Geeeees….

I just don’t find it fair for those undefeated teams who are passed over–think Central Florida…
teams unable to have any sort of chance to participate in a playoff with the argument being that they don’t
play the same caliber of teams as say those top seeds.

But I’m thinking that if you are a Division 1 team…
then should not all Division 1 teams have an equal opportunity for the coveted trophy of
National Champion?

You’re not Division 1 for nothing right?
Be they a Notre Dame, a Central Florida, a Boise State or an Alabama.

But such decisions were not left to me to decide.
And no one ever said life was fair.

There is, however, another more troubling issue that leaves me particularly unsettled this bowl season.
Something that boils down to a fine line between selfish self-preservation and that of selflessness
along with the simple love of the game.

The trouble is with the current mindset of those players who are currently draft-eligible and who
have decided to opt out of their perspective team’s bowl games.
Opting out and deciding not to play— preferring rather to sit out the game lest they get hurt and mess
up their chances for a nice high draft position.

This little predicament is leaving their coaches and teammates scrambling to fill in the
gaps before a major televised ball game.

Do bowl games even matter?

Well they matter to rankings and they matter to monies earned by schools for ticket sales
and they matter for future recruiting.
Plus they matter for the bragging rights of being a top alfa dog for a year.

Many of these kids who are going to school are on scholarships…
having earned a coveted “paid for” position on the team.
They, in turn, for the most part, have free food, free books and free tuition for their
wanting to play football.

But of course, it is their option and choice to go to a school to play.
And they usually opt to go to the school who offers them the most buck for their bang.
Hard work and talent leads them to this choice.

(now there are other sports and other scholarships, but I am focusing on football only)

The NFL, however, dangles bigger carrots in front of the faces of these kids
than whatever a college could dare offer.

Thus a kid can and at times is encouraged to “quit” school, in order to enter the draft.
“Oh you can always go back and earn a degree later, but you can only play at the top of your
game for a limited time” rings the argument.

According to the NFL official rules,
“To be eligible for the draft, players must have been out of high school for at least three years
and must have used up their college eligibility before the start of the next college football season.
Underclassmen and players who have graduated before using all their college eligibility may request the
league’s approval to enter the draft early.

Players are draft-eligible only in the year after the end of their college eligibility.

We are actually seeing sophomores who are eligible for the draft, forgoing the thought of finishing
playing four or five years for their school while earning a degree…all just to play for the NFL.

While the thoughts of “fame and fortune” dancing enticingly around the heads of these young men.

There are those who try to justify this phenomenon.
They argue the notion of hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars,
being the greatest incentive as to why so many of these “impoverished” or struggling kids want
to move on.

Money talks.

Yet the respected retired coach of the Colts and now a football commentator, Tony Dungy, in his book
Quiet Strength notes the high percentage of NFL players who eventually end up divorced, broke or both.
Noting that all that glitters is not necessarily gold nor does it last.

Yet many argue that a large number of these kids come from broken homes or impoverished homes,
and are living on the edge of either succumbing to and falling through the cracks to things like
gangs and trouble if they aren’t given such wonderful financial incentives.
While very few seem to be singing the praises of rising above the negative by earning a degree and
finding success outside of sports.

Like Coach Dungy, I don’t buy the empty arguments of the hurry up and join the glamour of the
NFL mentality and I don’t fall for the money carrot argument.

Oh I get it and I see it but I don’t find it a viable argument…
that being that this is their only ticket out of a life considered less than.

I personally think a college degree will help a great deal more with forging a life that is content
and fulfilled verses that of a draft pick.

However, the draft pick promises the big bucks fast while the degree and the eventual job
will be a slower building to that long sense of security.

I think it is a poor precedence allowing players to opt out of playing for their school’s respective
bowl game just so they don’t get hurt and mess up jockeying for a draft position.

We are doing kids such a huge disservice when we cut them slack from the responsibility they
have to their school, to their team and to their teammates when we “allow” them the “right” of opting out
of a commitment because the money carrot has dangled early and most brightly.

Case in point Michigan had about 4 or 5 kids sitting out their bowl game against Florida.
The Gators won and I’m not complaining as I like to see fellow SEC schools win but
I feel that those boys who opted to sit out their final game of the year,
a game that was an honor as their team had won the right to play in a bowl game,
yet, in turn, they let down their fans, their coaches and their teammates…
for selfish and self-preserving reasons.

One player, however, a young man who is also draft eligible, and who needs surgery following the
season before participating in the draft, stated that he was indeed disappointed by his teammate’s
decision to sit out and that he would have to be dead not to play the final game for
his school and team.

Now that is a young man who has a love of the game and a sense of responsibility to and
for his team, his coaches and his school.
He has a team mentality.

And maybe that’s what’s missing.

We are no longer teaching responsibility or duty or honor, or even sportsmanship or what it
means to be a part of a team, a part of something bigger than ourselves…

We see this at the college level, at the high school level and now, sadly, at the
little league level.
It’s called the trickle down effect.

We have allowed our sports to become bigger than the various games themselves.
And in turn, we have lost those team building qualities that instill in both
young men and women the meaning of selflessness and that there are things greater in life
then that of the individual.
As in it takes a team to win a game, not merely one player.

Just another reason as to why I hate those end zone theatrics.
There is no room for showboats on a team full of individuals who work together to make those
successful moments for the team as a whole.

Rodrigo Blankenship is a kicker for the University of Georgia who was a walk-on and redshirt
freshman.
After his first year with stats that would make veteran kickers envious, 26 for 26 kicks,
he was informed that he would not be receiving a scholarship.
He might be offered one the following year but that was by no means a guarantee.

Most kids and their families would consider transferring over such news.
Transferring to a school that would give a scholarship as the family could certainly use the
assistance.

To have worked as hard as he had worked helping aid the team week after week in consecutive
wins throughout the season,
yet to be denied monetary assistant when those all around him had long been given their
scholarships, was news hard to swallow.
Yet Blankenship loved his team and his school.
He wanted to stay, despite the snub by the School’s Athletic Association.

“In 2017, when Blankenship was a redshirt sophomore, he hit a 30-yard field goal with 3:34
remaining to give Georgia a 20-19 lead against Notre Dame.
The Bulldogs won the game by that score, and the post-game locker room scene included Blankenship
proudly announcing to his team, upon a prompt from Smart,
“I’m on scholarship,” followed by a roar of celebration.

(Red and Black)

There are thankfully all sorts of stories like Rodrigo’s…
stories of selfless players who persevere without the rewards of glamour or money
but the sad fact remains that there are currently a good many players across this country
who are sitting out of bowl games because they are putting personal gain above that of their teams
and schools…and that speaks volumes as to what our culture and our Sporting Associations are teaching
our youth and to where we place our values.

We will be whatever we teach our young…be that good or be that bad.

I’ll go back to watching football now, but I’m afraid it will have one more grey cloud
hovering over its legacy.

Go Dawgs!

Let each of you look not only to his own interests,
but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:4

Cancer sucks…and the resilience of one dedicated fan

You beat cancer by how you live,
why you live and in the manner in which you live.

Stuart Scott

Every now and then you hear a story that reaches deep down and touches
something in your soul.
It reminds you of what is truly important.
It reminds you that life is fleeting and very fragile.
It reminds you about resilience.
It reminds you that what is happening in our country, in our culture…
those things that we are doing and saying to and about one another are things that
truly don’t matter.

This is a story about a college, Perdue University to be exact, and about one of its students…
or maybe it’s a story about all of its students…

Perdue is a University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
The student body and the athletes are known as the Boilermakers.

In 1889, Purdue played Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana,
and won the game 18-4. Students from the college and citizens of Crawfordsville began
calling the Purdue players “a great big burly gang of corn-huskers”, “grangers”,
“pumpkin-shuckers”, “railsplitters”, “blacksmiths,” “cornfield sailors”, and “foundry hands”.
The Purdue students experienced hands-on education at the university, including the maintenance
of a fully operational steam locomotive.

Purdue defeated Wabash College again in 1891, 44–0.
An account of the game in the Crawfordsville Daily Argus News of October 26, 1891 was headlined,
“Slaughter of Innocents: Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue”.
Purdue became known as the boilermakers the next year.
(Wikipedia)

We all have our sports teams that we love—teams that we follow with unabandon and yes,
teams we truly even adore.

We follow.
We cheer.
We scream.
We cry.
We support.
We become one on gameday.
We are the 12th man…we are the fans.

Some of us are bigger fans than others…for all sorts of reasons.
And sometimes being a fan spurs us on to will ourselves to literally live another day.

Or so it seems…

His name is Tyler Trent and as of this past week, he was a sophomore at the Perdue University.
Tyler is all of 20 years old.

Tyler had to withdraw from classes earlier this term because Tyler has terminal cancer.

Tyler has become an inspiration to his fellow Boilermakers because he epitomizes the
concept of what it means to be not only a super fan but Tyler epitomize what it is
to be a fighter.

The chant “Cancer sucks” has become the rallying cry of the student body this year…
the chant before each kickoff is no longer the traditional IU (their arch rival) sucks,
but rather the rallying cry is Cancer Sucks
because it does.

Tyler is under hospice care.
Yet he wanted desperately to attend the big Ohio St Game Saturday evening…
but things throughout the week weren’t looking good.
Tyler was really really sick.
His body failing.
His doctors said there was no way that he’d make the game…
no one was certain Tyler would be alive for the game.

Perdue has an almost spilt win/loss season thus far this season
Perdue’s match with Ohio State was not to be in Perdue’s favor.
Perdue was not supposed to be any sort of match for the number 2 ranked Ohio State.
It was to be a pushover game for the Buckeyes as their sites are resting on dethroning
the number 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Perdue was just another team on the path to the dethroning of a more worthy opponent…
Heck, Perdue isn’t even ranked, no big deal right?!!

But…

Miracles of all sorts do happen…

Here is a link to the story from the Indystar regarding the big win and
how Tyler got to the big game.

https://www.indystar.com/story/sports/columnists/gregg-doyel/2018/10/20/doyel-tyler-trent-inspires-purdue-football-upset-ohio-state/1700078002/

Our prayers are with all of those who, like Tyler, are suffering due to illness and disease…
(as well as for Natalie who is close to my heart here in cookieland
as well as for my college roommate Carol)

Holy Spirit, drive away from me all forms of sickness and disease.
restore strength to my body and joy to my spirit,
so that in my renewed health,
I may bless and serve you,
now and forevermore.

Author Unknown

don’t mess with Texas….cheerleaders


(image courtesy Click 2 Houston News)

They say that everything is bigger in Texas…
and that also might mean badder…that is, if badder was an actually correct word.

Texas and Texans are known for being tenacious.
As in they can take a ‘licken’ and keep on ‘ticken’ sort of tenaciousness.

As in tumbleweed tenacious.

As in nothing much gets in their way to stop them from doing those Texas things
that they do.

I know this because I have a dear friend in Texas, a tumbleweed of sorts,
who has been fighting the good fight with cancer treatment.

It has not been an easy road, nor a peaceful road, but fight she has.

Unfortunately, life has been such that I have not been the active cheerleader for her as
I wish I could have been or really should have been.

Our ages are slightly different and we happen to currently find ourselves
at different life junctures.

Isn’t that always the way?

Just when she was getting bad news of diagnoses,
I found myself consumed in the care of a new grandbaby.

We were headed in opposite life directions…each going 90 to nothing…

Yet it never left my mind nor heart that she was in the throes of a battle.

I found that prayer was my best recourse because in the end, when all is said and done,
prayer was and is so much better than anything I could have or could continue to offer.

And at last word, she’s hanging tough…

Because that’s how they are in Texas, they are tough.

So just know that I’ve not forgotten you, Natalie.

And so as we speak of Texas and tenacity…I caught a story a few weeks back
about a group of real cheerleaders in Texas.
A group of high school cheerleaders to be exact from the small town of Kountze.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a high school football game but where I come
from, and obviously down in Texas, it is customary for the cheerleaders to paint
a giant run-through banner on a weekly basis as a pre-game ritual.

The banner is usually a sort of visual battle cry that is held aloft just prior to
the team running onto the field.
It’s a banner the cheerleaders hold up, standing on either side holding it taut,
so at just the right moment when the football team comes running onto the field,
they burst through the sign all to the sounds of a roaring enthusiastic crowd.

At this particular school in Texas, the cheerleaders decided they wanted to paint
words of encouragement for their team…Scripturally based words of encouragement…
as in words from the Bible.

The short of this 5-year long story is exactly as you’d think…
the cheerleaders were told by the principal and superintendent that they could not paint
those signs.
Maybe someone complained to the school authorities about a
violation of Church and state…as we all know public schools are state goods.
Or maybe the school administrators were fearful of complaints and they were the ones
to nix the signs.

And as a former teacher, I know first hand that if there is one thing that can strike fear
into a school administration, it is the fear of a lawsuit being filed…in particular
lawsuits that have the potential to be high profile.

And yet this school district’s administration actually decided to fight the girls and their
continued desire to make the Scripturally based run-throughs in court.

I’ve provided the link below to the story as the ending is not what I or you might have expected…
I was actually pleasantly surprised in this story’s end.

Five years have passed.

The girls have all since moved on…only to leave other cheerleaders to carry their torch.

There were filings and hearings in state courts which lead all the way to the Supreme Court,
who actually, just the other week, ruled in favor of the girls.

Ruling that yes the cheerleaders could continue painting Bible verses on the run-throughs
for the football team.

And as Todd Starnes, the author of the article so aptly notes…
“I reckon the Kountze cheerleaders have learned a very important lesson about perseverance
over the past five years. You really can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”

Just as I know my friend Natalie is demonstrating better than most of us!

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/08/31/todd-starnes-texas-cheerleaders-win-victory-for-freedom-religious-expression-praise-lord.html

It’s all in the name

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
―W.C. Fields


(a glimpse of the facade of Andrew Jackson’s home The Hermitage / Julie Cook / 2018)


(the Greek revival tomb designed by Jackson for both he and his beloved wife Rachel /
Julie Cook / 2018)

If you’ve ever been through the state of Tennessee, particularly in the fall of the year…
thinking that you had come to take in the beautiful and picturesque Smokey Mountains
and perhaps an eyeful of the warm and golden hues of Fall’s magnificent splendor,
you will have no less certainly seen the giant orange or white T’s
that vie for dominance over the Tennessean landscape.

Or perhaps it’s an orange and white checkerboard painted door, orange, and white flags,
a myriad of stickers donning every Tennesse car, or even a checkerboard with a giant
T painted on many an old and seemingly dilapidated barn.
For in the fall, each and every Saturday hundreds of thousands of Tennessee fans will
be heard statewide singing a rousing rendition of Rocky Top as they cheer
on their Tennesee Vols.

So I suppose it’s only natural that most of us have either earned or been given the
dubious honor of a nickname…
Usually, a name attached to us during childhood that has an odd and often irritating
way of sticking with us throughout life…
and thus the same seems true for our 50 states.

We have states boasting themselves by their nicknames as the Show-Me State,
The Sunshine State,
The Peach State,
The Sooners state,
The Buckeye state…

Some of the nicknames are for obvious reasons while other nicknames are simply lost
in the annals of the history of our Nation.

Yet you may just find yourself asking…”what exactly is a Vol?”

A Vol is a Volunteer…as in Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State.

And if you don’t quite know your history, you might think that is just a reference
to the fact that those state residents like to volunteer for things.

And in a way, you’d be partially right.

But the story, according to most historians, actually goes back to the War of 1812.

And whereas you may have only thought that the Colonies,
which gave way to these United States of America, had won their freedom from the
British in 1776…you would naturally think that that was the final end of the story…
and therefore you would need to be reminded that hard feelings die slow deaths and that
those who spent centuries vying for dominance always hate to lose.

“The War of 1812 was a defining period in the early history of Tennessee.
For the first time, Tennessee was thrust into the national
spotlight through its military and political prowess.
When war was declared on Great Britain in June 1812,
it was a Tennessean, Congressman Felix Grundy,
who was given the lion’s share of credit
(or blame) for steering Congress toward a declaration of war against one of the
mightiest military powers of the day.
Grundy, a Nashville lawyer, along with a group of Democratic-Republicans known as the War Hawks,
provided the rhetoric necessary to lead the nation into a conflict that many considered unpopular. Tennessee’s accomplishments on the battlefield during the Creek War (1813-1814)
gave the country something to cheer about in a period of otherwise dismal campaigns
against the British.
And, of course, Andrew Jackson’s stunning victory at New Orleans
showed the world that the United States was coming of age and could take its
place among the nations of the world.

New Orleans Campaign
(December 1814 – January 1815)
After leaving a sizable portion of his army to occupy the various garrisons
throughout the Mississippi Territory,
Jackson arrived in New Orleans in early December to conduct the defense of the city
that was to be the prize of Great Britain’s southern campaign.
Located above the mouth of the Mississippi River,
New Orleans’ strategic location and accumulated wealth offered a tempting reward
to a British army fresh from its victory over Napoleon in Europe.
Elite English forces faced Jackson’s polyglot army of militia,
frontier volunteers, U.S. regulars, pirates, free blacks, Creoles, and Choctaws.
Although the famous Battle of New Orleans has been noted in song and celebration,
the British assault on New Orleans was actually composed of several different engagements:

Brief History of Tennessee in the War of 1812
Prepared by Tom Kanon, Tennessee State Library, and Archives

Yet some historians argue that the nickname actually came later during the
Mexican American War.

According to Tennessee History, future President, General Zachary Taylor,
dispatched a report to President Polk saying ‘hostilities had begun.

The report reached President Polk while he was dining and the President
immediately called his cabinet into an emergency session.

The following week, a divided Congress agreed that a state of war existed with Mexico.

“U.S. Navy Ships immediately moved to blockade the Gulf of Mexico and others in
the Pacific moved towards California ports.
With a regular standing army of only 8,000 men and General Taylor screaming
for reinforcements, President Polk was forced to call upon the states to raise
2,600 men each to supply the American Army in Mexico,” stated Tennessee History.

The proclamation went out from Nashville that the federal government needed 2,600 volunteers
to assist in the war with Mexico…
Within a week’s time, more than 30,000 Tennesseans responded to the call to arms.
And it was from this overwhelming show of patriotism that the State of Tennessee not
only assisted in winning the outright sovereignty of the State of Texas,
but also in securing its lasting title as The Volunteer State.

Appalachian Magazine – May 24, 2016

During the war of 1812, this particular time in our young nation’s tenuous growth—
most of the political leaders of the day were the movers and shakers…
they were the voters and decision makers…
they did not think the general uneducated populace of the fledgling states should be
given the vote themselves…given the vote to pick and choose such positions
like presidents…
It was a more paternal form of leadership in that the leaders decided they knew
what was best “for the people”…

And yet it was a president who sent out a call for help…be it in 1812 or 1840,
a call went out to these same uneducated farmers, laborers, and shopkeepers
who just happened to be Tennesseans, during yet another devastating war…
a call for their help in defending their young Nation.
For this war was to be a final stamp to America’s true independence.

The request was for 2,600.
30,000 came.

There was such a strong sense to protect and maintain what so many had sacrificed
their lives over.

What a marvelous moniker…
The Volunteer State…
the state where the citizens realized the importance of what was at stake…
not only for their state but for their entire Nation.

All of this history is really something to ponder yet is easily glossed over when we glance
back.

It makes me wonder…
if our president today sent out the call for help in defending our Nation…would anyone answer
the call or would they be simply too busy disparaging him and those who support his leadership?

Are we so divided today that we would actually let who we are as a Nation, simply disovlve…

I wonder…

If my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

what was that about animal or angel…

“I see clearly with the interior eye,
that the sweet God loves with a pure love the creature that He has created,
and has a hatred for nothing but sin, which is more opposed to Him
than can be thought or imagined.”

St. Catherine of Genoa


(image courtesy a UK internet news outlet)

Yesterday we took a brief look at what it is that separates man from beast…

That being the conscious conscience–

Our ability to make a conscious choice to believe…in say, that Jesus Christ was and
is who He said He was…as He remains to this day—that being the Son of God…

So a conscious conscience separates us.

Otherwise, we’re pretty much alike as in that we are born of both male and female, we
eat, sleep, play, seek shelter, have similar bodily functions…

And yet we possess a higher order of thinking—a conscious conscience.

We can choose to follow something rather than said following being simply an innate
reaction or some sort of imprinting.
We can follow literally or we can follow figuratively and consciously…or, choose not to…

It’s no secret that I love football—
that being American football and not the soccer version of futbol.

And we can whittle that down even further in that I prefer college ball…
but I will always take what I can get.

So needless to say, I joined the rest of this football and commercial loving Nation,
all who gathered either in person or around a thousand and more televisions in order
to watch the big game Sunday night…the Super Bowl.

I am neither Eagle fan nor Patriot fan…and despite being from Atlanta and having the
Falcons being my team by proxy…Green Bay is actually MY team of heart…

And as to why that is—is beyond my soul.. but I bet it goes back to childhood or the adoption…
just saying.

So in such a competition as a Super Bowl, one usually opts to pull for one team or the other…
and as I am tired of the Patriot Dynasty constantly winning and Coach Belichick’s
sloppy sideline apparel along with his monotone one-word press conference interviews,
add in a constant dour demeanor, I thought we should give Philly a go.

And so perhaps in hindsight, I was wrong in that notion.

Following the Eagles routing over the Patriots Sunday night, Philadelphia,
that city of brotherly love, broke out into insanity…

And not mind you the type of joyful, happy, triumphant, euphoria of insanity witnessed
at the moment of a victory…such as in the…
“Hey, Nick Foles, what are you going to do now that you’ve won the Super Bowl???…
with that joy-filled, confetti swirling answer being a triumphant “I’m going to Disney World”

But rather this victory swirled down into the insanity of hate, destruction, violence,
and lawlessness.

More like, dare we say it, animals…

Add to the fact that the image I found today was from a UK news site,
as in the world watched how badly “we” behaved.

And I say ‘we’ because ‘we’ are, for all intent purposes, Americans…
As in I just happen to be from Georgia, and the game just happened to be played in Minnesota
and it just happened to be a game between New England and Philidelphia players—
so “we” are all, when the dust settles, in this together…as Americans.

Sigh.

I for one find the behavior seen in Philidelphia, bottom of the barrel, awful.

However, the questions remains…are these “fans” going to be held accountable?

Maybe some were arrested.

Yet I’m pretty certain many more slipped into the dark
of night over those who actually were arrested for “disorderly” conduct—
throw in a little looting and destruction of private property to that citation.

Whose cars were those flipped over and torched?
Or what about sending those regular citizens who were caught in the middle of the madness,
sending law-abiding folks who just happened to be in downtown businesses and hotels,
into some sort of panic attack, so afraid they would become victims of the animal mob?

Not a pretty picture to say the least.

And so I think about all of this ugly Americaness of ours…these seemingly selfish,
self-centered acts of consciousness…decisions made which are,
when all pretense is stripped away, acts of the demonic-
As in the very lesson, we learned yesterday, that being it’s man’s choice when
he leans toward anger, hate, violence lawlessness, sinfulness..in other words, acts of evilness,
of which has its impetus in the demonic and certainly not the angelic or saintly…

And just as we have the conscious conscience of choice to be more like the animals—
we also have the conscious conscience to choose that of the angelic, the saintly and that
of love.

May we choose love….

Once again, another life lesson brought to us by a mere game.

“Love is a strong force — a great good in every way; it alone can make our burdens light,
and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing.
It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet…
Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger,
nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth;
for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.
Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice.
Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all.
For they rest in One supreme Goodness above all things,
from Whom all other good flows and proceeds. They look not only at the gifts,
but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.”

Thomas à Kempis

taking one last hit for the team in ’17; looking forward to ’18

Keep Calm and Carry On….
words seen on a WWII British motivational poster


(why do I think this sad little persimmon is a reflection of myself? / Julie Cook / 2017)

You didn’t think I could let the year end without having one last ‘hit for the team’
and not share it did you??

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year!!!

But first let’s take a wistful look back to last year….
Or more accurately…back to yesterday afternoon.

Remember, I still have a hole in my head, stitches in my mouth and an annoying
space where there once was a tooth…still swollen, still uncomfortable,
still having trouble chewing without dropping things randomly from my mouth.

Kind out like our cat Percy who lost most of his teeth as a kitten….
He drops his food from his mouth all the time, right in mid bite,
but unlike a dog, he just lets it sit and moves on to a new bite.
I just try to be a bit discreet…..

Anywhoo…..

So here it was New Year’s Eve day—we didn’t really have much to do…
my tooth, or lack there of, had put the kibosh on any sort of plans….

It was a day that the coldest temperatures of the year were descending,
yet thankfully the weather folks had backed off of any sort of snow event,
So…. what better way to spend the day than to head out to wander
through the woods?

I was well layered…
turtleneck, sweater, vest, waxed barn coat, jeans, trusty lined LL Bean boots,
gloves, earmuffs and a scarf—I had my trusty camera in tow and was excited
to be out, breathing in fresh air, up off the couch from nursing the hole
in my head and ready to take some lovely pictures in which to share…with you…

The woods are so open this time of year, allowing yearning eyes to take in
a quiet vastness.
And there is such a palpable stillness.
The only sound one hears is the crunch of leaves underneath wandering boots.

I had hoped to find and capture a few little surprises here and there–
for despite most things being long dead, hibernating or in a state of waiting..
the woods still have much to offer.


(drying and dying persimmons linger on the limbs / Julie Cook / 2017)


(lingering ink berries / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a hooked bush…where a buck deer has rubbed its horns / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a large gall on a tree / Julie Cook / 2017)


(hidden little deer moss / Julie Cook / 2017)

I was lagging behind my husband, as I kept stopping to take pictures.
We had made our way deep into the woods, finally stopping at the creek.
At this juncture along this meandering creek there happens to be an old fallen
tree bridging both sides of the creek.

I’ve told my husband 100 times, I can’t balance like I use to and I’d rather look for
a different place to cross where I could slide down the edge of the bank,
hop across a more shallow area of the creek, while scooting up the
other bank on the other side….

It made perfect sense.

But he kept insisting that I cross the tree as I’ve done it before…
agitated pondering what in the heck was wrong with me today???

And whereas, yes I have crossed it before, still with trepidation, but that was when
the weather was warmer and I was not layered like a chunky eskimo
with a camera slung over my arm, while being full of codeine.

I had been feeling like a fuzzy slug, so at this particular moment, while staring at a precarious tree spanning a creek in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere,
a little voice said “don’t do it”….

Did I mention it was 36 degrees?

“You’ve done it before, just reach out for that limb…”
my know-it-all husband instructs.
Easy for him to say, that limb is dangling over the water and he is a
bit taller than I am.

Cautiously I step out onto the tree, putting one foot boot in front of another.
Making my way to the middle where the tree narrows.
That dangling branch was no where near my grasp.

Suddenly, and for reasons I know not, I begin to list to the left—
the left is where the tooth is missing, the left is where the camera dangles,
the left is where there is a deep murky water hole.

SPLASH!

Suddenly I am chest deep in a cold creek stuck amongst a maze of gnarly limbs and vines.
Plus my left foot had sunk deep into the muddy bottom all the while as I’m flailing
my arms trying to get to the bank.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, there was a thankfulness that all snakes were
fast asleep.

My husband had obviously raced back across without thought and was desperately
trying to yank me up the bank but my left foot, as it’s always the left,
was mired deep in the muddy bottom.

At this exact moment of panic, an image crosses my mind and no, it was not my
life flashing before my eyes, but it might as well have been.

Have you ever watched that show Life Below Zero on NATGEO?
That show about those hearty, perhaps more like fool hearty, souls who live
alone in the middle of nowhere Alaska, totally off the grid???

One sentiment rings true with each of those survivors…
‘if you get your feet wet out here, you’re as good as dead.’

Well, not only were my feet wet, I was immersed up to my chest in dark brown tannin
stained water, a maze of limbs and vines, with my left leg stuck deep in
the silty mud.

What seemed like an eternity was probably more like 2 minutes at best….
I got to the bank while my poor husband was trying to pull up a wet,
stuck, dead weight, mad as hell wife….
suddenly I realized my camera was now totally underwater.

I hear an out of body voice shouting.
“I TOLD YOU I DIDN’T WANT TO CROSS THE TREE!!!!!!”

Finally with my foot free from the mud, I keep telling my husband to let go and quit pulling and yanking cause he was crushing my head.
“LET GO, I’M OUT! I’M UP!!!”

And there I stood along the bank—
dripping like I had just popped up out of a refreshing summer pool…
a soaking wet dog in need of a good shake.

Water was now sloshing in my boots as I took a step.

My husband, now in a panic, just knew pneumonia was instantly setting in.

“Now he worries…gees” as I’m still muttering words I shan’t share here.

It was almost a mile back to the truck.

As he stands there just staring at me, I hear my own commanding voice
“Just start walking to the truck.”

Did I mention is was 36 degrees?

The only thing dry on me, if I may be candid, was my bra and head.

Once back at the truck, my boy scout of a husband thankfully had a towel
in the truck in case of emergencies.

And here was our emergency.

Right there in the woods, I began peeling off the layers of sopping wet and very
cold clothes as I no longer had feeling in my legs.
Bear Grylls voice was now drifting in my head…and thankfully I wasn’t going to
have to eat grubs or drink urine to survive…
but a nice camp fire would have been welcomed.

Boots
socks
pants
coat
underware
vest….
all shed as I wrapped the towel around me like a moo moo.

Did I tell you it was 36 degrees?

My husband is still just helplessly staring and sputtering…certain
I’m about the die immediately from consumption.

“Just get in the truck and drive” I grouse.

It was an hour or so drive home.

“But wonder if something happens or we get stopped and you’re just, just, just
sitting wrapped in a towel….???”

One look from me was enough to spur him back to reality and action.
Into the truck we got… with the heat now blowing just a fast as it could blow.

Thankfully we were not stopped and I got home in one piece to a hot shower with all the
muddy wet clothes going directly into the washer.
The camera, well, it is mostly like DOA

The moral of this little tale you ask?

Well, if you hear a little voice telling you not to cross a log,
don’t cross the log.

If you have a hole in your head and codeine in your system and see a log,
don’t cross the log.

And maybe, just maybe, a certain husband will one day actually listen when
the wise one speaks….

Oh, and always keep a towel in your vehicle, maybe even a change of clothes..
a bottle of bourbon wouldn’t hurt for those emergency and medicinal purposes…
since there was no St Bernard coming to my rescue…

Have a safe, dry, warm and happy New Year’s Day—-
I think I’ll just sit on the couch and watch a few good bowl game….
GO DAWGS!

reflective remembrance

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty;
it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”

― Coco Chanel


(a slice of the Mile High Pie from Bones in Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2017)

As long as I can remember, my birthday has always fallen on the weekend of the
Georgia / Auburn football game.
Never mind if my birthday was on, say a Wednesday,
the birthday has always been marked by this hallowed grudge match.

A grudge match rivalry game considered, by those who write the history of
collegiate sports, to be the oldest college rivalry
in all of college football dating all the way back to 1892.

So this past weekend was no exception when it came to birthdays and football games…
despite the actual day being a few days after the fact of said game.

And so it would have only seemed to make sense that my beloved Dawgs would have
stepped up to the birthday plate by delivering the best gift possible—
a defeat of this most ancient of foes…putting them one more game closer
to a year of perfection….
Yet alas…
it was not to be….

Yet defeat is not the intent of today’s thoughts but rather the musing of what was,
what is and what will be…

When I turned 21, way back when I was in college at this same beloved college of
which I speak of today, I had been invited by a young man who I really liked at
the time, to travel down to Auburn for the game in honor of my birthday.

But I had a conundrum.

My godparents, the priest of my church and his wife, had already invited me to come
home as they wanted to have a small party in my honor.

Now I don’t know too many 21 year olds who would spend even a second weighing out such proposals…as whether to stay or go—as most any 21 year old in their right mind
would have wholeheartedly opted to go to the football game…
excitedly ready to spend a great weekend with great friends
and a potential great beau all the while living it up as one’s team beats
up another—

I however chose the latter.
I went home.

I really can’t say how many 21 year old kids had the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta,
at the time, bake them a birthday cake, but me…

And yes it was indeed a small intimate gathering… yet one that was, obviously, most memorable.

The game would have been no doubt memorable as well…or maybe not…
because I couldn’t even begin to tell you who won that year…
and I can recall that that young man was only a beau for a short time…
but on the other hand I do remember those other particular individuals who loved me
enough to want to make a special day even more special in their own small way.

And so it is with this day of marking the passage of time,
that I find myself being a bit wistful.
Because isn’t that what we do as we age, we become wistfully reflective.

So in keeping with this notion of being both wistful and reflective,
I am poignantly reminded that this is the first birthday that is to be spent
in 58 years without my dad and aunt.

Mother has been gone since just before I was to turn 26, but Dad and Aunt Martha
have been around throughout of what seems to be the duration of time…

Each of them knew how to make a birthday celebration both special and memorable.
As I remain grateful in recalling the years gone past that they did make a special
day just that— special.
Just as I am sad thinking of a new year without them.

And whereas there will definitely be some sadness on an otherwise momentous day…
besides nursing what could have, should have, been with the Dawgs running the table
on a possible all out rout of a season of wins…
it will be a day marked with a sense of without…
of what was and of what is no more…

Yet as our dear friend Coco Channel so pointedly reminds us—
it is not necessarily a matter of what we may have once been or been given,
rather it will be a matter of who and what we will opt to one day be…

May we opt to be both wiser and kinder….


(my husband with his birthday girl / 2017)

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,

Isaiah 42:2,3,4