the dangling carrots

Individual commitment to a group effort–
that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work,
a civilization work.”

Vince Lombardi

I watch a lot of college football, as most of you already know.

I am known to watch pro-football, but the love is not there like it is for
college ball…
It just happens to be football and I like football.

Maybe this love comes from the fact that my husband played college football.

Maybe this love can be traced back to my having gone to a college where the name Herschel
was the most important name on campus…or more like the most important name in the
entire state of Georgia…
that is unless, of course, you were a GA Tech sort of person.

In my 4.75 years at that college, I never missed a home football game.
I also went to a few away games along with a bowl game or two.
And the name Dooley will always be the name of ‘my’ coach…much
like “the Bear” will always be the name for many in our neighboring state.

But maybe, just maybe, this love goes back to my having grown up in a household
where football was about the only thing ever watched every Saturday and Sunday.

Back in the day, when most bowl games were all played on New’s Day
and there were but three major networks showing the handful of games,
my dad would move three televisions into the den in order
to see all the games airing simultaneously.
It was that serious.

But no matter the origin, the love is in my blood.

So last year about this same time, I wrote a post of both lamentation and discontent.

I wrote about my dismay and even anger over football players “opting out” of playing
in their school’s bowl game.
Opting out due to the fear of getting hurt, or some other excuse,
as they declared their intention to leave school for the NFL draft.
Playing in the bowl game might mess up that chance of going pro.

Never mind that they might never be picked or picked up as some sort
of free agent…

Some players are leaving early, only after a year or two of playing college ball–
forget about getting a degree—the carrot is calling.

At least some are actually graduating seniors…which is what makes sense.
It’s all about a progression—school, work, study, play, degree then a job or the
elusive dream of professional sports.

I wish the NFL would quit dangling the money carrot to these kids the minute
they seem to step foot on the playing fields of their campuses of choice—

Just as I wish colleges would quit dangling scholarship carrots to kids as young
as the 7th grade–making promises to a 12-year-old kid if they’ll, in turn, give a
little verbal sort of promise of their own.

However back to what has truly stoked my ire…

Between injuries and those opting not to play, there was something like 13 Georgia
players not participating in the bowl game.
So when the game started New Year’s night, it was as if an entirely new and
different Bulldog team was taking the field…
much like an opening game of a new season.
There were some familiar old faces but there were also many new faces…
No one could really say what the team would be like as it was to be a new rhythm with
many unknowns.

The outcome was a success but that’s not really the issue.
A win is always a good thing but doing the thing that should truly be done is really
the most important thing.

We can’t help an injury roster.
We can’t help the list of ineligible players due to failed courses or poor grades.
We can, however, do something about kids deserting…or so I’d like to think.

The thing is these kids are a part of a team.
Each member being a connecting piece to a whole.
We always hear that it isn’t about the individual but rather about the team as a whole.
Yet we are seeing more and more about those who prefer being an individual when
the carrots start dangling.

I think those opting to leave school after only a year or two of play, say
the sophomore year, for the NFL, is self-indulgent and overzealous.
But to ditch a bowl game because of wanting to keep oneself in prime condition
for the draft is, in a word or two, selfish and self-serving.

Firstly, most often these players were given a scholarship to come play.
Secondly, these players worked day in and day out with a team—a team they often
refer to as “brothers”—where others helped each individual to become that shining star
they hoped to become.

Quarterbacks throw.
Receivers catch.
Linemen block.
Tackles tackle
Kickers kick.

Each individual doing what they do to ensure that the whole can become successful.

And so after all of the investment, the time, the work, the sweat, the pain, the
ticking off of one win after another…the climbing of the mountain to become
bowl eligible, an achievement that once meant something—only to suddenly announce
a “no thank you” is, in my opinion, a sad demonstration of this really being
all about me—as in the individual and not the team.

Forget those “brothers” of yours as you leave them behind when they truly need you.
Forget those coaches who invested their time in making you the best you could be.
Forget the school that helped to pay for your going to school.
Forget all those opportunities given you…
Because you’re leaving all of that behind for nothing more than an elusive carrot.

I fear we might be witnessing a reality where things such as bowl games,
which were once the long-sought-after goal of a season, lessening as they become
just another game while the dangling carrots of a Draft grow more tantalizing.

So yes, our sports and sadly our players are out of hand.
The importance of such is now deeply skewed.
The notion that all of this is just a mere game and it’s simply supposed to be fun
left us long ago.
That was when the carrots started dangling.

The before and after the magic…of Santa…

“Of course there is a Santa Claus.
It’s just that no single somebody could do all he has to do.
So the Lord has spread the task among us all.
That’s why everybody is Santa Claus.
I am.
You are.”

Truman Capote, One Christmas


(the local Atlanta Channel 2 news Santa tracker report)

During the local new’s weather segment, Santa appears on a television in the house
of children across the land. He tells all the little boys and girls that he’s on his way…
and suddenly little people start losing their minds.

They don’t really know why they’re losing their minds…it just seems to be
the seasonal thing to do.


(The Mayor seeing Santa on the televison


(The Sheriff shares his sister’s enthusiasm)

And of course, there are always some who don’t lose their minds but rather think
their ‘parents’ have lost their minds by dressing them in a Christmas sweater.


(Percy not a fan of his sweater)

And here is the image of the aftermath…the moment the air, the energy and
the enthusiasm has left the room…

All having left once Santa came and went…
Gone and departed once the packages were shredded open…
Removed along with the boxes and paper now filling the recycle bin,
Swallowed and digested with the final morsels of savored Christmas foods.

Pure exhaustion…


(moppie and her posse / Julie Cook / 2019)

I could write something philosophical or even offer a psychological treatise about
the evils regarding Santa and children…the evils of secular Christmas vs religious Christmas,
the evils of the hypnosis of our commercial and materialistic world…
but I don’t want to do that…

Rather, I want to relish in what is now the memory of a Christmas that just was.

As a grandmother, I know that such moments are more fleeting on my end but seemingly
everlasting on their young end.

I’m simply going to savor this moment, this time given to me as a gift.
God’s gift to me.

I do so while thanking Him for the universal gift He gave to all mankind…
that of his only begotten Son…

Children and Christmas are certainly a magical combination…

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

Enrich, inspire, live

“Health is God’s great gift, and we must spend it entirely for Him.
Our eyes should see only for God, our feet walk only for Him,
our hands labor for Him alone; in short,
our entire body should serve God while we still have the time.
Then, when He shall take our health and we shall near our last day,
our conscience will not reproach us for having misused it.”

St. John Bosco


(interiour vault of the Cathedarl of St John The Baptist / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means being constantly alert
for the signs of its presence, and working for its growth in every sector of society.
It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in
Christ’s victory and a commitment to extending his reign.
It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity, and scandal.
It means overcoming every separation between faith and life,
and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness.
It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life,
since, as the Second Vatican Council put it,
‘there is no human activity—even in secular affairs—which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion’.
It means working to enrich…society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel,
and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value
to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.”

Pope Benedict XVI
An Excerpt From
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI

I’ll wait until October….


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

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

“I’ll wait until October”

Let’s back up a tad…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HA!

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

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

Suddenly, there was a loud crash.

UGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Before even looking, I knew.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Alistair Sim

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

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

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

what comes from the Spirit

“The adorable Heart of Jesus is our comfort, our way, our life.”
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


(a winter treat blooms / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

“The experience of the Church and the saints demonstrates a general law:
what comes from the Spirit of God brings with it joy, peace, tranquility of spirit,
gentleness, simplicity, and light.
On the other hand, what comes from the spirit of evil brings sadness, trouble, agitation,
worry, confusion, and darkness.
These marks of the good and the evil spirit are unmistakable signs in themselves.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe

a solemn reminder

Time and tide wait for no man.
Geoffrey Chaucer


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

Perhaps this is an odd place for an early morning stroll but Colonial Cemetary in
Savannah is both a peaceful and serene place to wander…
Not only are there tabby lined paths that weave throughout this rather massive burial
place, but there are also beautifully majestic ancient oaks veiled in the otherworldly
ethereal Spanish moss which cast dancing shadows across the landscape of an otherwise eerily
still and silent place …
All of which adds to the allure of this surreal and tranquil place.
It is a place steeped in centuries-old history.


(tabby path / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

The stories and lives of the known as well as the unknown.
Folks who had come from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Poland, Germany…
Most of who had come pre-Revolutionary War and who have since each found a resting
place in this protected piece of land, in a country they would each come to call home.

A Declaration of Independence bears many of their names just as do state counties.
State colleges have named buildings in their honor as we remember both the heroic and the notorious.


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

From Today in Georgia History:
August 2, 1776- Statewide
Georgia joined The United States on August 2, 1776, the same day that Button Gwinnett,
Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

The declaration was approved on July 4, but signed by only one man that day, John Hancock.
Fifty other delegates to the 2nd Continental Congress signed on August 2.
Later that year, five more brought the total to 56.

Eight of the signers, including Gwinnett, were foreign-born.
One was Roman Catholic, a handful were deists and the rest were Protestants.
They all went on to lives of public service in the republic they founded:
there were two future presidents, three vice presidents, two Supreme Court justices,
and many congressmen, diplomats, governors, and judges among them.

In 1818, 14 years after Georgia’s last signer died, Georgia named counties in their honor.
Charles Carroll of Maryland, the last of all the signers left, died in 1832 at the age of 95,
but their revolutionary idea of a self-governing free people lives on.

The experiment they began remains unfinished, as it was on August 2, 1776,
Today in Georgia History.


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

The cemetery, no matter how many times I find myself wandering, affords me new discoveries
hidden amongst the trees and mostly ignored by the abundant squirrels who call this
park-like cemetery home.

Numerous tiny graves now protect the innocent… some who are named, some who are not.
Eternally protecting the mortal remains of those who were born only to quickly pass away—
as they were born during a time when both birth and death walked hand in hand


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

Some grave markers are elaborate—hand carvings which are each works of art
while others remain plain and simple.
Some markers offer kind and poetic words while others have lost all legibility
to the passing of time.
Names, dates, and lives seemingly washed away from both time and the elements.

It is said that despite the iron fence that now encloses the cemetery,
the buried actually extend yards beyond, extending outward into the city they
called home.
The city paved and built over many graves long before a permanent fence
was erected.

Even the office of the Archdiocese of Savannah is housed in an old colonial building
that undoubtedly was built upon the graves of the unknown as recording details of
those buried was not always a priority.

Yellow fever victims are in a mass grave in a far corner of the cemetery while
unknown Confederate and Union soldiers now spend eternity side by side.

It is said that this is one of the most haunted places in the city…
but yet this city boasts many an otherworldly spook and specter.

I like to learn of the lives who have all gone before me.
Those who lived in a time much different from my own and the
similarities of lives lived are more alike than different.

For we all live, love, hurt, suffer, laugh and cry…and each eventually die.
Not so much different as we are still very much alike.


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

And the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 ESV

‘unthankful day’???

Ingratitude is always a kind of weakness. I have never known men of ability to be ungrateful.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ungratefulness is worse than a cancer; it eats away at your soul;
blinding your heart and eyes to the beauty and miracles that are
all around us each day in our lives.

Geraldine Vermaak


(a storefront window seen in Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, I certainly hope everyone had a warm, happy and thanks-filled Thanksgiving!

Whether yours was small and quiet or large and raucous, I hope you had
some time for a bit of private and or even vocal reflection…
being able to reflect upon what it was and is that you have in your life to be
thankful for and over.

I made mention, in one of my posts prior to my brief Thanksgiving hiatus, that
I was concerned about our society’s obsessive frenzy over of all things black,
cyber and local shopping for Christmas, as we hurridly hop from Halloween to Christmas
flippantly glossing over Thanksgiving…

That in our zest and zeal, for all things of consumerism and materialism,
we forget the importance that first and foremost, there must always be gratitude.

Like many other families and individuals, our little crew took the show on the road
this Thanksgiving.
We ventured to Georgia’s first city…the city of her inception, Savannah.

There’s a bit of personal history there and I’ll chat about that another day…
but for today, my focus is on that of being thankful.

Thursday, before we were to sit down and break bread over our own Thanksgiving dinner,
we enjoyed a leisurely stroll throughout this Southern historic city.
As we made our way through the city’s shopping district, we noted that there were
actually, a few businesses open, while the majority were closed for the observation of Thanksgiving.

As I would expect nothing less.
Families and individuals being able to take a day for a national observation of
gratitude.

I stopped in front of a local business that had posted a bit of a diatribe on their
storefront window extolling the importance of an “Unthanksgivng Day” as they
opted to stand with the indigenous people.
Decolonize this place they said??

Huh?

First I thought to myself, “here you are closed, on a national day of Thanksgiving so
perhaps you should have actually been open to show your true discontent…
or is that malcontent?
But instead, you were closed, most likely indulging in the day…”

And then I pondered the notion of decolonization…as in are we all to vacate this
Nation of ours, heading back to whatever land was that of our ancestors,
telling the last one out to leave a single light on.

The following day, I caught a news story in the same vein of thinking.
It was a story about how the disgruntled, or is that disgraced,
former football QB Colin Kaepernick, who had attended an
“Unthanksgiving Day” on Alcatraz Island, of all places, vocalized his endorsement for
an Indigenous People’s day while espousing the need to do away
with Thanksgiving.

Sigh.

Again, I thought, ‘here is a very blessed young American man who has had so very
much in his life to be thankful over and for, yet he’s promoting the notion of
being Unthankful…”

It makes no sense to me.

Am I the only one who sees the egregious irony in someone having been adopted
as a baby and in turn, afforded so very much love and opportunities, opportunities
found in a great land of freedom and just that, opportunity, and yet here he is touting
a day of Unthanksgiving?
Is not this unthanksgivng just another word for ingratitude?
As in unthankful?
As in ungrateful.

Oh, I get it.
I get what this is all about.
I get the gist behind all of this being that our Native American populations have grievously
suffered over the centuries at the hands of the white European’s first arrival and then
the ensuing conquest of the new land.

I have often said we owe a great deal to our native Americas past and present,
but try as we like, we cannot rewrite our history.
We can’t do away with Columbus Day despite his treatment of the locals upon landing…
because he also opened a great door.

We can’t discredit that.

We can’t decolonize a nation or toss out Thanksgiving because Pilgrims
have gotten more attention than their local native hosts.

That is what much of this millennial disgruntlement seems to be about…
a desire to rewrite an often less than stellar history.

But here’s the thing—you can’t rewrite your history…it is what it is.

It is there for better or for worse, in hopes that you will learn from it
not erase it just because you don’t like it.
It will not disappear no matter how hard you try to turn it into
something it never was.

That you will learn from what was
Grow from what was.
That you do not repeat the negative of what was.
But rather that you may find that which must be celebrated and
in turn, offer thanks…

Do not grouse.
Do not complain.
Do not lament.
Do not have a temper tantrum over that which you do not fully grasp
understand or truly know…
And do not whine over that which you cannot change.

But rather learn, grow and rejoice.

Be grateful.

Do not ask what is there to be grateful for…
the list is endless.

Be thankful for the others, who went before you, offered their lives
so you could live in a place that allows you to grouse, to complain
to have temper tantrums while you opt to hashtag everything that
comes across your phone.

Find your gratitude not your negativity.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more
people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 4:15